As you may know from my previous blog posts, I have been working on analyzing the faunal remains from Campus Archaeology excavations. My current research project focuses on the Saints’ Rest trash midden, excavated by CAP in 2011 near the location where Saints’ Rest once stood. Because of the sites’ use as a small public dumping area, the artifacts recovered are expected to reflect the daily life of those living at and nearby Saints’ Rest dormitory. The end goal of this research project, in conjunction with research by Lisa Bright, Amy Michael, Jeff Painter, and Susan Kooiman, is to better understand the everyday lives of the early MSU students.
Over the past year, I have been working on identifying the animal (faunal) bone material excavated by the Campus Archaeology Program. Currently, I have been working on bones that were recovered during the Saint’s Rest excavation. Saint’s Rest was the first dormitory on campus, and through CAP excavations, we have been able to learn more about the dorm itself, as well as its associated privy. My goal is to learn about what the students and staff were eating based off of what animal bones were thrown away. I am also comparing my results to the MSU archival records to determine if the bones, and the meat cuts they represent (see my previous blog about this ), align with the historical written record.
From my previous faunal analysis of over 1700 fish bones, I determined that at least 17 walleye heads were thrown away in the privy associated with Saint’s Rest. Now that we have learned about the fish remains, I moved onto the remainder of the faunal material recovered from the Saint’s Rest trash pit, located southeast off the building foundation. The fauna that I have been working with comes from excavations that took place in 2008 and 2009, comprising of mostly mammal remains. I have been working on analyzing these materials using the newly established MSU Museum zooarchaeological comparative collection, allowing me to identify the animals bones excavated by CAP.
With over three-quarters of the remainder of the collection analyzed so far I would like to report my preliminary results!
Based off of the preliminary analysis, there are at least two individual cows, one individual pig, one possible sheep/goat, and one unidentified large bird! These identifications match what Susan Kooiman and myself have found within the archival records for what the college was purchasing at the time.
In addition to determining what species of animals were being thrown away, I also wanted to determine, if possible, the meat cuts associated with those identified bones. This is a much more complicated task than I originally imagined! First, types of meat cuts that occur change over time and across space, making the exact identification of meat cuts much more difficult than anticipated! Look at the image below; you can see that across England the variation within meat cut name and placement, such as clod vs. thick brisket. Different types of meat cuts go in and out of fashion through time and space, just like the types of shoes or styles of clothing that we wear.
Now, compare this to the cuts of meat typically found for beef in North America. We use different names as well as cuts.
Based on what bones are present thus far in the analysis, it appears that this assemblage contains a large variety of meat cuts, including shank, loin, sirloin, rib, brisket, and chuck. These cuts are from almost all parts of the cow, and several bones including a skull fragment, molar tooth and a phalanx (toe bone) indicate that in fact, they were throwing away bones from head to toe!
While the archival records do not always list what cut of beef was purchased, it occasionally listed beef shank, steak, and roast as specific cuts purchased between 1861-1863. The archaeological record and archival record are two lines of evidence that are giving us insight into the food consumption and deposition practices of early MSU students and staff.
Stay tuned for the final update on the analysis of the Saint’s Rest trash pit animal bone analysis!
Meat Cuts and muscle foods: an international glossary by Howard J. Swatland .
The Meat Book: A consumer’s guide to selecting, buying, cutting, storing, freezing, & carving the various cuts by Travers Moncure Evans and David Greene .
Happy Halloween! This past week the Campus Archaeology Program and the MSU Paranormal Society hosted their fourth annual Apparitions and Archaeology: A Haunted Campus Tour! While it was a little chilly out, we had a record number of attendees, with over 200 people touring!
Similar to previous years, there were stops at several of the important landmarks on campus. Everyone started their tour at Beaumont Tower where Dr. Lynne Goldstein, the director of the Campus Archaeology Program gave an introduction to the event and a history of the tower area. After this introduction, everyone was welcome to take the tour in any order they preferred, with additional stops at Saint’s Rest, Sleepy Hallow, the fountain, Morrill Hall, and Mary Mayo Hall.
