Waltzing Through Time: A History of MSU Dances

For Valentine’s Day, let take a dance through time! MSU has a long history of university dances. As we learned through Susan Kooiman’s blog post from October, there are archival records, such as dance cards, from the 1880s that list the order of dances with a space for filling in your dance partner. This particular dance card uncovered by Susan, was from 1884 and only had one dance line filled in. Here is the story, as told by Susan:

1884 Dance Card. Image Courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections.

1884 Dance Card. Image Courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections.

“He was to do the Grand March with Grace Boosinger. Curiosity prompted an internet search of her name, which turned up the alumni update section for the Iota Chapter (Michigan Agricultural College) of the Delta Tau Delta fraternity in 1892. It reported that H.E. Thomas married Grace Boosinger (“his old freshman girl) on July 12, 1982, and that he had been “re-nominated as circuit court commissioner.” Harris Thomas was a mover and shaker – he began his career as a lawyer but served as president of multiple companies later on and even served as a US Postmaster. He and Grace lived in Lansing their whole lives and are buried here as well. It seems he only had one name on his dance card for a reason…”

Sadly, many of the photos that I have uncovered do not have as much of a backstory, but they do tell the tale of the long history of formal dances at Michigan State University, some of which still happen today. Now we are going to continue waltzing through time, taking a look a few photos of dances through MSU history.

In 1912, the Olympic Society was one of several literary societies on campus. It was founded in October 1885, due to the need of another literary society at the school (MSU Archives). Below is a photo showing a group of students from this dance.

1912 Olympic Dance. Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

1912 Olympic Dance. Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

In 1920 the first Co-Ed Prom took place! However, even through the name says co-ed, it was an all girls’ dance. Not a single man could attend, or even be an onlooker! The dance had some resistance from men on campus, but successfully continued for several years.  The M.A.C. record article about the first dance states that, “The lights went out, but the dance went on without interruption.  Did some envious man try to stop the fun because he could not be there?” (MA.C. Record Jan 20 1920). The men sometimes held separate “stag parties”, but news accounts note that attempting to sneak into the dance was a enticing challenge and they had to “plug the tunnel and keep the college cop at the door to keep men from sneaking in”(M.A.C. Record Jan 1935).

Each of the “couples” were required to attend the dance in costume. Interestingly in 1921 someone dressed up as Munsel Color Theory (I wish there was a picture of this because as you know, we love Munsel). This prom was organized by the all girls’ student council and with run with the help of the co-ed faculty and student body. The co-ed prom continued through the 1930s.

1920 co-ed prom. Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

1920 co-ed prom. Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

1927 co-ed prom. Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

1927 co-ed prom. Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

In 1943, a Mardi Gras Ball was held at MSU. Below, is a photo of the queen of the ball and her court.

1943 Mardi Gras ball queen and court. Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

1943 Mardi Gras ball queen and court. Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

As I continued through time, I came across several photos from 1950, one of a group of female students getting ready for a dance and the other of a couple at a formal dance.

1950 couple at formal dance. Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

1950 couple at formal dance. Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

1950 female students getting ready for dance. Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

1950 female students getting ready for dance. Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

Several years later, in 1953, there was an International Festival where three women performed an Indian Stick Dance.

1953 Indian Stick Dance at the International Festival. Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

1953 Indian Stick Dance at the International Festival. Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

The photo below, from a dance in 1954, shows a large group of students doing the Bunny Hop!

1930 conga line. Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

1954 Bunny Hop. Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

In 1955, the University held a Harvest Dance pictured below, showing a couple posing with the best of the harvest crop!

1955 harvest dance

1955 harvest dance. Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

Finally, I would like to take us to the present day, where MSU continues to have formal balls! One of them is the Honors College Ball. Each year, the ball is organized by Honors College Programing Board, and it is the social calendar highlight of the year. The theme changes from year to year and recent themes have included “Black and White,” “Winter Yule Ball,” and “Masquerade.”

All in all, MSU has a very long history of formal dances, from the late 1800s to present day.

 

Sources:

Olympic Society:

  • http://archives.msu.edu/findaid/ua12-2-19.html
  • http://onthebanks.msu.edu/Object/1-4-296/1912-olympic-dance/

Co-Ed Prom:

  • http://onthebanks.msu.edu/Object/1-4-294/1920-coed-prom/
  • http://onthebanks.msu.edu/Object/1-4-295/1927-coed-prom/

Bunny Hop:

  • http://onthebanks.msu.edu/Object/1-4-30C/conga-line-1930s/

Mardi Gras Ball Queen and Court:

  • http://onthebanks.msu.edu/Object/1-4-310/mardi-gras-ball-queen-and-court/

Female students getting ready for dance:

  • http://onthebanks.msu.edu/Object/1-4-B99/female-students-getting-ready-for-dance-1950/

Couple at Formal Dance:

  • http://onthebanks.msu.edu/Object/1-4-840/a-couple-at-a-formal-dance-1950/

Indian Stick Dance at the International Festival:

  • http://onthebanks.msu.edu/Object/1-4-F4E/indian-stick-dance-at-the-international-festival-1953/

Harvest Dance:

  • http://onthebanks.msu.edu/Object/1-4-93F/a-couple-poses-with-produce-at-the-harvest-dance-1955/

MSU Dance 1958:

  • http://onthebanks.msu.edu/Object/1-4-297/1958-dance/

Dance Decoration:

  • http://onthebanks.msu.edu/Object/1-4-83D/students-decorate-dance-1959/

M.A.C. Record – Jan 1935, January 20 1920.

Can You Smell What the Past was Cooking?

​Home Cookbook (Chicago, 1877). Image courtesy of MSU Special Collections.

​Home Cookbook (Chicago, 1877). Image courtesy of MSU Special Collections.

We are continuing our quest to chronicle historic campus cuisine, so I hope you are starving for more information. I have recently been exploring cookbooks from the latter half of the nineteenth century to get a feel for the kinds of recipes and dishes that my have been made and served in the early MSU boarding hall (ca. 1855-1870). The MSU Library Special Collections department is home to a vast array of rare and unique books, including the Cookery and Food Collection (https://www.lib.msu.edu/spc/collections/cookery/), which includes over 10,000 cookbooks. They also created Feeding America: The Historic American Cookbook Project (http://digital.lib.msu.edu/projects/cookbooks/), an online collection of some of the most important and influential American cookbooks from the late 18th to early 20th century.

