Welcome back to our CAP blog! As many of our readers know, CAP has many posts dedicated to the identification of artifacts and their relationship to MSU’s campus. While we love sharing the interesting things we find on campus, this got us thinking a little …
Why are there different colored beer bottles and what does it mean? Today, beer bottles are manufactured in a number of colors, but has that always occurred? These are the questions I have been asking myself as I have been looking through Campus Archaeology artifacts, …
Today we think of soda, or as we say in these parts pop, as coming in a few standard sizes: 12 oz cans, 20 ounce bottles and 2-liter’s to name a few. But as I’m sure you’re aware, sizes have changed substantially over the last century or so. That’s why this large, quart size bottle from the Brody/Emmons complex (the East Lansing dump) stands out. The first two-liter bottle was produced by Pepsi-Cola in 1970 (http://www.pepsico.com/About/Our-History). In fact the two-liter bottle is the only standard soda bottle in American that comes in a metric serving. With the exception of a few liquor and cleaning bottles this is the largest food related bottle recovered.
The embossed marks “Nehi Bottling Company”, “32 OZ Capacity” provided the first clue in identifying this bottle – it’s from the Nehi Cola Company Par-T-Pak line. Nehi Cola first appeared in 1924 as a addition to the Chero-Cola companies line of products. Nehi Cola offered a wider variety of flavors including orange, grape, root beer, peach and others. Nehi was so successful it outsold Chero-Cola and the company changed its name to Nehi in 1928. In a slightly ironic twist of fate, once the company reformulated Chero-Cola and rebranded it Royal Crown Cola (or RC Cola), the new cola outsold Nehi and the company eventually changed it’s name to Royal Crown (SHA / Wikipedia).
The large bottle Par-T-Pak line included cola, ginger ale, sparkling water/club soda, black cherry, lemon lime, orange, grape, strawberry, root beer, and Tom Collins mixer. The Par-T-Pak line was first introduced by Nehi in 1933 (Lockhart) and was likely offered until the mid 60s. The tag line was “When you celebrate … Enjoy America’s Party Drink!” This size bottle was specifically marketed as drink mixers with the larger size noted as being economical for parties (since it was meant to serve six). It is perhaps not a coincidence that these “party size” bottles went on the market right at the end of Prohibition.
Marketing from the 1950s was pushing the benefits of the bottle size specifically as an alcoholic drink mixer: “There’s extra sparkle at parties whenever Par-T-Pak is served! For Par-T-Pak “mixers” are so sparkling they stir as they pour! No longer do highballs have to be swizzled or stirred!” (Life Magazine March 27th, 1950). This full color advertisement suggests that the bottle we have is likely ginger ale, as it is the only notable dark green bottles. Although our bottle predates these advertisements (the East Lansing dump was used from 1907 to the late 1930s), the bottling coloring and flavor options appeared to have been stable.
It’s easy to focus on alcohol bottles and overlook their best friend – the mixer! Many of the cocktails we know and love today have their origins in pre-prohibition (drinks like the daiquiri, the Manhattan, the martini, or the mojito). The 13 year legal draught caused by prohibition, and the long lasting impact of the Great Depression, certainly put somewhat of damper on American cocktail culture. The introduction of Nehi Par-T-Pak’s in the 1930s fit right in with America’s budget friendly mindset, and the welcome legal re-introduction of alcohol.
As archaeologists, some of our most common findings are in fact trash, the things people not longer want or need which are then thrown away. As a result, dump sites, or middens, are some of the best contexts from which to reconstruct the lives of …
Dating archaeological sites that we discover is one of the most basic tasks that archaeologists perform. While we all must do it, dating archaeological assemblages is not always easy. Luckily, marketing and branding, a crucial part of our consumer world, helps to make dating historic …
In archaeology, we frequently use large assemblages of different artifacts to interpret what happened at an archaeological site. While a greater number of artifacts is always useful, the ability of just one single artifact to tell us a story is also amazing. I am reminded of this while researching an old whiskey bottle recovered by CAP from the Brody/Emmons Dump. Seemingly simple enough, this object has unlocked a small piece of Michigan history that I had never heard before.
It all started while researching the company whose name was embossed on the top of the bottle’s lid: Hiram Walker and Sons, Inc. Hiram Walker was born in Massachusetts in 1816. As a young man, he moved to Detroit in 1838 and began to go into business buying and selling various goods. By setting some of his earnings aside, he saved up enough money to begin his own distilling business, starting with vinegar. He also began producing whiskey (Chauvin 1927), whose name is an old corruption for a word meaning “water of life” (Lyons 1999). By the early 1850’s, Walker’s whiskey had become a local favorite, but the prohibition movement threatened his success. In 1855, a number of states, including Michigan, began to ban the sale of liquor except by apothecaries for medicinal purposes. In response, Walker began buying property in what would become Windsor, Ontario starting in 1856 and began building new facilities. In 1858, his new distillery and flour mill were complete and Hiram Walker and Sons was born. Their most popular product was Walker’s Club Whiskey, which was immensely popular in the United States (Chauvin 1927).
