The Sweet Side of History: Investigating an Old MSU Sugar House

Speaking as a person with a serious sweet tooth, maple syrup may be one of the greatest products of nature. It is tasty, versatile, and can be made by anyone with enough maple trees and a hot flame. It also has been a part of life in the upper Midwest for longer than many people realize. While evidence of prehistoric production has largely alluded archaeologists, archaeological and documentary evidence demonstrate the production of maple sugar foodstuffs by early historic Native American tribes in the 1700s, if not earlier (Thomas 2005; Thomas and Silbernagel 2003). Since that time, different people and different technologies have shaped the production process, as maple syrup and sugar became important foodstuffs across the country. While not quite centuries old, MSU also has a long history of working with maple products. This year, as part of our work for the Campus Archaeology Program, myself and Jack Biggs will be researching this history, as well as investigating an old, abandoned MSU sugarbush (a forest stand used for maple syrup production).

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Summer 2018 Recap

This summer was an eventful one for the Campus Archaeology Program field crew! We monitored construction, conducted several pedestrian and shovel test surveys, excavated one test unit, conducted lab analysis, and helped with the IB STEM archaeology camp and grandparents university. Plus, we uncovered an entire cow skeleton! Below you can read in more detail about each project.

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Meet the 2018 CAP Fellows

The 2018-2019 school year has begun!  Dr. Stacey Camp has taken over as director of the program, following Dr. Lynne Goldstein’s retirement from MSU. We will be continuing to work on several ongoing projects, as well as begin several new ones. Please meet our 2018-2019 CAP group!

CAMPUS ARCHAEOLOGY PROGRAM DIRECTOR:

Dr. Stacey Camp, CAP Director

Dr. Stacey Camp, CAP Director

Dr. Stacey Camp: I’m Dr. Stacey Camp, the new Director of the MSU Campus Archaeology Program. I’m excited to take over for Dr. Lynne Goldstein and am looking forward to working with our new and seasoned CAP Fellows. We have a good deal planned for this year, including focusing on publishing our research, training in social media, and working with our robust archaeological collections. We will also continue to do our favorite outreach events, including Apparitions and Archaeology, Michigan Archaeology Day, partnering with the MSU Food Truck, and MSU Science Fest. We will be having a Campus Archaeology Program field school next summer, which we will post about on our social media. I am excited to see where this year takes us!

Campus Archaeologist

Autumn Painter, Campus Archaeologist

Autumn Painter, Campus Archaeologist

Autumn Painter: Autumn is a fourth year Ph.D. student in the Department of Anthropology. This May, Autumn began her first term as the Campus Archaeologist. Her research focuses on prehistoric foodways and social interaction through the analysis of animal bones in the Midwestern United States. This year Autumn will be working with other fellows on their projects, promoting our new social media campaign, and working to complete reports from past excavations.

Campus archaeology program fellows: 

Mari Isa, CAP Fellow

Mari Isa, CAP Fellow

Mari Isa: Mari is a fifth year Ph.D. student in Anthropology. For her dissertation research, she studies the effect of biological and mechanical factors on skeletal fracture patterns. Mari is also involved in a bioarchaeology project investigating the potential social and biological impacts of malaria in Early Medieval Tuscany. Mari is excited to be returning for her third year as a CAP fellow. She hopes to work on various projects including developing new outreach activities that will allow CAP to engage people of all ages with archaeology and with our research on MSU’s campus.

Jeff Burnett, CAP Fellow

Jeff Burnett, CAP Fellow

Jeff Burnett: Jeff is a first year Anthropology PhD. student and a half-time CAP fellow. His past studies have focused on the archaeology of the African Diaspora in North America, with an interest in the process of freedom and how social constructs effect lived experiences. He is also interested in the production of historical knowledge and the utility of collaborative archaeology to diversify this production. Jeff is excited to join the Campus Archaeology Program, hoping to learn from their tradition of public archaeology and outreach in their community.

 

Jack Biggs, CAP Fellow

Jack Biggs, CAP Fellow

Jack Biggs: Jack is a fifth year Anthropology Ph.D. student and a returning CAP fellow.  His research is focused on growth and development of the ancient Maya of Central America and how social identity and childhood affect an individual’s biology.  He is also a big proponent of using 3D modeling (via photogrammetry) as a teaching and curation method and will be creating models of artifacts from CAP excavations so that they can be digitally preserved.