It would be foolish of me not to take advantage of such wonderful resources right here on campus, so I jumped in. I decided to use the online cookbooks that were published during the MSU Early Period to get a feel for recipes and ingredients that were popular nationally at the time. Additionally, I visited Special Collections to inspect some unique regional and local cookbooks that were not digitized in order to get a feel for dishes common in the Midwest during the late 19th century. I paid special attention to recipes that included the ingredients I found while perusing the account books but also noted popular recipes that recurred in various cookbooks, since many ingredients may not have been itemized in the account books at the time of purchase.

Roasted calf's head - is thy hunger not whetted? Image source.

Roasted calf’s head – is thy hunger not whetted? Image source.

Most recipes in these books focused on cooking meats/poultry/fish, breads, pies, and cake, with some space devoted to vegetables and beverages. Recipes for beef, veal, mutton, were plenty, and all three meats are seen in the account books. There are fewer recipes for pork and ham, and they are also somewhat less common in the account books. Plenty of fish and oyster recipes were featured, and both appear on the boarding hall books (look for Mari’s upcoming blog on the apparent 19th-century obsession with oysters). There are plenty of chicken recipes featured, yet, oddly, chicken was not a common item purchased by the early campus boarding halls. The reason for this is unclear. In general, meat recipes were inclusive of ALL parts of the animal—roasted calf’s head, calf’s head soup, calf’s foot jelly, veal brains, beef tongue, liver, “brain balls,” and other delicacies were included in most cookbooks.

Nineteenth-century vegetable and salad recipes would seem a bit curious to the modern health-food fans. Veggie sections, as mentioned earlier, were usually shorter than other sections of nineteenth-century cookbooks, and included macaroni (yes, the pasta), rice, and baked beans. Other vegetables mentioned were mostly potatoes, root vegetables, and salsify, correlating closely with the vegetables purchased by the Agricultural College boarding hall. Salads were generally what I like to call “Midwestern salads”: light on the veggies, heavy on the mayo. Potato, chicken, and lobster salads dominated these sections, although occasionally “lettuce salad” made an appearance.

​Blancmange--how refined. Image Source

​Blancmange–how refined. Image Source

Desserts comprised, in some cases, almost half of the recipes in some of the books. A multitude of cakes and pies were listed, popular flavors including lemon, plum, ginger, and “cocoanut.” Cookies were usually listed in the “cakes” sections and included but one singular recipe, meaning that cookies were not the varied and popular treat they are today. Chocolate cake and other chocolate recipes were not common in the 1850s and 1860s, but become more visible towards the end of the century. “Puddings” at the time were not the sweet custard desserts we think of today, but were baked, boiled or steamed confections of a grain, a binder, and other various ingredients, that could be sweet or savory. Most cookbooks had substantial pudding sections. Other common desserts included blanc mange and Charlotte Russe, jelly and cake confections formed with molds.

Items that appeared in the cookbooks that were not seen often in the accounting books include chicken, rice, oats and lima beans (succotash was featured in most cook books). Perhaps these were purchased in bulk orders from butchers and grocers and never clearly itemized, or perhaps they were simply not incorporated into the daily cuisine on the early campus.

Illustration of boiling from Cookery in the Public Schools (1890). Image courtesy of MSU Special Collections.

Illustration of boiling from Cookery in the Public Schools (1890). Image courtesy of MSU Special Collections.

Cuisine encompasses not only ingredients and food combinations, but also cooking techniques. While frying, baking, and broiling are often recommended, boiling is by far the most common cooking method featured in these recipes. Sally Joy White’s Cookery in the Public Schools (1890), an instructional book on the tenants of cooking, describes boiling as “one of the simplest ways of preparing meat” (p. 88). Recipes for boiled beef, ham, and even whole chickens and turkeys are numerous, and boiling is almost universally recommended for cooking vegetables.  It might be assumed that this method of cooking both meat and vegetables was employed by campus cooks to feed the large numbers of students and staff since efficiency may have been favored over flavor. However, dishes weren’t entirely devoid of spices—mace, nutmeg, allspice, clove, rose water, and sometimes even cayenne were common features of recipes.

Unsurprisingly, pickling food was also commonly suggested, since this would have been some of the best ways to preserve fruits and vegetables long-term during an era of limited refrigeration. From the traditional pickled cucumber to pickled peaches, pears, and even walnuts, pickling seemed very important and were undoubtedly a component of the early campus diet.

​Port Huron residents loved their whitefish. And codfish balls... (from What the Baptist Brethren Eat, 1876). Image courtesy of MSU Special Collections

​Port Huron residents loved their whitefish. And codfish balls… (from What the Baptist Brethren Eat, 1876). Image courtesy of MSU Special Collections

To get a sense of the local flavor, Michigan cookbooks, often assembled by churches, were only available only for later years, but were useful for insight into more everyday, regional and local cuisine since recipes were submitted by ladies of the church or organization. These include one from Port Huron from 1876, Des Moines, IA, from 1876, Chicago from 1877, Ann Arbor from 1887, and Lansing from ca. 1890. Cookbooks from Michigan included more recipes specific to whitefish, not surprising given the proximity to the Great Lakes. Grander, more complex recipes, such as calf’s head dishes, were not as common in these books, attributable to either the “everyday” nature of the cookbooks or to changing tastes over time. The Lansing cookbook was the only one to devote whole sections to croquettes and cheese, indicating local food preferences for fried foods and delicious dairy products.

The information found during my foray into historic cookbooks helps give us a sense of what the early MSU cooks were cooking, and what early students were eating. These recipes will also serve as a base for the meal recreation we are planning for the end of the semester, so stay tuned to find out what we will be making!

Sources:

Miss Beecher’s Domestic Receipt Book. Harper & Brothers, New York, 1846.
https://books.google.com/books?id=I1o-AAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ViewAPI#v=onepage&q&f=false

The American Home Cookbook, with Several Hundred Excellent Recipes, by An American Lady. Dick & Fitzgerald, New York, 1854.
https://books.google.com/books?id=lnMEAAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ViewAPI#v=onepage&q&f=false

 Collins, A.M. The Great Western Notebook, or, Table Receipts, adapted to Western Housewifery. New York, A.S. Barnes & Company, 1857.