As the prohibition movement and the Civil War shut down liquor production in the Confederacy, where most U.S. distilleries were located, Walker’s Club Whiskey was smuggled across the Detroit River into the U.S. and then distributed across the Union (Chauvin 1927; Hill 2016). Walker’s whiskey was so popular that it was rumored that he had built a pipe running underneath the Detroit River purely for the purpose of pumping his whiskey directly into the U.S. As alcohol production once more picked up after the war ended, Walker’s Club Whiskey dominated the market, so much so that U.S. competitors begged the U.S. legislature to require a liquor’s country of origin to be clearly marked on every bottle. Once the law passed, his whiskey was rebranded as Canadian Club Whiskey (Chauvin 1927).
By the 1910’s, prohibition once again reared its head, this time leading to a national ban on alcohol in the U.S. from 1920 to 1933. Prohibition hit Hiram Walker and Sons hard, but they were once again able to find outlets for their product across the Detroit River (Chauvin 1927; Hill 2016). Al Capone, the famous gangster, was one of their best customers, who succeeded in distributing Canadian Club Whiskey across the Midwest with the aid of Detroit’s infamous Purple Gang (Pearson 2014). Despite their rum-running success, Hiram Walker and Sons was sold in 1927 for little of its original worth. Today, Hiram Walker’s distillery is now the largest distillery in North America and produces around 150 different products that are distributed widely. They still make world renowned whiskeys, but their first product, Canadian Club Whiskey, is now owned and produced by a nearby competitor (Hill 2016).
Aside from the name of the company, this bottle contains other information that can help us to place it within this history of Hiram Walker and Sons, Inc. Using the free bottle dating reference guide created by Bill Lindsey (https://sha.org/bottle/index.htm, supported by the Bureau of Land Management and the Society for Historical Archaeology), I was able to narrow down when this bottle may have been produced for sale. Present on this bottle are embossed designs and mold seams that reach the very lip of opening, which indicate that it was machine-made. This technology first became popular after 1900, meaning that CAP’s Hiram Whiskey and Son’s bottle post-dates the Civil War smuggling days of the company. Since there are very few bubbles present in the glass itself, it is likely that this bottle was made with more advanced manufacturing technology, further narrowing the time table of this bottle into the 1930’s or later. The presence of an external screw top also suggests this later date, as this closure type only became popular starting in the late 1920’s.
Our greatest piece of evidence is one simple sentence embossed prominently on the bottle: FEDERAL LAW FORBIDS SALE OR RE-USE OF THIS BOTTLE. Post-prohibition, this message was required by federal law on all liquor bottles to further discourage illegal liquor sales. Passed in 1935, the law was repealed and the message discontinued by the mid 1960’s, placing the manufacture and use of this bottle firmly between 1935 and 1965. Based on all of this evidence, this bottle of Hiram Walker and Sons’ whiskey was distilled and consumed legally in post-prohibition East Lansing. While this bottle may not have been part of Al Capone’s illegal liquor empire, it still has an incredible story to tell about Michigan’s past.
Author: Jeff Painter
Chauvin, Francis X.
1927 Hiram Walker: His Life and His Work and the Development of the Walker Institutions in Walkerville, Ontario. Manuscript accessed online through the
Southwestern Ontario Digital Archive, University of Windsor.
2016 “Hiram Walker and Sons Distillery No Longer Shy About Telling Its Story.” Windsor Star, Windsor Ontario. Published Sept. 17th, 2016.
Lyons, T. P.
1999 Production of Scotch and Irish Whiskies: Their History and Evolution. In The
Alcohol Textbook, edited by K. A. Jacques, T. P. Lyons, and D. R. Kelsall, Pp. 137-
164. Nottingham University Press, Nottingham.
2014 “From the Vault: Prohibition.” Windsor Star, Windsor, Ontario. Published Nov.