 

Jeff Painter, CAP Fellow

Jeff Painter, CAP Fellow

Jeff Painter: Jeff Painter is a fifth year Ph.D. student at Michigan State University who is returning for his third year as a Campus Archaeology Fellow. He is a prehistoric archaeologist focused on foodways, ceramics, and migration in the late prehistoric Midwest. This year, his CAP research project will focus on the historic sawmill/sugar house on MSU’s campus.

 

 

Amber Plemons: Amber is a third year Ph.D. student in the Department of Anthropology, focusing in Biological Anthropology. Her research focuses on understanding the causative forces of human variation in craniofacial morphology, specifically the impacts of climate and genetics. This year, Amber will be working to build a database for artifacts recovered across Michigan State University. This database will allow information of all previously recovered material to be housed in a central location with their temporal and geographic location information, artifact type, and images, making future research more readily available.

Susan Kooiman, CAP Fellow

Susan Kooiman, CAP Fellow

Susan Kooiman: Susan is returning for her final semester as both a Ph.D. candidate in Anthropology and a CAP fellow. Her dissertation research focuses on pottery use, cooking practices, and diet of precontact Indigenous groups in the Upper Great Lakes of North America. This year, she will be finishing up the Campus Foodways project, a collaborative investigation (with Autumn Painter) into the archaeology and history of food at MSU. This includes expansion of collaborations with the MSU Food Truck and MSU Student Organic Farm,  and disseminating the results of the project through publication, conference presentations, and other outreach opportunities.

 

Farewell to Campus Archaeology

Well these last four years have gone by incredibly quickly.  I’ve said it before but after participating in the 2005 Saints Rest Field School I never thought I’d have anything to do with MSU’s archaeology, let alone be the campus archaeologist for the last three years.  But alas, my reign is coming to an end.  The campus archaeologist position is actually only supposed to be a two years position, but circumstances required me to stay on for a third.  I’m also moving back to California at the end of the month (to continue teaching, working in archaeology, and writing my dissertation), so I won’t be continuing on as a CAP fellow next year.  That being said, in the last four years I’ve gotten to participate in some pretty cool things:

  1. Lisa Bright excavates the west circle privy.

    Lisa Bright excavates the west circle privy.

    Excavating the West Circle privy – My first summer working for CAP involved monitoring the final phase of the West Circle Steam Tunnel improvement project. Because the construction was in the oldest part of campus we uncovered a large number of areas of archaeological interest including: part of the Engineering Shops, the corner of Williams Hall, the historic steam tunnels, and the privy associated with Saints Rest (Cap had been wondering where the heck all of the outhouses were and why we hadn’t found one yet!).  The privy contained a large number of unique artifacts that we were able to study and work with for years (like Mabel and the raspberry seeds).  In fact, the larger number of food related items from the privy spurred the historic meal reconstruction project that CAP fellows Susan and Autumn later worked on. 

  1. Work with great interns – One of the responsibilities of the campus archaeologist is to manage and teach the undergraduate interns. I was able to oversee 8 interns during my time here, and each was a pleasure to work with.  It was fun to be able to teach these undergrads more about historic archaeology, lab practices, and research methods.
  2. 2016 Field Crew after finishing the excavation that identified Station Terrace.

    2016 Field Crew after finishing the excavation that identified Station Terrace.

    Manage two CAP field seasons – It was an amazing learning experience to be able to plan and manage two field seasons here on campus. Getting to be part of the process from the initial construction planning phase provided invaluable experience working with both IPF and individual construction companies.  With regards to the CAP crew, I couldn’t have asked for a better group of individuals.  We covered a lot of ground during those two summers including locating Station Terrace, excavating at the Weather Bureau, putting the first 1×1 m units in at the location of Beal’s Lab, digging behind Old Hort (where the ground was some of the most unforgiving I’ve ever encountered but the crew persisted and made it through), and the Wilson Road realignment survey (where even 300+ mostly negative STPs didn’t destroy the crews morale).

