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Phillip Horne McGuinn

Shell Castle, A North Carolina Entrepot, 1789-1820:  A Historical And Archaeological Investigation.

(Under the direction of Professor Gordon P. Watts, Jr.) Department of History, December 2000.

The purpose of this thesis is to investigate and demonstrate the importance of "interest," in conjunction with geographic, economic, political, technological and societal factors, on the life of John Wallace and the Shell Castle enterprises in partnership with John G. Blount through the application of multiple disciplines.  The rational business interests of the partners to "turn a penny of profit" led them to build a maritime entrepot because of the timeless business rationale - location.

Cartographic and economic analysis demonstrated that the transhipment center established by Wallace and Blount clearly used the physical nature of the site, the prevailing winds in the age of sail, the depths of the channels and the inlets to achieve a comparative advantage versus competing shipping traders.  Historical research revealed the maritime operations conducted at Shell Castle and chronicled the saga of the navigational improvements used to support trade through Ocracoke Inlet from the 1790s to 1830.  Material culture study contributed to the image of "refinement" of John Wallace who rose from pilot to self-proclaimed governor and "pride" of Shell Castle.  Terrestrial and underwater archaeology revealed important information concerning the site location, boundaries and artifact assemblages of the Shell Castle community.  The archaeological investigations at Shell Castle revealed two distinct sites along with multiple features and an assemblage of material culture.  Underwater archaeology confirmed information provided in Wallace's letters to John G. Blount concerning the dimensions of the Castle and the buildings and beacon erected there.  In addition, research investigated how accurately the illustration of the Castle and Beacon on the Liverpool ware pitchers captured reality.  Comparing these findings with the historic record and the transfer print pitcher illustration provided the most complete image of Shell Castle and John Wallace.  Each discipline with its different focus wove its own thread into the cloth sampler of John Wallace and defined an important man and his place within the community and the Nation.