The Real Scoop on Why Station Terrace Housed a Shovel

High School volunteer Spencer holding the shovel blade from Station Terrace

High School volunteer Spencer holding the shovel blade from Station Terrace

While archaeologists are trained in a number of different skills and techniques, there is one thing that all archaeologists know and love: shovels. Shovels are just as much a part of archaeology as the ubiquitous trowel, and even lend their name to the title of hard working archaeologists who dig for their supper, shovel bums. Every archaeologist can recognize many types of shovels, and we all know what situations they are best for during excavation. So, it is always fun when we get to use a shovel to dig one up.

During CAP’s 2017 field school at Station Terrace, just such an event occurred. In Unit F, placed within the interior of the building, a large shovel blade was recovered by students (Bright 2017). At about 14 inches wide, 17 inches long, and 4.5 inches deep (give or take a quarter of an inch or so of rust), this was a large metal shovel that, based on its deep well, was designed for scooping (McLeod n.d.). Due to its scoop appearance, this shovel may have been a large-scale mover of things, such as coal, grain, gravel, mulch, etc. But this begs the question: why was this type of shovel in Station Terrace?

Station Terrace in the winter, date unknown.  Note the walkways cleared of snow around the building

Station Terrace in the winter, date unknown.  Note the walkways cleared of snow around the building. Image source

Station Terrace, which stood on campus from the early 1890’s until 1924, served many functions during its relatively short life as part of MSU. Early on, it was used as housing for visiting researchers and then for unmarried male instructors, during which it received the great nickname of “the Bull Pen.” From 1903 to 1923, Station Terrace was used as the East Lansing Post Office, while a front room served as a trolley car waiting room. In 1921, the waiting room was turned into a small café, known as the Flower Pot Tea Room (Bright 2016; Michael 2017). Thanks to a house fire in 1903, exterior photographs and the one existing photograph of one of the bedrooms, we know that the building had at least one chimney pre-1910 and two post 1910 expansion(Bright 2016); indicating it had fire places and possibly some other source of internal heating, but there is no mention of a large coal-burning stove that would have required a large shovel for moving coal. It also does not appear that any of the buildings many functions would have required the movement of large amounts of scoop-able materials, unless the post office moved letters and packages by shovel.

Photo of the room of F.B. Mumford c. 1894. Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections.

So why was this shovel kept in Station Terrace? To me, the mystery of how objects were used in the past can be just as much fun as uncovering tidbits of history that have been lost for thousands of years. Humans are an amazingly creative bunch, meaning that we use objects in many different ways. For example, my wife uses a high-ball glass not for drinking, but for cutting dough to make pierogis. We rarely use this glass for anything else at home; it is reserved for a purpose that many people would not expect. I think the Station Terrace shovel was used in a similar manner. While it may have at one point served to shovel coal, grain, or other materials, I think it was used as a snow shovel at Station Terrace. Being located in Michigan, MSU gets a lot of snow. As Station Terrace served as a post office and trolley stop, moving vehicles, people, and mail carts would have regularly needed access to the building. Snow and ice would have impeded this accessibility, so snow removal was, and still is, essential. As this blog by Tim Heffernan attests, old coal shovels make great snow removal devices thanks to their weight and their metal blades. In the end, it is very difficult to know exactly how this object was used, but context clues suggest that it might have completed a number of jobs in its life, some that are easier to imagine, others that will continue to be a mystery.

References Cited

Bright, Lisa
2016   “Station Terrace: A Building with Many Identities.” Campus Archaeology Blog. http://campusarch.msu.edu/?p=4255.

2017   “2017 Field School Recap: Station Terrace.” Campus Archaeology Blog. http://campusarch.msu.edu/?p=5401.

McLeod, Danielle
n.d.   “Types of Shovels: Your Complete Guide to What Works Best Where.”  https://www.backyardboss.net/types-of-shovels/.

Michael, Amy
2017   “The Flower Pot Tea Room: A Female-Run Student Business on the Early Campus.” Campus Archaeology Blog. http://campusarch.msu.edu/?p=4895.

The Many Faces of Cowles House, MSU’s Oldest Building

This summer, Cowles House, MSU’s oldest standing building, is due to get a facelift. As part of this remodeling, crews will remove a few trees from around and inside the building and expand the west wing.  In preparation for this work, I have been researching the history of this building, as well as what previous CAP excavations have recovered in the area.

Completed in 1857, Cowles House was one of four homes built to house the earliest faculty members and administrators of MSU.  Some of the most prominent individuals in MSU’s history, such as Williams, Abbot, Beal, Bessey, Hannah, and McPherson, all lived in this house during their tenure at the college (Brock 2009; Kuhn 1955).  From 1857-1874, Cowles House served as the residence of the college president.  After 1874, Cowles House, then known as Faculty Row No. 7, functioned as the home of the professor of Botany (Beal 1915:35, 267; http://archives.msu.edu/collections/buildings.php).

A View of Cowles House ca. 1920

A View of Cowles House ca. 1920. Image Source.

During these early decades, Cowles house was not only a place of residence, but was also a hub of campus entertainment. Early on, no organized social life existed on MSU’s campus.  Students instead gravitated towards faculty homes, where faculty and staff would regularly host small get-togethers (Kuhn 1955:127). The Abbot’s, who lived in Cowles House during their time at the college, frequently invited students and guests into their home. As documented by Kuhn, Abbot had students come to his home weekly to read and discuss literature.  They also entertained on the weekends: “On Saturday nights the Abbot home was open to students; twenty or thirty would gather about the fire to eat apples and to talk of politics, of ethics, and of literature” (Kuhn 1955:90).

By the early 1900s, Cowles House had been repurposed to serve a broader function.  On a 1927 map of campus (MSU archives: http://onthebanks.msu.edu/Object/1-4-114F/map-of-msu-campus-and-buildings-1927/), Cowles House is labeled as “Secretary’s House,” indicating a switch from residential space to a more administrative one.  I have not been able to discover more about what this label entails, such as if the house was entirely office space during this time, but it is clear that the space was no longer reserved for faculty use.

In 1941, under the Hannah administration, Cowles House once again became the home of the president of the university.  As such, the building underwent major renovations after the end of World War II, during which much of the building was rebuilt and a new wing was added to the west end (Kuhn 1955:402).  Recently, Cowles House has functioned as an entertainment and banquet space, as recent presidents have decided to live off campus (Brock 2009).