The American Family Cook Book; Containing Receipts for Cooking Every Kind of Meat, Fish, and Fowl, by Mrs. Leslie. Boston: Higgins, Bradley & Dayton, 1858.
https://books.google.com/books?id=iZREAQAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ViewAPI#v=onepage&q&f=false

Mrs. Putnam’s Receipt Book, and Young Housekeeper’s Assistant. Phinney, Blakeman, & Mason, New York, 1860.
https://books.google.com/books?id=83IEAAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ViewAPI#v=onepage&q&f=false

Knight, S. G. Tit-Bits; or, How to Prepare a Nice Dish at a Moderate Expense. Boston: Crosby and Nichols; New York: O.S. Felt, 1864.
https://books.google.com/books?id=v0MEAAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ViewAPI#v=onepage&q&f=false

Dorman, O. A. Come and Dine: A Collection of Valuable Receipts and Useful Information. Tuttle, Morehouse, and Taylor: New Haven, 1872.
https://books.google.com/books?id=u5ZEAQAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ViewAPI#v=onepage&q&f=false

Choice Receipts, Selected from the Best Manuscript Authorities, published for the benefit of Christ Church Fair. Worthington, Dustin & Co., Hartford, CT, 1872.
https://books.google.com/books?id=qJZEAQAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ViewAPI#v=onepage&q&f=false

What the Baptist Brethren Eat, and How the Sisters Serve It, a variety of useful and reliable recipes compiled by the Ladies of the first Baptist Church, Port Huron, Mich. Times Company, Port Huron, 1876.

“’76”: A Cook Book, edited by the Ladies of Plymouth Church, Des Moines, Iowa. Mills & Company, Des Moines, 1876.

Home Cook Book, compiled from recipes contribute by ladies of Chicago and other cities and towns: originally published for the benefit of the Home for the Friendless, Chicago. J. Fred. Waggoney, Chicago, 1877.

The Jubilee Cookbook: A Collection of Tested Recipes, compiled by a Committee from the Ladies’ Aid Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church of Ann Arbor, Mich.

The Courier Steam Printing House, Ann Arbor, 1887.

White, Sally Joy. Cookery in The Public Schools. D. Lothrop Company, Boston, 1890

Selection of Choice Receipts, compiled by St. Paul’s Guild of the Episcopal Church, Lansing, MI. Jno. H Stephenson, Lansing, n.d. (possibly 1890?)

The Flower Pot Tea Room: A Female-Run Student Business on the Early Campus

Station Terrace - Photo courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

Station Terrace – Photo courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

Last summer CAP discovered the foundation/basement of a building known as Station Terrace. This building had many different uses during its approximately 40 years on campus (it was moved off campus in the early 1920s). It housed researchers from the experimental stations, served as bachelor faculty housing, rented space for East Lansing’s first post office, was a waiting room for the trolley line, and contained the female student run Flower Pot Tea Room. Station Terrace is a unique opportunity to examine a space on campus that transitioned from a male only building, to a female run business.

Early female students often get dismissed in history as just on campus for the “Mrs.” degree or disparaged for seeking a Home Economics degree that may not be understood as a legitimate course of study. A look through the archives dispels that narrative immediately, as female students at Michigan Agricultural College were held to high standards in the past and had an active role in creating and maintaining the college campus. At MSU, the Home Economics course was designed as a domestic science with the learning spaces as laboratories. A look at the Course of Study for Women at M.A.C. shows that women’s schedules were packed!

List of courses in women's studies. MAC Record, 1896, Vol 1, Number 23.

List of courses in women’s studies. MAC Record, 1896, Vol 1, Number 23.

The domestic sciences were considered quite important at the college and women were tasked with the responsibilities of preparing meals for high-ranking visitors. A M.A.C. Record article written by a student and titled, “Our Cooking Laboratory” from 1897 noted that women at Abbot Hall served the members of the State Board whenever they visited the college. It appears that their creativity was encouraged, as their professor allowed them to create the appetizers and desserts for the meals to show off their progress and skills. It should be noted, too, that the cooking laboratory was exclusively the domain of female students – it is here where they experimented, measured, tested, and prepared food. It is interesting that the women refer to the space as a laboratory!

Women in Physics Lab c. 1915. Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

Women in Physics Lab c. 1915. Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

By 1912, the M.A.C. was hosting nearly month-long workshops called the Graduate School of Home Economics. An article in the M.A.C. record noted that courses in the chemistry of textiles and the physiology of the cell were scheduled alongside the principles of jelly making and costume design. Clearly the business of Home Economics is more varied than perhaps we assume.

Women looking through microscope c. 1919. Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections.

Women looking through microscope c. 1919. Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections.

During WWI, current and former students of the Home Economics program supported the war effort by putting on popular demonstrations of canning and food storage. The science of home economics was well-established on campus, but the transition into business management did not come until 1921 with the opening of the Flower Pot tea room (at least, this is the earliest record that we have found). MSU has a long tradition of student-run business and emphasis on entrepreneurship (in fact, modern Spartans even have the opportunity to compete for start-up funds for their businesses through a number of the colleges on campus!). The Flower Pot tea room can be understood in the history of this student-oriented business tradition, though it initially started as a alumni-owned shop. The proceeds from the tea room were allocated for the home management houses, but by 1922 the small building was taken over by the Institutional Management class of the Home Economics department. The tea room was initially run out of an old shed behind Old Horticulture, but in the fall of 1921 it was moved into Station Terrace.

An M.A.C. Record article from 1922 describes the space as, “an admirable laboratory,” likely referencing the “experiment” of having students operate the tea room and prepare all the food. In 1923 it appears that they attempted to move the tea room off campus, but it returns to Station Terrace and the alumni had relinquished their stake in the business. CAP has excavated portions of Station Terrace and will return this summer to continue exploring this space. The use life of Station Terrace is exciting for CAP to investigate, as the space was originally the province of males exclusively – in fact, it was a bachelor house! The transition from bachelor housing to female-operated tea room business in a fairly short period of time gives us clues about the expanding role of females on the historic campus. Stay tuned for more from Station Terrace as excavations get underway this May as part of the 2017 CAP field school.

 

References:

MAC Record, 1896, Vol 1, Number 23

MAC Record 1921, Vol 26, Number 34

MAC Record 1921, Vol 27, Number 5

MAC Record, Vol 27, Number 14

MAC Record, Vol 27, Number 18

MAC Record, Vol 27, Number 25

MAC Record, Vol 27, Number 26

MAC Record, Vol 28, Number 16

2017 Campus Archaeology Field School

Announcing the 2017 Campus Archaeology Field School!

