The Final Countdown (again)

One year ago I wrote what I thought was my final CAP blog. In the post, I summarized my top experiences working with the program over the past six years. Well, it turned out I wasn’t quite done with CAP and I have spent the 2016-2017 year working on still more new projects! I thought I would re-CAP (sorry…) my year and, more importantly, how I plan to use the skills I gained through working on with the program in the next phase of my professional career.

I have been on the job market for the past year and have written many, MANY cover letters. Even though I am a physical anthropologist, I have included information about my experience with CAP in every letter. In all of the job interviews I have had, I have been asked about CAP. I am grateful to have worked with CAP for many reasons, but it has become increasingly clear this past semester how many skills I have gained through CAP and how transferable these skills are post-graduation.

Outreach

Amy explains artifacts to an elementary school student.

Amy explains artifacts to an elementary school student.

I believe that public outreach is one of the most important things that we pursue at CAP. Because we speak to groups of multiple age ranges and interest levels, it has been useful for me to learn how to speak about artifacts (and their significance) to children and adults. I will absolutely seek public outreach experiences at my next job. Working with CAP has reaffirmed to me that sharing archaeological knowledge with the public is essential to our jobs as anthropologists.

Excavation

While I was trained how to excavate in many different prehistoric contexts, the CAP experience has been quite different and highly practical. In my prehistoric work, I have never dug shovel test pits or worked collaboratively with people doing construction of course. Because CAP works like a cultural resource management project at times, it has been great for me to pick up more practical skills and to understand how archaeological projects work on a time crunch.

Artifact analysis

Throughout my time with CAP, I have been exposed to many different artifact types. While I celebrate the small victories of recognizing laboratory glass vs. window glass (I’m definitely still more comfortable identifying bones than historic artifacts!), I believe that my ability to work through a question about a particular artifact is much improved. No longer will I think a plate is just a plate or a glass fragment is just a glass fragment – I have learned how to use historical documents to zero in on each artifact and tell a better, more accurate story of the past. I never considered that a nail polish topper would lead me down a path toward learning about one of the first female-owned businesses or that researching a ceramic pattern would guide me toward reading about differential use of plates in the red light districts of Australia.

Archival work

Cover of scrapbook. Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections.

Cover of scrapbook. Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections.

A mainstay of my CAP work has been integration with the University Archives. There is definitely a strategy to doing archival research and I have had to learn how to get the most out of each visit to the archives. The historical documents available to us here at MSU have greatly improved my understanding of the artifacts we observe in the lab. Looking through student scrapbooks has fulfilled my innate nosiness (hey, why not be honest in my final blog!), but also taught me to think more deeply about what people save and why. It has been quite fun to see if what is between the pages of these scrapbooks has any correlated archaeological imprint during our excavations.

In a real sense, the combination of excavation, artifact analysis, outreach, and archival work has made the campus come alive for me. The sense of knowing (or at least having some semblance of) a historical precedent, especially as it relates to early female students, has enriched my time at MSU immeasurably. It’s very easy to get caught up in our own specific research niche, but CAP has always allowed me to take a break from my primary research and remember that, over 150 years ago, there were students on these grounds that were struggling with the same questions we all have: What am I doing here? What should I study? How will I apply my knowledge in the future? What job will I do?

The last question is answered for me now as I have been hired at Idaho State University. I am sad to leave CAP but I will take the skills I have gained with me to my next position and continue to engage critically and responsibly with the past.

 

 

Military at MAC: Decoding Ammunition from Campus

Recently a supervisor from landscape services contacted us after they uncovered an artifact. During the last big wind storm approximately 20 tree were badly damaged. One of the uprooted trees was located on the east side of Cowles House, and the crew discovered an old ammunition casing under the tree’s root ball. So what can this ammunition casing tell us?

Ammunition casing recovered near Cowle's House

Ammunition casing recovered near Cowles House

There are several ways to identify the size of ammunition from the cartridge case. Each type of ammunition has a unique:

  • case length (the longest measurement of the cartridge case)
Casing case length. Image Source.

Casing case length. Image Source.

  • neck diameter (front portion of cartridge case where bullet is seated. Neck diameter is the external measure of this feature)
Cartridge neck. Image source.

Cartridge neck. Image source.

  • diameter at base of case
  • rim diameter (not all cartridges are rimmed, a cartridge with a rim has a base rim that is larger in diameter than the rest of the head).

This particular bullet is a .30-06. This .30 caliber bullet was introduced in 1906, hence to 06 ending. The .30-06 was the U.S. Army’s primary rifle cartridge for nearly 50 years.

So now we’ve figured out the caliber of the ammunition, but who made the bullet? Thankfully, similar to ceramic makers marks or registered designs, ammunition cartridges have identifying marks on the headstamp.

Headstamp example. Image source.

Headstamp example. Image source.

These markings usually contain information on the caliber and manufacturer of the cartridge, and if it’s military ammunition the date of manufacture. This headstamp reads “F A 7 11”.

Headstamp of Cowels House ammunition casing.

Headstamp of Cowels House ammunition casing.

The F A stands for Frankford Arsenal. This ammunition plant opened in 1816 and was the main U.S. military small-arms ammunition producer until 1977. Ammunition produced prior to World War I at this plant was dated with a numerical month-year, so the 7 11 indicates a production date of July 1911.

CAP has found ammo casings and shells at various locations across north campus, so the find didn’t surprise us. But you might be thinking, why do we commonly find evidence of ammunition, specifically military ammunition, on campus? The answer is fairly straightforward; historically there was a military presence on campus.

MAC training detachment c. 1910. Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections.

MAC training detachment c. 1910. Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections.

In the 1800s there were military training classes offered (in 1863 a Military Department was organized and many Michigan State students and faculty served in the Civil War), and small arms & artillery were stored on campus. By the 20th century there was also an active R.O.T.C. contingent, and during WWI a student army training corp in addition to enlisted soldiers training on campus.