Today the non-prescription medicine we can buy at the drug store is heavily regulated yet readily available. But in the 19th century patent medicine was dominant. Patent medicines are proprietary (i.e. secret formula) mixtures that were unregulated, advertised widely and sold directly to the public. …
If you’ve been following the blog you may have noticed the many interesting artifacts, mostly bottles, found during the Brody Hall and Emmons Amphitheater area excavations. Since the Brody complex is built above the old East Lansing Landfill, these excavations provided us with an array …
Continuing with my theme of alcohol bottles found on campus, I’ll be discussing one particular bottle that was discovered during excavations of the Brody/Emmons area. The bottle is a clear, rectangular-based bottle, no doubt a liquor bottle given this shape. If there was any doubt as to its intended use, all you would have to do is look on the side of the bottle where the words “DRY GIN” stand out in relief. Embossed on the other side is the name “FLEISCHMANN’S”, giving us the actual company name. In doing research about this bottle and this company, I went down a surprisingly interesting rabbit hole that has foundations all the way back into the Mid-Late 19th century.
Fleischmann’s Distilled Dry Gin boasts that this was the first gin to be distilled within the United States with production beginning in 1870 out of Riverside, Cincinnati, Ohio. However, gin production was not the original intention or only business and manufacturing venture by the company’s owners: Charles Louis Fleischmann, his brother Maximilian Fleischmann, and American businessman James Gaff (1).
The Fleischmann brothers came over to the United States in 1865 from Moravia-Silesia (now a region in Czechia). Their father had previously been a distiller and yeast producer in Europe, with the brothers following in his footsteps. After settling in Cincinnati, Charles Louis and Maximilian found that the quality of baked goods was not up to the standards they were used to back in Europe. Charles returned to Europe to retrieve yeast samples and upon his return, the brothers partnered with a businessman named James Gaff (1, 2). In 1868, they began a standardized production of yeast with their new company Fleischmann Yeast Company. Advances in their research and production into yeast led them to create active dry yeast which we all use today in our baking. This allowed for a much longer shelf-life of the product. Two years later, they opened their first gin distillery using their knowledge of distilling from their father and their newly improved yeast (2). This is still the Fleischmann Distilled Dry Gin that we know of today.
Despite their early advances, widespread success would not come until the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia, PA, the first official World’s Fair to be held in the United States. There, they set up a model Austrian bakery (The Vienna Bakery) and showcased the benefits of using their improved yeast in cake and pastry baking (3). Other new inventions and goods that premiered at the Exhibition were Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone, the Remington Typographic Machine (the typewriter), Heinz Ketchup, the arm, hand, and torch from the Statue of Liberty currently under construction, and the Kudzu vine from Japan (3). The Exhibition brought massive commercial and financial success for the company. Their success at the Centennial Exhibition revolutionized baking in the United States and made the company a house-hold name. (A quick check of my cupboards confirmed that I too have Fleischmann’s Active Dry Yeast as I consider myself a VERY amateur bread baker.)
Newfound commercial success (each of the three owners became multi-millionaires almost overnight) allowed them to open another yeast factory and gin distillery in Peekskill, NY (2). More success for the company came when they developed yeast for the U.S. Army during WWII that could survive without refrigeration, meaning that a wider range of food could be consumed by U.S. troops abroad.
Prohibition, lasting from 1920 to 1933, no doubt hurt the company as they could no longer legally sell or distribute spirits. The Fleischmann’s gin bottle from the Brody dump dates to 1935, so we know that alcohol consumption at MSC and East Lansing was back in full swing after Prohibition ended, but a decade’s worth of minimal liquor sales would have hurt the company, despite their thriving yeast empire. To make up some of the potential loss in sales of liquor, the Fleischmann Company attempted to rebrand their yeast and market it as high in vitamins as well as a health restorative, especially for energy, constipation, and skin improvement (5). They even started distilling gin under a medicinal permit right after Prohibition ended (4)!
Fleischmann’s Yeast Company still exists today and is owned by Associated British Foods, but alcohol production is no longer directly associated with the original yeast industry. After changing hands a few times in the past few decades, Fleischmann’s Distilled Dry Gin is owned by Sazerac of New Orleans, LA (6). Although not the most popular gin on the shelves today, this gin has the longest distilling history of any in the United States and is intimately tied to modern baking practices. Without finding and researching artifacts such as the bottle from the Brody Dump, we potentially lose how people lived their daily lives. Few people write down exactly what they do everyday or what they use to do certain tasks (although social media is changing that narrative), be it using Fleischmann’s Active Dry Yeast while making bread, snacking on a Fleischmann’s Yeast Cake, or having a Fleischmann’s Gin & Tonic after a long day at the office or school, all of which may have been done by the original owner of the gin bottle, back in the late 1930s.
Klieger C.P. The Fleischmann Yeast Family, Arcadia, 2004.
Woods,M.L. The Fleischmann Treasury of Yeast Baking, The Company, New York, 1962.
Peanut butter is a staple of the average American kitchen. It’s a favorite in the lunch boxes of school age children, college students, and archaeologist’s in the field. And although the peanut has been widely cultivated for a long time, peanut butter as we know …