We are pleased to once again offer our on-campus field school.  This five week field school will take place May 30th – June 30th, 2017.  The class takes places Monday through Friday from 9am – 4pm. Students enroll for 6 credits of ANP 464. This class is open to MSU students and non-MSU students. There is a $150 equipment fee that is used to supply students with excavation tools.  At the end of the field school students will keep this toolkit. Space is limited to 20 students, and applications are due to Dr. Goldstein (lynneg@msu.edu) by March 5th.

Through excavation, lab work, and digital outreach students will examines several unique and interesting places on MSU’s historic campus.  In this course students will get the opportunity to actively engage in archaeological research. You will learn excavation methods, survey techniques, how to map and record an excavation unit, laboratory methods, cultural heritage and digital outreach engagement, as well as an introduction to archival research.

This summer we plan to excavate in two areas: Beal’s Botanial Lab and Station Terrace.

Beals Lab:

Beal in the botanical garden. Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

Beal in the botanical garden. Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

Dr. Beal is an important person in early campus history.  Though Beal served as a botany professor at MSU (then MAC) from 1871-1910, he made mark on campus that survives to this day.  The Beal botanical garden (directly east of the MSU main library), established in 1873 is the oldest continuously operated university botanical garden in the U.S.  Beal also started, what is today, one of the longest continuously running experiments in the world!  In 1879 Beal buried 20 bottles containing seeds with the intent to see how long a seed could lay dormant and still germinate.  The next bottle is scheduled to be dug up and opened in 2020.  The location of the experimental bottles is a closely held campus secret.  Beal was known as an incredibly eccentric professor, and the design of his first botanical laboratory was fittingly eccentric as well.

Beal's first Botanical Laboratory - Image Source: MSU Archives & Historical Collection FLICKR

Beal’s first Botanical Laboratory – Image Source: MSU Archives & Historical Collection FLICKR

Beal's Botanical Lab after the fire - March 1890. Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections.

Beal’s Botanical Lab after the fire – March 1890. Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections.

Built in 1879 (more detail), this building burned to the ground on March 23rd 1890.  Although specific details about the fire have been lost over time, we do know that lab equipment (such as microscopes) was salvaged from the wreckage and the fire prompted the university to establish a fire brigade. We’ve established that portions of the building foundation still exists, and field school students will have the opportunity to excavate in this location.

Station Terrace

Station Terrace - Photo courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

Station Terrace – Photo courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

Station Terrace stood at the souther end of what is now the Abbot street entrance.  This building was constructed between 1892-1895 and originally housed visiting scholars from the experimental research stations. It was also later used to house bachelor faculty members, the East Lansing Post Office, and the Flower Pot Tea room (read more). The building was moved off campus in the early 20s but the foundation, as well as many artifacts remain.  After excavations at Beal’s lab it’s expected that the field school will move to this second location.

For more information about the field school, head on over to the field school webpage.

Download the application. Please feel free to ask any questions you may have here, on Twitter, or email Dr. Goldstein directly.

 

References:

http://msutoday.msu.edu/news/2015/msu-gardens-ranked-among-best-in-the-us/

http://www.cpa.msu.edu/beal/research/research_frames.htm

http://onthebanks.msu.edu/Object/3-F-21F/meeting-minutes-1890/

Wedgwood Ceramics on MSU’s Historic Campus

Last week I spent some time in the CAP lab with Campus Archaeologist Lisa Bright resorting and accessioning artifacts from the 2008 and 2009 Saint’s Rest rescue excavation. This excavation uncovered many ceramic artifacts (among other items) including plates, bowls, and serving dishes. Among the many fragments of whiteware, Lisa showed me one fragment that stood out: part of a plate, embossed with a pattern of figs and bearing a Wedgwood maker’s mark.

Wedgewood blue jasperware. Image Source

Wedgewood blue jasperware. Image Source

If you’ve ever found yourself deep in the throes of an Antiques Roadshow binge-watching spiral, chances are you’ve heard of Wedgwood china. Perhaps you’ve seen pieces of Wedgwood’s iconic blue jasperware decorated with Greek figures in white bas-relief. Or, perhaps you’ve seen one of Wedgwood’s Fairyland Lustre Art Nouveau vases, opulently adorned with jewel-toned elves and dragons. Since the founding of the company in 1759, Wedgwood has graced the tables of such dignitaries as Queen Charlotte, consort of King George III, Catherine the Great of Russia, and President Theodore Roosevelt (1). And, as the Saint’s Rest bowl fragment indicates, Wedgwood also graced the tables of MAC. For my blog post, I researched Wedgwood to get a better idea of how a piece of the ceramic dynasty made its way to our campus.

The story of the CAP Wedgwood begins in the 17th century in the rural English county of Staffordshire. The soil in Staffordshire wasn’t much for farming, but the region was rich in clay, salt, lead, and coal – key ingredients for making pottery. The use of coal for fueling kiln fires gave Staffordshire potters an advantage over other rural workshops that still depended on timber for fuel (2). For centuries, Staffordshire was known as a prominent center for pottery production and innovation.

Josiah Wedgewood. Image Source

Josiah Wedgewood. Courtesy of National Portrait Gallery (source)

The Wedgwood dynasty began with a Staffordshire potter named Josiah Wedgwood (1). Born into a family of potters, a leg amputation left Josiah unable to work as a “thrower” in his family’s workshop (3). Instead, he developed an interest in experimenting with formulas and design. Wedgwood developed a durable, attractive, cream-colored type of earthenware that gained favor with Queen Charlotte (3). The serving set he made her pleased her so much, Charlotte agreed to allow Wedgwood to call himself the “Queen’s Potter” (1). This celebrity endorsement set Wedgwood’s sales booming.

Over the years, Wedgwood continued to innovate. He developed two new types of stoneware known as Black Basalt and Jasperware (3). Both are known for their matte, biscuit finish. Jasperware was produced in a variety of colors, though light blue was the most iconic. White ornamental appliques were molded separately and baked onto the pottery in emulation of Roman cameo glass vases. In 1773, Wedgwood developed a method of transfer printing enamel (4). This decorative technique reduced inconsistencies, eliminated the need for hand-painting decorations, and gave customers a wider array of customization options (3). Perhaps Wedgwood’s greatest innovation was as a businessman. Wedgwood sold his products via printed catalogs and advance orders (5). Since he knew which pieces his customers wanted, he was able to reduce waste and therefore costs.