Student Army Training Corps (SATC) c. 1918. Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections.

Student Army Training Corps (SATC) c. 1918. Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections.

After the collapse of College Hall in 1918 the surviving corner of the building was incorporated into an artillery shed/garage. The artillery shed was used to house military vehicles and ammunition. Beaumont Tower now occupies this space (and the money was donated by Beaumont to build this after he visited campus and was angered by the artillery garage replacing what was College Hall) and this location is not far from Cowles House, where the casing was recovered.

Artillery Shed/Garage. Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections.

Artillery Shed/Garage. Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections.

The ammunition was likely used within 10-15 years of the production date. Modern factory produced ammunition, when stored properly, is good for approximately 10 years. We will never know under what specific circumstances this rifle was fired on campus, but it’s presence is part of a long military connection.

References:

https://metaldetectingforum.com/showthread.php?t=174509

http://cartridgecollectors.org/?page=glossary

http://cartridgecollectors.org/?page=headstampcodes#F

http://cartridgecollectors.org/?page=introduction-to-30-06-cartridges

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frankford_Arsenal

http://onthebanks.msu.edu/Object/3-F-1DF/meeting-minutes-1863/

 

The Archaeology of Shopping: Variations in Consumerism in the Past

So far this year, I have been examining the ceramics from various assemblages associated with early Michigan State.  While I have looked at what types of dishes were present and how they were used, I have not looked at how these assemblages compare to other sites in the Midwest.  Comparative analyses are one of the most powerful tools that archaeologists use to learn about the past.  Not only are they great for looking at similarities and differences between sites and people, but they can also be used to look at larger social and economic processes, such as the intersection of class and wealth, that go into the choices made by people.  Here, I will compare the tableware assemblages from historic MSU with those from various contemporary sites in the Midwest as a way to better understand the different choices made in terms of purchasing and the rationale behind them.

At MSU, the majority of the dishes that we find from MSU are inexpensive plain or embossed/molded whitewares and plain or simply decorated industrial wares.  These are typically associated with dorms and student life on campus, and were purchased by the university for everyday student use in dining halls.  Much more elaborate and expensive ceramics, decorated in many patterns and colors, are associated with faculty houses on campus, which were likely purchased by the faculty using their own funds.

Whiteware from West Circle Privy.

Whiteware from West Circle Privy.

Various decorated ceramics from the Gunson assemblage.

Various decorated ceramics from the Gunson assemblage.

Ceramic assemblages are somewhat similar at other sites.  At the Woodhams site, an urban farmstead in Plainwell, MI owned by families of modest means, there were about twice as many undecorated whitewares as decorated whitewares.  While not common, decorated vessels were relatively expensive transfer printed and decalomania dishes (Rotman and Nassaney 1997).  In the former Corktown neighborhood of Detroit, the home of working class immigrant families, people relied heavily on mass-produced whiteware vessels that were cheap and easily accessible through local merchants.  Despite this, some more expensive wares were also present, such as porcelain teaware, English transfer printed dishes, and other imported decorated vessels.  Interestingly, the homes in the area all differed in the types of dishes, wares, and styles that they bought, highlighting the greater selection available to those dwelling in a growing city and consequently the greater ability to differentiate oneself through decorative style (Ryzewski 2015).  At the Clemens farmstead in Darke County, Ohio, the home of wealthy free African Americans, 81% of the tableware were plain whitewares, while the rest of the assemblage was made up of a small number of hand painted or transfer printed vessels.  While this family had enough money to buy expensive dishware, they chose to be conservative with consumer goods while broadcasting their wealth through architecture and improvements to their land (Groover and Wolford 2013).  For those who lived in the Moore-Youse House in Muncie, Indiana, a middle-class family influenced by Victorian ideals and class consciousness, the possession of decorated and expensive tableware was more important.  Out of all of the tableware recovered, most was whiteware and ironstone, and 48% of it was hand painted.  Out of the other decorated vessels, 44% were transfer printed ceramics.  While porcelain was not present, the high number of decorated ceramics suggest that this family spent a considerable amount of money in order to have fashionable tablewares that demonstrated their social class (Groover and Hogue 2014).

Moore-Youse Home Museum, Muncie, IN. Image source.

Moore-Youse Home Museum, Muncie, IN. Image source.

While these different homes are similar to MSU in the types of ceramics that are found, they represent very different choices and needs.  For individuals and families, their decisions in what tablewares to purchase are often based on cost, personal style, and the ways in which they wished to demonstrate their social standing within the Victorian world.  For example, the Clemens family chose to use simple ceramics while improving their home and the grounds, making it one of the few examples of expensive Victorian architecture in the region and a clear statement of their social standing to all who passed by.  At the Moore-Youse house, the family chose to purchase more expensive and fashionable tableware, which would have displayed their standing to those who were invited into the home.  Some of these same concerns are reflected at MSU, such as in the delicate and expensive tablewares sometimes purchased and used by faculty living on campus, but we also must consider the institutional context that is much different than the homes discussed above.  At early MSU, the university needed a large number of dishes to supply their student body, as well as dishes that were durable and would survive abuse by students on a daily basis.  Faculty may have needed more dishware as well, as some of them often entertained groups of students and visitors during the academic year.  On campus, one needed to consider such factors as durability, the economics of supplying and entertaining a lot of people daily, and having dish sets that were similar so as not to alienate certain divisions of the student body.  Both MSU and different homes in the Midwest had access to similar ceramics, but made choices based on different needs, so we must take this into account and interpret ceramics from campus using a different mindset and theoretical base. Only using economic scaling models, as is often done with ceramic assemblages from homes, misses many of the more nuanced aspects of ceramic selection that takes place at an institution such as Michigan State.

