Date Awarded

Summer 2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)




James P Whittenburg

Committee Member

Frederick C Corney

Committee Member

Gabrielle M Lanier


This dissertation explores material life in the northern Shenandoah Valley of Virginia from 1750 to 1850 through extant objects and those found in the documentary record. In the process, it highlights diverse processes of community formation that took place among artisans in Shenandoah County. This work provides three different perspectives on the processes of community formation in Shenandoah County, focusing on the impermanent buildings of early settlers, the growth of permanence at an ironworking community at Redwell Furnace and Pine Forge, and cultural markers in the furniture and material life of artisans Godfrey Wilkin and Johannes Spitler. The project brings together ideas about the development of a community with its own distinct regional culture by exploring the material life of Shenandoah County’s residents. There was a transition from distinct ethnicities to more homogenous regionalism that occurred from the earliest settlements beginning in the 1730s to generations later in the 1850s with a growth of a regional culture distinctive to the Shenandoah Valley. A major contribution of this work is that people, not their buildings or objects, have an active voice in a rich and detailed history of material life. Objects, buildings, and landscape, both extant and long gone, allow historians to explore the everyday life of people that have often been overlooked and previously inaccessible. This dissertation thus provides a snapshot of the varied material life of a community of artisans and consumers in Virginia’s northern Shenandoah Valley.




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