At each stop, a Campus Archaeology Fellow gave a brief history of their area as well information about what has been found archaeologically, both prehistoric and historic. We also explain how this archaeological data can be used to learn more about the experiences of past MSU students, faculty, and staff, as well as earlier inhabitants of the region. In addition to learning about the archaeology conducted throughout MSU’s campus, the MSU Paranormal Society told stories of the MSU’s haunted past, and showed some of their equipment that they use while conducting paranormal investigations including EMF meters and a spirit box.
One of our favorite parts of this event is interacting with the public about our archaeological investigations of MSU’s campus. We love to hear questions and stories from past and present MSU students, faculty, and staff, the greater MSU Community, and from our future Spartan visitors!
One fun story we heard from a future Spartan was at the Saint’s Rest stop, the location of the first dormitory on campus. Lisa Bright, the current campus archaeologist talked to the visitors about the privy associated with this dorm, where excavations several years ago recovered a lot of artifacts, including a ceramic doll! The reason archaeologists like excavating privy’s so much is because when someone drops something down in a privy, they are probably not going to go after it, leaving an exciting archaeological record! One boy mentioned how that makes sense because his brother once dropped a pencil down the toilet and they didn’t want to go after it!
Another great question from a future Spartan was from a girl who asked the MSU Paranormal Society if they have ever gotten responses from ghost animals through the spirit box! While they haven’t gotten any yet, they said that they wouldn’t be surprised to get a woof or meow response someday!
For those of you who weren’t able to make it to the tour check out the YouTube video the State News made from the tour! And stay on the lookout for the tour next year!
Do you have any questions about MSU’s past? Ask them in the comment section!
Many thanks to undergrad volunteer Courtney Rae Pasek for taking the photos.
This past year, I wrote a blog post detailing several stories of hunting and gathering on campus that I had uncovered while researching food practices on MSU’s early campus. I have continued to explore this aspect of campus and recently discovered some new information that sheds a little more light on these activities!
It is well documented that the first students and faculty on campus supplemented their diet with fruit and game animals from the surrounding area, but the motivation behind this was not completely clear. Within Madison Kuhn’s book Michigan State: The First Hundred Years, there is a passage that discusses the student reactions to the board rate increase from $2.50 per week to $3.15 in the early 1880s. The students were outraged that the raise in rate did not correspond with the quality of food that they were being served. A student committee investigated the university accounts and discovered the university steward “paid excessive prices, that he failed to enter all receipts, and that he bough canned goods while vegetables rotted in the field, and that he charged the boarding-hall for the feed of his personal driving-horse” (Kuhn, p.126). All of these irregularities resulted in the resignation of the steward. This hefty price, plus the less-than desirable taste of the dining hall food, could have been a key factor in the student’s motivation to supplement their diet from the surrounding area.
As Susan mentioned in her blog post last week, students would steal food from different areas around campus including bread, cakes, and fruit from the MSU Orchards (Kains, 1945). In addition to swiping food from around the college, students would also forage across several of the neighboring farms. Using spare clothing as impromptu bags, students would raid nearby fields, coming back to campus with apples, musk melons, and occasionally a stray chicken (Kuhn p. 46).
However, this less than legal practice was not the only way that students added variety to their diet. In the 1870s, a competitive “grand match hunt” was commonly held in October. In 1873, the hunt “bagged seventy-nine squirrels, twelve pigeons, nine quail, six partridges, four turkeys, eight ducks” and the winning team was treated to an oyster dinner by the losers (see Mari’s blog post about Oysters!; Kuhne, p.99). This and other hunting stories are made all the more interesting since, according to the rules and regulations established by the College in 1857, students were not supposed to possess or use firearms on campus (Meeting Minutes 1857, p.32). Because of this rule, students used other means, such as building pens to capture wild turkeys or getting faculty assistance, in order to feast on wild game (Kuhn, p.45). Like smoking and alcohol, the use of firearms was either not strongly enforced or was easily kept secret on a sparsely populated campus. Maybe the promise of a few choice cuts of meat was enough to make faculty members look the other way when it came to hunting on campus.