Bibliography

Groover, Mark D., and S. Homes Hogue
2014   Reconstructing Nineteenth-Century Midwest Foodways: Ceramic and Zooarchaeological Information from the Moore-Youse House and Huddleston Farmstead. Midcontinental Journal of Archaeology 39(2):130-144.

Groover, Mark D., and Tyler J. Wolford
2013   The Archaeology of Rural Affluence and Landscape Change at the Clemens Farmstead.

Journal of African Diaspora Archaeology and Heritage 2(2):131-150.

Rotman, Deborah L, and Michael S. Nassaney

1997   Class, Gender, and the Built Environment: Deriving Social Relations from Cultural Landscapes in Southwest Michigan.  Historical Archaeology 31(2):42-62.

Ryzewski, Krysta
2015   No Home for the “Ordinary Gamut”: A Historical Archaeology of Community Displacement and the Creation of Detroit, City Beautiful.  Journal of Social Archaeology 15(3):408-431.

CAP at MSU Science Fest 2017

This month, Campus Archaeology is participating in MSU’s fifth annual Science Festival. Science Fest celebrates STEAM fields—Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics—by bringing exploration and discovery out of the laboratory and into the public eye. From April 7-23, MSU is hosting a series of free events for people of all ages including demonstrations, panel discussions, tours, open houses, hands-on activities, and science cafes aimed at connecting campus researchers with curious members of the community.

This past Saturday, April 8, CAP participated in the Science Fest Expo Zone Day event. For the Expo Zone, STEAM researchers from all over campus developed hands-on activities with the goal of “sharing the science that inspires them” with aspiring young scientists and their families.

CAP fellows Susan Kooiman, Jeff Painter, and Autumn Beyer help young archaeologists use real screens to sift through buckets of sand for artifacts.

CAP fellows Susan Kooiman, Jeff Painter, and Autumn Beyer help young archaeologists use real screens to sift through buckets of sand for artifacts.

CAP has participated in Science Fest since it began in 2013. Since this wasn’t our first rodeo, we brought two hands-on activities to the Expo Zone that we knew would spark the interest of kids and parents alike. On Saturday, our screening station activity drew big crowds and lots of curious onlookers. CAP volunteers “excavated” buckets of sand and asked visitors to help sift the sand through screens to look for “artifacts.”

We selected a variety of objects to keep things interesting and to represent the types of artifacts we expect to find when excavating on campus: toy plates and cups stood in for dinnerware found across campus; plastic combs represented personal hygiene items, like the privy beard comb; and bone-shaped dog biscuits represented butchered animal bones like the ones CAP Fellow Autumn Beyer is working on analyzing. We also included some fun items for kids to find, like matchbox cars and plastic turtles.

Dr. Heather Walder and undergraduate archaeology student SarahJane Potter explain that archaeologists are interested in people, not dinosaurs.

Dr. Heather Walder and undergraduate archaeology student SarahJane Potter explain that archaeologists are interested in people, not dinosaurs.

After they sifted through all the sand in their buckets, we asked visitors to describe, count, and sort artifacts for us. Finally, they collected them into a box to “take to the lab” for additional analysis. Even though this was a fun activity, we wanted to make sure it resembled real-life archaeology, not “treasure hunting.” At the end of the activity, we paid our budding archaeology assistants for their hard work with chocolate coins or temporary tattoos. If we accomplished nothing else, we successfully indoctrinated the youth with the idea that archaeologists should be paid for their work.

Campus Archaeologist Lisa Bright prepares Science Fest visitors to play the artifact matching game.

Campus Archaeologist Lisa Bright prepares Science Fest visitors to play the artifact matching game.

When they were done screening, we sent visitors over to the artifacts table to look at some of the real-life objects we’ve excavated right here on MSU’s campus. Campus Archaeologist Lisa Bright showed visitors several interesting items including a jar of library paste, porcelain dolls, and uranium glass that glows under black lights. Visitors were allowed to touch and handle some of the sturdier artifacts like laboratory keys, a protractor, and a pocketknife rusted shut. These examples of campus artifacts tied in with the second activity CAP brought to the Expo Zone: the artifact matching game.

The artifact matching game required visitors to play a 3-dimensional game of memory matching, where they matched four historic artifacts with their modern counterparts. Visitors of all ages enjoyed comparing and contrasting modern objects they see and use every day, like light bulbs and pop bottles, with similar items used by MSU students and faculty decades ago. Since many of the Science Fest visitors work on campus or have family members that do, they were excited to make these kinds of connections with campus history.

Archaeology undergraduate Amy Hair shows Science Fest visitors some examples of archaeological tools and artifacts found on MSU’s campus

Archaeology undergraduate Amy Hair shows Science Fest visitors some examples of archaeological tools and artifacts found on MSU’s campus

The Science Fest Expo was a lot of fun, but it also served an important purpose in that it provided a space for us to bring our work into the public sphere. Now, more than ever, scientists have to think about how we can bridge the gap between the public and the academy and make our work relevant and accessible to everyone. While this is a complicated issue, a good first step is to make sure members of the community are familiar with what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. One visitor said they had worked on campus for years and had no idea we did archaeology here!

These in-person events also give us a chance to address common misconceptions about archaeology. When visitors arrived at our booth, we asked them if they could tell us about what archaeologists do. Before doing the activity and talking to us, most people—kids and parents—thought that archaeologists dig up dinosaur fossils! We were able to have one-on-one conversations and explain that paleontologists study dinosaurs, while archaeologists are interested in learning about past people based on the objects they leave behind.

CAP’s next Scincefest outreach event will be a Campus Archaeology Historical Walking Tour on Saturday, April 15 from 1-2 PM. The first 50 people to arrive at the MSU Union will receive a guided tour of archaeological locations important to MSU’s history, led by CAP Director Dr. Lynne Goldstein and Campus Archaeologist Lisa Bright. The tour is free and suitable for all ages!

