Archaeological Object

ca. 1770 - ca. 1920



The use of paper and ink was less frequent than writing slates and slate pencils, but still an important part of a student’s education. The students likely used the inkwells found in the archaeological assemblage along with a dip pen to write on paper. These inkwells would have fit directly into each desk at the Smith School. The lead casing and lid helped to prevent spills of the ink contained in the well. Archaeologists found 4 glass inserts at the Smith School site, which the administrators and teachers would have most likely kept on hand as replacement inserts for the lead casings when the wells broke.

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About Smith Court Stories

This online digital classroom is a collaborative project of the Museum of African American History and Boston African American National Historic Site – a unit of the National Parks of Boston.

Smith Court Stories relates a digitally curated collection of archival documents and archaeological artifacts to lived experiences of African Americans in 19th century Boston. Two historic structures in Boston’s Beacon Hill neighborhood formed the center of this community: The African Meeting House and the Abiel Smith School. The 1806  African Meeting House is the oldest extant black church in the United States of America, and the neighboring 1835 Abiel Smith School is one of the first public school buildings for African American children in the country. Both of these buildings, situated on Smith Court, served as the epicenter for a free black community that led the nation in the fight against slavery and injustice. Smith Court stories will help foster a deeper understanding of the African American experience in 19th century Boston and connect the past with students’ lived experiences.