Station Terrace: A Building with Many Identities

This summer we had the opportunity to excavate in several different areas of north campus. We began the summer working in conjunction with the Abbot entrance landscape rejuvenation project. This required us to survey down the center median, as well as either side of the road. I talked briefly before about the general history of this area, as well as a summer progress update. We were able to locate the basement of Station Terrace.

Chances are you’ve never heard of Station Terrace. The building stood just east of Faculty Row, near the southern end of the current Abbott entrance median. There’s not much information out there regarding the building, but we do know that it had many different identities during its life on campus.

Station Terrace - Photo courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

Station Terrace – Photo courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

Station Terrace was likely built during the 1880s or early 1890s (the earliest photo documenting the building is from 1896). Its original purpose was to provide housing for researchers visiting from the M.A.C. experimental stations. Later it was used to house bachelor instructors, earning its nickname the Bull Pen (perhaps also acquired as a counterpoint to Morill Hall’s nickname the Hen House).

Group of Subfaculty at Station Terrace - Photo courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

Group of Subfaculty at Station Terrace – Photo courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

During the evening of January 24th, 1903 the building was damaged by a fire started by a faulty chimney. There were several issues in the containment of the fire, including many of the volunteer fire fighters being at a society room party, lacking the proper wrench to screw into the closest hydrant, a frozen fire hydrant, and a burst water main. They eventually got the blaze under control, but substantial damage occurred to the west end of the building. However, it was recommended that the building (as well as other areas on campus) become outfitted with modern fire extinguishers and hand grenades.

Following the fire, some board members suggests remodeling the building, and changing it into a two family household. They went as far as to have the college architect prepare a sketch for the remodeling, but ultimately decided that they would derive more revenue and benefit from restoring the building to its former state with several apartments.

Between the spring of 1903 and 1923 the building housed the East Lansing post office. Because of this Station Terrace is often referred to as the old post office on maps and in historical documents. In 1902 after the demolition of the original trolley car waiting room, it was moved to Station Terrace. In 1921 the old college waiting room was taken over by the Flower Pot Tea Room, a café run by women in the home economics program.

Station Terrace Today - Images via Google Street view

Station Terrace Today – Images via Google Street view

Station Terrace, as well as several other buildings, were in the path of the Abbot Road entrance construction. However, the building was not demolished. In 1923-1924 it was moved off campus, to 291 Durand Street. The structure was also modified, and portions of the building were used to build the house next door. From the right angle, it still bears a slight resemblance to its former arrangement.

Because the building was physically moved off campus, and not demolished, collapsed, or burnt down like many other buildings we excavate, I was unsure what we would actually find. I was pleasantly surprised.

During our final row of STPs we encountered a large fieldstone at the depth of 1m. This unit was expanded, and expanded, and then expanded some more. We had located an interior dividing wall, in what I feel is the basement of Station Terrace. Further excavations revealed a concrete floor, water and sewage pipes, concentrations of sheet metal, an intact paste jar (more on this jar coming in a future blog!), and a pair of men’s shoes. The east side of the unit also contained some beautiful stratigraphy.

Station Terrace Excavation East Wall

Station Terrace Excavation East Wall

Station Terrace Stone Wall

Station Terrace Stone Wall

Sanford Library Paste Bottle from excavation

Sanford Library Paste Bottle from excavation

I’m still busy conducting more research on this location, and its possible suitability as a location for the next field school.

Sources:

http://kevinforsyth.net/ELMI/sources.htm#JK

Justin L. Kestenbaum, ed. At the Campus Gate: A History of East Lansing. 1976.

Detroit Free Press, November 19th 1922: M.A.C. to Beautify College Entrance

Board of Trustee Meeting Minutes Notes: 1903.

