In the documentary barns of susquehanna valley

There is an old "Cold" cellar with a date engraving over the top. The Documentary describes the date being 1729, the first character being an old German "1"

Here is a photo: Old Cold Cellar, with German Date above door.

Ignoring the "H" which was added more recently, the numbers and the "W" are written with great care however I don't recognize the digits.

What does a German "1" from that period look like, and what would the entire 1729 date look like if written in that period?

  • 2
    The closest I could think of it might be a form of t or ð used for Tausend. Never seen that anywhere in germany. My research came up quite fruitless so far, sorry. Commented Jan 6, 2018 at 21:14
  • Looks to me like '67 89, maybe restauration dates? Commented Jan 7, 2018 at 15:26

3 Answers 3


Really difficult to read and I can't read a "2" you mentioned with 1729.

I tried with little success to have a closer look at your picture with GIMP. But, I found some samples for "1" in 1799 and 1819 written in a similar notation as one can see in your picture (see added pictures and red markers):

enter image description here

See also:

You may want to use a Google search for pictures with "Hausinschriften".


The digit "1" probably has the most constant way of writing throughout the centuries - It has always been a more or less vertical line, maybe somewhat bent, maybe with a bit of decoration on the top, but never, to my knowledge with some rounded squiggle at the bottom.

Nearly all other digits had some sort of (some even extreme) variation over time, the "1" was pretty constant. No, there is no such thing as a "German '1'", at least not to my knowledge.

What happens a lot with medieval year number inscriptions (but, ~1500-1600) is that the "1" is simply omitted - 1729 would look like 729, apparently people left it out "because it was so obvious". What you interpret as a "1" could simply be something entirely different. Considering the habit of bordering the year number with the initials of builder or owner and the fact that the "H" obviously is a later addition, it could simply be the first initial of a name.

In my opinion, it is way more probably that the squiggle at the letter you assume to be a "1 would mean something entirely different, be a later addition, or (unlikely) a mishap of a drunk or dyslexic mason. (Realize that a round form like that is much harder to form in stone with a chisel that a straight "1")

  • 2
    "What you interpret as a "1" could simply be something entirely different." TBF: It's not interpretation of the OP, but merely citing old geman form of 1 from the documentary. Commented Jan 7, 2018 at 14:45
  • The documentary wasn't specifically focused on the historical aspects, mainly the beauty of the architecture. The correctly marked answer seems accurate, but the symbol could have additional significance than the literal number 1.
    – LessQuesar
    Commented Jan 31, 2018 at 16:41

As mentioned in my comment and confirmed by @tofro's answer I couldn't find any evidence that the arabic digit 1 looked anytime different during adoption in the medevial, let alone 18th century("1729"):

enter image description here

(source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arabic_numerals)

Taking a closer look at your picture

enter image description here

It might be interpreted as some character like ð inb4 "Tausend", that's a thing I could think of.

Never seen that in ever region I met1 in germany so far though.

1)As the mentioned documentary says these are barnyards in Maryland U.S. can you research some information, which part of germany the original builders came from?
Could well be that's a local tradition I'm not aware of.

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