Feature 1

After two weeks into the field school, my “squad mate,” Josh Eads, and I finished the second level of our unit. After the floor was leveled, and all the loose dirt was cleared away, we noticed something peculiar about this level: there is a large black rectangle that starts at the northern wall of our unit and extends 108 centimeters southward into the middle of the unit. This unusual area has been designated as Feature 1, or FEA 1. Unlike an artifact, which is considered to be portable, a feature is a non-portable object or area – such a as a wall, a pit, or our interesting black rectangle – that represents a past human activity.

Unit A Base of Level 2 - feature is the dark rectangle in the top part of unit.

Unit A Base of Level 2 – feature is the dark rectangle in the top part of unit.

On Friday (6/9/17), Josh and I began excavating the eastern half of the feature and finished clearing it out on Monday (6/12/17). Our goal here was to find the boundaries of the feature — to determine how deep it was and how far east it stretched. We left the western half of the feature undisturbed so we could examine any stratigraphy (changes in soil type, color, or texture) that may be present, and perhaps use a different technique to further analyze the feature. Excavating this half of the feature proved to be exceedingly time-consuming. It goes without saying that since we wanted to determine the exact shape of the feature, we had to be extremely careful while looking for the diagnostic change in soil color that told us where the feature ended. Finding the eastern boundary of the feature was rather simple, but determining its depth was much more difficult. After nearly four hours of fighting tree roots, clumps of an unknown burnt substance, and large chunks of coal, I finally started to reach the bottom of the northern half of the rectangle. Rather than a simple flat floor, the floor of this area gradually slopes inward from the eastern wall of the feature. After some interesting attempts at finding the best place to sit while excavating this awkward slope, I was finally able to reach the lowest point of this fascinating feature, which turned out to be at a depth of 34 centimeters. Josh also had to fight tree roots and coal while excavating the southern half of the feature. He was able to determine that the floor in this area was relatively flat and had a depth of about 30 centimeters.

Base of FEA 1A - the eastern half of feature 1.

Base of FEA 1A – the eastern half of feature 1.

Even though excavating the entire eastern half of this feature took up the bulk of our day, Josh and I also carefully screened the soil we removed from the pit. We found quite a few rusty nails, some of which were bent at a near right angle, some large pieces of glass, a couple of paper clips, and a sizeable amount of an unknown burnt substance — possibly clay or plaster. But the most substantial amount of material found was burnt coal. It was not burned to the point where it had become charcoal; it was more like lightweight, brittle chunks of carbon. While shovel skimming both the first and second layers of our unit, we found a large amount of coal, both burnt and not burnt. However, FEA 1 is primarily composed of the substance — it is essentially a deposit of used coal. Needless to say, our hands had a nice black hue to them by the end of the day.

The significant amount of used coal in the feature led Josh and I to hypothesize about what this feature was. We believe it may have been the location of a furnace or chimney. Another classmate, Cooper Duda, suggested that the feature could even represent the location of an old fireplace. All of these theories could also explain why we recovered so many nails — old pieces of wood containing the nails might have possibly been disposed of by being placed in an incinerator located in this area. However, we need to investigate the feature a little further before we can draw any definitive conclusions about it.

Although excavating this feature is taking such a long time, I am enjoying the task since it is giving us the chance to explore something a little more specific about Station Terrace.

MSU CAP 2015 Field School – Accepting Applications

This summer an on-campus field school will be offered. This will be the third time a MSU Campus Archaeology field school will be conducted on MSU grounds. The course, listed as ANP 464 Field Methods in Archaeology, will run from June 1st to July 2nd. The specific excavation locations will be announced later, but we will be excavating in several places in the oldest part of campus.  The course will teach student’s proper excavation techniques, and an array of archaeological methods.