A View of Cowles House Today

A View of Cowles House Today. Image source

Artifacts from south of Cowles House, Shovel Test Pit G1

Artifacts from south of Cowles House, Shovel Test Pit G1

Cowles House has been of great interest to Campus Archaeology due to its location within the Sacred Space.  As little has changed in this part of campus, this area has the potential for preserving intact archaeological deposits from the earliest days of campus.  CAP has conducted numerous surveys around the building, including in 2009, 2011, 2012, and 2014 (CAP Reports 7, 11, and 15), but we are yet to find any clear features or concentrations of materials. Instead, only a diffuse scatter of artifacts has been found around the building. Brick fragments, window glass, nails, and other construction debris are the most common objects found, while a few ceramic sherds, animal bones, bottle glass, and two golf balls have also been recovered. In general, this record is likely the result of construction and remodeling episodes, mixed in with trash from everyday life.  While CAP has tested extensively around the building, we have not investigated every area, and plan to survey and monitor intently as renovations take place this summer.  We are always on the look-out for that rare deposit that can provide us insights into the lives of the early MSU faculty and presidents!

References Cited

Beal, W.J.
1915   History of the Michigan Agricultural College and Biographical Sketches of Trustees and Professors.  Michigan Agricultural College, East Lansing

Brock, Terry
2009   “Survey Spot: Cowles House”  Blog posted on CAP website, Sept. 9, 2009.

CAP Report 7
2009   Music Building and Cowles House Survey.  Campus Archaeology Program.

CAP Report 11
2011   Walter Adams Field Survey: Archaeological Report.  Campus Archaeology Program.

CAP Report 15
2012   West Circle Steam I Survey: Archaeological Report.  Campus Archaeology Program.

Kuhn, Madison
1955   Michigan State: The First Hundred Years.  The Michigan State University Press, East Lansing.

MSU Archives and Historical Collections:

Gone but Not Forgotten: Campus Buildings that No Longer Exist.  Online Exhibit. http://archives.msu.edu/collections/buildings.php

Map of MSU Campus and Buildings, 1927. http://onthebanks.msu.edu/Object/1-4-114F/map-of-msu-campus-and-buildings-1927/

The Life of a Bed: Not as Boring as One Might Think

Take a long look at the objects in the picture below. What do you think they are?

"Mystery" artifacts from Saints' Rest

“Mystery” artifacts from Saints’ Rest

I bet that your first guess was just a little bit off. They are not small hand-cuffs (as they were originally labeled in the lab!), buckles, or tiny horseshoes. They are actually hardware from a little discussed, yet constantly used, object found in every home: a bed stand! If you were wrong, don’t feel bad, I did not know the correct answer either until Campus Archaeologist Lisa Bright pushed me toward the solution.

Beds have been around for a very long time. They can be found in most households, and are used every day, yet they are rarely discussed unless you have back problems (Wright 1962).  Especially in college dorms, where beds are one of the few pieces of furniture present, they are essential for every day life. Everything from eating to studying, writing, relaxing, or posing for photos with eleven of your best friends all take place on a bed. They are also the perfect platforms for pranks. Speaking from experience, nothing is better than waking up your friend once he has been thoroughly plastic wrapped to his bed. As such, beds have a story to tell about the past, a perspective that helps us to understand the experiences of early students at MSU.

Several college friends posing for a photo in an Abbot Hall dorm room, 1901.

Several college friends posing for a photo in an Abbot Hall dorm room, 1901. Image Source.

Recovered during excavations at Saint’s Rest, the objects above provide one of our few glimpses of early beds on MSU’s campus. These “D”-shaped fixtures, typically made from cast iron, were one half of a two-part system to hold pieces of a bed stand together. The circular end was fitted into a similar shaped slot in the side rail, so that the short square protrusions faced outward. These protrusions then slotted into a metal face plate attached to the bed post, forming the first tool-free bed stand (Taylor 2016). This technology, invented after the civil war, made bed stands more portable, as they were easy to break down and re-build in a different location. But, since the hardware was made of heavy metal, it was costly to ship. By around 1900, a lighter version, similar to those used today, was invented (Taylor 2011).

Example of how this “D”-shaped hardware system works

Example of how this “D”-shaped hardware system works. Image Source

In these early days, dorm rooms were often filled to the brim with students. Up to 4 students would sleep in a room in Saint’s Rest, using only two beds. Two young men would share one bed, continuing (I assume begrudgingly) the family tradition of sleeping together (MSU Archives Exhibit 2012; Wright 1962). Unfortunately, few images from within Saint’s Rest exist, so it is unknown what type of mattresses these bed frames supported, or what other activities may have taken place on them.

Image of two gentlemen admiring their handy work after stacking another student’s room. 

Image of two gentlemen admiring their handy work after stacking another student’s room. Image Source

While it is clear that they were used for sleeping, easily dis-assembled bed frames also aided in at least one early MSU tradition, room stacking. An ingenious form of initiation, freshmen new to the campus would occasionally return to their rooms to find all of their things stacked into one large tower of furniture and personal belongings (MSU Archives Exhibit 2012). Not only were their possessions stacked, but it was done in such a way as to make re-assembling the room and sleeping in it difficult.  As one student who returned to a stacked room recounts, “It was past twelve o’clock that night before I got my bed down so as to sleep on it” (MSU Archives Scrapbook Page, 1902).

Oh, the tales these beds could tell if we could only re-create a bit more of their life histories!

References Cited

MSU Archives and Historical Collections:
2012   Exhibit- Dormitory Life: The First One-Hundred Years of Students Living on Campus. Created by Kim Toorenaar.  http://onthebanks.msu.edu/Exhibit/1-6-D/dormitory-life/
1902    Scrapbook Page about Room Stacking Pranks, 1902. Created by George Newnes.  http://onthebanks.msu.edu/Object/1-4-1156/scrapbook-page-about-room-stacking-pranks-1902/

Taylor, Fred
2011   “Furniture Detective: Hardware on Vintage Beds Crucial to Its Design and Function” http://www.antiquetrader.com/antiques/vintage_brass_bed_hardware_design/
2016   “The Nuts and Bolts of Bedding Down Through the Ages” https://www.liveauctioneers.com/news/columns-and-international/fred-taylor/nuts-bolts-bedding-ages/

Wright, Lawrence
1962   War and Snug: The History of the Bed.  Routledge and Kegan Paul, London.

