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Finding Robert Cotton: an archaeological biography of the first English tobacco pipemaker in the New World

Author(s): Beverly Straube

Year: 2014

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Summary

Robert Cotton arrived at Jamestown, Virginia in April 1608 and is recorded by Captain John Smith as being a ‘tobacco-pipe-maker.’ This is the only direct mention of Cotton in the surviving documents although Smith later includes ‘Tabacco-pipe-makers’ in his list of non-essential occupations sent to the colony by the profit-driven Virginia Company. Historians have failed to identify Robert Cotton or determine why he was chosen as one of the first Jamestown colonists. With archival information lacking, the only clues to Cotton remain with the material evidence as revealed by archaeology. Excavations since 1994 of early James Fort features have uncovered hundreds of distinctive locally-made pipes as well as pipemaking equipment and by-products believed associated with Cotton. This paper takes preliminary steps towards constructing a possible biography of Robert Cotton through examination of the evidence in relation to the history of early tobacco use and pipe production.


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Cite this Record

Finding Robert Cotton: an archaeological biography of the first English tobacco pipemaker in the New World. Beverly Straube. Presented at Society for Historical Archaeology, Quebec City, Quebec, Canada. 2014 ( tDAR id: 436937)


Record Identifiers

PaperId(s): SYM-39,02

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America