As discussed in Katy’s prior blog post  the first on-campus excavation was conducted in 2005. As I’ve previously mentioned here I was lucky enough to participate in the Saints’ Rest excavation course while I was an undergrad here. It’s hard to believe that was nearly ten years ago, and although I’ve participated in other field schools and excavations since, the Saints’ Rest field methods course remains a unique experience that I’m glad I had as my first excavation. There are so many benefits to excavating on campus:

  • It’s a familiar area! This makes it a very comfortable environment to try something new, and you get to go home and sleep in your own bed. Never underestimate the glory of taking a hot shower after a long day in the field.
  • It’s easy to get to. One field school I participated in required a thirty-minute drive, transfer to a larger off road capable truck, rafting across a river, and hiking another mile and a half. It was fun, but there’s something to be said about being able to walk/bike/bus to the field location.
  • There’s a lack of dangerous animals. At the above-mentioned field school there were rattlesnakes and bears. We even had a bear pee in the equipment box, which was a unique life experience but one I don’t feel the need to repeat. With an on-campus field school the most dangerous wildlife to keep a lookout for are large groups of incoming freshmen on campus tours.
  • You get to work with your classmates in a hands-on work environment. Although you may have had several classes with many of the other members in the field school, you don’t truly know someone until you’ve worked side by side in a 1mx1m excavation unit. It’s been nearly ten years, and I’m still in contact with many of the people who I participated in Saint’s Rest with.

But perhaps one of the biggest benefits is how unique of an experience excavating on campus is. You get to excavate the material culture created by past MSU students, faculty and staff, while at the same time creating your own imprint on the archaeological record by being a part of the current MSU campus. So if you’re looking for something to do this summer that allows you to gain practical experience, while earning anthropology credits, please consider applying to the 2015 MSU Campus Archaeology field school.

Applications are due by March 5th, 2015.

Download an application: Field School Application 2015

Download the flyer – Archaeological Field School2015-s

 

The College Becomes A University: July in Campus History

For most of us, it seems that not much happens at MSU in July.  Most of the students are still gone, and while the occasional roving herd of incoming freshmen pass through for orientation, the campus still seems quiet.  Historically, not much has happened this month.  One thing stands out, however.

On July 1st of 1955, the college changed it’s name from “Michigan State College of Agriculture and Applied Science” to “Michigan State University of Agriculture and Applied Science.”  This was the fruit of several years’ of writing letters and dealing with the University of Michigan’s complaints.  They were apparently concerned that the names were too similar!  MSC had begun seeking university status in the early 1950s, arguing that their diverse variety of programs indicated that the college had grown into a university.  In Michigan law, “University” isn’t specifically defined, but there is a list of what they consider to be Michigan universities.  It is assumed that to be considered a university an institution must offer a wide variety of programs and grant four year degrees, but this does not seem to be specifically laid out anywhere.

John Hannah observes signing the Michigan State University Bill, 1955. Courtesy On the Banks of the Red Cedar

John Hannah observes signing the Michigan State University Bill, 1955. Courtesy On the Banks of the Red Cedar

Still, MSC had to propose the Michigan State University Bill in the hopes of making the name change legal.  A week before the state House of Representatives voted on the bill, U of M submitted a 26 page brief against the proposal.  It didn’t work, and in April, the Senate voted 23-2 in favor of the name change.  The change was effective on July 1st, 1955.

Still quite a mouthful, the name was shortened to the current “Michigan State University” in 1964.

Also in July at MSU:  My 20th Birthday!

http://msuarchives.wordpress.com/tag/name-changes/

http://www.onlinedigitalpubs.com/publication/index.php?i=191261&m=&l=&p=9&pre= (page 7)

 

 

 

 

Day of DH: Perspectives from the Campus Archaeology Team

Screen Shot 2014-04-08 at 8.21.03 AMAs part of Day of Digital Humanities (DH), we are going to be sharing perspectives of what doing digital means for various members of the Campus Archaeology team. Digital Humanities covers a large body of work, but primarily refers to the application of digital tools and technology to humanities problems and questions. This page will be updated throughout April 8, 2014 with new posts and updates about our digital tools during the day.

You can visit our official Day of DH page here, and learn more about Day of DH here.

12:30 pm: Katy’s Perspective

My work with Campus Archaeology has been very digitally focused- that is until this year. I’ve done work to help create a more robust mapping system for Campus Archaeology using geographic information systems. As the Campus Archaeologist (2011-2013) I usedFlickrTwitterFacebook and WordPress to engage with the public and share our findings. I developed an Omeka site for Campus Archaeology to create online museum exhibits. But I’ve been a little more analog this year. My current project is to accession all the Campus Archaeology artifacts, which entails giving unique numbers to artifacts in order to keep track of them and organize them by location found.