M.A.C. Record vol 27 no 26 April 21 1922: http://onthebanks.msu.edu/Object/1-4-1004/the-mac-record-vol27-no26-april-21-1922/

MSU Archives: Campus Post Office 1892-1911. Folder 94, Box 826 Collection UA4.9.1

Meet the 2016-2017 CAP Fellows

It’s that time again, meet the 2016-2017 CAP fellows.  We’re excited to get to work on a batch of new projects this year, under the guidance of CAP director Dr. Lynne Goldstein.

Lisa Bright: Lisa is a third year PhD student in Anthropology, returning for her second year as Campus Archaeologist. Her dissertation focuses on the paleopathology and nutritional status of a historic paupers cemetery in San Jose, California. This year Lisa will be working with other fellows on their projects, supervising two undergraduate internships, and working to complete reports and process artifacts from this summer.

Amy Michael: Amy Michael is a returning CAP fellow (can’t get rid of me!). She is furthering her research on gendered use of space on campus and looks forward to including artifacts found during the summer 2016 excavations in her analysis. This year, Amy will work with Lisa Bright on a variety of projects including the analysis of the historic privy vs. campus middens or trash sites.

Susan Kooiman: Susan is a fourth year Ph.D. student in Anthropology. Her research focuses on prehistoric pottery use, cooking practices, and diet, and her dissertation will explore these topics in the Upper Great Lakes of North America. This is her second year as a CAP fellow, and she and Autumn Beyer will be working together on a project highlighting food on campus during the Early Period (1855-1870) of MSU’s history. They plan to recreate historic MSU meals based on food remains found in an early privy during CAP survey in 2015 and create online digital media documenting the project for the public.

Jeff Painter: Jeff is a third year Ph.D. student in the Department of Anthropology, with a focus in prehistoric archaeology in the Midwest and Eastern Woodlands. Specifically, he focuses on interaction and foodways in late prehistory and the function and use of ceramic vessels in the past. This is his first year as a CAP fellow and he plans on exploring the role of institutional ceramics at MSU as well as the ceramics found in the Gunson House trash pit excavations from summer 2015.

Autumn Beyer: Autumn is a second year Ph.D. student in the Department of Anthropology. Her research focuses on prehistoric foodways through the analysis of animal bones in the Midwestern United States. This is her first year as a CAP fellow and she plans on working with returning fellow Susan Kooiman on a project to recreate historic MSU meals based on artifacts recovered from a privy.

Mari Isa: Mari is a third year Ph.D. student in Anthropology. Her research focuses on the intersection between anthropological analysis of skeletal trauma and biomechanical experimentation. Additionally, Mari’s fieldwork focuses on bioarchaeology in Late Roman Tuscany. She is excited for her first year as a CAP fellow, during which she will be examining sustainable practices at MSU through time.

Meet Dr. Heather Walder

Dr. Heather Walder, a Visiting Assistant Professor for 2016-2017, will be joining the Campus Archaeology team this fall.

Dr. Heather Walder

Dr. Heather Walder

She is an anthropological archaeologist researching exchange, migration, and identity in past situations of colonialism and intercultural interaction. She completed her Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin – Madison in 2015, with a dissertation investigating glass and metal artifacts from17th and early-18th century habitation sites of Indigenous peoples of the Upper Great Lakes region. Compositional analysis (LA-ICP-MS) of glass trade beads and pendants was employed to define glass recipe patterns, while physical attribute analysis of the copper-base metal objects qualitatively and quantitatively recorded artifacts’ size, shape, and working-methods, such as hammering, scoring, bending, clipping, folding and crumpling. Examining both metal and glass artifacts provided complementary data sets that allowed identification of difference and overlap in Native peoples’ technological practices and trading connections, and clarified spatial and temporal aspects of interaction for a period of dynamic population movement and socio-economic change.This research produced new archaeological evidence that demonstrated how historically-documented Native American groups in the Upper Great Lakes region, including the Huron, Potawatomi, Meskwaki, Anishinaabe, and Odawa, applied their existing knowledge of technology and material properties to artifacts obtained through trade relationships. Available European-made materials changed over time, as glass workshops shifted their recipes; likewise, Native communities and individuals applied diverse technological practices to convert European items into more socially significant and useful objects like re-fired glass pendants and metal beads. Clarifying these practices through technological style analyses investigated the relationship between culture and technology, contributing to broader examinations of how Indigenous populations in contact with colonial powers maintain(ed) cultural continuity when faced with interaction and material change.

