North Brother Island- ceramics

Sometimes artifacts are left in buildings, sometimes they’re found scattered on the grounds, and in the case of islands, rummaging through the sediment and buildup at low tide can reveal treasures. North Brother Island has unfortunately been heavily scrapped, and very little in the way of artifacts actually remains.

Which is why it was amazing to discover that the facility, known as Riverside Hospital, actually had branded dishware. Two broken pieces of a plate, stamped “Riverside” with laurel leaves and a DH, which I can only assume stands for Department of Health. The back of the plate was inscribed with a very faint “Greenwood China, Trenton NJ” which, after a bit of research, turned out to be from the pottery company Messrs. Stephens, Tanis & Co. established in 1861. The particular mark on the plate was first used in 1886. While it seems difficult to further narrow down the date this plate was created beyond the stamp, knowing Riverside Hospital was founded in the 1850s as a smallpox hospital makes me wonder if these plate remnants really are well over 100 years old, and existed before the General Slocum crash on the island’s shores.

Either way, a fascinating find, giving a little more insight into the daily life of the quarantine patients in the early years of the hospital.

    • Anon
    • December 12th, 2011

    I was going to suggest that you contact the pottery company and see if they had the records regarding the orders- but it looks like they closed in 1933. The Trenton Historic society might have the info. Given the mark and expansion of the hospital the year before you could accurately date it from no earlier than 1886 and no later than 1933. Most likely closer to the earlier date, as they would have been expanding the facility at that time. So yes, 100+ years old.

    • Anon
    • December 12th, 2011
  1. Nice blog! I also found a monogrammed dinnerware shard in the rubble of North Brother. Mine was on the beach at low tide, along with several wine glasses. It bears the monogram CS, with a smaller NY. Based on the history of the island, this may be dinnerware from the General Slocum, which crashed and burned on that very beach in 1904. The boat’s namesake was Congressman Slocum of NY (CS,NY). If you have further knowledge or insights, I would be interested.

    photo link to the shard:

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