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SHA Particular Publication and Writer Perspective – The “Different” Dixwells

Submitted by Mary L. Maniery
PAR Environmental Providers, Inc., President
SHA Co-Publications Affiliate

In March 2018, the SHA started a weblog for the Society webpage to focus on our publications and our collaboration with varied presses. Whereas our co-publication program and partnerships with Springer, College of Nebraska Press, and College of Florida Press expands our membership’s publication alternatives, the SHA has additionally continued to publish works independently by way of Amazon as Particular Publications. SHA members can order “The Different Dixwells” for $22.00.

In case you are involved in contributing to a joint SHA printed quantity, please contact SHA’s Co-Publications Editor, Benjamin Ford (


The “Different” Dixwells: Commerce and Conscience in an American Household. (2021)
Thomas N. Layton
Variety of pages: 465; 70 figures

Society for Historic Archaeology Particular Publications

Who may have imagined that the Chinese language opium commerce, American feminism, and the abolitionist campaign could possibly be related, or that a whole department of a outstanding Boston industrial household may have been erased from the historic report for a century-and-a-half, or {that a} multi-decade saga to revive them to historical past would start when archaeology college students excavated Chinese language potsherds from a Native American archaeological website atop a distant ridge on the north coast of California?  Archaeologist Tom Layton follows these potsherds to their origin on the 1850 shipwreck of the Frolic, a clipper brig, owned by American retailers who hauled opium from India to China. These potsherds result in George Dixwell—opium professional, inventor, and half proprietor of the Frolic—and to clues about his marriage in China to Hu Ts’ai-shun, a Manchu lady. Additional analysis results in the ladies of Dixwell’s household tree who turned out to be writers and activists—aunt Judith Sargent Murray, the grandmother of American Feminism, and her niece Henrietta Sargent, a fierce abolitionist who reported the primary public speech of an escaped slave—Frederick Douglass. Lastly the sherds lead Layton to Ts’ai-shun’s 4 American great-granddaughters who had preserved a trove of letters, images, and diaries that enabled this story to be informed. Layton reveals his scientifically documented archaeological report then dons the hat of a novelist, filling within the areas among the many details, bringing these characters to life, and producing an unforgettable learn—a real journey revealing the successes, failures, passions, and secrets and techniques of a Nineteenth-century American household.



MM: What are a few of your motivations for writing/spearheading this guide?

TL:  I wrote The “Different” Dixwells: Commerce and Conscience in an American Household – the third quantity of the Frolic Shipwreck Mission – to press the envelope of archaeological reporting. Within the first two volumes, I had written in a scholarly voice, telling the story of a worldwide system of commerce moderated by the sale of opium to China. Within the first, I had informed the story of People within the opium commerce, and within the second I informed the story of a wrecked cargo of Chinese language manufactured items sure for Gold Rush San Francisco. However these volumes have been centered on the lads who had owned and operated the Frolic.

Now I wished to explain the exceptional girls who stood uncomfortably behind these males – fierce abolitionists and ladies’s rights advocates with careers of their very own – and I wished to current them in an accessible voice as totally shaped individuals dwelling difficult lives.
To perform this, I made a decision to undertake the strategies of a novelist – using dialogue and character improvement – judiciously filling within the cracks between the identified details whereas attempting to not extrapolate past them. To perform this, and to keep away from outraging my archaeological colleagues, I wrote a parallel textual content within the endnotes, itemizing all my sources and specifying the place I had gone past them.

Briefly, I wrote this quantity as an experiment in archaeological writing, hoping it could encourage others to discover extra inventive methods during which to current the outcomes of their archaeological research.

MM:  Who would you prefer to learn this guide? Who’s your viewers?

TL:  I’ve lengthy felt that if the archaeological occupation expects to obtain continued assist from our legislators, we have to write not only for an viewers of different archaeologists and college tenure committees, but in addition for the final studying public. On this guide, I tried to achieve each constituencies. Tutorial publishers haven’t been type to those that have tried to press the envelope of educational conference. This guide was rejected by a mess of educational publishers as a result of it contained a inventive non-fiction element. These rejections even included the Society for Historic Archaeology’s tutorial press companions for co-published books. I hope that these tutorial press editors, too, will learn this guide and create house sooner or later for brand new approaches to writing archaeology and historical past.

MM:  Now that you’ve got printed this guide, what sorts of issues are you dreaming up subsequent? What’s within the works?

LT:  Approach again in 1984, when my college students excavated Chinese language ceramics from an early historic Pomo village website, my first job was to seek out the shipwreck from which the Pomo had collected them. My subsequent job was to seek out the wreck divers who had extra not too long ago pillaged the wreck and persuade them to return their collections for scientific research. I developed rapport with the wreck divers by conducting a number of taped oral historical past interviews of every of them, and I promised to credit score their contributions in my books.

This I did, however the full oral historical past transcripts have been to lie in a cardboard field for many years till, in the course of the compelled social isolation of Covid-19, I lastly re-read the wreck divers’ narratives along with the associated oral histories I had performed of my archaeological colleagues. I then realized that the awkward story of California wreck divers and their a long time of pillage was simply as integral to the story of underwater archaeology in California as have been the narratives of me and my archaeological colleagues. After I requested Jim Delgado to replace his 1992 oral historical past narrative, he revealed that he had written an unpublished manuscript telling the story of underwater archaeology in California. Jim and I, along with Ben Ford of the Society for Historic Archaeology all agreed that each manuscripts must be printed as components of the identical quantity, presenting the first-person narrations of California’s underwater pillagers, along with the historical past of scientific analysis by maritime archaeologists. This guide is now within the works as one other SHA Particular Publication.


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