So how did we get from the elegant designs of the Staffordshire Potteries to the humble piece of CAP Wedgwood? The answer is in the design: white ironware, to be precise.

Wedgewood plate base with makers mark and RD stamp.

Wedgewood plate base with makers mark and RD stamp.

The ceramic game changed in 1813 when a Staffordshire potter developed a new type of vitreous pottery dubbed “ironstone china” or, sometimes, graniteware (6). In the 19th century, ironstone quickly gained popularity as a cheap, mass-producible alternative to porcelain. It was especially popular in the America. In the 1840’s, undecorated white ironstone headed for America comprised the largest export market for Staffordshire’s potteries.

Wedgewood fig design fragments.

Wedgewood fig design fragments.

In contrast to England, where customers favored elegant designs, American consumers preferred plainer tableware (6). In the 1850’s and 60’s, however, English potteries (including Wedgwood) decided to introduce some whimsy into the American market. Potteries began embossing designs inspired by the American prairies. Stoneware from this era were commonly embossed with grains such as wheat, corn and oats, or fruits such as grapes, peaches, berries, and— like the CAP Wedgwood—figs. Because of its durability and popularity in rural America, this china became known as “farmer’s” or “threshers’” china (6).

So, there we have it. The CAP Wedgwood fragment from Saint’s Rest may have made its way to campus as a piece of thresher’s china. Its durable form and folksy fig design likely appealed to someone living at a rural Michigan college.

In parting, I’d like to leave you with some (non-alternative) facts about Josiah Wedgwood, a fascinating figure in his own right.

Fact 1: We may have Josiah Wedgwood to thank for theory of evolution. Wedgwood was the grandfather of both Charles Darwin and Darwin’s wife, Emma (7). Inheritance from the Wedgwood fortune is often credited for allowing Darwin the leisure time to sail on the S.S. Beagle and formulate his theory of evolution.

Fact 2: Apart from his pioneering efforts in the ceramics industry, Wedgwood was a prominent abolitionist (8). In the late 18th century, he commissioned and paid for a series of iconic cameo medallions that became the emblem for the abolitionist movement. The design depicts a kneeling slave beneath the inscription “Am I not a man and a brother?” The figure is prepared in Wedgwood’s own Black Basalt against a white background. It became fashionable for men and women to wear these medallions, which helped popularize the abolitionist cause.

Anti-slavery medallion (courtesy of the Smithsonian Museum of American History)

Anti-slavery medallion (courtesy of the Smithsonian Museum of American History)

 

References

  1. https://www.wedgwood.co.uk/history/
  2. http://www.thepotteries.org/six_towns/index.htm
  3. http://www.thepotteries.org/potters/wedgwood.htm
  4. http://virtual.parkland.edu/lstelle1/len/archguide/documents/arcguide.htm
  5. http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/quick-history-wedgwoodretrospe-131733
  6. http://www.thepotteries.org/types/ironstone.htm
  7. http://www.thepotteries.org/misc/Darwin.htm
  8. http://www.abolitionseminar.org/the-eighteenth-century-atlantic-world/wedgwoodmedallion/

From China to Historic MSU: A Not-So-Short History of Porcelain Part 1

While ceramics from the Early Period of Michigan State were primarily inexpensive, simple, and durable institutional wares, assemblages changed along with the campus.  One of the main changes to take place was the increased number of delicate and stylishly decorated serving dishes, some of them made of porcelain.  Porcelain was a highly sought after ware type that was expensive to buy and considered a status item by many elite of the day.  Its value was based both in its technical prowess and its history.

To make porcelain, it requires relatively pure white-firing clay, ground quartz, and something known as a flux, usually a type of rock composed largely of feldspar.  These three substances are mixed with water and used to form the shape of the vessel.  Once the vessel is ready, it then must be fired to a temperature somewhere between 1280°C and 1400°C, hotter than any other type of ceramic ware.  When fired to this temperature, the feldspar in the flux melts and mixes with other minerals, creating a glassy ceramic body that is hard and translucent.  While this might not sound too hard given our knowledge of modern technology, it is actually quite difficult!  In order to make porcelain, not only did potters have to find the correct combination of materials, but they also had to invent new firing technology that could hold enough heat to correctly fire porcelain.  This required immense knowledge, skill, and trial-and-error, as people who first produced porcelain did not have machines who could characterize raw materials for them, process and purify those materials, regulate the temperature and environment within their kilns, or even paint the intricate designs for them.  Overall, porcelain wares were the most complex and difficult to make vessels during this time and were considered the height of ceramic technology.  For much of their history, access to them was also difficult.

Making porcelain vessels in modern Jingdezhen, China. Image Source

Making porcelain vessels in modern Jingdezhen, China. Image Source

True porcelain was first made by Chinese potters at Jingdezhen in the 13th century.  While proto-porcelain or porcelain-like wares had been made in China for centuries, the characteristic hardness and translucency of true porcelain was developed at that time.  Shortly after its invention, porcelain became a valuable commodity, but like all ceramics, it was difficult to transport over land.  Vessels were sometimes large, always fragile, and when packed together for transport, could weight quite a lot, so porcelain was not a great item for the major over-land transportation routes of this time, such as the Silk Road.  As such, Chinese proto-porcelain and porcelain were not widely traded until maritime trade in the region expanded.

Once maritime trade increased, porcelain became hugely popular in many areas, including Korea, Japan, the Philippines, India, and farther west toward the Middle East.  The trade for Chinese porcelain became so popular in these regions that it had dramatic effects.  In the Philippines, it was quickly incorporated as a prestige item and as an object of cosmological and spiritual importance, so much so that many local potters could not compete, devastating local pottery traditions.  In Korea, potters were able to recreate the process of making porcelain, allowing them to emulate Chinese ceramics.  For the Japanese, porcelain was so valuable a commodity that during an invasion of the Korean Peninsula they targeted Korean pottery workshops in order to capture potters who knew the secret of porcelain-making so that they could begin production for themselves.  Chinese porcelain was also influenced by others, as Chinese potters borrowed the innovations of Persian potters with cobalt to make the blue decorations used on world famous blue-on-white Ming Dynasty porcelain.