An Electrifying Discovery: Early Batteries on MSU’s Campus

While archaeologists are great at identifying artifacts that we recover, we occasionally find objects that are a mystery.  Even on campus, we sometimes find intriguing objects in our excavations that take some investigative work to identify.  One group of objects that has piqued our interest were a number of small black cylinders recovered during the 2015 CAP field school at the late 19th-early 20th century Gunson site.  Ambiguous enough to make finding a function difficult, the current Campus Archaeologist Lisa Bright suggested that they might have originally served as carbon rods within batteries.  After doing some research, she appears to be right!

Carbon rods are found in the center of zinc-carbon batteries, today’s basic household battery.  In general, these batteries produce energy through chemical reactions that take place between their component parts.  As these reactions release energy, the centrally placed carbon rod functions as a positive electrode, helping to funnel the released energy into whatever device the battery is powering (Frood 2003; Schumm 2011).  These batteries can come in both flat or cylindrical forms, and can be stacked together to generate even larger electric potential (Schumm 2011).  Based on the shape and the length of the carbon rods recovered by CAP, it is likely that they originated from within cylinder batteries.

Diagram of the interior of a modern zinc-carbon battery, found on the UPS Battery Center blog

Diagram of the interior of a modern zinc-carbon battery, found on the UPS Battery Center blog. Image source

If, like me, you tend to image the late 18th-early 19th century as battery free, they actually have a much deeper history than many realize.  The first batteries that we know of were actually created centuries ago, sometime between 200 B.C. or A.D. 600.  Known as “Baghdad Batteries,” these devices, constructed from metal and liquid components placed in clay jars, were capable of producing a small electric charge, but it is unknown how they would have been used (Frood 2003).  Much later, in 1866, the same concepts were used by Georges-Lionel LeClanche to invent the LeClanche wet cell battery.  Housed in a glass mason jar, this early battery was used to power important technologies like telegraph machines and railroad signals.  In 1888, Carl Gassner improved this model and created the first dry cell battery, which used a solid medium instead of a liquid one.  This improvement made these batteries spill-proof, and are the ancestor of all of our modern batteries today (Schumm 2011).  Both wet and dry cell batteries utilized carbon rods to help channel the battery’s energy, but based on the dates from the Gunson site (late 19th-early 20th century), these rods would have been from dry cell batteries.

Image of an early zinc-carbon battery, produced by the National Carbon Co. at the end of the 19th century.

Image of an early zinc-carbon battery, produced by the National Carbon Co. at the end of the 19th century. Image source

Batteries may have had numerous roles on campus.  Starting in the 1890s, MSU officials were working on initiatives to power many parts of campus through the use of electricity (Meeting Minutes of Offices of Board of Trustees and President 1892, 1894, 1898).  A few departments also requested and received funding to purchase electrical equipment for power sources and experiments.  For example, in 1890 and 1895, the College approved the purchase of a mysterious “electric apparatus” for two different professors (Meeting Minutes of Offices of the Board of Trustees and President 1890, 1895).  In 1898, they also approved the purchase of an electrical motor to power the equipment within the mechanical shops (Meeting Minutes of Offices of the Board of Trustees and President 1898).  Batteries are also occasionally mentioned, as in 1904, when a large storage battery (think like a large car battery) was purchased and installed for the Department of Physics and Electrical Engineering (M.A.C. Record, Dec. 13th, 1904).  Batteries also may have been used to power technologies mentioned earlier, such as communication equipment.

It is hard to know how Gunson, a horticulturalist by trade, would have used these batteries.  While it is likely that he and his family may have used them within their home for some purpose, another clue is found in an 1896 edition of the M.A.C. Record.  Within, there is a small discussion of an experiment conducted by a few men in Chicago, who used electricity produced by an electric engine and then storage batteries attached to a cart to kill weeds along a railroad line (M.A.C, Record, Oct. 20th, 1896).  While the validity of such experiments is called into question by this article, it shows that people in many scientific fields were experimenting with electricity during this time, even horticulturalists and botanists.  As such, some of the batteries we have recovered may have served household functions, but others may have been used in experiments conducted in Gunson’s greenhouse or around the campus grounds.

 

 

References Cited

Frood, Arran
2003   “Riddle of ‘Baghdad Batteries.’”  BBC News website.  Accessed Feb. 7th, 2018.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/2804257.stm

MSU Archives and Historical Collections
1896   M.A.C. Record, October 20th, 1896.
http://onthebanks.msu.edu/Object/1-4-45A/the-mac-record-vol-01-no-37-october-20-1896/

1904   M.A.C. Record, December 13th, 1904.
http://onthebanks.msu.edu/Object/1-4-61B/the-mac-record-vol10-no13-december-13-1904/

1890   Meeting Minutes of the Offices of the Board of Trustees and President.
http://onthebanks.msu.edu/Object/3-F-21F/meeting-minutes-1890/

1892   Meeting Minutes of the Offices of the Board of Trustees and President.
http://onthebanks.msu.edu/Object/3-F-221/meeting-minutes-1892/

1894   Meeting Minutes of the Offices of the Board of Trustees and President.
http://onthebanks.msu.edu/Object/3-F-223/meeting-minutes-1894/

1895   Meeting Minutes of the Offices of the Board of Trustees and President.
http://onthebanks.msu.edu/Object/3-F-224/meeting-minutes-1895/

1898   Meeting Minutes of the Offices of the Board of Trustees and President.
http://onthebanks.msu.edu/Object/3-F-227/meeting-minutes-1898/

Schumm, Brooke Jr.
2011   Zin-Carbon Batteries.  In Linden’s Handbook of Batteries, edited by Thomas B. Reddy and David Linden.  McGraw Hill, Columbus OH.