My dropbox for applying for site numbers, collaboratively done by using the cloud

My dropbox for applying for site numbers, collaboratively done by using the cloud

Despite the fact that the bulk of my project is analog, we’ve made the process easier by sharing documents about sites in Dropbox and our database of artifacts is all digital. I’m also helping others to make their work a little more digital. I’ve been working with intern Josh to improve the GIS by adding more attributes and adding all the survey points. I’ve also been helping with Dig the Past, this past weekend I volunteered at the event and tweeted throughout the it. By keeping track of these tweets, I was able to create a Storify version of the day.

So even though I’d say I’m not doing digital projects, digital tools are still an essential part of my workflow and help to organize my work with Campus Archaeology. I still find it fascinating of how helpful new technology is for understanding the past and engaging with the public.

11:30 am: Campus Archaeologist Kate’s Perspective

Kate screening while shovel testing under sidewalks for Campus Archaeology

Kate screening while shovel testing under sidewalks for Campus Archaeology

Field blogging has become commonplace for archaeologists; creating field journals that describe the day-to-day happenings of the field season. Blogs allow the archaeologist to connect to a larger audience and interact with new communities of followers. The general public can be awe inspired to learn about archaeology while fellow colleagues can offer insight. Blogs create a transparency for excavations which encourages public trust. Additionally, this transparency provides a grounding for the general public to understand what real archaeology is, rather than what is portrayed on the silver screen. Field school blogging has become an ever more popular tool used to insure learning.

Blogging has the power to strengthen a student’s field experience by encouraging the student to be fully engaged in every aspect of the field season, by allowing the student to share his/her experience with a wider, captivated audience, and by creating a system the ensures the student is understanding the archaeology. While classroom blogging fosters interactions between students, blogging in the field fosters interactions between the student and the excavation. By encouraging the student to think critically about what the artifacts and features are saying about the site, blogging lets the student interact intellectually with the archaeology. While the typical non- digital field journal is used to remember numbers, depths, coordinates, etc…the field blog is a less formal format that gives the student an opportunity to be creative and think outside of the box…or in this case the unit!

11:05 am: Digital is all around us!

Campus Archaeology Tweet

10:30 am: Erica’s Perspective

Dig the Past

Dig the Past

When I first heard about April 8, Day of DH, my first thought was, “What is DH?” Similar to anyone with access to a computer, email is second nature to me and I have fun playing on my Facebook page, but this is where my technology experience ends. When I learned about Day of DH, I wondered, “who are a digital humanists and what do they do?” This is precisely why I would like to participate in Day of DH: to explore, to experience, and to understand what DH is all about.

Recently, I became active in a public outreach program, Dig the Past, which introduces people of all ages to what archaeologists do through hands-on activities. Participation in Dig the Past enabled me to join MSU’s Campus Archaeology Program, the parent program of DTP. By being an active member in CAP, I am learning how various forms of social media are used to educate the public about the important work that archaeologists do. I am excited to participate in Day of DH and write about my new experiences using social media to communicate about Campus Archaeology activities.

9:30 am: Adrianne’s Perspective

Dig the Past

Dig the Past

My work for the Campus Archaeology Program has largely involved creating and overseeing the “Dig the Past” monthly series of hands-on educational workshops that CAP hosts at the MSU Museum. “Dig the Past” is an education and engagement project sponsored by the Campus Archaeology Program in which kids learn what archaeologists do by doing it. Workshop participants dig, sift, and sort their way towards learning about how archaeology builds knowledge about the human past. The program involves hands-on activities targeted towards children as well as adults which promote learning and disseminate information about the history and archaeology of MSU and its campus. Because the program is, very intentionally, about physically interacting with cultural material and hands-on learning activities, my digital heritage activities for the project have not been particularly in-depth. I have used social media platforms like Twitter (@archaeoAD) and Facebook to promote the program and to connect with other content experts and public programmers interested in informal learning. I’ve written a few blog posts describing and reflecting upon aspects of my experience working with the program, which can be read on the CAPBlog. I have also created a Flickr account to archive photos taken at Dig the Past sessions, which can be viewed here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/97088955@N02/sets The blog posts and photo archive are valuable records of the activities, especially as they have evolved since Dig the Past started, and will complement the wealth of other content developed for the program since its inception.

