I am from Wisconsin. Not only was I born and raised there, but I am also a Wisconsin stereotype—I grew up on a dairy farm. After 25 years in the Dairy State, I relocated to Illinois, but I never felt at home on the flat …
Author: Susan Kooiman
In my previous blog, I discussed the history of the Philip Kling Brewing Company of Detroit, inspired by fragments of two Kling beer bottles found in the Gunson house debris last summer. While the story of the Detroit brewing industry was interesting, it was all …
This past week, Lisa, the Campus Archaeologist, discovered fragment of two different beer bottles in the assemblage excavated from the remains of Professor Thomas Gunson’s household. The embossed words “PH Kling” appear on both fragments, although in different fonts, and an internet search quickly brought up references to the Philip Kling Brewing Company in Detroit. Fortunately for me, Peter Blum wrote a lovely book about the history of brewing in Detroit, in which the Kling company features prominently. I summarize that information here, but I would encourage those of you interested in the topic to give it a read (citation below).
Brewing began in the city of Detroit around 1830, where the industry was run by mostly British entrepreneurs making ale. Beginning around 1848, a large influx of Germans into the area brought with it a new era of brewing in the Detroit—one dominated by German lager brewers. Among these German brewers was Philip Kling, a cooper, who along with Michael Martz and Henry Weber, invested in the Peninsular Brewing Company in 1856, which was located on Jefferson Avenue, near the future site of the Belle Isle bridge. Kling gradually took greater control of the company, which was renamed Philip Kling and Company in 1868. Kling became the first president of the Detroit Brewer’s Association and by the end of the 1870s, PH Kling was one of the city’s most successful and prominent breweries. Their offerings included Pilsener, Gold Seal Export, Extra Pale Ale, and Porter.
After reverting to the name Peninsular Brewing from 1879 to 1890, the name Philip Kling Brewing Company was formally adopted. This year also marked the beginning of the great brewing dynasties, which in Detroit included the Strohs, Klings, Martzes, and Darmstaetters. However, Kling was but a middling competitor amongst the giants. The brewery was severely damaged in a fire in 1893, and a new 6-story brewhouse with increased barrel storage was constructed. After Philip’s death in 1910, his son Kurt took over operations, but business was interrupted by Prohibition in Michigan, which began in 1917. Like other breweries, the company replaced the word “brewing” in their corporate name, becoming Kling Products Company. In the attempt to keep the company running and generate income, Kurt Kling built Luna Park next to the brewery, and amusement park that included a roller coaster. However, the company was forced to close in 1921 and the building was torn down.
Following the end of Prohibition in 1933, Kling purchased Daily Brewery in Flint and resumed brewing by 1936. However, former bootleggers in Detroit still controlled distribution in Detroit, and Kling found it difficult to make his way back into the Detroit market. While the other major breweries were quick to make post-Prohibition recoveries, Kling’s Flint venture floundered and was out of business by 1942.
Back in East Lansing, we believe that the material from CAP excavations this summer is from Professor Gunson’s house, where he lived from 1891 until his death in 1940. A majority of the examples of Kling bottles online have the large, clear block lettering present on the second bottle fragment, while the first has serif lettering, for which I could find no online equivalent. It is possible that these bottles were from two different time periods, meaning Gunson could have been a long-term devotee of the brand throughout the span of its popularity. I could find no information concerning the distribution of Kling beer to other Michigan markets so it is unclear if Gunson purchased the beer locally or in Detroit. In any case, these small pieces of bottle glass tie MSU into the bigger picture of the Michigan brewing industry, which is a legacy in which the state prides itself today. I will hop into a more in-depth discussion of the social role of beer at MSU, in Michigan, and throughout world history in my next blog. In the meantime, relax and throw back a few cold ones—it will make the wait less brewtal.
Blum, Peter H.
1999 Brewed in Detroit: Breweries and Beers since 1830. Wayne State University
Press, Detroit, MI.