Kains, Maurice G., editor.
1945 Fifty Years out of College: A Composite Memoir of the Class of 1895 Michigan State College of Agriculture and Applied Science. New York: Greenberg.
Kuhne, Madison 1910 Michigan State: the first hundred years, 1855-1955. Michigan State University Press .
Meeting Minutes, 1857, Offices of Board of Trustees and President, UA 1 http://onthebanks.msu.edu/Object/3-F-1D9/meeting-minutes-1857/
Turkey Photo, date unknown: http://onthebanks.msu.edu/Object/1-4-74C/student-with-turkey-presents-to-onlookers-date-unknown/
MAC Gardens and Orchard, date unknown: http://onthebanks.msu.edu/Object/1-4-6A2/mac-gardens-and-orchard-date-unknown/
I am excited to announce that Capturing Campus Cuisine, the food project that Susan Kooiman and myself began this past year will continue! Last year, we studied the earliest period of MSU’s campus from 1855-1870, focusing on the production, processing, and consumption on campus. This research culminated in the recreation of a historic campus meal with the assistance of MSU Culinary Services. You can read more about what we did previously on the project website: earlyfood.campusarch.msu.edu. This year, we will continue to visit different areas of campus including visits to the MSU farms and meat lab, and conduct further archival research and archaeological analysis in order to expand upon what we have learned.
Personally, I am going to focus on analyzing more of the animal bones that have been recovered during campus excavations. While we can assume that there will be many domesticated species, including cow, pig, sheep, and goat, it is also possible that there are undomesticated species, such as white-tailed deer, elk, or turkey, in the archaeological assemblages.
We know through archival research that both students and faculty hunted on campus (see Autumn’s previous blog on this topic) and that there was also a deer park on campus from 1898 into the early 1900s. This deer park contained three deer as well as two elk. The university even considered expanding to include a buffalo at one point (Beal 1915 pp. 263; MAC Record Nov 15, 1898)! In 2008, the campus archaeology program uncovered the foundations of the barn in the photo below during excavations near present day Mayo Hall.
As I continue with the faunal (animal) bone analysis, I will need to be aware of this, and compare the specimens against both domesticated and undomesticated species to verify the animal species identification. Another layer of analysis that I will conduct this year will be on identifying the specific meat cuts that were utilized. Understanding what cuts of meat come from which skeletal elements in an animal will allow us to compare and contrast what is present within the campus archaeological collection against the archival records which list specific meat portions!
Below are a few images of the animal remains that are being analyzed. Stay tuned for updates on the results of the animal bone analysis!
Cow Barns May 31, 1896 Image: http://onthebanks.msu.edu/Object/1-4-3D3/a-picture-of-a-cow-in-front-of-barns-1896/
Deer Park 1907 Image: http://onthebanks.msu.edu/Object/1-4-96D/deer-park-1907/
Elk Deer Park Image: http://onthebanks.msu.edu/Object/1-4-970/elk-in-the-deer-park-ca-1907/
MAC Record: Tuesday, Nov. 15, 1898 Vol 4 No. 10: http://onthebanks.msu.edu/Object/1-4-4EC/the-mac-record-vol04-no10-november-15-1898/
Beal, William James. History of the Michigan agricultural college and biographical sketches of trustees and professors. 1915.
So what does history really taste like? As you can read from Susan’s event preview blog post, this past week we hosted a 1860s MSU-inspired meal based on archival and archaeological research. This event took place through the collaboration of Campus Archaeology and the MSU Culinary Service, specifically Chef Kurt Kwiatkowski, Chef Jay Makowski, and MSU Baker Cindy Baswell.