8:30 am: Amy and Nicole’s Perspective

For our Campus Archaeology projects, we rely on the MSU Archives to supplement the artifacts we find during excavations on campus. Fortunately the Archives have digitized some of their collections, which can be found on their searchable website “On the Banks of the Red Cedar”.  This site contains oral histories, documents, newspapers, and photographs detailing early campus life. The Archives also has a public flickr account which includes many photographs from MSU’s early history. An upcoming exhibit by Campus Archaeology on the origins of research laboratories on campus will be featured in Chittenden Hall, which will soon be the new home of the MSU Graduate School.

In order to benefit future researchers interested in the historic campus, we catalogue all notes regarding historical documents, photographs, and artifacts in a digital reference database. Campus Archaeology uses the Zotero software to share and disseminate this information. Our integrated project demonstrates the usefulness and importance of combining archaeological excavations and archival research to further our understanding of MSU’s rich academic and social history.

7:15 am: Good Morning and Happy Day of DH!

Campus Archaeology Day of DH tweet

6:00 am: Doing Digital Campus Archaeology: Andrew’s Perspective

One of my functions within Campus Archaeology is to monitor and disseminate scholarly archaeological content via our social media outlets.  While tangentially related to DH, it does bring the field or archaeology, from various perspectives on various subjects around the world, to our readers who might not otherwise have found the same content. As professional archaeologists, it is our connection to the scholarly community which allows us to bring interesting and informative content to readers who may not be professionals, in a way that is easily understood and accessible.

Inkwells on Campus

Hey everyone, guess who’s back!  Yep, after six weeks of field school in Belize, I’m back in East Lansing, working with Campus Archaeology to unearth the past couple of hundred years of Michigan State University.  While I was away, the rest of the Campus Archaeology team worked hard at different sites on campus, including the area where Morrill Hall used to stand, the construction site at Landon hall and the West Circle sidewalks.  Plenty of the usual nails, ceramic pieces and, of course, dirt were found, but what really interested me was a glass inkwell that was uncovered.

Today, when we need to jot something down on paper, we grab a ballpoint pen or a mechanical pencil.  However, throughout the 1800s and even into the early 1900s, inkwells were the only way one could transfer thought onto paper (except for the typewriter, but that’s a whole different story).  Inkwells were made from an assortment of materials, including shell, pottery, wood, sandstone, porcelain, cast bronze, iron and brass.  Sometimes they were more utilitarian in make, or sometimes they were made with extreme ornamentation, depending on who owned the inkwell.  Those of a more aristocratic standing often had inkwells shaped as animals or other small statues.  Fun fact: inkwells were also often used as paper weights.

Inkwell found on MSU's campus

Inkwell found on MSU’s campus

The inkwell that we found was a simple small one, made from clear glass.  Over the years it has been broken, but we have at least two distinct pieces of it – the base and the top.  What would have sealed the inkwell is missing, but based on pictures of similar inkwells I found online, it is likely that this had a cork top that has gone missing over the years.  At the bottom of the base the glass is embossed with the words “Higgins Brooklyn NY.”  I googled this company to see if I could find out anything more about the bottle, and I learned that this inkwell was most likely manufactured sometime in the early 1900s.  This makes sense, because the university wasn’t founded until 1862, so the inkwell would have to be from sometime after the beginnings of the school and before inkwells were completely replaced by pens.  The plain, simple make of the inkwell is also consistent with universities from that time.  Just as the majority of college students today don’t have a lot of money to spend on extravagant purchases, many students in the late 1800s/early 1900s also didn’t have a lot of money to spend.  They wouldn’t have wasted their money on inkwells that were excessively and colorfully decorated.  Instead, they would have used cheaper inkwells – likely those made of clear glass.  This probably goes for the professors and administrators on campus, too.

While it may seem that an inkwell isn’t a huge or significant find on a college campus, we can still learn information from this artifact.  On the writing utensil timeline, there is an overlap between pens and inkwells.  The first fountain pen was made in the 1880s, but since we know that this inkwell is from the early 1900s, we can discern that students on the MSU campus were still using inkwells even after pens had been invented.  Again, this could be due to a financial reason; perhaps pens were more expensive than inkwells when they were first invented.  Even though all we have of this inkwell are two small pieces, barely six centimeters in diameter, it’s still as valuable to us as any other find would be.