  3. Being the TA for the 2017 field school – I must say this was a bit of a surreal experience for me. When I took the Saints Rest field school in 2005, I never imagined that I would one day be the TA for another on campus field school.  Once again, this was a great experience in the planning and logistics that occur with a formal field school versus the CRM style summer activity I had previously managed.
  4. Outreach – Over the past four years we’ve gotten to engage in some pretty unique types of outreach. We started the Apparitions & Archaeology Haunted Tour in collaboration with the undergraduate paranormal society (which has been a huge success with upwards of 150 people attending), the historic meal reconstruction (the partnership with MSU culinary services has been fantastic and looks like it will be continuing beyond Spring 2018), and the middle school activity kits.

CAP really embraces public archaeology, and the ethos of openness has provided a unique experience.  Having to adopt the CAP persona and consistently engage with the public was something that took me a little while to get used to, but it’s been really rewarding to see the interest from campus and the wider public in what we do here at CAP.

It’s truly been my pleasure to have worked with CAP for the past four years.  Being the campus archaeologist has been an invaluable experience, and I know that Autumn Painter (who will be taking over as Campus Archaeologist) will do a great job.

Lynne Goldstein’s Final Blog Post for Campus Archaeology

This is my last post for the MSU Campus Archaeology Program (CAP). I am retiring from MSU this summer, and will be moving away from East Lansing. The new Director of CAP is Dr. Stacey Camp, and I am certain that she will do a fabulous job taking CAP (and the past) into the future.

Dr. Goldstein cleans up a unit wall.

Dr. Goldstein cleans up a unit wall.

At the beginning of CAP, I don’t know if I really believed we would be able to accomplish everything we have done in the last 10 years, even though we always had very grand goals. Recently, the LEADR Lab (specifically, Alice Lynn McMichael and Autumn Painter) recorded my oral history of the program, and because that will soon be available via a link on this website, I will not go into a detailed history here.

The Program began with two of us – Terry Brock as graduate assistant – and me as Director. There was not another program like ours, so we had to invent everything. The University felt that CAP reflected the land grant ethos, and learning by doing is a critical part of the program. When I asked administrators what they expected, they told me that since it was my area of expertise, they would leave those decisions to me. That was an advantage, since there was no clear way to do things, and no one to tell us that we were doing things wrong. For a couple of years, our budget was very small, and I had to convince people in the administration to fund us. Since nothing that CAP does is actually required by law, this required finesse and diplomacy – we could not get angry, but had to teach people what to do when projects were planned, and why funding was necessary. Terry and I hopped onto the social media wagon early. With just two of us, social media allowed us to look bigger and more impressive if we had the energy to tweet and post a lot. People all over the world found us and followed us. We have made many great friends, and our social media strategy has been among the very best things we established.

Dr. Goldstein supervises the field school

Dr. Goldstein supervises the field school

Eventually, with the help of a few select administrators, we got a targeted line-item in the University budget, supplemented by Graduate Fellowship funds from the Graduate School. This base funding has been critical, and allowed CAP to accomplish many things, to experiment, and to fail. Perhaps most importantly, IPF (Infrastructure Planning and Facilities) understands and accepts what we do, and works closely with us on most projects.

The CAP Grad Fellows have been amazing, in terms of their work and their imagination. Each of them helps on many of the projects that CAP does, but each also has their own research project that they develop. These projects have been wonderful, and we have all learned so much from them, ranging from sustainability to gender to foodways. Working closely with Archives on all of our work has also been a grand and valuable experience.

I will absolutely miss CAP, but am confident that its future is bright. Archaeology on campus has opened possibilities to many students, informed and engaged a variety of stakeholders, as well as highlighting the important archaeology that exists on campus. CAP fellows are not limited to archaeology grad students – we have had fellows from all parts of anthropology.

Dr. Goldstein teaches the 2017 field school how to lay the perfect 2x2m unit.

Dr. Goldstein teaches the 2017 field school how to lay the perfect 2x2m unit.

I am writing and editing a book on MSU Campus Archaeology that will likely be published in 2019; a number of current and past CAP participants will be featured. Keep your eyes on this space for details!

Finally, an article that several archaeologists wrote for Advances in Archaeological Practice about the future of American archaeology has been named as the Society for American Archaeology’s Paper for the Month of May – it is open access this month. CAP is one of the featured examples. See the blog post about it: http://blog.journals.cambridge.org/2018/05/08/the-future-of-american-archaeology-engage-the-voting-public-or-kiss-your-research-goodbye/?utm_source=blog&utm_campaign=saa-blog-may

Reflections on Dr. Goldstein’s Impact

With Dr. Goldstein’s official retirement date drawing near the CAP fellows (and one past fellow!) wanted to take some time to reflect on the impact Dr. Goldstein has had on our lives, and the truly unique experience being part of the Campus Archaeology Program has been.