 

There is Something Fishy about this Privy

It’s official… the fish skeletal material recovered from the Saint’s Rest privy, the toilet associated with the first dormitory on campus contained walleye!

Walleye. Image source

Walleye. Image source.

Walleye are the largest member of the perch family and can be caught in shallow bays and inland lakes. As there are plenty of inland lakes surrounding East Lansing, it is possible that these fish were caught locally and served on campus. Also, walleye actively feed all year round, they can be caught during any season, however, it is easier to catch them during the early morning and evening, as that is their prime feeding times (MI DNR).

Walleye Teeth image source

Walleye Teeth. Image source.

When the privy was excavated, an immense amount of bone was recovered from the southwest corner. The bones were very densely packed, and excavators were under time constraints so the area was block lifted and screened back at the lab!

West Circle Privy after excavation.

West Circle Privy after excavation.

This privy was a permanent brick structure, a earth-closet type of privy, which means that it would have been cleaned out regularly, which may explain why the fish remains were packed tightly into the back corner, possibly out of reach as a result of the cleaning process.

So how do I know that they are walleye? To determine which species the fish remains were, I began at the MSU Museum, where in the collections is a small fish index. This has many different bone elements separated out and labeled by species. This allowed me to get a preliminary identification of walleye or sauger. However, as the index does not include every single fish bone, I wanted further verification. Luckily for me, Dr. Terrance Martin (Illinois State Museum, emeritus) was visiting MSU and was able to take a few minutes and look at the Saints Rest privy fish remains. He also agreed that they looked like walleye, but suggested that I verify the remainder of the materials against other walleye specimens. Unfortunately, the MSU Museum did not have any other walleye skeletal materials in the collections so I turned to another museum. This past week, a specimen loan from the Field Museum arrived, allowing me to take the material and confirm that it is in fact walleye! Below are some images of the fish remains, in comparison to the walleye specimen.

Walleye Dentary

Walleye Operculum

Walleye Operculum

Now that I have many of the previously identified elements confirmed as walleye, I am going to move forward on identifying the remainder of the fish remains, as I already have them sorted by side, counted, and weighed. In addition to focusing on the fish materials, I will begin looking through the mammal remains that have been uncovered on campus, including cow, pig, and sheep/goat with the goal of determining what type of meat cuts were present, and the proportions of species present within the archaeological contexts. Stay tuned for more updates on the Campus Archaeology animal bone identifications!

Resources:

DNR Walleye: http://www.michigan.gov/dnr/0,4570,7-153-10364_53405-216550–,00.html

The Udderly Legen-dairy History of Dairying at MSU: Part II

You heard me wax poetic about dairy and the history of dairy production in my previous blog. However, as I pointed out then, the importance of dairy at MSU lies not only in the delicious cheese and ice cream produced but also in dairy education and research. The Dairy Department, and now jointly the Department of Food Science and Nutrition and the Department of Animal Science, have carried on a tradition of instruction of students, research, and outreach since the founding of MSU.

Students Attending first Dairy course, ca. 1895. Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

Students Attending first Dairy course, ca. 1895. Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

Professor C.D. Smith (Anthony 1929)

Professor C.D. Smith (Anthony 1929)

No official courses on dairying were taught in the earliest days of the College, although its tenets and techniques were incorporated into more general instruction. Professor Peter M. Harwood was first to bear the title of Instructor in Dairying, which he received in 1892, but was succeeded in 1983 by Clinton D. Smith. Smith strongly believed in the potential for Michigan to develop a strong dairy industry and therefore offered the first dairy course at the college in the winter of 1894/1895. These early courses were taught in the basement of the Agricultural Laboratory, which is now known as Cook Hall. A new building, which housed both Dairy and Forestry classes, was built in 1900, modern-day Chittenden Hall. In 1910, courses offered included Elementary Dairying, Creamery Butter Making, Cheese Making, and Market Milk (Anthony 1929).

Agricultural Laboratory (aka Cook Hall – on right) and the Dairy and Forestry Building (aka Chittenden Hall) (left). Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

Agricultural Laboratory (aka Cook Hall – on right) and the Dairy and Forestry Building (aka Chittenden Hall) (left). Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

Cheese-making class, 1915. Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections.

Cheese-making class, 1915. Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections.

As recounted in my previous post, the first building completely devoted to dairy education and manufacturing, the aptly-named Dairy Building, was constructed in 1913. It was the home of the first Dairy Plant, housed all dairy courses and faculty offices, and contained state-of-the-art laboratories for that time. Graduate courses were added in 1920, and following Dr. Ernest L. Anthony’s appointment as Head of the Dairy Department in 1928, the curriculum had expanded to include Farm Dairying, Dairy Standards and Tests, History of Dairy Cattle, Market Milk, Milk Production, Elements of Dairying, Advanced Dairy Cattle Judging, Advanced Dairy Products Judging, Dairy Farm Management, Butter Making, General Dairy Production, Plant Management, Ice Cream Making, Cheese Making, Concentrated Milk Products, and Dairy Seminar (Anthony 1929:4-5)

Dairy Science Building, no date. Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections.

Dairy Science Building, no date. Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections.

The Dairy Department (later called the Department of Dairy Science) was ultimately absorbed by the Dept. of Food Science and Nutrition and the Dept. of Animal Science. Today among the only courses specific to dairy foods is FSC 432 Food Processing: Dairy Foods, and the general principals of food science are taught in courses such as Food Safety, Food Chemistry, and Food Microbiology, and Food Engineering. Animal Science offers courses in Dairy Farm, Herd, Feed, and Cattle Management; Diary Cattle Judging; Dairy Growth, Health and Lactation in Dairy Cattle; just to name a few.