Grandparents University 2013

2013-06-25 15.10.00

Katy gives a walking tour to the particpants

We were excited once again to be a part of Grandparents University at MSU, an opportunity for grandparents and their grandkids to take classes, live on campus, and experience college life for three days. It is a great chance for us to interact with different age groups, and it gives them the chance to learn more about MSU’s history through physical remains of its past. We have participated in the event for a number of years. Some years the participants have been able to wash artifacts like the bricks found at Beal Street, or get to see an actual dig in progress, sometimes they’ve gotten the chance to watch how a full pot becomes broken artifacts, and last year they were able to make their own pottery to take home.

This year we started off day one by doing a class on what archaeology is and what Campus Archaeology does on MSU to protect its historic and prehistoric heritage. We followed this with a tour of North Campus, talking about the historic buildings, burned and raed buildings underneath the ground, and some of the interesting fact we’ve learned from doing archaeology- like that the remains of College Hall were used to build up the riverbanks to prevent flooding!

Participants make their own whiteware patterns and do other activities

Participants make their own whiteware patterns and do other activities

During day two, the participants got the opportunity to interact with real artifacts we’ve found on campus. They played games to match historic artifacts with their modern counterparts, like matching ketchup bottles and hairstyling tools. They also learned about stratigraphy and were able to place artifacts into a mock soil stratigraphy based on what they thought was older. Finally, we had a station where they could examine different artifacts we found on campus and try to identify what types of contexts they came from, like test tubes and compasses from a school room or cups and glasses from a kitchen.

It was a lot of fun getting to engage with this diverse group. We truly enjoy our time spent with the participants of Grandparents University, and hope that they learned something about MSU’s past and archaeology in general. We look forward to next year!

Campus Archaeology at the Midwest Archaeological Conference

Things have been quite busy here at the Consortium for Archaeological Research!  We’ve been busy planning and preparing for a major conference that our department is hosting – the upcoming 2012 Annual Midwest Archaeological Conference (MAC) – which will be held from October 18th – 21st.  The MAC is a regional organization with about 500 members from across the midcontinental U.S. and publishes Midcontinental Journal of Archaeology, a well-respected, peer-reviewed journal.  Archaeologists from all levels of academia attend the MAC annual conference, thus fostering a connection between faculty, and undergraduate and graduate students.

Since 100’s of people are expected to attend the MAC this year, Campus Archaeology is excited about the opportunity to showcase some of our work to our guests!  So, what does CAP have in store for the upcoming MAC conference?

CAP Appearances in the MAC Schedule

1)   On Thursday, October 18th, from 2:30 – 4pm: Dr. Lynne Goldstein (Director of CAP) is the Chair and Co-Organizer (along with Dr. Ethan Watrall) of a session titled: “Communicating Archaeology in the 21st Century.”  Dr. Goldstein will present the following paper: “Teaching Archaeology via Campus Archaeology: What Have We Learned?”. This talk will discuss the benefits of the program and how it has evolved over the past 5 years.

2)   Once this session is over, the MSU Campus Archaeology Walking Tour commences at 4:15pm.  This tour – which will last approximately 1 hour – will highlight several important historic parts of MSU’s campus, including Saints’ Rest. This tour will take place either as a walking tour, weather permitting, or a ‘dry’ indoor tour that will consist of a powerpoint and talk, which participants can then explore campus on their own later.

Things to do while visiting MSU for the MAC: Food & Drink

Since attending professional conferences can be exhausting, it might help to take some time off and enjoy the beautiful scenery on and around campus and the wonderful shops along Grand River Avenue!  Here are some basic tips.

1)   In need of coffee and people watching? Head on over to Espresso Royale for the opportunity to decompress after a long day of papers and meetings.  Weather permitting, you might even be able to enjoy your coffee in their outdoor seating area.  For those that enjoy options, Wanderer’s Teahouse also has excellent coffee and tea (note: I’m a big fan of their crepes!).

