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St. Mary's City in St. Mary's County, Maryland — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
 

Carpenters' Marks

 
 
Carpenters' Marks Marker image. Click for full size.
By Devry Becker Jones, August 30, 2019
1. Carpenters' Marks Marker
Inscription.  We do not know the names of the carpenters who built this barn in 1785. Some of them were probably enslaved workers. But evidence surviving on the building tells us they were trained in an ancient craft tradition. Since medieval times and probably earlier, carpenters prepared wood for a structure in a work yard, shaping it and cutting the joints. To be sure that the joining pieces could later be matched up, they marked the timbers. Taking a chisel, the carpenter cut shallow Roman numerals into each timber near the joint. Then, when they carried the wood to the construction site, they would know that a timber displaying an "X" would go together with another marked with an "X."

This venerable practice was carried to Maryland by the first colonists and became a part of the Maryland building tradition. When Historic St. Mary's City rebuilt the sheds for this barn in 2008, builder Jeff Thompson used the same method in preparing the timbers, marking them with Roman numerals.

Look for some of the original 18th-century carpenters' marks on the barn timbers under protective panels.

[Aside:]
You may notice that
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there are one or two places in the barn where the numerals don't look quite right. This is because the Roman numerals that we all learned about in school only became standardized in modern times. So, IIIX could be used for seven — there are numerous examples in historical documents and old buildings where this is true — or it might just be an upside down 13.
 
Erected by Historic St. Mary's City.
 
Location. 38° 11.007′ N, 76° 25.787′ W. Marker is in St. Mary's City, Maryland, in St. Mary's County. Marker can be reached from Point Lookout Road (Maryland Route 5) 0.4 miles west of Rosecroft Road, on the left when traveling west. The marker is inside the open-air barn. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 16721 Point Lookout Road, Saint Marys City MD 20686, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Constructed With Colonial Ideas (here, next to this marker); How Old Is This Barn? (here, next to this marker); To Market! To Market! (here, next to this marker); Tree Growth Rings (here, next to this marker); A Pressing Situation (here, next to this marker); What Happened Here After 1695? (here, next to this marker); What Kind of Barn Was This? (a few steps from this marker); Who Worked Here? (a few steps from this marker). Touch for a list and map of all markers in St. Mary's City.
 
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AgricultureArchitectureNotable Buildings
 

More. Search the internet for Carpenters' Marks.
 
Credits. This page was last revised on September 2, 2019. This page originally submitted on September 2, 2019, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. This page has been viewed 40 times since then. Photo   1. submitted on September 2, 2019, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia.
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