Research Papers by G. Malcolm Trout (courtesy John Partridge)

Research Papers by G. Malcolm Trout (courtesy John Partridge)

Research has also been important component of the dairy curriculum at MSU. In 1896, Dr. Charles E. Marshall arrived at the college and became a pioneer in the field of bacteriology, all through his research on the bacteriology of milk (Anthony 1929:3-4). Early faculty and students also conducted extensive work in dairy cattle breeding (Anthony 1929:10). Malcolm Trout, a professor at Michigan State between 1928 and 1966, discovered how to homogenize milk by linking it to the process of pasteurization, the combined techniques which are integral to commercial milk sales. C. F. Huffman was a leader in the field of the effects of animal nutrition on production, while research and publications on market milk and ice cream were also spearheaded by the department (Trout 1955).

Dairy Lab Research, date unknown (Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections)

Dairy Lab Research, date unknown (Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections)

Dairy recruitment brochure, date unknown (UA 16.37, Box 521, Folder 9)

Dairy recruitment brochure, date unknown (UA 16.37, Box 521, Folder 9).

Much of the current research conducted within the Department of Food Science and Nutrition now focuses to expand the use of underutilized commodities, using by-products of the meat and dairy processing industries; and to determine how the biochemical and physical properties of foods influence their quality and safety. The Animal Science department researches bovine lactation biology, including regulation and manipulation of ruminant lipid metabolism and the impact of milk on human health.

Babcock Test lab kit (courtesy John Partridge)

Babcock Test lab kit (courtesy John Partridge)

Outreach and collaboration with local Michigan farmers has also been a priority of the dairy department. Dissemination of latest developments by researchers both at Michigan State and elsewhere through farmers’ institutes has a history extending back to 1871 (Trout 1955). The Babcock test, a method for testing milk fat content which was developed at the University of Wisconsin, was brought to farmers in 1892 and demonstrated the need for quality control of milk products (Anthony 1929). Also part of the diary extension work has been the development of Michigan’s farm youth through organizations such as 4H and Future Farmers of America (FFA) (Trout 1955). Today, MSU is active in outreach with the Michigan Dairy Youth Program and 4H, and the Dairy Extension program is still active in engaging with the public and with dairy educators across the state. They have also added online resources, bringing outreach into the modern age.

Instructing students in dairy judging (Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections)

Instructing students in dairy judging (Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections)

Michigan State University has not only been a center of production for dairy products, but perhaps more importantly has played a central role in scientific innovation for improving food safety standards, food production, and production and manufacturing efficiency. It has also served to utilize this research by educating students in both the practical and scientific aspects of dairying and production and by disseminating new information to farmers across the state.

So next time you sit down and eat your Dairy Store ice cream, take the time to appreciate all that past MSU researchers and educators have done to make it safe and… udderly delicious.

 

Sources:

Michigan State University Archives & Historical Collections

Madison Kuhn Collection. UA17.107, Folder 3, Box 2411.
L. Anthony, History of Dairy Development at MSC, 1929.

UA 16.37, Box 521, Folder 14
Malcolm Trout, Two Hundred and Fifty Years of Michigan Dairying,1955.

Online sources:

http://www.fshn.msu.edu/

http://www.ans.msu.edu/

http://msue.anr.msu.edu/topic/info/dairy

Paste and the Past: Scrapbooks as a Source for Understanding Campus Culture

Cover of scrapbook. Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections.

Cover of scrapbook #50. Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections.

Here at CAP, we find artifacts of the past that are generally not meant to have been found (e.g. items from trash pits or ruined buildings or privies). In contrast, the scrapbooks curated by MSU Archives contain elements that students found so important that they preserved them in personal record books. The college used to give scrapbooks to students and while most of these did not end up in the University Archives collection, quite a few did. Flipping through these scrapbooks gives current students a glimpse into student life 100+ years ago and I must say the old adage is true: the more things change, the more they stay the same!

some fraternity shenanigans (Scrapbook #57) Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

Some fraternity shenanigans (Scrapbook #57)Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

scrapbook made by male student with "classroom boneheads" (Scrapbook #47). Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

Scrapbook made by male student with “classroom boneheads” (Scrapbook #47). Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

For my gendered landscapes project, I spent a lot of time looking through scrapbooks made by female students. While doing my search, I noticed some patterns. Grades were rarely, if ever, recorded. Instead, there are dance cards, photographs, drawings, sorority and literary club information, flyers for events, postcards from travels, and clippings from newspapers. When I went through the male scrapbooks last year, I found the same patterns (though, to be honest, much more emphasis on sports photos!). Initially, I started reviewing the scrapbooks to fill out some gaps in my gendered landscapes paper. I wanted to get a sense of how the female students might have experienced restrictions in movement around the campus, but what I started to realize was I had to do a lot of reading between the lines. Instead of looking for injustices or exclusionary actions, I started to focus on what the students focused on: what was important enough to record? Who is being photographed and why? Where do students like to hang out? Why is there little focus on any negative experience? Why are particular themes from newspaper clippings highlighted? What else was going on culturally, historically, and socially at the time of each scrapbook?

Felt MAC letters sewn by male student (Scrapbook #331). Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections.

Felt MAC letters sewn by male student (Scrapbook #331). Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections.

“The Art of Fancy Work” student project inside Hugh Irvin Glazier’s scrapbook #350. Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections.

“The Art of Fancy Work” student project inside Hugh Irvin Glazier’s scrapbook #350. Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections.

My biggest surprise was not in the female scrapbooks, but in the ones created by male students. I admit that I was expecting to see a lot of emphasis on sports and fraternities, and those themes were indeed very present. However, what I have found in scrapbooks made by both sexes was a seeming ability to find importance in courses that we might today label “female” or in courses that we might assume were filled with male students. Photos of women, (presumably enrolled in the Home Economics course of study offered to female students beginning in 1896) working in chemistry and biology laboratories were commonplace. Male students proudly scrapbooked their attempts at sewing and domestic arts, so we can assume that these courses were open and welcoming to men. The classroom, then, was not a site of restriction by sex.