 

Who Knew My Coca-Cola Addiction Could Be So Useful: Using Coke Bottles to Date Archaeological Sites

Dating archaeological sites that we discover is one of the most basic tasks that archaeologists perform.  While we all must do it, dating archaeological assemblages is not always easy.  Luckily, marketing and branding, a crucial part of our consumer world, helps to make dating historic sites a little easier.  Every company needs a brand, something that makes them stand out among their competition and reminds the consumer that they are buying a quality product.  A great deal of branding is done through material culture, creating visual cues that trigger people’s memories and make them want to buy your product.  Like clothing lines, long-lived brands must change over time to keep up with both their competition and the current fashions and culture, leading to variation in the products of companies.  This variation, when documented, can help us to date different deposits at archaeological sites.  One great example is the Coke bottle.  Here at Campus Archaeology, we occasionally come across Coke bottles in various forms.  Depending on some particular characteristic of the bottle, we can give a general date to the materials found with that bottle.

Coke bottles through the years

Coke bottles through the years. Image source

Coca-Cola first made its appearance in 1886 as a soda fountain drink in downtown Atlanta, GA.  Over the next number of years, Coca-Cola was only served by the glass at drinking fountains until around 1899, when the company signed its first bottling contract (Coca-Cola 2011).  The earliest Coca-Cola bottles were Hutchinson style bottles, but were quickly followed by straight-sided bottles with crown tops in a number of different colors of glass.  Dating to between 1900 and 1920, the dates of these straight-sided bottles can be narrowed even further based on the shape of the script and where the script is placed on the bottle.  For example, straight sided Coke bottles with script in a diamond shape in the center of the bottle are dated to 1907-1912, while ones with a vertical arrow in the center date to between 1912 and 1916 (for more variations: www.antique bottles.com/coke/).  During the time of the straight-sided Coke bottles, the Coca-Cola brand was expanding greatly.  As such, competitors tried to take advantage of this brand by closely mimicking Coke branding strategies.  In response, the Coca-Cola company had bottle manufacturers create a unique bottle type, one that had a distinct look and feel, which would forever be synonymous with the Coca-Cola brand: the contour (or hobbleskirt) bottle.  Patented in 1915, the contour bottle went into production in 1916 and was subsequently sold all over the world (Coca-Cola 2011; Lockhart and Porter 2010).

Coke bottle found by CAP in the Brody/Emmons Dump

Coke bottle found by CAP in the Brody/Emmons Dump

Since the beginning of their production, Coca-Cola contour bottles have changed very little, as this bottle served as the hallmark of the Coca-Cola brand.  While the bottle designs stayed relatively consistent, the patent for the bottle was renewed several times.  Since the patent date or patent number was included on the bottles to prove that they were from true Coca-Cola distributors, these numbers can help narrow down the date range of when the bottle may have been made.  For example, from 1917 to 1928, Coke bottles had the patent date of “NOV. 16 1915” on each bottle.  When a different patent was acquired on Dec. 25th, 1923, the bottles eventually began to display this date.  From 1928 to 1938, the so called “Christmas Cokes” (due to the Christmas patent date) were produced that possessed this second date.  Other such markings are “PAT. D 105529” (1938-1951), “US PATENT OFFICE/MIN CONTENTS 6 FL OZ” (1951-1958), and “US PATENT OFFICE/ MIN CONTENTS 6 ½ FL OZ” (1958-1965) (Lockhart and Porter 2010; www.antiquebottle.com/coke/).  Starting in 1960, Coke began selling their products in cans, followed by plastic bottles in 1978, marking the slow decline of the glass Coca-Cola contour bottle (Coca-Cola 2011; Coca-Cola Journey Staff 2017).

Close up of bottle from Brody/Emmons Dump showing the Dec. 25, 1923 patent date.

Close up of bottle from Brody/Emmons Dump showing the Dec. 25, 1923 patent date.

On campus, if we find a Coke bottle during excavation, we know that the deposit dates to around 1900 or younger.  We can then use more specific details about the bottle to further narrow down the date range.  For example, within the Brody/Emmons dump, an early trash disposal site for East Lansing, CAP recovered at least one Coke bottle.  The presence of this bottle indicates that at the dump was being used sometime between 1900 and the present.  Looking closer on the bottle, one sees a patent date of Dec. 25th, 1923.  This date indicates that the bottle was an old “Christmas Coke” bottle, made and sold between 1928 and 1938; a date range that fits well with what we know about the use of this dump.  Coke bottles, used in this way, serve as excellent diagnostic artifacts for more recent historic sites.  But, as marketing never ceases, we must also be wary of recent reissues of old Coke bottles, which promise to confound our efforts in the future.

References Cited

Antique Bottle Collectors Haven
n.d.   “Antique Coke Bottles.”  Website.  http://www.antiquebottles.com/coke/

Coca-Cola Company
2011   125 Years of Sharing Happiness: A Short History of the Coca-Cola Company.
http://www.coca-colacompany.com/content/dam/journey/ us/en/private/fileassets/
pdf/2011/05/Coca-Cola_125_years_booklet.pdf

Coca-Cola Journey Staff
2017   “Contour Bottle History.”  Coca-Cola Website.
http://www.coca-cola.co.uk/stories/contour-bottle-history

Lockhart, Bill, and Bill Porter
2010   “The Dating Game: Tracking the Hobble-Skirt Coca-Cola Bottle.”  Bottles and
      Extras: 46-61.

 

Water of Life: How One Whiskey Bottle can Remind Us of an Infamous Part of Michigan History

In archaeology, we frequently use large assemblages of different artifacts to interpret what happened at an archaeological site.  While a greater number of artifacts is always useful, the ability of just one single artifact to tell us a story is also amazing.  I am reminded of this while researching an old whiskey bottle recovered by CAP from the Brody/Emmons Dump. Seemingly simple enough, this object has unlocked a small piece of Michigan history that I had never heard before.

Hiram Walker bottle recovered from the Brody/Emmons complex, site of East Lansings first dump.

Hiram Walker bottle recovered from the Brody/Emmons complex, site of East Lansings first dump

It all started while researching the company whose name was embossed on the top of the bottle’s lid: Hiram Walker and Sons, Inc. Hiram Walker was born in Massachusetts in 1816.  As a young man, he moved to Detroit in 1838 and began to go into business buying and selling various goods.  By setting some of his earnings aside, he saved up enough money to begin his own distilling business, starting with vinegar.  He also began producing whiskey (Chauvin 1927), whose name is an old corruption for a word meaning “water of life” (Lyons 1999).  By the early 1850’s, Walker’s whiskey had become a local favorite, but the prohibition movement threatened his success.  In 1855, a number of states, including Michigan, began to ban the sale of liquor except by apothecaries for medicinal purposes.  In response, Walker began buying property in what would become Windsor, Ontario starting in 1856 and began building new facilities.  In 1858, his new distillery and flour mill were complete and Hiram Walker and Sons was born.  Their most popular product was Walker’s Club Whiskey, which was immensely popular in the United States (Chauvin 1927).