While at Michigan State University, Dr. Walder will continue pursuing similar questions related to historically-documented encounters among Indigenous peoples of the Midwest and Europeans through further material and spatial analyses. Much of this work lends itself to collaboration with MSU students and research on previously excavated artifacts in the MSU collections, such as those from  the Cloudman Site, a protohistoric or Early Historic Anishinaabe / Ojibwe camp on Drummond Island, and the Marquette Mission site, a Tionontate Huron village in close proximity to a Jesuit mission at St. Ignace, occupied c. 1670 – 1700. Walder’s expertise in archaeological chemistry and historical artifact analysis will allow her to address new research questions focused on the material culture excavated by the Campus Archaeology Program. She is looking forward to working with the CAP Fellows and undergraduate interns this year on upcoming projects.

Day of Archaeology: A BUSY SUMMER FOR MSU CAMPUS ARCHAEOLOGY

Day of archaeology

Today is the 2016 Day of Archaeology.  The goal of the Day of Archaeology project is to provide a window into the varied lives of archaeologists around the world.  You can see our contribution at: http://www.dayofarchaeology.com/summer-msu-campus-archaeology/

Head on over and check it out.  You can browse all of the posts, or view by theme such as Historical Archaeology, or Digital Archaeology.

CAP Summer Work Update #2

Since we last checked in we’ve had a busy week and a half.  The Abbot entrance landscape rejuvenation project is coming to a close, so we’ve been able to finish work there and move onto testing other research questions.

U.S. Weather Bureau 

Although the rejuvenation construction was not directly impacting the north west corner of the Abbot entrance, I wanted to conduct a survey in this area so that we could consider the entire west side of the road surveyed.  The NW corner was home to the U.S. Weather Bureau.  The building was constructed in 1909 and demolished in 1948.  Dewey Seeley and his family occupied the building, while Mr. Seeley recorded daily weather data and provided forecasts for the area. As the campus, and East Lansing, grew around the Weather Bureau Mr. Seeley complained about the encroachment near the bureau.  He petitioned the federal government for the construction of a new weather bureau in a different location, and a new structure was built by the federal government on land leased by the college. That building is today known as the Wills House, located just west of Mayo Hall.  From 1927-1940 the old bureau building served as the music center, from 1940 to approx. 1943 it was the Works Progress Administration Headquarter, and finally the Placement Center until its destruction in 1948.

U.S. Weather Bureau - Image Source: MSU Archives & Historical Collections

U.S. Weather Bureau – Image Source: MSU Archives & Historical Collections

The bureau was demolished by George Boone of Jackson MI, who paid the college $400 to remove the building.  Because Mr. Boone paid the college, rather than being paid by them, our investigation sought to discover how much of the weather bureau remained after he salvaged/scrapped the building.

Excavations at site of old U.S. Weather Bureau

Excavations at site of old U.S. Weather Bureau

We were unable to locate any intact foundation walls or floors.  However, a dense layer of rubble does cover that entire area.  Artifacts were mostly building related including bricks, nails, roofing slate, and concrete.  One curious artifact category were bricks made out of concrete, something we had not encountered before.  Two of the concrete bricks were sent to Civil Engineering for inspection.

Wall hanging cross found at U.S. Weather Bureau location

Wall hanging cross found at U.S. Weather Bureau location.

Lansing State Journal

While we were excavating the weather bureau a reporter from the Lansing State Journal came by to write a story on CAP.  We even made it on the cover of the journal!  The complete article, along with a short video, can be found on the journal’s website.