Examples of Ming Dynasty Blue-on-white porcelain. Image Source

Examples of Ming Dynasty Blue-on-white porcelain. Image Source

Portuguese traders in the early 16th century were the first to bring Chinese porcelain back to Europe.  At this time, the flow of porcelain to Europe was very slow and most pieces ended up in the hands of the aristocracy.  It was not until the early 17th century, when the Dutch were able to begin importing large amounts of Chinese porcelain in the form of dishes and display objects, that it became a major commodity for a larger portion of European society.  This popularity was aided by a few factors.  First, foodways in Europe were changing at this time, as drinks like tea and coffee became more popular.  Communal dining also was declining in popularity, especially for those who could afford the dishes necessary for individualized dining settings.  Both of these changes necessitated new dishware.  The fact that the first porcelain shipments all ended up in royal and aristocratic hands also helped increase the popularity of porcelain, as it was seen as a great marker of status and wealth, one required for all those wanting to demonstrate that they belonged in elite circles.

Section of The Feast of the Gods (1514) by Italian artists Bellini and Titian showing mythic individuals using imported Chinese porcelain. Image Source

Section of The Feast of the Gods (1514) by Italian artists Bellini and Titian showing mythic individuals using imported Chinese porcelain. Image Source

While porcelain was widely popular with the upper classes in Europe, it was still an expensive import that many could not afford.  For instance, a set of personalized porcelain dishes typical of those desired by the elite cost over 10 times the amount of an ordinary setting.  It is no surprise that shortly after a market for Chinese porcelain was established in Europe, European pottery makers began experimenting with porcelain production.  One of the first pottery workshops to produce European made porcelain was funded by the Medici family in Italy during the late 16th century.  While they were able to produce porcelain, it was a type of “soft-paste” porcelain, which had similar translucent properties but was not as strong as Chinese porcelain, which is considered to be a “hard-paste” ware.  It was not until 1708 in Saxony that a method to make “hard-paste” porcelain in Europe was developed.  A major workshop in Meissen was quickly opened for production and China lost its world monopoly on the production of high-quality porcelain.  While Europeans could now buy locally-made porcelain for their homes, Chinese imports were still highly desired symbols of wealth and status.

Examples of Porcelain dishes produced by Meissen Potters. Image Source

Examples of Porcelain dishes produced by Meissen Potters. Image Source

While I have not yet followed porcelain’s crossing of the Atlantic, it is the history explored here that forms the roots for the meaning and value of porcelain in the early United States.  In Part 2, hitting newsstands soon, porcelain will reach the New World and make its way through time and space to historic MSU, where fine porcelain ceramics met the needs of administrators at a Great Lakes institution.

References:

Finlay, Robert  1998  The Pilgrim Art: The Culture of Porcelain in World History.  Journal of World History 9(2):141-187.

Rice, Prudence M. 1987   Pottery Analysis: A Sourcebook.  The University of Chicago Press, Chicago.

Shulsky, Linda R. 2002   Chinese Porcelain at Old Mobile.  Historical Archaeology 36(1):97-104.

 

The Cutting Edge: The Analysis of Historic Meat Cuts

Man prepares meat in the Kellogg Center 1959. Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

Man prepares meat in the Kellogg Center 1959. Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

The analysis of animal bones from historic MSU involves more than the identification of species. While it is important to determine the species that were being consumed, we are also very interested in the specific portions of animals that were being purchased and produced by MSU. Not only was MSU purchasing meat from local vendors, but, as an agricultural school, they also were butchering animals raised on campus. It is possible to determine what cuts of meat were being produced and consumed on campus from analyzing the faunal material uncovered during archaeological excavations. However, there is an added level of difficulty in this type of analysis. While animals were being butchered on campus, they were not being processed by professionals. Instead, MSU students were being trained on how to butcher and process meat from the campus farms. How do we know this you ask? Well, there are photographs in the MSU archives that show the butchering of animals, but we can also learn from studying the animal bones themselves. They allow us to see the many different cuts and angles present that suggest that the individual who was processing the meat was learning where and how to make specific types of cuts (AKA like student drivers, student butchers could not stay in their lane).

Students butcher meat, early 1900s. Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections - Scrapbook #45

Students butcher meat, early 1900s. Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections – Scrapbook #45

Butchered animal bones excavated by CAP.

Butchered animal bones excavated by CAP.

So how can we tell different meat cuts apart by looking at the animal bones? Not only can we talk to current butchers, there are countless books on the subject going back through time for butchering processes and preferred cuts. Below are some images that depict various meat cuts on different animal species. Through comparisons between the actual bones recovered and the illustrations of the types of bones that are the result of different cuts of meat, we can figure out what types of meat cuts were the most preferred on campus at the time.

Cuts of meat depicted as bone cuts. Image Source:

Cuts of meat depicted as bone cuts. Image Source: Evans and Greene 1973

Another factor that needs to be considered while conducting this type of analysis is the preference for specific meat cuts through time and by region throughout the United States and the world! Even today there are certain types of meat that are very popular in one area of the United States, but that cannot be found in another. For example, tri-tip in California is a very popular cut of beef from the bottom sirloin for barbecuing, however, in the Midwest, it is almost impossible to find in a grocery store! However, by understanding the skeletal anatomy of each species, archaeologists are able to determine what types of meat cuts were being produced and/or consumed during the Early Period of MSU’s history.

 

Different butchering techniques and cuts of meat from around the world. Image source:

Different butchering techniques and cuts of meat from around the world. Image source: Swatland 2000

Using all of this information, I will continue working on the faunal analysis from the Early Period of MSU’s history. After the faunal (animal) bone analysis is complete, I will be able to compare the meat cuts found within the archaeological record to the meat cuts listed within the MSU Archives detailing the purchasing records for the boarding halls.

Resources:

MSU Archives

The Meat Book: A consumer’s guide to selecting, buying, cutting, storing, freezing, & carving the various cuts by Travers Moncure Evans and David Greene [1973].

Meat Cuts and muscle foods: an international glossary by Howard J. Swatland [2000].