2)   In need of a delicious and greasy burger? Crunchy’s has been providing excellent food, beer, and overall service for 30 years!  If you’re lucky, the female servers might happen to be sporting their fake mustaches.

3)   Hungry AND thirsty? In need of delicious fermented beverages?  The Peanut Barrel (located right next door to Espresso Royale) is able to satiate most of your needs; they offer several kinds of beer on tap – including Michigan brews.

4)   For more tips on where to go and what to see, just ask any CAP staff member and/or any MSU department of anthropology faculty or student; we are more than happy to help!

Happy Conferencing!

My Experience as a Campus Archaeology Tech

Rachel excavating with Eve

This is a blog post by Rachel Cohen; Rachel has been volunteering for Campus Archaeology throughout the summer. She is an undergraduate student from University of Michigan, majoring in archaeology.

While I had some previous experience working with ancient artifacts, this was my first experience with historic artifacts.  Most of my time was spent digging Shovel Test Pits (Also known as STPs, see this post for more info).  I also worked in a couple of the archaeological units we opened up.

CAP was a big learning experience for me.  We found a lot of historical artifacts that are still in use today—pieces of glass, bricks, and metal pipe—as well as less common historical items such as “clinkers”, which are essentially coal waste.   Some of the items we found have been around a lot longer than I expected; pencil erasers, for instance, date to 1858.  The survey also let us map out what artifacts were found where, to get an idea of what sorts of things were going on historically at MSU.

Rachel with the historic picture showing the lake near Linton Hall

One thing I really liked was how eager CAP was to explain our work to anyone who walked by.  While digging in front of Linton Hall, a man stopped by to talk to us.  He told us that there had been a lake nearby in the early 1900’s, which we had never known anything about.  It turned out that the lake was in an area where we had found river mud the previous day.  We were confused at the time, but now it made sense.  It was really cool to see a member of the public who was so knowledgeable and so interested, and who was able to help us solve a problem.

Working in the units was also a good experience for me.  I learned how to tell each layer of the soil apart based on its color and composition, how to draw those layers on a map, how to make decisions about what and how to excavate, and how to clean an area for a photo.  This helped me a lot when I went to a month-long excavation in Italy; the decisions and directions of the supervisors made a lot more sense than they would have before I did CAP.

This past week, now that we’re done with digging, I’ve been working in the lab analyzing the artifacts.  This involves attempting to find a similar object in a textbook, on the internet, or, occasionally, in the 1897 Sears, Roebuck & Co. catalogue.  That reference is then used to determine the object’s date and function.  It was initially a bit of an overwhelming experience for me to sort through all this information, but I’m learning and becoming more familiar with the research process.

Overall, CAP was a great experience for me and a great way to spend my summer, and I know that it will be a big help for my future career in archaeology.  Thanks to everyone at CAP, particularly Charlotte and Katy, for letting me participate and for teaching me so much!

“To the Max”: College Make-Up Trends through the Years

This post is a follow-up of last week’s blog on college make-up trends on Michigan State’s campus during the 1930s, and I am going to discuss how the make-up trends implemented today by college students are similar to those practiced during the twentieth century. While the ‘times have changed’ during the last eighty or so years, the economic markets are similar—which is actually quite important in terms of cosmetics—and the types of cosmetics used are alike as well.  Since my previous post dealt with two specific make-up companies (Langlois and Max Factor), I will focus on these make-up brands again this week to help show that even though make-up trends may have slightly changed, the basic ‘factors’ remain the same.

First up is Langlois Company, which was sold using at least four affiliated names between 1930 and 1940. Since the company has since gone out of business, it is difficult to draw exact connections between their production practices in the 1930s and what would have been the norm today, but we can still draw a few conclusions from what information is known. First, Cleopatrasboudoir.com describes how the Cara Nome fragrance line for Langlois Company—as was presented in last week’s blog post—“Is the recognized equal of the finest French fragrances. A perfume with a bouquet of such exquisite delicacy no words can describe its delicacy.” Sure, this language may be a bit flowery (pun intended) compared to current descriptions of fragrances, but the allure of owning something that European people may or may not use is still prevalent today. Additionally, French names are still used to describe perfumes, as can be seen by the comparison pictures below.