CAP in the Lansing State Journal

CAP in the Lansing State Journal

Beal’s Botanical Laboratory 

Beal's first Botanical Laboratory - Image Source: MSU Archives & Historical Collection FLICKR

Beal’s first Botanical Laboratory – Image Source: MSU Archives & Historical Collection FLICKR

The location of Beal’s first botanical laboratory is marked with a large historical plaque.  We did some brief investigations in this area in 2009 or 2010, but aside from probing have just assumed that the building foundation was still present.  Earlier this week we opened three 1×1 units on the eastern edge of the grassy area to determine the extent of the foundations/artifact presence.  We were also trying to determine the orientation of the building.

 

Our excavations were exploratory in nature, and we limited the disturbance to three units.  One unit appears to be outside the extent of the buildings footprint, but two units located walls.

Excavations at Beal's Botanical Laboratory

Excavations at Beal’s Botanical Laboratory

Unit one locate a large field stone wall just below the modern ground surface.  This wall section ran almost due N/S (4 degrees), and was 80 cm in total height.  The wall was surrounded by sterile fill sand, most likely a builders trench from the construction of the building.  Interestingly, although this unit had melted glass, they did not have a burn layer.

Beal's Lab Excavations Unit One

Beal’s Lab Excavations Unit One

Unit two located a smaller, possibly interior, wall made of medium size cobbles with a mortar layer on top.  On one side of the wall was sterile fill sand, while the other side had a larger rubble and burn layer.  This unit also encountered large amounts of burned and cracked glass, as well as hand cut square nails.

Beal's Lab Excavation Unit Two

Beal’s Lab Excavation Unit Two

Finding these two walls, as well as discussing the presence of a third known wall with people that work in the Beal Botanical Garden, helps us better understand the orientation and current state of the structure.

Sources:

Board of Trustee Meeting Minutes October 21st, 1948: http://onthebanks.msu.edu/Object/3-F-43F/meeting-minutes-october-21-1948/

 

Campus Archaeology Summer Work Update #1

Spring classes have ended, thousands of people have graduated, and a relative calm has spread over the campus. While many people kick back and relax over their summer vacation, this is the busy season for us here at CAP. During the summer we’re busy excavating, researching, and conducting lab work. It may seem like much of our work is tied to campus construction (which does take up a chunk of our summers), but there’s so much more that we do. The construction job monitoring, shovel test pits, pedestrian surveys, and research fuels many of our projects all year long. It’s also the time when we put much of the research our CAP graduate fellows have been working on to the test.

The past three weeks we have been excavating and surveying the Abbot Entrance area ahead of the landscaping rejuvenation project that began on the 25th. I talked about a bit of the history of the Abbot Road entrance in my post about the campus streetcar. We knew that we were going to be working in the area of several historic buildings, namely Faculty Row House #6, Station Terrace, the Y.M.C.A. (formerly the campus hospital), and the U.S. Weather Bureau. We still have more work to do in the area in the coming weeks, but we have uncovered some exciting things since work began!

Campbell/Landon Sidewalk Realignment

Our first area of priority was the sidewalk realignment at the southwest corner of Abbot Road and West Circle Drive. Although we didn’t encounter anything related to the structure of Faculty Row House #6, or the Old Trolley waiting room, we did locate an old sidewalk. Now I know what you’re thinking, a sidewalk, big deal! But this is still a part of the historic campus landscape. Artifacts near the sidewalk, including a carbon battery rod, pipe stem, butchered animal bone, and ceramics indicate an early 1900s date. Part of the sidewalk was removed and is being sent to the Civil Engineering department for testing. This will help them to understand changes in cement/concrete technology over time.

CAP crew works excavating the sidewalk feature

CAP crew works excavating the sidewalk feature

The early 1900s sidewalk, partially uncovered.

The early 1900s sidewalk, partially uncovered.