As the prohibition movement and the Civil War shut down liquor production in the Confederacy, where most U.S. distilleries were located, Walker’s Club Whiskey was smuggled across the Detroit River into the U.S. and then distributed across the Union (Chauvin 1927; Hill 2016).  Walker’s whiskey was so popular that it was rumored that he had built a pipe running underneath the Detroit River purely for the purpose of pumping his whiskey directly into the U.S.  As alcohol production once more picked up after the war ended, Walker’s Club Whiskey dominated the market, so much so that U.S. competitors begged the U.S. legislature to require a liquor’s country of origin to be clearly marked on every bottle.   Once the law passed, his whiskey was rebranded as Canadian Club Whiskey (Chauvin 1927).

By the 1910’s, prohibition once again reared its head, this time leading to a national ban on alcohol in the U.S. from 1920 to 1933.  Prohibition hit Hiram Walker and Sons hard, but they were once again able to find outlets for their product across the Detroit River (Chauvin 1927; Hill 2016).  Al Capone, the famous gangster, was one of their best customers, who succeeded in distributing Canadian Club Whiskey across the Midwest with the aid of Detroit’s infamous Purple Gang (Pearson 2014).  Despite their rum-running success, Hiram Walker and Sons was sold in 1927 for little of its original worth.  Today, Hiram Walker’s distillery is now the largest distillery in North America and produces around 150 different products that are distributed widely.  They still make world renowned whiskeys, but their first product, Canadian Club Whiskey, is now owned and produced by a nearby competitor (Hill 2016).

1935 ad with a drawing of a bottle very similar to that recovered from the Brody/Emmons Dump

1935 ad with a drawing of a bottle very similar to that recovered from the Brody/Emmons Dump. Image Source

Aside from the name of the company, this bottle contains other information that can help us to place it within this history of Hiram Walker and Sons, Inc.  Using the free bottle dating reference guide created by Bill Lindsey (https://sha.org/bottle/index.htm, supported by the Bureau of Land Management and the Society for Historical Archaeology), I was able to narrow down when this bottle may have been produced for sale.  Present on this bottle are embossed designs and mold seams that reach the very lip of opening, which indicate that it was machine-made.  This technology first became popular after 1900, meaning that CAP’s Hiram Whiskey and Son’s bottle post-dates the Civil War smuggling days of the company.  Since there are very few bubbles present in the glass itself, it is likely that this bottle was made with more advanced manufacturing technology, further narrowing the time table of this bottle into the 1930’s or later.  The presence of an external screw top also suggests this later date, as this closure type only became popular starting in the late 1920’s.

Close up of the embossed federal disclaimer on the bottle recovered by CAP

Close up of the embossed federal disclaimer on the bottle recovered by CAP.

Our greatest piece of evidence is one simple sentence embossed prominently on the bottle: FEDERAL LAW FORBIDS SALE OR RE-USE OF THIS BOTTLE.  Post-prohibition, this message was required by federal law on all liquor bottles to further discourage illegal liquor sales.  Passed in 1935, the law was repealed and the message discontinued by the mid 1960’s, placing the manufacture and use of this bottle firmly between 1935 and 1965.  Based on all of this evidence, this bottle of Hiram Walker and Sons’ whiskey was distilled and consumed legally in post-prohibition East Lansing.  While this bottle may not have been part of Al Capone’s illegal liquor empire, it still has an incredible story to tell about Michigan’s past.

 

References Cited

Chauvin, Francis X.
1927   Hiram Walker: His Life and His Work and the Development of the Walker
      Institutions in Walkerville, Ontario.  Manuscript accessed online through the
Southwestern Ontario Digital Archive, University of Windsor.

Hill, Sharon
2016   “Hiram Walker and Sons Distillery No Longer Shy About Telling Its Story.”
      Windsor Star, Windsor Ontario.  Published Sept. 17th, 2016.

Lyons, T. P.
1999   Production of Scotch and Irish Whiskies: Their History and Evolution.  In The
Alcohol Textbook, edited by K. A. Jacques, T. P. Lyons, and D. R. Kelsall, Pp. 137-
164.  Nottingham University Press, Nottingham.

Pearson, Craig
2014   “From the Vault: Prohibition.”  Windsor Star, Windsor, Ontario.  Published Nov.
22nd, 2014.

 

Field of Dreams: An Eclectic History of the Adams Field Area

During this semester, I have been researching the use history of the Adams Field/Music Building area ahead of proposed construction.  This work has reminded me just how complex, and sometimes odd, college campuses can be, and the many activities that take place within them.  On researching this one particular area, it seems as if a million different things happened there in just the last 162 years; a slight exaggeration, but not by much! Sporting events, side shows, dances, two presidential visits, farming, construction and landscape modification, and temporary camps are just a few of the many documented happenings in this particular part of campus.  Here, I will quickly review a few of these events that I have not already discussed elsewhere and explore their importance for us at the Campus Archaeology Program.

One of the more important activities, the reason an armory and Adams Field were originally constructed around 1885, was for military training.  While much of this training involved marching, drills, exercise, and the occasional skirmish, practice with different firearms also took place (Kuhn 1955:155-156).  Physical training facilities, in high demand by students, were also housed in the armory, such as “parallel and horizontal bars, a trapeze, rings, ladders, dumb bells, and Indian clubs” (Kuhn 1955: 156).  Directly north of the armory, an updated bathhouse was constructed in 1902 in order to aid in this physical training and provide students with a readily available place to bathe.  The two buildings were connected by a corridor and the bathhouse held, among other features, a “plunge bath” that was 35 ft. by 17 ft. in dimensions and about 5’ 6” deep (Beal 1915:277).

1886 image of officer candidates drilling with firearms on Adams Field.