I’ve probably known Dr. Goldstein the longest of any of the fellows. Dr. Goldstein was chair of the Anthropology department when I started at MSU for undergrad in 2003. Because Dr. Goldstein was chair, I didn’t have any classes directly with her. But as a student at the 2005 Saints Rest Field School I got to know Dr. Goldstein, and see her in action in the field. Prior to the field school my focus had been solely physical anthropology; so taking a 6-week archaeology course was slightly outside of my wheelhouse. Dr. Goldstein took the time to encourage me on a particularly frustrating afternoon (I had spent the entire day excavating a tiny, difficult to dig feature that turned out to be a root run) by sharing a personal story from her early days of fieldwork. This moment has always stood out in my mind because not only did Dr. Goldstein recognize that I was having a difficult day, but she specifically took the time to make me feel better about the situation. After completing a master’s program, and spending a few years working and teaching post-grad I decided it was time to pursue a Ph.D. so I contacted Dr. Goldstein again, rather out of the blue, to see if she would be willing to take me on as her student. Thankfully she said yes. So now here I am, wrapping up my third (and final) year as Campus Archaeologist. Dr. Goldstein took a chance on a student with a physical anthropology background not once, but twice. Without the Saints Rest field school I know with 100% certainty that my life, and career, would have taken a very different path.

Dr. Goldstein has been a one of a kind mentor who’s managed to figure out how to be kind, stern, supportive, demanding, flexible, and genuinely concerned with the well being of students (and not just those whose she is chair for or on their committee) all at the same time. I know that I have benefited in invaluable and innumerable ways from her guidance. So thank you Dr. Goldstein, for taking a chance on me and for providing me with so many wonderful experiences. – Lisa Bright


It is difficult to sum up Dr. Goldstein with mere adjectives. I could say she’s brilliant, funny, and kind, that she’s tough and fiercely loyal to her students. These words fall flat. If I had to choose a snapshot to capture her, I would recall the early hours of a brisk October morning when three graduate students and a load of equipment folded into her Subaru and headed to northern Michigan to investigate a potential archaeological site. Only one of us was formally a student of Midwest archaeology—the other two primarily biological anthropologists—but all of us wanted to learn how to differentiate burial mounds from geological formations. Others might have baulked at the idea of taking us on such a venture, but not Dr. Goldstein. Since I have known her—and by all accounts, long before then—she has never hesitated to take chances on interested students, to believe in their capabilities, to provide them with opportunities to learn new skills, and to have faith that these skills would serve them well as anthropologists, regardless of their chosen sub-disciplines.

Once at the site, Dr. Goldstein never complained as we navigated uneven and slippery terrain, though her refurbished joints must have protested. This came as no surprise from a woman who once showed up to a CAP meeting after breaking a rib earlier that morning. At the site, she navigated many roles at once: expert, mentor, confidant. She explained the archaeological process to the landowner clearly and professionally. She directed students what to look for, how, and why. She listened with interest to the landowner’s hypotheses about the site and, even after determining there were no mounds present, stayed to hear stories of his family’s history on the land. On the long drive home she shared her own stories – some hilarious, some inspiring, some infuriating. She recalled how, as a young archaeologist she fought to be paid the same as a less experienced male colleague, even if it meant taking on the responsibility of meal preparation for an entire field school. This story left us not with a sense of bitterness but with awe over her ability to blaze trails with skill, grit, and remarkably, grace. Dr. Goldstein has always been adept at finding paths forward and never hesitates to help students to find theirs. Though she might be the busiest woman alive, she has always made time to listen to my and my fellow students’ concerns, provide advice, and help us discover solutions we never knew possible.

It has been an honor and a privilege to get the chance to work with such a brilliant mind, talented archaeologist, and overall incredible human being. Thank you Dr. Goldstein, and enjoy your well-deserved retirement!   – Mari Isa


The first time I came to MSU was for the 2012 Midwest Archaeology Conference, which was held in East Lansing that year. I had recently received a masters in archaeology and was doing CRM work in Illinois, and I had begun questioning whether I really wanted a career in cultural resource management or if I should pursue a future in academia and apply to Ph.D. programs. Dr. Goldstein was the primary coordinator of the conference, and despite being incredibly busy, she was kind enough to take the time to sit down with me and discuss my opportunities as MSU. The personal attention she provided a timid, uncertain student she had never heard of before really made an impression on me.