Langlois: Boston, Cara Nome Powdered Perfume Sachet

Le Jardin d`Amour Max Factor for women

Le Jardin d`Amour Max Factor for women

You may also notice that the material with which the perfume was made of is different. During the twentieth century, both powdered and liquid perfumes were popular, powdered versions being similar to the “baby powder” of today and the liquid versions remaining almost the same as what college students use now. From personal experience, however, I have yet to meet an undergraduate college student with a bottle of perfumed baby powder in their make-up bag. Another interesting point is the price comparison for perfume. In 1927, a typical bottle of Cara Nome perfume costed between $1.00 and $9.00 whereas a bottle of the Le-Jardin perfume shown above costs at least $30.00 retail today.

Next is the Max Factor brand, which originated in the early 1900s and is still prevalent in parts of Europe today. Having stopped circulating in the United States in 2010, it is also difficult to draw exact conclusions from this temporal comparison. One important connection that can be made, however, is the influence of the economy on the types of materials used to package the cosmetics of the company. According to Milkglass.org, “Milk glass made during the Depression was considered less elegant and delicate and more a production of the harsh times…[it] is often considered of lesser quality.” This “lesser quality” of packaging materials for cosmetics helped keep the prices down for both the company and the customers during a time where looking like a Hollywood movie star was highly sought after. Additionally, plastic products are often currently used for packaging materials due to the material’s easy reusability and low cost. This cheapness is directly correlated to how college students view plastic tubes of facial cream today: easy to use and quickly disposed of. Thus, while the packaging of face cream in a milk glass jar in the 1930s may seem more “fancy” to college students today, it was just a cheap, disposable material to the students in the Emmons area during the twentieth century.

One last comparison between the cosmetic practices of MSU’s students in the 1930s and today is the issue of advertising. We have all seen the television ads for various cosmetic companies, promising us that if we use their foundation, we will have perfect, flawless skin that will clearly get us a date with that cute boy we’ve been eyeing. While we know that this definitely is not the case, we still, on the whole, tend to play along with the ad’s ‘game’ and buy their products anyway. This was also prevalent during the 1930s. Below is a step in a vintage advertisement for the proper application of Max Factor’s Face Powder. Here, the customer is told that they will have perfect skin color that will look flattering in any light. While the students of the 1930s probably knew better than to believe the advertisement (just as college students today do), the allure of obtaining that impossible, ‘perfect look’ is enough to make them run out and purchase the ever-popular product.

Vintage Ad: Max Factor Face Powder Application

This concludes the Campus Archaeology quest to better understand make-up use among college students in the 1930s and ‘40s. Without the recovery of the glass cosmetic bottles from the Emmons-Brody Complex survey this past August, this type of information about our past student body may not have had the chance to be understood. Hopefully as time goes on and more information is gathered, we will be better able to tell more about our twentieth century fellow ‘Spartans’ and how their lives may not have been very different from our own.

References:

  1. Stewart, Dodai. “Max Factor Going To The Big Medicine Cabinet In The Sky.” Jezebel: Celebrity, Sex, Fashion for Women. Without Airbrushing. Web. 19 Oct. 2011. <http://jezebel.com/5280241/max-factor-going-to-the-big-medicine-cabinet-in-the-sky>.
  2. “Vintage Sachet Powder Bottles & Pillows~1.” Vanity Treasures. Web. 17 Oct. 2011. <http://www.vanitytreasures.com/sachets/01.htm>.
  3. “Le Jardin D`Amour Max Factor for Women.” Fragrantica. Web. 20 Oct. 2011. <http://www.fragrantica.com/perfume/Max-Factor/Le-Jardin-d-Amour-5139.html>.
  4. “History & Origins of Milkglass.” Milk Glass for Sale – MilkGlass.org. Web. 18 Oct. 2011. <http://milkglass.org/history.html>.”1930’s Vintage Makeup and Hair Styles.” Free Beauty Tips: Natural Makeup, Fashion & Hair for Women & Teens. Web. 20 Oct. 2011. <http://www.freebeautytips.org/1930s-styles.html>.
  5. “Face Powder.” The Painted Woman. Web. 20 Oct. 2011. <http://thepaintedwoman.blogspot.com/2010/01/face-powder.html>.