1886 image of officer candidates drilling with firearms on Adams Field. Image Source

While military and athletic pursuits were a major activity in this part of campus, other events took place here as well.   The armory was occasionally used for lectures, speeches, and even commencement ceremonies early in the history of the University (Beal 1915:271).  It was also utilized as an extra living space for summer visitors when rooms were short, as well as the headquarters for doctor’s visits before a hospital was established on campus (Kuhn 1955:168, 188).  While we don’t often think of this space as a residential area, in 1888 the first Abbot Hall was built just north and east of the present Music Building.  This space became the women’s dormitory early on and housed a fully equipped cooking laboratory and dining room (Beal 1915:271-272; Lautner 1978: Key to Map, 120).

Large university events also have a long history in this part of campus.  Before the university athletic program was funded by the university and ticket purchases, teams were supported by fundraising.  The largest fundraiser, started in 1907, was the athletic carnival, which took place in the armory and Adams Field.  For one day each year, each campus group would host or create an attraction or side show, including a gambling station, wild west saloon, shooting gallery, the Russian bearded lady, and “Wadji, the fossil bedbug, sole survivor of ‘Saint’s Rest’” (M.A.C. Record, March 2, 1909; April 13, 1909).  Along with these attractions, the domestic science department supplied food for hungry attendees.  The day began with a parade through campus and ended with a large dance in the armory, where the “floor was covered with dancers tripping the light fantastic” (M.A.C. Record, April 30, 1912).  The revelry continued long into the night (M.A.C. Record, April 30, 1912).  This event was able to raise enough money to help support the athletic program each year, until it became unnecessary in 1912 (Kuhn 1955:257). Other campus dances, such as the Junior Hop, an institution in campus social life for decades, were held in the armory as well (Kuhn 1955:191). One sitting President, Theodore Roosevelt (1907), and one future President, Barack Obama (2007), have also given speeches on Adams Field, which drew massive crowds from all over the area (Kuhn 1955:202; Stawski 2011).

1909 Athletic Carnival. Costumed students marching in front of Morrill Hall.

1909 Athletic Carnival. Costumed students marching in front of Morrill Hall. Image Source

The crowd at President Roosevelt’s 1907 address on Adams Field

The crowd at President Roosevelt’s 1907 address on Adams Field. Image Source

All of these different activities involve material culture in some way.  While many of these events would have been cleaned up, leaving few archaeological traces, even the loss and trampling of individual objects over time may contribute to the archaeological record that we at Campus Archaeology find and document.  Other activities, such as the leveling of Adams Field for sports and military drills, might destroy earlier archaeological evidence and context by moving and mixing up objects that were once peacefully buried.  All of these events, no matter how large and what types of objects were used, are important to document, as they all, over time, possibly contribute to what we find, or do not find, in a particular area.  They also contribute to our overall understanding of a space and the role it played over time in campus history.  While this area today is just an open field and a few school buildings, it has seen things over the last 162 years that few other parts of campus have.

 

References Cited

Beal, W. J.
1915   History of the Michigan Agricultural College and Biographical Sketches of Trustees and Professors.  Michigan Agricultural College, East Lansing.

Kuhn, Madison
1955   Michigan State: The First Hundred Years.  The Michigan State University Press, East Lansing.

Lautner, Harold W.
1978   From an Oak Opening: A Record of the Development of the Campus Park of Michigan State University, 1855-1969.  Volume 1.  Self-published manuscript on file at the MSU Archives and Historical Collections.

MSU Archives and Historical Collections
M.A.C. Record, Vol. 14, No. 22, March 2, 1909
http://onthebanks.msu.edu/Object/1-4-B71/the-mac-record-vol14-no22-march-2-1909/

M.A.C. Record, Vol. 14, No. 27, April 13, 1909
http://onthebanks.msu.edu/Object/1-4-BA1/the-mac-record-vol14-no27-april-13-1909/

M.A.C. Record, Vol. 17, No. 30, April 30, 1912
http://onthebanks.msu.edu/Object/1-4-CF8/the-mac-record-vol17-no30-april-30-1912/

Stawski, Christopher
2011   “Walter Adams Field Survey: Archaeological Report”.  Campus Archaeology Program, Michigan State University, East Lansing.

Adams Field: Michigan State University’s Original Sports Complex

While often not considered an important topic in archaeology, sports and sports heritage have become an increasingly popular area of inquiry (Schofield 2012; Wood 2016).  Like most human activities, a majority of sports involve material culture and impact landscapes and the way people used them.  Sport culture also influences the way people think of themselves and others, often affecting the way they interact with each other.  For instance, I am a huge fan of the St. Louis Cardinals, so whenever I see the red and blue emblem of our rivals, the Chicago Cubs, on a hat or shirt, an irrational anger rises in my chest.  The same can also be said for fans of MSU and the University of Michigan, who constantly antagonize each other all over the midwest.  Harnessing this sense of identity, community projects involving archaeology at historic sporting venues have been able to engage large fan bases and benefit from their participation in recovering more about the history of these locations (Wood 2016).  Michigan State University, with its long history of athletics, also has a rich sports heritage that has impacted the shape of the campus over time and played a major part in student experiences.

Sports have been a part of campus life since the very beginning of the University.  The first students, when they were not working or studying, played various games including soccer, rugby, boxing, track events, baseball, and tennis.  Other, more eclectic activities were also pursued, such as swinging on trapezes hung from tree limbs (Kuhn 1955:44, 93, 134).  These were unorganized activities that took place wherever there was space, including open areas of the campus and in the halls of school buildings themselves (Kuhn 1955:93).  Baseball was hugely popular, and games were played daily when weather and time permitted.  By the mid-1860s, baseball clubs had been organized on campus that competed with other clubs from local towns, including Lansing, Mason, Okemos, St. Johns, and others (Kuhn 1955:135).  As required by the Morrill Act of 1862, the College also instructed interested students in military training.  While not a sport, the necessity of housing these military activities helped to spur the construction of the first sports facilities on MSU’s campus.

Students playing tennis in front of the Chemical Labratory, 1884. Courtesy of the MSU Archives and Historical Collections.

Students playing tennis in front of the Chemical Laboratory, 1884. Courtesy of the MSU Archives and Historical Collections.