Accounting for Historic MSU Foodways

Last semester I focused much of my attention on the account books from the boarding halls (i.e, dining halls) during the Early Period of MSU history. The books cover a period from 1866 to 1874, during which the school was known as the State Agricultural College. While I have written about some of the information gleaned from these books (check them out here and here), below are some final themes and observations:

Food Logistics and Transportation

Example of A Boarding Hall Accounting Book (this is Vol. 108 listed in my references - says it goes until 1869 but actually goes to 1871). Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

Example of A Boarding Hall Accounting Book (this is Vol. 108 listed in my references – says it goes until 1869 but actually goes to 1871). Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

Today, MSU faces the challenge of keeping its many cafeterias and coffee shops stocked with enough food to feed 40,000 students on a daily basis. While this is quite a feat, they have the advantage of modern transportation and bulk food suppliers to make the task a bit easier. Although the student population was much smaller in the nineteenth century, it must have been a great challenge for the State Agricultural College to acquire the amount of food needed to feed the students and faculty, considering the limited amount of transportation available in and out of East Lansing at the time. Railroads reached Lansing by at least the 1860s, but all roads leading into campus/East Lansing were reportedly very poor, making the delivery of goods from town an unsavory task for horses and wagons (UA.17.107 F10 B2410). However, certain items were ordered via mail or train, such as teas and extracts, which are always noted to have the added expense of “express”. The first direct railroad line between Detroit and Lansing opened up in August of 1871 (MDOT 2014), and the first mention of food items being purchased occurred in April of 1872, when “express on extracts from Detroit” was paid. By early 1873, “freight from Detroit” was a very common listing amongst provisions purchases, indicating a change in the ways in which food was being procured and perhaps even influencing the types of foods being selected. “Fresh fish from Detroit” became increasingly more common after this time as well.

Fry Me an Egg and Butter My Biscuit:

Much of what is listed in the account books is eggs and butter. Eggs and butter. Butter and eggs. Over and over again. It’s obvious that these items were important ingredients for the boarding hall cooks. Sometimes the accountant listed the people from whom butter and eggs were purchased, usually the names of individuals. The college therefore had to coordinate with various local farmers and producers to procure enough eggs and butter to feed hundreds of students and faculty. In May of 1871, one account book (UA 107.17 Vol. 32) lists payments for 273 pounds of butter and for 246 dozen eggs! Can you feel your arteries clogging?

Self-Sustainability at the Agricultural College

While it might be assumed that an agricultural college would produce a lot of its own food, evidence of this in the account books is sparse. Not until 1871 does one account book specifically list vegetables purchased from the “garden” (and later the Horticulture Department). Garden purchases include items such beets, parsnips, salsify, pickles, onions, cabbage, and carrots (UA 17.107, Vol. 32). In 1872 they begin listing purchases of meat and milk from the Farm Department. The boarding hall bought 6838 lbs. (795 gallons) of milk from the MAC farm in June of 1872 alone! It must be assumed that the boarding hall was acquiring food from the Horticulture and Farm Departments prior to this date, but did not record these as monetary transactions prior to the school’s expansion post-1870. Therefore, while food needed to be purchased from sources outside of the college, it was partially self-sustaining. In 1872, Beal himself mentions that crops in garden did well and were used in the boarding halls, but that the “orchards and fruit gardens are a disgrace to the Agricultural College” (UA 17.4, B891, F16). Records we found from 1863 indicated plans for a pear orchard on campus (UA 17.107, F2412,) – this was evidently not very successful.

So…What Else Were They Buying?

1867 Ad for Andrew Bertch Meats, Lansing Michigan. Image Source

1867 Ad for Andrew Bertch Meats, Lansing Michigan. Image Source

While the account books give us good information about the types of raw foods being purchased, there are a lot of specifics that get left out because of the nature of the account book listings. Meat was purchased almost exclusively from a butcher named A. Bertch – he was billed monthly but the types of meats purchased are usually not listed. Some individual meat purchases were recorded – veal, beef, mutton, and pork were all offered on the boarding hall menu at some point or another. Flour was purchased in bulk from vendors like Thoman & Co. and Reitz & Beiderslatt. “Groceries” were obtained from the grocers E.B. Miller and J. Esselstyne & Son, and the details of the items within those bulk purchases are lost to time.

It’s clear from these books that some foods were reserved for special occasions or came at too high a price to buy in bulk for students. President Abbot purchased beef steak, veal, and oysters through the college account (UA 17.107, Vol. 32), all items that do not frequently appear in the books otherwise. Canned oysters were purchased for students only occasionally: “oysters and jelly for commencement” and “18 cans of oysters, supper for students, Week of Fires” both show up in 1871 (UA 17.107, Vol. 32). Who knew canned oysters were such a special treat?

Canned Oysters - mmmm!!! Image source

Canned Oysters – mmmm!!! Image source

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, the account books have given us a good idea of the types of foods being purchased and consumed. While the types of food chosen for consumption are strongly tied to culture, so too are methods of food preparation and dishes/recipes – all of it is part of cuisine, or food culture. In the coming weeks I will be exploring what dishes were prepared from the ingredients that were purchased—as well as how these dishes were received by the students.

 

References:

Madison Kuhn Collection, Folder 11, Box 2533, Vol. 108, Collection UA17.107, “Boarding Hall Account Book, 1866-1871”.

Madison Kuhn Collection, Folder 11, Box 2531, Vol. 82, Collection UA17.107, “Cash Account with Boarding Hall 1869-1874”.

Madison Kuhn Collection, UA 17.107, Vol. 32, “Accounts 1867-1873”.

Madison Kuhn Collection, UA.17.107 Folder 10, Box 2410, “Student Life at MAC 1871-1874” by Henry Haigh.

Madison Kuhn Collection, UA 17.107, Folder 52, Box 2412, “Pear Orchard Report,” 16 June, 1863.

Beal Papers, UA 17.4, Box 891, Folder 16, “Reports to the President of MAC”, 11 Nov. 1872.

Michigan’s Railroad History 1825-2014. Michigan Department of Transportation, Lansing, 2014. Accessed online at https://www.michigan.gov/documents/mdot/Michigan_Railroad_History_506899_7.pdf

Let’s Get Trashed! A Comparison of the Saint’s Rest Dorm, Privy, and Trash Pit.

Berlin Swirl handless cup and matching saucer. Recovered from West Circle Privy

Berlin Swirl handless cup and matching saucer. Recovered from West Circle Privy.

Archaeologists care a lot about garbage. We can learn a great deal from looking through what people throw out, how much they throw out, and when they throw it out. Because trash is the byproduct of what humans consume and use in their daily lives, middens and refuse deposits can help us fill in the gaps of our knowledge about the historic campus experience and student behavior.

Campus Archaeology has been involved in excavations of three separate components of life at Saint’s Rest Dorm: the refuse pit from Saint’s Rest, the West Circle privy, and the excavation of the building itself. Several blogs have been written on each of these sites, but no comparison between sites has yet been done.

