After a week into the field school, the units have been set up and we began removing our first layer of soil. During this process, we mostly found small shards of broken glass and countless rusty nails. However, Friday’s dig (6-2-17) revealed a unique piece of glass in my unit — what appears to be part of the base of an old ink bottle. The piece, as can be seen in Image 1, cannot be more than 7 cm long and is by no means complete. However, the name “Diamond Ink Co.” and the number 25 can easily be read.
The Diamond Ink Company was established in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1875. In 1886, a German-American by the name of August Nicholas Ritz became the new owner of Diamond Ink. Ritz remained the owner and manager of the company until it was purchased by one of the largest paint and glass distributors in Milwaukee, T.C. Esser Paint Co., in 1930. During the mid-1980s, T.C. Esser was purchased by Paul Phelps to create Oakbrook-Esser Studios, a company that continues to manufacture stained glass windows today.
Since Diamond Ink went out of business so long ago, it is rather difficult to find information about the company’s history. However, it is known that the company was once one of the most prosperous ink companies in Milwaukee. Additionally, the company was especially well-known for putting the first square-shaped ink bottle on the market. Despite their revolutionary new bottle shape, the company continued to make round bottles in a variety of sizes.
This specific artifact appears to be part of a round bottle rather than a square one, which suggests two possibilities. First, this bottle could have been one of Diamond Ink’s many different sized round bottles. Or, the fragment could be from the base of one of Ritz’s patented paste jars. These jars actually consisted of two containers fused together. One container, a large jar, would hold the paste while an attached slender tube or bottle-like container would hold the brush that was used to apply the paste. As can be seen in Image 2, the paste jar itself was a rather large container and most likely not the source of this artifact. However, it might be possible that the artifact was once the base of the attached brush tube. Unfortunately, not enough of the artifact was recovered in order to definitively state from which type and size of bottle this piece came from.
Additionally, the significance of the number 25 stamped into the glass is unknown. It could possibly indicate that this specific glass bottle was made from Diamond Ink’s 25th mold shape or style. However, since there are very few Diamond Ink Co. records left in existence, it is rather difficult to determine what this number is supposed to signify.
Overall, I find this bottle base to be an intriguing artifact — it is a remnant of a revolutionizing ink company that has since become lost due to the passage of time.
Bruce, William G. History of Milwaukee, City and County. Vol. 3, Milwaukee, WI, S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1922, pp. 540-43. Accessed 2 June 2017.
The Canadian Patent Office Record, Volume 30. Issue 7-12., Ottawa, The Office, 1902, pp. 1344-45. The Ohio State University. Accessed 3 June 2017.
Ritz, A. N. (10-29-1901). Canadian Patent No. 73612. Canada. Canadian Intellectual Property Office.
Walker, Laurel. “Gospel of ‘St. John’.” Oakbrook Esser Studios, Jan. 2004. Accessed 3 June 2017.
Wisconsin Historical Society, Wisconsin Architecture and History Inventory, “T. C. Esser Paint Co / Diamond Ink Co. / Milw. Worste”, “Milwaukee”, “Milwaukee”, “Wisconsin”, “117283”.
Image 1 taken from Campus Archaeology Twitter account
Image 2 taken from: “Diamond Ink Company.” bottlebooks.com. Accessed 2 June 2017.