Abbot Road Median

Stone wall from Station Terrace basementNext we moved to the Abbot entrance median. Landscape services planned to remove diseased non-native trees, and return the area to a more historically accurate planting scheme. Following what has become a yearly tradition, we found a building, Station Terrace to be exact! Our final shovel test pit for the median located the top of a stone and mortar wall. We believe this to be a basement interior-dividing wall. On the east side of the wall were two large decommissioned pipes, as well as two layers of charcoal and debris. The east unit’s stratigraphy was not disturbed at all, so these pipes appear to be original to the building, or at least installed before the foundation was filled in after the building was moved in 1925. To the west of the wall was a layer of larger boulders covering a poured concrete floor. I believe that the boulders were added as fill. Although we only opened a small area we found many wonderful artifacts, including a complete waterman’s ink bottle, a complete Sanford Library Paste jar (used to mount photographs), and a pair of shoes!

Sanford Library Paste jar, Pat. 1915 from East Station Terrace Unit

Sanford Library Paste jar, Pat. 1915 from East Station Terrace Unit

Additional investigation into this area, at some time in the future, will be necessary to determine how much of the building currently exists subsurface. Although Station Terrace appears on several maps, some of the older ones are not the most spatially accurate, and the surrounding landscape is drastically changed today. However, one 1926 map has the beginning of the north and south bound lanes of Abbot, leading me to believe that the eastern third of the building lies under the media, with the rest is under the road and west Abbot sidewalk area.

The Summer 2016 Field Screw after completing Station Terrace STP

The Summer 2016 Field Crew after completing Station Terrace STP

Next week we will be continuing exploration of the Abbot road entrance, focusing on the northwest corner where the U.S. Weather Bureau stood from 1910-1948. Stay tuned for updates, and follow us on Twitter and Instragram (@capmsu) for updates from the field!

CAP at Munsell!

This past Monday CAP had the opportunity to tour the Munsell facility. A few months ago we realized that Munsell headquarters were a mere hour drive from campus. Katy reached out to their organization, and shortly after our tour was on the books! To say that the CAP fellows and Dr. Goldstein were excited is an understatement. Munsell holds a special place in an archaeologists’ heart. Every field school student learns how to use the Munsell soil color book, and undoubtedly Munsell is present in most archaeology labs, departments and firms around the country.

Professor Albert Munsell

Professor Albert Munsell

Munsell color systems, now a division of Xrite, are used by a wide array of industries. Although archaeologists tend to stick to the soil color and bead book, Munsell produces a variety of products and color standards. Our tour was headed by Art Schmehling, the Munsell business manager. We began with a short history of the Munsell color system.

Professor Albert H. Munsell developed his color system to bring order and standardization of colors to the artistic and scientific communities. As the story goes, Professor Munsell was describing an apple to an artist friend in Australia. The friend asked what specific color of red Munsell meant regarding the apple. As anyone that has tried to describe a paint color, or had debates regarding what shade of blue a shirt may be, it’s obvious that without a standard reference people describe colors very differently.

Munsell was determined to standardize the study and description of color by dividing colors into its’ three-dimensional attributes of hue, value and chroma. Munsell’s ground-breaking addition was the incorporation of the chroma scale. Chroma can be thought of as color purity. The addition of this to hue and value allowed colors to be systematically illustrated in three-dimensional space. Munsell published his first color order system book (A Color Notation) in 1905, and first published the Munsell Atlas of Color in 1915. This 1915 publication is the predecessor to today’s Munsell Books of Color.

Munsell Color System: Image Source

Munsell Color System: Image Source

We were able to see the latest version of the Munsell soil book, and the oohs and ahhhs were universal. The Munsell soil books are built to last, so many archaeologists work with older versions (Dr. Goldstein informed Art that she still has the one she purchased in 1969). When a new version of the soil book is produced, a staff member brings it home and runs it through their dishwasher to test the durability of the pages! The new book cover was originally designed to be brown, but after some testing it was discovered that it was too easily lost in the dirt/forest. As any archaeologists can attest it’s easy to lose something brown (like your trowel!) in a back dirt pile.