"Scalloped Decagonal" serving dish. Most likely made by Davenport but no makers mark present. Image source: Lisa Bright

“Scalloped Decagonal” serving dish. Most likely made by Davenport but no makers mark present. Recovered from Saints Rest trash pit. Image source: Lisa Bright

This semester, Lisa Bright and I will work on re-cataloging and accessioning artifacts from the 2011 trash pit excavation (with some help from several undergraduate honors students from ANP 203) so that we may get a better sense of what is present (and, interestingly, what is absent). For now, we have some general observations about each site such as abundance of serving dishes in the trash pit, but only dining plates being present in the privy. The trash pit and the privy also contain some of the same ceramic patterns. The location of each site also serves as an interesting variable for comparison. Because the building and trash sites were likely public and at least partially, if not totally, accessible, the artifacts found at each site are expected to be reflective of daily life (e.g. bones from butchered animals, empty food containers, etc.) and human error (e.g. broken plates, bowls, lamps, etc.). In contrast, the assemblage within the privy is potentially reflective of secrecy, prohibition, or mishap. Knowing that no one would retrieve items from a privy, students may have thrown items away in this space (or perhaps dropped them accidentally). Saint’s Rest  burned down in December of 1876.  The accidental destruction of the building also creates a different context for the artifacts compared to the trash pit and the privy.  These items were still in use, and their owners were not, at that time, intending to dispose of them.

Decorated porcelain fragments recovered during 2005 Saints Rest excavation. Image source: Lisa Bright

Decorated porcelain fragments recovered during 2005 Saints Rest excavation. Image source: Lisa Bright

Lisa and I believe that comparing the assemblages from these sites will be useful in piecing together student and faculty behavior as well as use of space on the campus. The opportunity to compare and contrast three sites from the same time period, but with disparate function, allows us to examine some largely intangible aspects of the past. Last semester we finished the privy report, so this semester we will do a quick re-analysis of some the Saint’s Rest materials and dig further into their meaning. Stay tuned for our findings!

 

The Kitchen Girls Part 2: Early Campus Female Life

In my last blog I introduced the female employees working at the Saint’s Rest boarding hall in 1866. These 33 women were paid an average of $2.00 – $2.50 a week for their work and were purchasing personal items through the university, charged against their monthly pay. Their purchases don’t appear to be work related; rather they are personal in nature. So let’s take a moment to further examine what these women were buying.

Corsets

Page of Saint's Rest Account Book showing corset purchases. Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

Page of Saint’s Rest Account Book showing corset purchases. Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

Corsets were the first things that caught my eye in these boarding hall purchasing records. On April 19th, 1866 seven of the women purchases corsets at a cost of $2.50 each. That’s an entire week’s pay!

Today wearing a corset may seem odd (although in some circles they are making a comeback) but the 1860s were at the height of the Victorian era (1837-1901), when corset wearing wasn’t just the norm, but was expected of women in order to obtain an ideal form. Because some of the women were also separately purchasing whalebone (at $0.15 a piece), we can deduce that they were not purchasing corsets with pre-weaved boning, which became popular (but more expensive) in the 1860s.

Whalebone corset c. 1864. Image Source - Victoria & Albert Museum

Whalebone corset c. 1864. Image Source – Victoria & Albert Museum

Balmoral Skirt

Balmoral Skirt. Image Source: American Textile History Museum

Balmoral Skirt. Image Source: American Textile History Museum

In May of 1866 Millie Trevallee purchased a balmoral skirt for the whopping price of $5.75. A balmoral skirt, or petticoat, is worn over a hoop skirt. There are several entries for girls purchasing hoop skirts. A hoop skirt gave the structural component to the large full dress skirts in fashion during this era. A balmoral petticoat was made of colored or patterned fabric and intended to show at the bottom of a dress. The most common type of Balmoral skirt was made of red wool with 2-4 black stripes running around the hem. In the late 1860s other patterns became popular as the trend spread through different levels of society.

Fabric

Sewing machine invented in the early 1850s lead to mass production of clothing. However, due to the amount of raw fabric being purchased, it’s likely that these women were making their own clothing. The rural nature of the area, and their socio-economic status may explain the lack of pre-made clothing. The kitchen girls were purchasing muslin, printed fabric ( such as gingham), cotton fabric, ladies cloth (a lightweight multipurpose fabric), bishop lawn (light weight slightly blue cotton fabric), silk, and a variety of colored fabric (such as pink and purple). They also purchased trim, ruffling, buttons, and hook and eye closures.

Saint's Rest Account Book showing purchase of hoop skirt, fabric, medicine and other personal items. Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

Saint’s Rest Account Book showing purchase of hoop skirt, fabric, medicine and other personal items. Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

Ayer's Ague Cure Ad - Image Source

Ayer’s Ague Cure Ad – Image Source

Medicine

Most of the entries related to health purchases are vague such as pills, “Doctor Bill”, “Paid to Dentist”, or “1 chicken for Mary Bage (sick)”. However a few purchases give us a glimpse into the medical issues and treatments of the time. Several women made purchases of iron tinctures, quinine, and Ague Cure. The iron tincture is a bit more straightforward than the quinine and Ague Cure. Today quinine may only sound familiar to as an ingredient in tonic (it’s what gives tonic it’s bitter flavor), but historically this was used to treat malaria and other ailments. Since malaria isn’t exactly common place in Lansing, it’s more likely that Ada was using it for one of it’s other purpose – such as treating a fever of another cause. The Ague Cure she also purchased in June was also used for fever and chills, known commonly as “malarial disorders”.

This is not a complete list of the items purchased by the female employees, but they are perhaps the most interesting.  Although clothing related purchases dominate the 1866 record they were also incurring expenses for mending shoes, purchasing stamps, and travel.  These account books have provided a rare glimpse into the everyday lives of early female university employees.  They have also allowed us to begin to understand part campus history that we have not yet uncovered in the archaeology of campus.

References:

http://www.maggiemayfashions.com/corsets.html

http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/c/corsets-and-crinolines-in-victorian-fashion/

http://thedreamstress.com/2012/11/terminology-what-is-a-balmoral-petticoat/

Michigan State University Archives & Historical Collections:

UA 17.107 Box 1140 Folder 8

Madison Kuhn Collection 17.107 Box 1141 Folder 66

UA 17.107 Box 2461 Item #40