Our menu included codfish ball appetizers; main dishes of walleye, spiced beef, turkey with oyster dressing, and beef tongue; sides of chow-chow, graham bread, and potato croquettes; and desserts of ginger cake and raspberry charlotte russe. We also had ginger beer (non-alcoholic) as a beverage option. This was included because Campus Archaeology uncovered a ginger beer bottle during the excavation of Saint’s Rest dormitory in 2005 (read more about ginger beer here. About 25 guests attended the event, ranging from anthropology graduate students and faculty to college administrators.
It was a wonderful meal recreation and I have created several videos below that give a view into what was put into the event, as well as the food that was created and some reactions to beef tongue!
As the meal was finishing, we asked the other guests what dish was their favorite; it ranged from the codfish balls and potato croquettes (with a side of chow-chow!) to a surprising enjoyment of the beef tongue! Personally, I really enjoyed every dish but I was most surprised with how much I actually enjoyed the beef tongue (as long as I didn’t think about what I was eating too much!).
Susan Kooiman and I are extremely proud of how this event came to fruition, and hope to continue researching the early foodways of MSU with Campus Archaeology! Later this week the website I have been building through MSU’s Cultural Heritage Informatics (CHI) Fellowship will be launched, which will detail the information that led us to create this event, an interactive map with interest points from historic MSU, and a designated page about the meal itself! Look for the announcement of the webpage on the CHI blog.
It’s official… the fish skeletal material recovered from the Saint’s Rest privy, the toilet associated with the first dormitory on campus contained walleye!
Walleye are the largest member of the perch family and can be caught in shallow bays and inland lakes. As there are plenty of inland lakes surrounding East Lansing, it is possible that these fish were caught locally and served on campus. Also, walleye actively feed all year round, they can be caught during any season, however, it is easier to catch them during the early morning and evening, as that is their prime feeding times (MI DNR).
When the privy was excavated, an immense amount of bone was recovered from the southwest corner. The bones were very densely packed, and excavators were under time constraints so the area was block lifted and screened back at the lab!
This privy was a permanent brick structure, a earth-closet type of privy, which means that it would have been cleaned out regularly, which may explain why the fish remains were packed tightly into the back corner, possibly out of reach as a result of the cleaning process.
So how do I know that they are walleye? To determine which species the fish remains were, I began at the MSU Museum, where in the collections is a small fish index. This has many different bone elements separated out and labeled by species. This allowed me to get a preliminary identification of walleye or sauger. However, as the index does not include every single fish bone, I wanted further verification. Luckily for me, Dr. Terrance Martin (Illinois State Museum, emeritus) was visiting MSU and was able to take a few minutes and look at the Saints Rest privy fish remains. He also agreed that they looked like walleye, but suggested that I verify the remainder of the materials against other walleye specimens. Unfortunately, the MSU Museum did not have any other walleye skeletal materials in the collections so I turned to another museum. This past week, a specimen loan from the Field Museum arrived, allowing me to take the material and confirm that it is in fact walleye! Below are some images of the fish remains, in comparison to the walleye specimen.
Now that I have many of the previously identified elements confirmed as walleye, I am going to move forward on identifying the remainder of the fish remains, as I already have them sorted by side, counted, and weighed. In addition to focusing on the fish materials, I will begin looking through the mammal remains that have been uncovered on campus, including cow, pig, and sheep/goat with the goal of determining what type of meat cuts were present, and the proportions of species present within the archaeological contexts. Stay tuned for more updates on the Campus Archaeology animal bone identifications!
DNR Walleye: http://www.michigan.gov/dnr/0,4570,7-153-10364_53405-216550–,00.html
During Susan Kooiman and I’s research on the early foodways of MSU’s campus, we scoured our way through a number of purchasing records in the MSU Archives. After Susan’s blog post on the seasonality of food purchased, we realized that it might be interesting to see if there were any patterns of meat purchasing through time! To accomplish this, I reorganized all of our data from the 1861 to 1874 archival records by meat type (i.e. ham, chicken, salt pork, lamb, whitefish, etc.). While we have a few lost years, 1864-1866, I was able to see a few changes through this period of time.