Munsell Soil Color Book

Munsell Soil Color Book

Before beginning the walking tour, we were also able to see several of the other products Munsell produces, including the large matte and gloss color books, Color Vision Tests, and X-Rite ColorChecker®. The X-Rite ColorChecker® is used by photographers to create a reference to ensure predictable colors standards under every lighting condition. It’s thought to be the most photographed object in the world! They make the ColorChecker® in every size imaginable, from 20 millimeters in diameter (for botanists), to hundreds of yards (for satellite images)! The Color Vision Tests are used by multiple industries to test for color blindness and vision anomalies.

XRite Color Checker

XRite Color Checker

Munsell also works with industries and corporations to create color standards for their products (like creating the specific shade of yellow for Kodak film boxes, or the blue used on Black & Decker tools). They’ve created color-matching pages for everything from cheese to french fries. Munsell has even been in space! They worked closely with Nasa to create a color check system that astronauts use to detect rocket fuel on their spacesuits after space walks.

Munsell in Space

Munsell in Space

We were able to view the color mixing room, and see some purple being printed. The process of creating the colors is an exact science, and many standards are taken to ensure continuity of each product. Each of the color systems, and the history of their changes, are kept in the records area. We of course took pictures with the 10 Y/R row.

Color being printed

Color being printed

10 Y/R Row!

10 Y/R Row!

CAP had an excellent time at Munsell, and we extend our gratitude to the individuals at Xrite for taking the time to meet with us. We learned many fascinating things, and look forward to continue working with Munsell in the future.

Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Munsell_color_system

http://munsell.com

 

 

Ding Ding Ding Went the Trolley: Finding the Campus Streetcar Line

With the semester almost over that can mean only one thing for CAP, the impending start of summer campus construction. Although there isn’t anything scheduled as large and complex as the steam tunnel renovation project that has engulfed north campus past few years, there is some work going on in important areas of north campus. The project I’m focusing on right now involves sidewalk, landscaping, and parking changes to the Abbot Road entrance.

The Abbot Road entrance as it exists today is a very familiar part of campus to most students. It’s where the Union is, as well as many of the dorms. However, things looked very different there, not all that long ago. This area contained many historically significant buildings and objects including the Weather Bureau, Y.M.C.A., Faculty Row House #6 and #7, Station Terrace, the streetcar turnout point and streetcar waiting room. Recently, I’ve been conducting research on the streetcar to try and pinpoint the area for the waiting room, and the exact spot it made it’s entrance and turn around.

1924 Campus Map Showing Streetcar Line and Buildings. Image Courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

1924 Campus Map Showing Streetcar Line and Buildings. Image Courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

Travel to the college in the early years was difficult. The plank road from Lansing to campus was not pleasant to travel. Many students hired private wagons to transport them. To let the wagon driver know a pick up was needed, you had to climb to the tower on top of Williams Hall and raise a flag. Calling an Uber is much easier these days!

Split-Rock. Image Source

Split-Rock. Image Source

Once the electric streetcar line was established in Lansing, the line along Michigan Avenue only went as far at the Half-way Rock. A quick tangent in case you don’t know about this special rock. The Half-way Rock, also known as the split rock was a large bolder almost exactly at the midway point between the Capitol and the campus gate. It served as a popular rest station. At some point, a cherry tree began to grow out of the center of the rock, splitting it in half. In 1924 the rock was removed due to the widening of Michigan Avenue. Half of the rock was placed in the southwest corner of the Union where a cherry tree, much like the tree that split the rock in half, was planted next to it. Stop by sometime and read the poem written on the dedication plaque.

