University of Delaware
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A time and place for storytelling

Is there a role for storytelling in archaeology, a field that explores human society primarily through the material culture that has been left behind? If one writes a fictionalized story but draws upon historical record, actual travel accounts, tavern songs, literature and artifacts — is it still fiction?

Responding to criticism within archaeology about whether storytelling is a valid approach to understanding times past, Lu Ann DeCunzo has created her own tale, staying close to the primary material of 18th-century New Castle.

Using storytelling as an approach to material culture studies, she aims to tell a larger tale of consumer revolution. Playing with Delaware as the tax-free state, her story is a “Sad Tale of Consumption,” narrated by Dr. Alexander Hamilton in his journey through the town in 1744.

An Excerpt from Dr. Alexander Hamilton’s Itinerarium: Being a Narrative of Journey from Annapolis, Maryland through Delaware, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and New Hampshire from May to September 1744.

Tuesday, 5 June.

I took horse a little after five in the morning, and after a solitary ride thro’ stony, unequal road, where the country people stared at me like sheep when I inquired of them the way, I arrive at Newcastle, upon Delaware, the place America began, at nine o’clock in the morning, and baited my horses at one Curtis’s, at the sign of the Indian King, a good house of entertainment.

This town stands just upon the water, 40 miles below Philadelphia. A small but useful port, there being from thence a large prospect eastward. The houses are chiefly brick, built after the Dutch model.

I supped at Curtis’s, whence I had the company of three men—George Ross, fellow Scot, gentleman and Pastor of the Anglican Church; Richard Grafton, warden of said Church and a merchant anxious to remove to Philadelphia; and William Morison. I treated them with some lemon punch, and desired the favour of their company. They readily granted my request, and stayed some time with me.


My companions…regaled me with tales of Jane Read’s teas, the height of genteel hospitality. Her taste, her comportment, her manner, her refined parlor and fine furnishings appeared to the best advantage in every turn of her discourse. “Delicate, exotic, fashionable, colorful—such words do justice to both the lady and her possessions,” Mr. Ross assured me. Conversations at Mrs. Read’s teas were lively, entertaining, and solid, neither tainted with false or trifling wit nor ill-natured satire of reflection—of late so much the topic of tea tables. I was glad to find that the odious theme of scandal and detraction over their tea was quite unfashionable and unpolite among the women of Mrs. Read’s assembly. In his turn, then, Mr. Grafton toasted “Mrs. Read, the Anglican Ideal of hospitality, and her Mackaroons, which were,” he declared, “to die for.”

“She,” Mr. Ross carried on, “died of the consumption, or rather,” he snarled, “of Dr. Giffords Amber Pills given for a consumption.” I knew the receipt. Before you take them, you must be well purged, after which you must take three Pills, what else you will, and in the morning the yolk of a new laid Egg warmed a little. “Alas,” Mr. Ross opined, “the bed of marriage and of birth, a bed of flowers now a bed of death, receptacle of the life consumed.”