Styles of scrapbooks change, but this is a popular style for a few years (first two pages) (Scrapbook #320). Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections.

Styles of scrapbooks change, but this is a popular style for a few years (first two pages) (Scrapbook #320). Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections.

It might not seem like a distinction worth discussing now since integrated classrooms have been part of a long campus tradition, but in the early years (precisely the ones we are interested in archaeologically) this integration cannot be assumed. It is especially useful for CAP to review these scrapbooks as we study the material culture of the past so that we do not overstate restrictions or underestimate the early campus experience. From these scrapbooks, we do see continued exclusions based on sex (try to find a woman in one of the sporting event pictures – it’s like trying to find Waldo!) but not to the extent that we might think. The scrapbooks, while fun to go through, also teach us a valuable lesson in using all data sources to best approximate the reality of the past.

 

The University Archives occasionally posts about the scrapbooks – visit their site and search for the tag “scrapbooks”: https://msuarchives.wordpress.

MSU @ SAA 2017

Next week, from March 29th – April 2nd, the 82nd Annual Society for American Archaeology meeting is taking place in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.  This year we have many MSU faculty and students presenting their work.  Make sure to swing by their talks, posters, and lightening session. The full meeting program can be found here.

CAP director Dr. Lynne Goldstein is receiving two SAA Presidential Recognition Awards.  One for her work on the Task Force on Gender Disparities in Archaeological Grant Submissions, and the other for her work on the Task Force on Guidelines for Promotion and Tenure in Diverse Academic Roles.  Congratulations Dr. Goldstein!  Learn more about each task force in the full meeting program. The award ceremony follows the annual business meeting, Friday March 31st at 5:30 PM.

Rebecca Albert (undergraduate)

Thursday –

  • Symposium: Some Like It Hot: Analytic Diversity and Complementarity in the Exploration of Past Cooking and Cuisine
  • Time – 9:45 AM
  • Room: East Meeting room 18 (VCC)
  • Paper: A-Maize-ing: Phytolith Evidence for an Early Introduction of Maize in the Upper Great Lakes Diet
  • Co-authors: Caitlin Clark, Susan Kooiman, and William Lovis
  • Note – this paper won the Institute for Field Research  (IRF) and SAA Undergraduate award

Autumn Beyer

Saturday –

  • Symposium: General Session, Archaeology in the American Midwest II
  • Time- 10:30AM
  • Room: East Meeting Room 20 (VCC)
  • Paper: Power and Purpose: The Role of Animals in Ritual Context at a Mid-Continental Site in the Fourteenth Century
  • Co-authors: Terrance Martin and Jodie O’Gorman

Lisa Bright

Saturday –

  • Poster Session: North America – California
  • Room: East Exhibit Hall B Poster Entrance (VCC)
  • Time – 10:30AM – 12:30PM
  • Poster: A Different Kind of Poor: A Multi-Method Demographic Analysis of the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center Historic Cemetery
  • Co-author: Joseph Hefner

Sunday –

  • Lightning Rounds – Institution for Digital Archaeology Method and Practice Project Reports.
  • Time – 8:00 AM – 10:00 AM
  • Room: East Meeting Room 7 (VCC)
  • Role: Discussant

Brian Geyer

Thursday-

  • Symposium: Methods and Models for Teaching Digital Archaeology and Heritage
  • Time – 8:30 AM
  • Room: East Meeting Room 8 (VCC)
  • Paper: “LEADR at MSU: A Lab Approach to Digital Cultural Heritage in the Classroom”
  • Co-author: Brandon Locke

Dr. Lynne Goldstein:

Thursday –

  • Symposium: Archaeological Epistemology in the Digital Age
  • Time – 8:00am
  • Room: East Meeting Room 17 (VCC)
  • Paper: “Thinking Differently? How Digital Engagement, Teaching, and Research Have Influence My Archaeological Knowledge”

Sunday-

  • Lightning Rounds – Institution for Digital Archaeology Method and Practice Project Reports.
  • Time – 8:00 AM – 10:00 AM
  • Room: East Meeting Room 7 (VCC)
  • Role: Moderator

Susan Kooiman

Thursday –

  • Symposium: Some Like It Hot: Analytic Diversity and Complementarity in the Exploration of Past Cooking and Cuisine
  • Time – 8:00AM – 11:00 AM
  • Room: East Meeting room 18 (VCC)
  • Role: Chair
  • Paper: Cooking and Cuisine: Culinary Clues and Contexts in the Archaeological Record (8:00 AM)
  • Paper: Beer, Porridges, and Feasting in the Gamo Region of Souther Ethiopia (9:15), co-author

Alice Lynn McMichael (LEADR Assistant Director)

Sunday –

  • Lightning Rounds – Institution for Digital Archaeology Method and Practice Project Reports.
  • Time – 8:00 AM – 10:00 AM
  • Room: East Meeting Room 7 (VCC)
  • Role: Discussant

Jeff Painter

Thursday –

  • Symposium: General Session, Archaeology in the American Midwest I
  • Time – 3:30PM
  • Room:East Meeting Room 4 (VCC)
  • Paper: Foodway Variability in the Oneota Tradition: A Pilot Study of Cooking Pots
  • Co-author: Jodie O’Gorman

Dr. Jodie O’Gorman

Friday –

  • Symposium: Blood in the Waters: Violence in the Mississippian and Late Prehistoric Eastern Woodlands
  • Time – 10:45AM
  • Room: East Meeting Room 8 (VCC)
  • Paper: Life during Wartime: Children, Violence, and Security at Morton Village
  • Role: Co-author (Jennifer Bengtson, Jodie O’Gorman, and Amy Michael)