By 1894 the streetcar line was extended to reach the Beal entrance of the University. There was significant push back from some officials at the college regarding extending the streetcar line further. They feared that this would attract the “undesirable element” from Lansing, and give students easy access to downtown Lansing bars. However, the increase in female enrollment post 1896 swayed many regarding the need for better, safer transportation and the streetcar line was extended onto campus. The streetcar line at the time is noted as being rather unreliable. Articles in the M.A.C. record note that the cars did not run on time, and the electrical cabling that powered the cars was ill equipped, causing the cars to certainly lose power at one point or another during the journey. In fact, the February 28th 1905 issue of the M.A.C. record contains a song written by the students about the streetcar problems.

Streetcar Song. M.A.C. Record 1905 - Source

Streetcar Song. M.A.C. Record 1905 – Source

The line entered campus across from the Michigan Avenue and Evergreen intersection, and crossed over onto what today is Abbott Road. This is where the small waiting room was originally placed. In 1902 the waiting room was demolished, and moved into the Station Terrace building. Station Terrace originally housed researchers from the M.A.C. experiment station, and later housed bachelor instructors, earning it the nick name the Bull Pen. From 1903-1923 this building also housed the East Lansing post office. In 1924 the building was actually moved off campus, to 291 Durand Street, so it will be interesting to see what may remain of the structure.

Streetcar line, waiting room, and Station Terrace. Image Source

Streetcar line, waiting room, and Station Terrace. Image Source

Weather Bureau on left with streetcar entrance. Image Source

Weather Bureau on left with streetcar entrance. Image Source

The campus portion of the streetcar line was removed in the mid 1920s. You can see on this 1927 map that Abbot Road is beginning to look much like it does today. Streetcar service continued in East Lansing until 1933 when the tracks were torn up and paved over. We’re planning on conducting some preliminary shovel test pits next week in the area of Station Terrace and the streetcar turn around. It will be interesting to see what remains!

1927 Campus Map - Image Courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

1927 Campus Map – Image Courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

Sources:

http://kevinforsyth.net/ELMI/streetcar.htm

James DeLoss Towar. History of the City of East Lansing. 1933

M.A.C. Record

-http://onthebanks.msu.edu/Object/1-4-456/the-mac-record-vol-01-no-34-september-29-1896/

-http://onthebanks.msu.edu/Object/1-4-575/the-mac-record-vol06-no12-december-4-1900/

-http://onthebanks.msu.edu/Object/1-4-625/the-mac-record-vol10-no23-february-28-1905/

MSU Archives

 

 

Let’s Ketchup: Curtice Brothers Preservers Ketchup Bottles from the Gunson Assemblage

Ketchup can be found in 97% of American kitchens. Think about that for a moment, 97%! Some people can’t imagine eating a French fry, hot dog, or hamburger without it. The only condiment/sauce used more here on campus is most likely ranch dressing (I was told once that each cafeteria goes through several gallons a day). As beloved as ketchup is in America, it’s origin lies elsewhere. It originally was not the thick, sweet, tomato based condiment we think of today. The original precursors to what we know as ketchup was a fermented fish sauce popular across South East Asian, known as “keo-cheup”. The earliest known western recipes for ketchup were published in the UK in the 18th century (possibly the 1758 cookbook The Complete Housewife), and were made from kidney beans, mushrooms, anchovies, and walnuts. Early colonists in North America adapted these recipes to later include tomatoes, and the first known recipe for tomato ketchup made its debut in 1812.

1899 Curtice Brothers Ketchup Ad - Image Source

1899 Curtice Brothers Ketchup Ad – Image Source

The popularity of tomato ketchup really took off following the Civil War. In fact, an 1891 issue of Merchant’s Review boasts that ketchup was the “sauce of sauces”, and in 1896 the New York Tribune declared tomato ketchup as America’s national condiment.Today ketchup is nearly synonymous with the Heinz Company, but they haven’t always cornered the market. At the beginning of the 20th century one of their biggest competitors was Curtice Brothers Preservers Blue Label Ketchup.