I ultimately ended up coming to MSU for my doctoral program, and although Dr. Goldstein is not on my committee, she has always welcomed me to her door to ask for advice. One of the primary reasons I joined Campus Archaeology was to benefit more from Dr. Goldstein’s mentorship, and her support of my research during my tenure as a CAP fellow has resulted in an incredibly successful project exploring historic foodways on campus. She has made a huge impact on my understanding of and approach to public outreach and creative collaborations with diverse programs and scholars to increase the visibility of cultural heritage in a campus setting. Her vision for projects and tenacity in advocating for our program and for the cultural heritage of MSU has set an example that I will take with me as I move forward in my career.

Thank you, Dr. Goldstein. Michigan State University has benefitted from you bringing its own history to the attention of the public and demonstrating how and why campus archaeology is important and necessary. And all CAP fellows, past and present, have benefitted from your mentorship and the example you have set as an advocate for the cultural heritage. You will be missed here at MSU, although you will never be fully gone. – Dr. Susan Kooiman


It’s hard for me to describe the impact that Dr. Goldstein has had on me and my scholarship without descending into hyperbole! I came to MSU thinking I knew exactly what I wanted to study in anthropology, but I was fortunate enough to take Dr. Goldstein’s mortuary analysis class and then be hired as a CAP fellow. Through her encouragement and with her assistance, I was able to expand my anthropological interests and knowledge. Between the meetings, the advice, the writing help, the job search strategizing, and the laughs, I am honored to say that Dr. Goldstein has been one of my greatest mentors. She showed me how to be a scholar and a colleague, and she always reminded us when to not take ourselves and our work too seriously. I remember telling her that I *had* to do something once and she said, “…no. You don’t.” It sounds so silly and simple, but her reaction was what I needed to pull myself out of my academic slump and focus on what I was truly interested in pursuing. I credit Dr. Goldstein with helping me pay my bills (thanks!), get a job, keep a job, and most of all, with teaching me that anthropology is so much more than what I thought it would be for me. Happy retirement! – Dr. Amy Michael (and honorary CAP fellow)


Getting to work for Dr. Goldstein in CAP has been one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had as a graduate student at MSU so far. It is absolutely incredible how much knowledge she has about the campus, but not for its own sake, but because she really cares about MSU, its history, and its students, past, present, and future. She has taught me how to conduct meaningful historical research (my personal research is with the Pre Columbian Maya), but also how to just how to be a better researcher in general. This includes how to interact with and incorporate the public into the research, how to deal with the bureaucracy, and most importantly how to advocate for someone or for myself. What is very apparent when having any kind of conversation with Dr. Goldstein is that she advocates for her students and will help them achieve what they need to conduct meaningful research. She goes to bat for her students more than anyone I’ve ever met and it is so inspiring to see not only how much she cares for people and their success, but also for their research even if it is only tangentially connected to her own. She is the epitome of a collaborative researcher, or even a researcher in general, and the determination she has to get things done is absolutely awe-inspiring. I hope that one day I’ll be even half as good of a researcher and a person as Dr. Goldstein has been her entire life. Thank you so much for everything you have done not only for me, but also for archaeology, anthropology, MSU, and the countless people and institutions who have been truly lucky to have come into contact with you. – Jack Biggs


Dr. Goldstein has been a wonderful mentor throughout my time at Michigan State University; however, her mentoring began before I even applied. When I was looking for undergraduate programs during high school, she agreed to meet with me and took time out of her day to give me advice about archaeology programs. From then on, I have been able to turn to her for guidance through my undergraduate and graduate career and I will be forever grateful. Thank you Dr. Goldstein for all of your assistance and mentorship over the years and I hope you enjoy your retirement. – Autumn Painter


Thank you Dr. Goldstein for all of your help! During all of the CAP meetings, committee meetings, and road trips, you have always been a source for good advice and a positive role model. Over the years, I have learned an immense amount through the stories and life experiences that you have shared with us, and have grown as a scholar because of them.  Thank you again for everything and I hope you enjoy retirement! – Jeff Painter


So thank you Dr. Goldstein, for everything that you have done and continue to do for all of us.

