iron bed bolt
Bed Bolt

This iron bolt is from a bedstead. Bed bolts were used either in groups of four or eight to fasten the side rails of the bed to the head and foot boards. A bed bolt kept the bed frame stable as the ropes used as support springs would inevitably begin to sag, and made bed assembly less labor intensive. Hardware for beds, including these bolts and curtain rings, highlight differences in wealth, class, and rank between the early settlers at James Fort.

The bed bolts found at Jamestown are likely the earliest found in America, and would have been available only to a gentleman of the highest rank at Jamestown as beds themselves were very expensive. A bed would have provided the gentleman privacy and warmth when the curtains were drawn. 

The nut on the screw end of this bolt has been frozen in place where it was attached through the wooden frame of the bed. It appears the bolt has been through a fire while still attached to the bed.

Perhaps this is a result of the devastating James Fort fire of January 1608 that was accidentally set by the newly arrived colonists in the First Supply. It burned “their arms, bedding, apparel, and much private provision” as well as the palisades of the fort and the buildings that had been erected (Smith, True Relation). The settlers were forced to go back to living in tents and makeshift shelters. The winter cold soon caused more fatalities. By April, only half of those who had been in the fort on January 14 survived.

Smith, John (1608) A True Relation of Such Occurrences and Accidents of Note as Hath Hapned in Virginia Since the First Planting of that Collony. London.