Around 1885, an armory was built where the Music Building currently stands.  The field to the west of this, now Adams Field, was also leveled in order to form an area for holding large military drills (Kuhn 1955:155).  At this same time, intercollegiate athletic competitions began at MSU in the form of a “Field Day.”  These massive competitions involved athletes from other local colleges who came to compete in numerous sports, such as track and field, baseball, wrestling, boxing, bicycle races, tennis, football, rugby, gymnastics, and many others.  These events, when on campus, were held on Adams Field and inside the armory, spilling over onto the roadway at Faculty Row (Kuhn 1955:157-158).  Some of the best athletes from MSU’s early days competed in this area every year.

In 1892, as these competitions became entrenched in collegiate life, the College began to invest in further facilities for athletics.  Part of Adams Field was once again leveled out and a 1/5 mile cinder track was placed there to facilitate the track and field events at Field Days (Kuhn 1955:159).  The location of this track is seen in maps from this time period, such as the one from 1899 below (Lautner 1978).  Temporary grandstands were also assembled in this area for events, but it is unknown where they were located in relation to these facilities (Kuhn 1955:159).

1899 Map of the Michigan Agricultural College, from Lautner 1978. Courtesy of MSU Archives and Historical Collections.

1899 Map of the Michigan Agricultural College, from Lautner 1978. Courtesy of MSU Archives and Historical Collections.

While few artifacts have been found in Adams Field over the years, CAP has found some possible evidence of these landscape alterations in our shovel tests.  Toward the northwest corner of the current Music Building, where the southeast corner of the track would have been, a gravel layer made of large cobbles was found below the surface (Stawski 2011).  This layer may have been purposefully constructed as part of the efforts to level out this area for military drills and sporting events, which require even ground to prevent injuries.

Official sporting events in Adams Field were not long lived.  Around 1900, property south of the Red Cedar River was purchased by the College and it was decided to build updated permanent sports facilities, including permanent grandstands, to house intercollegiate competitions (Kuhn 1955:255).  This work was completed by 1902, and official athletic competitions moved to this new location, where they still take place today (M.A.C. Record, June 3rd, 1902; Kuhn 1955:255).  While Adams Field may no longer be the official sports complex for MSU, students still use this space for impromptu games every year, keeping the spirit of early sports at MSU alive.

 

Bibliography

Kuhn, Madison
1955   Michigan State: The First Hundred Years.  The Michigan State University Press, East Lansing.

Lautner, Harold W.
1978   From an Oak Opening: A Record of the Development of the Campus Park of Michigan State University, 1855-1969.  Volume 1.  Self-published manuscript on file at the MSU Archives and Historical Collections.

MSU Archives and Historical Collections
M.A.C. Record, Vol. 7, no. 36, June 3rd, 1902.
http://spartanhistory.kora.matrix.msu.edu/files/1/4/1-4-5B5-54-19020603sm.pdf

Schofield, John
2012   The Archaeology of Sports and Pastimes.  World Archaeology 44(2):171-174.

Stawski, Christopher
2011   “Walter Adams Field Survey: Archaeological Report”.  Campus Archaeology Program, Michigan State University, East Lansing.

Wood, Jason
2016   Archaeology and Sports History: Towards an Inclusive Methodology.  The International Journal of the History of Sport 33(6-7):752-756.

 

In the Beginning: Campus before MSU

How do you picture campus before Michigan State University came into existence?  For me, on hearing that the first students spent a good portion of their time everyday cutting trees, pulling stumps, and draining swamps so that they could then get to the business of agriculture, a romantic image pops into my head of an unaltered wilderness from which an institution of learning would soon rise (thanks to the strong backs of the first students, faculty, and staff).  This is not exactly true.  While the area purchased by the State of Michigan to start a new agricultural college was largely forested wilderness, it was not unoccupied.  This is important to understand for us at the Campus Archaeology Program, as we need to be able to recognize and interpret early finds when they are discovered.

When the land for the Michigan Agricultural College was purchased in 1855, it encompassed a number of ecological zones, including closed forests, patches of open forest, marshes, swamps, river bottoms, and others, which all provided habitats for a variety of plants and animals (Kuhn 1955:12).  Such diversity in wildlife and soils, as well as access to the Red Cedar River and a small creek or stream, made this area ideal for individuals looking to live off the land.  Both Native Americans and frontier settlers saw the potential of this area and aimed to make the most of it.  As early as 3,000 years ago, Native Americans had been using this abundant landscape for hunting, fishing, and other activities, which you can read about here.  Much later in time, as the state of Michigan was being increasingly populated by Euro-American settlers, two families lived on plots of land that would soon become the north half of MSU’s campus.  In the corner of campus that now contains the Psychology Building, Mason-Abbot Hall, and Synyder-Phillips Hall, the Smith family ran a small farm, which included fruit trees and small agricultural fields, as well as a wood frame house that was eventually moved and reused by the College (Kuhn 1955:12).  On the other side of campus, in the current location of Adams Field and the Music building, was a small farm ran by Robert Burcham and his family (Beal 1915:14; Kuhn 1955:12; Lautner 1978:17, 35).  As I am currently exploring the history of this western side of West Circle, I decided to delve a little deeper into the Burcham Farm.

Figure 1: Composite map made to reflect how campus appeared on the first day of classes, 1857. Found in Launter (1978) on page 35. Used with permission of MSU Archives and Historical Collections.

Figure 1: Composite map made to reflect how campus appeared on the first day of classes, 1857. Found in Launter (1978) on page 35. Used with permission of MSU Archives and Historical Collections.

In 1851, four years before the land was purchased in order to form the college, Robert Burcham began to build a small log cabin and clear several small fields in the area of where the Music building and Adams Field now stand (Beal 1915; Kuhn 1955. Lautner 1978).  He also planted and tended a few fruit trees in this same area (Beal 1915:14). Based on a map that used various resources to create a vision of what campus would have looked like in 1857 (Figure 1 above, found in Lautner 1978:35), Burcham’s agricultural fields and orchard were laid out in the area that is now Adams Field, while his log cabin appears to have been built where the Music Building now stands.  Since this map is a composition from various sources and was not scientifically charted, it is unknown if the footprint of the Music building completely covers where the Burcham Cabin sat or if the cabin was located a short distance away.