Precursor to the Porcelain Throne: The Chamber Pot Lid from Saints’ Rest

The Saints’ Rest Dormitory has a foundational history with Michigan State University, acting as the first dormitory for the fledgling college, and with the Campus Archaeology Program itself, being the first large-scale excavation and archaeological fieldschool on campus.  Built in 1856, Saints’ Rest was the second building erected on campus for the new school and was known as “the House”, “the hall”, or “old hall” [1].  The building acted as the primary dormitory on campus until 1870 when Williams Hall was built.  Unfortunately, Saints’ Rest burned down in the winter of 1876.

The site was originally excavated in 2005 as part of the Sesquicentennial Celebration and has been revisited for excavations in 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2012.  Throughout these digs, CAP has uncovered numerous artifacts relating to early campus life including items of personal hygiene, such as the lice comb that Lisa described in one of her earlier blog posts.  Another item relating to hygiene found at Saints’ Rest was a fragmented, but reconstructed, chamber pot lid (Figure 1).

Figure 1 – Saints’ Rest chamber pot lid. A: exterior surface; B: interior surface

Figure 1 – Saints’ Rest chamber pot lid. A: exterior surface; B: interior surface

Close up of raised floral design on chamber pot lid.

Close up of raised floral design on chamber pot lid.

Measuring about 12in in diameter, the ceramic chamber pot lid has some kind of floral motif on the exterior surface; however, it is unclear as to what it exactly depicts (if you have any suggestions or recognize the pattern let us know – it’s previously been described as a thistle and leaf pattern). The dark blue color of most of the fragments is a result of burning during the fire.

Evidence for the use of chamber pots stems all the way back to ancient Greece, dating to the 6th century BCE [2, 3].  The use of chamber pots became more common, and more necessary, as areas of the world became increasingly urbanized.  With settlements becoming larger and more organized and planned, sanitation became a major concern for many densely populated areas [3].  Although extensive plumbing systems were installed in ancient Rome, indoor plumbing did not become readily available for small-scale buildings and for residents until the 19th century with chamber pots being used even into the 20th century [4].

Figure 2 – The Saint’s Rest dormitory (c. 1857) with students on the roof and in the foreground. The building was later destroyed in a fire in December 1876. Image source.

Figure 2 – The Saint’s Rest dormitory (c. 1857) with students on the roof and in the foreground. The building was later destroyed in a fire in December 1876. Image source.

The presence of this chamber pot lid in an early campus archaeological context highlights some of the realities of life on campus.  These first students did not have the (then) luxury (but now commonality) of using a restroom inside the dorm that is separated from other rooms or is regularly sanitized; their only options were to use the privy just south of the building or to use a chamber pot inside their room.  Chamber pots were often stored under the bed or in cabinets, and then emptied into designated dumping areas [5].  Even with a lid covering the pot (and its contents), exposure to pathogens and diseases that travel through fecal matter was exponentially higher than it is today.  Of course chamber pots were not the only reason that diseases relating to poor sanitation jumped easily from person to person, but the use of these vessels didn’t truly help to eradicate the problem.  In 1886, there was an outbreak of typhoid fever (which is directly linked to fecal contaminants) on campus which resulted in one student death.  It wasn’t until the 1890s that the college had modern plumbing installed after epidemics of diphtheria and measles, and after numerous student and parent complaints [1].  These outbreaks even resulted in the college creating a 7-room hospital building to quarantine infected people as soon as possible.

Although we recognize that our lives as MSU students today are different from those of 150 years ago, sometimes we don’t realize by just how much.  The presence of the chamber pot lid at Saints’ Rest highlights one of these aspects that may have contributed to serious health crises that broke out on campus.  Books and movies have a tendency to romanticize the past as formal and proper, but studying this chamber pot lid, while fascinating, has only reinforced my gratitude for modern amenities and hygienic practices, e.g. indoor plumbing.

 

References:

[1]       Kuhn, Madison. Michigan State: the first hundred years, 1855-1955. Michigan State University Press, 1955.

[2]       Kravetz, Robert E. Chamber Pot. The American Journal of Gastroenterology, 2006, 101: pp. 1414-1415.

[3]       D’Agostino, Mary Ellin. Privy Business: Chamber Pots and Sexpots in Colonial Life. Archaeology, 2000, 53(4): pp. 32-37.