After cataloging two units from the Gunson/Admin assemblage we have identified at least eight Curtice Brothers Ketchup bottles. Having large amounts of condiment bottles in a historic assemblage is not surprising, but we have been surprised to find so many of the same brand. Brothers Simeon and Edgar Curtice founded Curtice Brothers Co. Preservers Rochester, New York in 1868. The canning business was created to save surplus vegetables and fruits that they could not sell in their small grocery store. By the early 1900s they were one of the largest ketchup and preserves producing firms, and continued production into the late 1960s. The specific bottles we have been recovering from the Gunson assemblage date from the early 1890s to the mid 1920s.

Curtice Brothers Preservers Ketchup Bottle Embossed Mark

Curtice Brothers Preservers Ketchup Bottle Embossed Mark

Base of Curtice Brothers Ketchup Bottle

Base of Curtice Brothers Ketchup Bottle

The Curtice Brothers blue label line helped distinguish their bottle from other competitors. In the early 1900s they were equally as popular as Heinz. So what happened? Why did their brand fall out of popularity? That answer lies in the benzoate food wars.

The pure food and drug act of 1906 was the first series of significant consumer protection laws enacted by Congress that also led to the creation of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The act served to ban foreign and interstate distribution of adulterated and mislabeled food and drug products. It required active ingredients to be placed on the product label. During this time benzoate was a preservative widely used in condiments, and the pure food law outlawed its use in food products due to health concerns.   On one side of the ketchup establishment were those such as the Curtice Brothers that believed that it was impossible to make ketchup without the additive, and that it was not harmful in the small amounts used in their products. On the other side were manufacturers, like Heinz, that believed they could solve the preservative issues with modern science. They began to make ketchup with ripe tomatoes, increasing the amount of vinegar, and charging more, but offering a money back guarantee. Multiple lawsuits were filed by the Curtice Brothers Company fighting the ban, but their protests ultimately failed. The benzoate ketchups slowly disappeared from the market. By 1915 the Curtice Brothers Blue Label Ketchup had fallen out of favor, due to their insistence at using benzoates.

The benzoate content now appears on the bottle label in this 1910 ad - Image Source

The benzoate content now appears on the bottle label in this 1910 ad – Image Source

The Curtice Brothers Ketchup thus far dominates our known condiments from the Gunson house. We have only one other ketchup bottle, Sniders Homemade Catsup from Cincinnati. Did the Gunsons love their ketchup? Perhaps. But the large number of bottles in this trash pit, specifically repeats of the same bottle type (such as the M.A.C. Dairy bottles) makes me suspect that Professor Gunson may have been saving and reusing the bottles, potentially in his experimental greenhouse. There also has not been a single paper label, complete or fragment, on any of these bottles. We will most likely never known for sure why there are so many ketchup bottles, but it’s always fun to investigate a small slice of the past.

Sources:

http://www.sha.org/bottle/Typing/food

Smith, Andrew. 1996 “Pure Ketchup: A History of America’s National Condiment, with Recipes”.

http://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2013/12/02/248195661/ketchup-the-all-american-condiment-that-comes-from-asia

http://www.history.com/news/hungry-history/ketchup-a-saucy-history

http://curticebrothers.wix.com/curticebrothers#!The-Beginning/c1p05/550596df0cf27b8ab28dfe79

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pure_Food_and_Drug_Act

Archaeology 101 Roundup

We’ll be back to regularly scheduled blogs this Thursday.  But first, a big congratulations to CAP Fellow and former Campus Archaeologist Kate Frederick on the birth of her son!

In 2010 CAP posted a series of blogs called Archaeology 101 designed to teach readers some fundamental archaeological skills and terminology.  If you haven’t read them before check them out.  They make a great introductory resource.

Archaeology 101: Reading Stratigraphy

Archaeology 101: Shovel Test Pit

Archaeology 101: Artifact Versus Feature 

Archeology 101: GIS

Please let us know if you have any request for Archaeology 101 topics for the future.