Dr. Heather Walder

Saturday –

  • Lightning Rounds: Enduring Culture History: Constructions of Past Communities and Identities in the Twenty-First Century
  • Time – 8:00AM – 10:00AM
  • Room: East Meeting Room 15 (VCC)
  • Role: Moderator & Discussant
  • Poster Session: North America, Midwest I
  • Time – 2:00PM – 4:00PM
  • Room: East Exhibit Hall B Poster Entrance (VCC)
  • Poster: Compositional Analysis of Copper-Base Metal Artifacts from Michigan

Dr. Ethan Watrall

Thursday-

  • Symposium: Methods and Models for Teaching Digital Archaeology and Heritage
  • Time – 8:00am – 11:00 AM
  • Room: East Meeting Room 8 (VCC)
  • Role: Chair
  • Paper: “Building Scholars and Communities of Practice in Digital Heritage and Archaeology” (10:30 AM)

Saturday –

  • Forum: Current Challenges in Using 3D Data in Archaeology
  • Time – 1:00 PM – 3:00 PM
  • Room: East Meeting Room 5 (VCC)
  • Role: Discussant

See you in Vancouver!

 

 

 

 

Rhapsody in Flow Blue: the History of a Plate

Whenever we at CAP come across an interesting artifact, it sparks the inevitable, if inelegant question, “what was this thing doing on our campus?” It’s a simple question, but I’ve often found as I delve into researching an artifact that the journey of that object to our campus is connected not only with MSU’s history, but also with broader themes in American and even world history. This blog post explores how a broken dinner plate in an MSU professor’s trash pit is connected to a larger story of global trade, the rise of the middle class, and the beginnings of consumer society.

In his last blog post, Jeff discussed some of the decorated ceramics from the Gunson assemblage, the large collection of artifacts unearthed during excavations near Hannah Administration building. These artifacts date from the 1890s to the mid-1920s and are likely from a trash pit associated with the remodel of Professor Gunson’s house. One of these artifacts was a dinner plate decorated with a blurry, blue pattern on a white background.

Early 20th Century Flow Blue Johnson Brothers "Montana" Pattern

Early 20th Century Flow Blue Johnson Brothers “Montana” Pattern

As it turns out, this blurriness is not due to a manufacturing error or the effects of the elements, rather it is a decorative style known as “flow blue.” The name refers to the blue glaze that “flowed” as it was fired, giving patterns a characteristic blur. Flow blue was widely popular from about 1830 to 1915, and several pieces have been found on MSU’s campus.

Chinese export porcelain vase. Image courtesy Peabody Essex Museum

Chinese export porcelain vase. Image courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum

Flow blue pottery was first manufactured in England sometime in the 1820s, but its origin story begins in China over a century earlier. In 1700, the East India Trade Company had recently secured England’s first successful trading post in Taiwan. As trade between China and England increased, so did exports of Chinese porcelain to Europe. Chinese porcelain was strikingly beautiful with rich, blue patterns hand-painted on stark white vessels. It was also delicate and subject to high tariffs, making it expensive and difficult to transport. Only the wealthiest could afford to import porcelain, adding to its allure.

English potters spent the next 100 years trying to replicate Chinese porcelain to meet demand for such a product. The difficulty lay in producing vessels that matched the bright white of porcelain. After many attempts including salt-glazed earthenware, creamware, and pearlware, the desired effect was achieved in the early 1800s with ironstone, a white-glazed stoneware.

While Chinese porcelain was hand-painted, transfer printing technology developed in the mid-18th century created an opportunity for potters to market their products to a wider audience. Transfer printing uses ink and damp tissue paper to transfer designs from an engraving to a piece of pottery. This method allowed for quick and easy application of designs, which reduced the cost per item. The result was an affordable luxury that could be sold to the emerging Victorian middle class.

Flow blue plate featuring Oriental motifs. Image from passionforthepastantiques.com

Flow blue plate featuring Oriental motifs. Image from passionforthepastantiques.com

Transfer printed pottery became a highly successful early form of mass production, and precipitated some of the earliest mass marketing efforts. Transfer printed products could be produced cheaply and in large quantities, but in order to drive up demand, potters employed new marketing techniques such as catalogues, traveling salesmen, and showrooms in major cities. Items that were once primarily seen as utilitarian became decorative, collectible status symbols for the middle class.

One slight disadvantage to transfer-printed items is that they tend to have an overly crisp look that makes them appear obviously manufactured, rather than hand-painted. No one likes to look cheap, so potters had to come up with a way of disguising this quality.

Enter: Flow Blue. Cobalt oxide, the compound responsible for the blue color in transfer printing inks, tends to bleed slightly when vessels are glazed and re-fired. The bleeding produced designs that appeared handcrafted, hid minor cosmetic defects, and thus looked more expensive. The blue could be made to “flow” even more with the addition of lime or ammonium chloride.

Flow blue factory second. Image from hobbylark.com

Flow blue factory second. Image from hobbylark.com

It was sometimes difficult to control the amount of “flow.” Manufacturers ended up with large stocks of factory seconds rejected because the patterns were too blurry. Factory seconds were shipped to the US and sold cheaply in the American market. Here, flow blue became especially popular with the middle class who could now afford to buy these decorative items.

Flow blue was printed on a variety of mediums, but ironstone was particularly popular in America because it was durable and impermeable, which made it more sanitary than earlier, more porous ceramic wares. However, ironstone could only be decorated in a limited number of ways because few glazes other than the blue transfer-print could withstand the heat of firing. This meant that a lot of 19th century ironstone was decorated in flow blue—tea sets, dinner plates, and even dog bowls—and potters had to get creative with their designs.

By the late 1800’s, more than 1500 patterns were available in flow blue. Early flow blue patterns mimicked Chinese imports, featuring imagery such as pagodas, temples, and mountains. Later, English pastoral scenes and floral motifs became fashionable. The plate recovered from Professor Gunson’s trash pit features a floral “Montana” pattern manufactured by the Johnson Brothers.