[4]       van der Linden, Huub. Medals and Chamber Pots for Faustina Bordoni: celebrity and Material Culture in Early Eighteenth-Century Italy. Journal for eighteenth-century studies. 40(1): 23-47.

[5]       Cunningham, Zac. “Of Chamber Pots and Close Stool Chairs”. Web blog post. Lives and Legacies Blog. 15 July, 2015.

A sweet discovery: a Bavarian sugar bowl in the East Lansing dump

Tea has a long tradition as both a beverage and a social event (1). In turn of the 20th century America, tea was enjoyed both at home and in public tearooms, by men and by women (1, 2). At a time when women were typically excluded from other public dining rooms, it was considered acceptable for women to go to tearooms with or without male escorts (1). Whether taken at home or in public, teatime was an event requiring several pieces of equipment. For a respectable tea, etiquette and cookbooks from the 19th and early 20th centuries list non-negotiable items as a teapot, teacups and saucers, a jug for cream, and a bowl for sugar (2). Tea services were often beautiful objects made of fine china or silver, intended to be displayed and admired by guests.

Z.S. & Co Sugar Bowl from the Brody/Emmons Complex.

Z.S. & Co Sugar Bowl from the Brody/Emmons Complex.

CAP archaeologists recovered one of these beautiful objects, a flowery porcelain sugar bowl, during excavations at Brody/Emmons complex, the former site of the East Lansing city dump. Luckily for us, the bowl is nearly intact and displays a backstamp on its base reading “MIGNON Z.S.& Co. BAVARIA.” This stamp provides several key pieces of information about the item, starting with the name of the manufacturer. Z.S. & Co refers to Porzellanfabrik Zeh, Scherzer & Co., a German company that produced porcelain tableware, coffee and tea sets, and other decorative items from the time it was founded in 1880 until 1992 (3). The backstamp also gives us a clue as to a date. Manufacturers often changed the design of their backstamps to reflect new ownership or updates. Z.S. & Co. used the plain green mark with the name of the company and place of manufacture divided by a wavy line between 1880 and 1918 (3).

Makers mark on base of Z.S. & Co Sugar Bowl from the Brody/Emmons Complex.

Makers mark on base of Z.S. & Co Sugar Bowl from the Brody/Emmons Complex.

The backstamp also tells us where the bowl was made: the German state of Bavaria. Until the 1700s, the best quality china was made in, well, China (4). In the early 18th century, German manufacturers in Saxony discovered the secret to producing high quality porcelain using a combination of kaolin and alabaster. The Meissen porcelain factory near Dresden was the first European company to successfully manufacture and market hard paste porcelain. By the height of china production in the late 1800s, there were hundreds of porcelain factories and workshops in Germany. German china gained a formidable reputation for its quality and beauty. Starting in 1887, many companies began stamping their wares with the label “made in Germany” to differentiate them from competitors, primarily the English workshops in Staffordshire. The inclusion of this phrase served as a proxy for quality (4). Some German porcelain simply includes the region of manufacture, such as Saxony, Bavaria, or Prussia (3). Until the 20th century, many porcelain items were imported from Germany. However, anti-German sentiment at the beginning of World War I reduced demand for many German goods in America.

Mignon style sugar bowl.

Mignon style sugar bowl. Image source.

Finally, the word “Mignon” on the backstamp refers to the name of the series. Z.S. & Co. produced various styles of dishes including the Mignon, Orleans, and Punch series (3). Dishes in the same series had the same shapes, but were available in a wide variety of patterns. The Mignon sugar bowl recovered from the Brody dump has the same shape as a Mignon sugar bowl I found on Ebay, but it is painted in a different pattern. The CAP sugar bowl is decorated with pink and white flowers and green leaves and flowery gold fleur-de-lis near the rim. The pattern itself actually tells us about how the piece was made. The flowers are crisp, multi-colored and multi-dimensional in that they exhibit shading. This indicates the use of ceramic decals, a technique involving the transfer of an image printed on special paper onto a ceramic object (5). This process is much faster and requires less skill than hand painting. The advent of this technique in the 19th century allowed for mass production of affordable china (5).