In the beginning, during the early 1860s, the purchasing records were very specific, not only recording that MSU purchased “fresh fish”, but the specific species as well, including trout and whitefish (sometimes even listed as Lake Superior White fish; read more about this here). Through the entire period I analyzed, they also recorded specific cuts of meat, instead of just beef or pork. The types of meat that were listed in detail include bacon, beef shanks, coined beef, beef steak, beef roast, corned beef, shoulder, salt pork, and salt beef.
While there are no clear patterns of changes in purchasing preferences in these early years, the records became much more difficult to interpret during the late 1860s into the 1870s. During the 1870s, it becomes more vague, sometimes only listing from whom the meat was purchased from and not always including the type of cut or even species! This lack of detail makes it much more difficult to recover any changes in meat purchasing and use over time, meaning that other means of gathering information, such as the bones themselves, will be critical for looking at meat use over time at MSU.
While I am unable to uncover any changes in meat use at this time, I did find a few fun entries in the purchasing records as I was compiling the data. The first comes from 1867, citing the specific purchasing of meat from the MSU farms. While it doesn’t say what type of species, it is one of the few accounts that we have come across that specifically cites the purchasing of meat from our very own farms! Second, lists the purchasing of chickens in 1869, not for everyday consumption, but for winter commencement. Commencement would have been one of the larger events held on campus every year, so the college had to buy a lot of food specifically for this event. Lastly, one of my personal favorites, were listings over multiple years for the purchase of steak as well as beef and pork roast, not for the boarding halls, but for President T.C. Abbot. The purchasing records do not list the occasions that the meat was destined for, but from the pounds of meat purchased each month, one may assume that it was purchased for sharing at small functions… unless President Abbot really loved his steak.
MSU Archives & Historical Collections: Kuhn Collection Volume 91. “Agricultural boarding hall”
MSU Archives & Historical Collections: Kuhn Collection Volume 82. Folder 11, Box 2531. Collection UA17.107. “Cash Account with Boarding Hall”
MSU Archives & Historical Collections: Kuhn Collection Volume 108. Folder 11, Box 2533. Collection UA17.107. “Cash Account With Boarding Hall”
MSU Archives & Historical Collections: Kuhn Collection Volume 32. UA17.107. “Accounts 1867-1873”
For Valentine’s Day, let take a dance through time! MSU has a long history of university dances. As we learned through Susan Kooiman’s blog post from October, there are archival records, such as dance cards, from the 1880s that list the order of dances with a space for filling in your dance partner. This particular dance card uncovered by Susan, was from 1884 and only had one dance line filled in. Here is the story, as told by Susan:
“He was to do the Grand March with Grace Boosinger. Curiosity prompted an internet search of her name, which turned up the alumni update section for the Iota Chapter (Michigan Agricultural College) of the Delta Tau Delta fraternity in 1892. It reported that H.E. Thomas married Grace Boosinger (“his old freshman girl) on July 12, 1982, and that he had been “re-nominated as circuit court commissioner.” Harris Thomas was a mover and shaker – he began his career as a lawyer but served as president of multiple companies later on and even served as a US Postmaster. He and Grace lived in Lansing their whole lives and are buried here as well. It seems he only had one name on his dance card for a reason…”
Sadly, many of the photos that I have uncovered do not have as much of a backstory, but they do tell the tale of the long history of formal dances at Michigan State University, some of which still happen today. Now we are going to continue waltzing through time, taking a look a few photos of dances through MSU history.
In 1912, the Olympic Society was one of several literary societies on campus. It was founded in October 1885, due to the need of another literary society at the school (MSU Archives). Below is a photo showing a group of students from this dance.
In 1920 the first Co-Ed Prom took place! However, even through the name says co-ed, it was an all girls’ dance. Not a single man could attend, or even be an onlooker! The dance had some resistance from men on campus, but successfully continued for several years. The M.A.C. record article about the first dance states that, “The lights went out, but the dance went on without interruption. Did some envious man try to stop the fun because he could not be there?” (MA.C. Record Jan 20 1920). The men sometimes held separate “stag parties”, but news accounts note that attempting to sneak into the dance was a enticing challenge and they had to “plug the tunnel and keep the college cop at the door to keep men from sneaking in”(M.A.C. Record Jan 1935).