In 1852, Burcham and his family moved into the cabin and began farming and trading.  While they made their living off the land, the Burchams also interacted with Native Americans that intermittently camped along the south side of the Red Cedar River.  At any one time, hundreds of Native Americans may have camped in this area, hunting, fishing, processing maple sap, and trading skins and meat with the Burchams for various agricultural products and refined goods like flour (Kuhn 1955:12; Lautner 1978:17).

After 1855, when the land was purchased by the State of Michigan, it is unclear exactly what happened to the Burcham Farm.  While Kuhn (1955:37) writes that the fields previously cleared by the Burchams were used from the very beginning of the College for growing crops and instructing students, other records indicate that the Burcham’s continued to live on this small plot of land.  As seen on the above map, their farm appears to have still been operational as of 1857, when the College first opened its doors.  Housed in the MSU Archives and Historical Collections (Madison Kuhn Collection- UA 17.107 box 2410 folder 40) are also a small number of receipts of payment spanning into the mid-1860s (Figures 2 and 3).  These receipts document payments made to Robert Burcham for a number of jobs done on behalf of the College, such as hauling stones for building materials, chopping down trees and turning them into fire wood, and days of digging.  These receipts, along with the lack of construction that took place in this area early on, suggest that the Burcham family lived on campus for at least a decade after the land was purchased.  While it is unknown when they left, the Burcham farm is not identified on a map made by Dr. Beal in 1870, indicating that they no longer lived on this property by that time.

Figure 2: In 1859, Burcham was paid $1.50 for work, what type of work is illegible. Madison Kuhn Collection- UA 17.107 box 2410 folder 40. Used with Permission of MSU archives and Historical Collections.

Figure 2: In 1859, Burcham was paid $1.50 for work, what type of work is illegible. Madison Kuhn Collection- UA 17.107 box 2410 folder 40. Used with Permission of MSU archives and Historical Collections.

Figure 3: In 1864, Burcham was paid $12 dollars for topping 23 trees on campus, burning brush, and turning the chopped sections into fire wood. Madison Kuhn Collection- UA 17.107 box 2410 folder 40. Used with Permission of MSU archives and Historical Collections.

Figure 3: In 1864, Burcham was paid $12 dollars for topping 23 trees on campus, burning brush, and turning the chopped sections into fire wood. Madison Kuhn Collection- UA 17.107 box 2410 folder 40. Used with Permission of MSU archives and Historical Collections.

So, next time you stop by the Music Building, remember the Burchams and how they helped to tame the wilderness that would soon become the campus of Michigan State University.

 

Bibliography

Beal, W. J.

1915   History of the Michigan Agricultural College and Biographical Sketches of Trustees and Professors.  Michigan Agricultural College, East Lansing.

Kuhn, Madison

1955   Michigan State: The First Hundred Years.  The Michigan State University Press, East Lansing.

Lautner, Harold W.

1978   From an Oak Opening: A Record of the Development of the Campus Park of Michigan State University, 1855-1969.  Volume 1.  Self-published manuscript on file at the MSU Archives and Historical Collections.

MSU Archives and Historical Collections

Burcham, Robert- Receipts for Services, 1853-1864.  UA 17.107, Box 2410, Folder 40.

MSU Campus Archaeology Receives 2017 Michigan Governor’s Award for Historic Preservation

Members of the Michigan Legislature present Dan Bollman (MSU Infrastructure Planning & Facilities), Jodie O'Gorman (MSU Dept. of Anthropology), and Lynne Goldstein ( CAP Director) with the award.

Members of the Michigan Legislature present Dan Bollman (MSU Infrastructure Planning & Facilities), Jodie O’Gorman (MSU Dept. of Anthropology), and Lynne Goldstein ( CAP Director) with the award.

On Tuesday, May 2nd, MSU’s Department of Anthropology, Department of Infrastructure Planning and Facilities, and the Office of the President received the Michigan Governor’s Award for Historic Preservation and a special tribute from the State of Michigan Legislature on behalf of MSU Campus Archaeology. The award was given for their combined efforts to preserve the cultural resources found on Michigan State University’s campus. This award, sponsored by Michigan’s State Historic Preservation Office and State Historic Preservation Review Board, recognizes individuals, companies, and institutions that strive to protect, preserve, and study the many historic resources within the state of Michigan (For a complete list of those who received the Governor’s Award for Historic Preservation this year, click here).

Poster highlighting CAP's work on display at the award ceremony.

Poster highlighting CAP’s work on display at the award ceremony.

Since 2005, MSU’s Campus Archaeology Program has worked to excavate and recover the material remains of MSU’s history, as well as the history of those who lived here prior to the university.  Combining salvage archaeology, field schools, and archival research, CAP has contributed greatly to our understanding of MSU’s past, while also training numerous students in archaeological methods and the importance of cultural resource management and preservation. Not only focused on excavation and research, CAP also works to communicate this history and the importance of archaeology to members of the community through outreach events like MSU’s Science Festival, MSU Grandparents University, the CAP MSU Haunted Campus tour, and participation in other local events. As Governor Snyder reminds us, these preservation and research efforts have impacts beyond just the MSU community, contributing to “our sense of place, and our identity as Michiganders.”

Special Tribute from State of Michigan

Special Tribute from State of Michigan

2017 Governor's Award for Historic Preservation

2017 Governor’s Award for Historic Preservation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the future, Campus Archaeology will continue to work toward preserving and understanding the history of our small slice of the state of Michigan, despite a political climate that is increasingly antagonistic toward cultural and natural resource management and preservation. Preservation, when done properly, helps to build a stronger sense of self and identity for neighborhoods, regions, and even nations, which can act as guiding principles for future action. The preservation of buildings and archaeological sites also provides stark physical reminders of who we are, where we came from, and what we strive to become in the future.  They remind us of how much we have achieved, but also how far we have left to go. Further, monuments and other preserved sites allow us to interact with and experience our heritage, or the heritage of others, in a way that cannot be reproduced through other means. Beyond this cultural and social value, preservation efforts also generate economic opportunities by creating jobs, increasing tourism, increasing property values, and attracting businesses who want to benefit from this improved traffic. Most importantly, these resources are non-renewable; they cannot be reclaimed once they are gone, so we must work to preserve them now before they are lost forever. We congratulate all of the current and previous winners of the Michigan Governor’s Award for Historic Preservation for their great work, and we hope they continue this work far into the future.