The Montana pattern found on the plate in the Gunson assemblage dates to about 1913, which means Professor Gunson may have had some of the last flow blue exported from England. Around 1915, most English manufacturers stopped making flow blue. The cobalt used by English potters came from Saxony in Germany, and World War I effectively cut off this supply.

As I researched Gunson’s dinner plate, I couldn’t help but think about how this object connects MSU to a whole range of historical events. Flow blue pottery is the result of a century of English attempts to replicate Chinese porcelain, the demand for which was created over hundreds of years of trade between Western Europe and China. The transfer printing technology used to produce flow blue pottery is one example of long-term trends in mass production and mass marketing. Even the fact that such a plate made it here to a rural Michigan campus relates to the growth of a middle class able to select and purchase items like decorative dinnerware for use in their homes. Sometimes a broken is just a broken plate, but with a little bit of context, sometimes a broken plate reveals a (literal) piece of history.

 

References

http://www.collectorsweekly.com/china-and-dinnerware/flow-blue

http://www.myottcollectorsclub.com/inf-flowblue.html

https://hobbylark.com/collecting/FlowBlueHowtoIDandValuetheCollectibleBlueandWhiteAntiqueChina

http://www.collectorsweekly.com/china-and-dinnerware/flow-blue

https://thisdayinpotteryhistory.wordpress.com/2012/08/19/flow-blue/

http://www.thepotteries.org/types/transfer_ware.htm

http://www.collectorsweekly.com/china-and-dinnerware/flow-blue

http://antique-marks.com/flow-blue-porcelain.html

http://spencemeyers.com/arch/counties/knolanal.html

 

Hanging Out with Uncle Tommy: Decorated Ceramics from the Gunson Assemblage

Professor Thomas Gunson c. 1910. Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

Professor Thomas Gunson c. 1910. Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

During this semester, I have been working through some of the decorated ceramics that were found in the Gunson assemblage (Find more information about the excavation here). Working toward the goal of generating a better picture of what types of vessels were found and the number of different stylistic types, I have been working on refitting the many decorated sherds that were found in this particular assemblage.  Finally, I am nearing the end and am ready to present some of the results.  But first, a bit of background.

Excavated in the summer of 2015 by a Campus Archaeology field school, this assemblage is one of the largest that CAP has ever excavated.  Thousands of artifacts were found, ranging from ceramics to glassware, building materials, lab equipment, and a number of more personal items.  Dating to the 1890’s thru the 1920’s, this assemblage is likely associated with the home of Thomas Gunson and his family, who lived on campus near this location.  Of the many ceramic sherds recovered, most were plain whitewares, but some were decorated in many ways.  A number of sherds had the thin green bands typical of industrial wares.  Other, more delicate pieces, were plain whitewares with embossed rims or were whiteware or porcelain dishes with various colorful decorative motifs.  For this project, I focused only those sherds with colorful decorative motifs.

Variety of decorated ceramic sherds from Gunson site.

Variety of decorated ceramic sherds from Gunson site.

Between the 100-200 sherds examined for this project, 56 different decorative designs were present.  Few designs were repeated on more than one dish.  While many different designs were represented, they fit into only a few different general categories.  The vast majority of designs consisted of various types of floral patterns, while a few vessels contained geometric motifs, different everyday scenes, or were abstract designs formed by blocks or bands of color.  These different designs were executed in a myriad of colors.  While many were common blue-on-white or grey-on-white color schemes, many were multicolored, including tones of green, pink, yellow, blue, red, orange, or even black.  Many dishes also had gold leaf/gilding present, either composing the entire design or as an accent on the edge of the vessel’s rim.

Early 20th Century Flow Blue Johnson Brothers "Montana" Pattern

Early 20th Century Flow Blue Johnson Brothers “Montana” Pattern

Of the many vessels represented in this assemblage, the vast majority were teacups, saucers, small plates, or fragments of serving dishes.  Only a couple of the plates are large enough to be considered dinner plates.  Based on their decorations, sizes, and vessel types, these dishes were clearly meant for entertaining, functioning as serving wares for drinks and light refreshments.  In this context, they also would have been the dishes most likely to be broken.

Early 20th Century Mercer Pottery Co. "Bordeaux" Pattern

Early 20th Century Mercer Pottery Co. “Bordeaux” Pattern

Homer Laughlin Gold Floral Plate. Pattern Name Unknown.

Homer Laughlin Gold Floral Plate. Pattern Name Unknown.

T. Elsmore and Sons, Lily & Vase Pattern Plate. Produced May 14th 1878.

T. Elsmore and Sons, Lily & Vase Pattern Plate. Produced May 14th 1878.

 

In doing some archival research into Gunson’s background, it became a little clearer as to why his family may have owned and used so many different dishes for entertaining.  Over his nearly 5 decades of service at MSU, Thomas Gunson, or “Uncle Tommy” as students would often call him, was a beloved part of campus life and frequently engaged with students, alumni, and local residents.  According to small articles written about him in the M.A.C. Record, he was an outgoing individual with a flair for fashion and life, enjoying his time with students and others on campus.  He was typically very well dressed, and his family home served as “a cosmopolitan haven for undergraduates and graduates alike” (M.A.C. Record vol. 46, no. 2, 1941).  He was so well liked that he was considered by many to be a campus institution and returning alumni would often seek him out in order to reconnect with one of their favorite faculty members.  As such a gregarious and fashionable man, it is not surprising that his home would be stocked with quality ceramics for entertaining his many visitors, with an emphasis on tea or other drinks that could be served during short social calls.  If only, on a chilly day like this, we could go back in time and join Uncle Tommy for a cup of tea.

Bibliography

MAC Record

1941   “Thomas Gunson, 1858-1940”.  Vol. 46, no. 2, January.

http://onthebanks.msu.edu/Object/1-4-12B8/the-mac-record-vol46-no02-january-1941/