Each of the “couples” were required to attend the dance in costume. Interestingly in 1921 someone dressed up as Munsel Color Theory (I wish there was a picture of this because as you know, we love Munsel). This prom was organized by the all girls’ student council and with run with the help of the co-ed faculty and student body. The co-ed prom continued through the 1930s.
In 1943, a Mardi Gras Ball was held at MSU. Below, is a photo of the queen of the ball and her court.
As I continued through time, I came across several photos from 1950, one of a group of female students getting ready for a dance and the other of a couple at a formal dance.
Several years later, in 1953, there was an International Festival where three women performed an Indian Stick Dance.
The photo below, from a dance in 1954, shows a large group of students doing the Bunny Hop!
In 1955, the University held a Harvest Dance pictured below, showing a couple posing with the best of the harvest crop!
Finally, I would like to take us to the present day, where MSU continues to have formal balls! One of them is the Honors College Ball. Each year, the ball is organized by Honors College Programing Board, and it is the social calendar highlight of the year. The theme changes from year to year and recent themes have included “Black and White,” “Winter Yule Ball,” and “Masquerade.”
All in all, MSU has a very long history of formal dances, from the late 1800s to present day.
Mardi Gras Ball Queen and Court:
Female students getting ready for dance:
Couple at Formal Dance:
Indian Stick Dance at the International Festival:
MSU Dance 1958:
M.A.C. Record – Jan 1935, January 20 1920.
The analysis of animal bones from historic MSU involves more than the identification of species. While it is important to determine the species that were being consumed, we are also very interested in the specific portions of animals that were being purchased and produced by MSU. Not only was MSU purchasing meat from local vendors, but, as an agricultural school, they also were butchering animals raised on campus. It is possible to determine what cuts of meat were being produced and consumed on campus from analyzing the faunal material uncovered during archaeological excavations. However, there is an added level of difficulty in this type of analysis. While animals were being butchered on campus, they were not being processed by professionals. Instead, MSU students were being trained on how to butcher and process meat from the campus farms. How do we know this you ask? Well, there are photographs in the MSU archives that show the butchering of animals, but we can also learn from studying the animal bones themselves. They allow us to see the many different cuts and angles present that suggest that the individual who was processing the meat was learning where and how to make specific types of cuts (AKA like student drivers, student butchers could not stay in their lane).
So how can we tell different meat cuts apart by looking at the animal bones? Not only can we talk to current butchers, there are countless books on the subject going back through time for butchering processes and preferred cuts. Below are some images that depict various meat cuts on different animal species. Through comparisons between the actual bones recovered and the illustrations of the types of bones that are the result of different cuts of meat, we can figure out what types of meat cuts were the most preferred on campus at the time.
Another factor that needs to be considered while conducting this type of analysis is the preference for specific meat cuts through time and by region throughout the United States and the world! Even today there are certain types of meat that are very popular in one area of the United States, but that cannot be found in another. For example, tri-tip in California is a very popular cut of beef from the bottom sirloin for barbecuing, however, in the Midwest, it is almost impossible to find in a grocery store! However, by understanding the skeletal anatomy of each species, archaeologists are able to determine what types of meat cuts were being produced and/or consumed during the Early Period of MSU’s history.
Using all of this information, I will continue working on the faunal analysis from the Early Period of MSU’s history. After the faunal (animal) bone analysis is complete, I will be able to compare the meat cuts found within the archaeological record to the meat cuts listed within the MSU Archives detailing the purchasing records for the boarding halls.
The Meat Book: A consumer’s guide to selecting, buying, cutting, storing, freezing, & carving the various cuts by Travers Moncure Evans and David Greene .
Meat Cuts and muscle foods: an international glossary by Howard J. Swatland .