It is impossible to say for sure why the sugar bowl ended up in the East Lansing dump, but a likely explanation is that it was broken. Delicate pieces of a tea service get picked up and passed around quite a bit, leaving ample opportunity to drop, chip, or smash them. The sugar bowl recovered from the dump is mostly intact, though it is missing two handles and is chipped in several places around the base. It is possible some of this damage came from being buried in a landfill. However, it is easy imagine that its owner decided to discard it after a few too many exuberant tea parties rendered it no longer fit for display.

References

  1. Smith AF. 2013. Tea. In The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America. Retrieved from http://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/acref/9780199734962.001.0001/acref-9780199734962.
  2. http://www.foodtimeline.org/teatime.html#americantea
  3. http://www.porcelainmarksandmore.com/germany/bavaria/rehau-01/index.php
  4. https://antiques.lovetoknow.com/Antique_China_Made_in_Germany
  5. http://www.jefpat.org/diagnostic/Post-Colonial%20Ceramics/Less%20Commonly%20Found/DecalDecoratedWares/index-DecalDecoratedWares.html

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.

Picking out Kitchenware: Large Scale Purchasing at MSU

Where did the kitchenware at MSU come from during the early years of the school? As it was not economical to purchase dinnerware sets in the same way families purchased dishes for their home, the college most likely turned to catalogue companies, the Costco of the past. Evidence for this large scale purchasing of dinnerware and kitchenware items lies in purchasing logs and archaeological evidence. As discussed previously, the college purchased many different types of plates, bowls, cookware, and glassware in order to accommodate the students living in the dormitories on campus. Several ceramic sherds have been uncovered through Campus Archaeology excavations at the Brody/Emmons site, the first East Lansing dump, with the makers mark present showing that they were from “Albert Pick & Company.”

In 1857, Albert Pick and his brother Charles founded ‘Albert Pick & Company’, based in Chicago, as a kitchenware and furniture supplier for hotel and restaurant markets (Clayman, Made in Chicago Museum). The company grew steadily, and by the early 1900s, it had become a major supplier for hundreds of leading hotels, selling tables, chairs, silverware, linens, dinnerware, and even the first dishwashers! While most of the earliest ceramics purchased by MSU were from England, ‘Albert Pick & Company’ wares became more popular in the United States during the 1910’s, 20’s, and 30’s, corresponding well with the time period in which the Brody/Emmons dump was in use.

Among their many items for sale, Albert Pick and Company offered a wide variety of dishes, as can be seen in the photos below from their 1913 catalogue. Not only were different types and designs of dinnerware available, but a range of sizes were also provided. For example, six different sizes of plates were advertised in ‘The Green Newton Pattern,’ allowing the purchaser to tailor their choices based on their specific needs.

Albert Pick & Company catalogue

Albert Pick & Company catalogue

Albert Pick & Company catalogue

Albert Pick & Company catalogue

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pictured below is an example of one type of Albert Pick and Company plate or saucer bought and used in the East Lansing area. Unfortunately, we are currently unable to narrow down the manufacturing date of this dish, or find the name of its pattern, but future research may be able to address these questions. The makers mark below states:

Albert Pick & Company
Vitrified China
Chicago

 

Albert Pick & Co. ceramic sherd

Albert Pick & Co. ceramic sherd

Albert Pick & Co. ceramic sherd

Albert Pick & Co. ceramic sherd

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While there is no direct evidence that this specific dish was purchased by MSU, as it was recovered from the first East Lansing dump, it is possible that it was bought for use on MSU’s campus or at a restaurant or hotel in East Lansing.

 

References Cited

Sheridan Plaza Hotel Silverplate Creamer by Albert Pick & co., c. 1920; Andrew Clayman – https://www.madeinchicagomuseum.com/single-post/2016/02/03/Sheridan-Plaza-Hotel-Silverplate-Creamer-by-Albert-Pick-Co-c-1920s

Trade catalogs from Albert Pick & Co. http://americanhistory.si.edu/collections/search/object/SILNMAHTL_32473

The Archaeology of Shopping: Variations in Consumerism in the Past http://campusarch.msu.edu/?p=5070

From China to Historic MSU: A Not-so-Short History of Porcelain Part 1 http://campusarch.msu.edu/?p=4869

From China to Historic MSU: A Not-so-Short History of Porcelain Part 2 http://campusarch.msu.edu/?p=4943

Aren’t Bowls Just Bowls? Not for the First Students at MSU http://campusarch.msu.edu/?p=4541