As CAP fellows and volunteers continue to research and analyze materials excavated from the earth closet this past summer, we are slowly becoming more “privy to the past” (yes, I’ll wait for the laughter to subside). Thus far we have covered several individual objects from …
In continuation of my semester-long research project on Beaumont West, MSU’s sole prehistoric site excavated by CAP, I have entered the initial stages of report writing. This requires not only the results of the artifact analyses, but also the details of the site excavation so …
Halloween is a beloved day of the year, perhaps because, for some reason, we love to be scared. For many people, nothing causes more fright or fascination than ghosts, the spirits of those who have passed out of the physical world but whose lost souls remain behind. It is widely believed that ghosts remain tied to a specific place on earth because they died with unfinished business, often because they met an unfortunate end. Perhaps it is this terrible fate that makes us so terrified of them—they represent a soul never able to rest, even after death. Maybe this is also why we are so fascinated with not only ghost stories, but with the stories of those who became ghosts, to hear about the lives and often unfortunate circumstances of the deaths of these individuals, all in an effort to make sure that we, too, do not suffer the same fate.
Fascination with the lives of people in the past is what drives many archaeologists to do what they do, sifting through the layers of history (aka “dirt”), looking for scraps of the past. As mentioned in my previous post, I have been analyzing artifacts from a small Late Archaic site found by CAP on campus several years ago. This site consists of lithic debris and four projectile points. When I handle artifacts, I sometimes treat them as objects to be measured, weighed, and described, but once in a while it hits me: I am holding something another person crafted thousands of years ago. If you don’t know much about flintknapping (the craft of making stone tools), it is very difficult. Modern-day flintknappers are hobbyists, and it takes them years to hone their skills. However, for Archaic people, making tools was not a hobby, it was a necessity. Knives and spearheads for hunting and gathering were necessary for survival. While they did not have metallurgy or other “advanced” technology, they had an incredible depth of knowledge about which materials were best for making tools, how to best strike the stone to get it to flake in predictable ways, how to work around a piece of stone’s flaws to still make a viable tool. Not only that, but there are many ways to make a useful projectile point, so the exact shape was often determined by cultural preference. Thus when an Archaic flintknapper sat down, he applied not only his technical knowledge while crafting a tool, but he also pulled from knowledge taught to him by his father or other male kin and from the shapes and styles used by both other group members and by groups with whom they interacted. We will never know the name of the individual who made a particular projectile point, but we can still recreate the world in which he lived through archaeological research, such as his social sphere, his diet, his seasonal movements across the landscape, and what that environment looked like and how he exploited its resources.
This semester I have also been supervising undergraduate students in the CAP lab as they label artifacts excavated from historic sites on campus this summer. With the aid of historical documents, it is even easier to connect artifacts to individuals and delve into their lives. As Amy Michael pointed out in her most recent blog, a piece of souvenir glass that said “Lu 1905,” which she conjectured belonged to Lutie Gunson, wife of Professor Gunson. It makes one wonder, where did Lutie get that souvenir? Was it a gift commemorating a special occasion, or did she buy it while on a trip? We may never know the circumstances of how Lutie acquired her souvenir or when it was broken or disposed of, but archaeology has brought us closer to knowing her. She was not just another name in the records, but a person who once transformed her house on this campus into a home using personal keepsakes, just as many of us do today.
Archaeology can bring us closer to understanding the lives of people who lived on the land now occupied by MSU, either 3000 or 100 years ago. While our interest may not be rooted in a desire to avoid the ill-fate of troubled souls, it is rooted in a desire to understand how our predecessors navigated the world in which they lived and what we might learn about modern society as a result. In other words, we want to understand where we have been in an effort to understand ourselves.
Throughout its years of survey and excavation at Michigan State University, the Campus Archaeology Program has found only one pre-contact archaeology site on campus; that is, a site that pre-dates the arrival of Europeans into the region. Thus the majority of CAP’s research has concentrated …