Liquor Bottle Base

Earlier this week, Josh Eads and I concluded our work on Feature 1 and began working on the third level of our unit, which required us to remove 10 centimeters of soil from the floor of the unit. While shovel skimming along our western wall, I struck a hard object. Thinking I had come across another one of the annoyingly plentiful tree roots or large rocks in our unit, I forced my shovel forward in an attempt to slice through the object. Unfortunately, I succeeded and ended up knocking a few sherds of glass off a hidden object. After collecting all of the glass sherds, some of which were no larger than the tip of my thumb nail, I began pawing around in the soil to find the object I had struck. After a few seconds, I pulled a mostly complete bottle base out of the ground.

Pint Full Measure bottle from Unit A.

Pint Full Measure bottle from Unit A. Base with two serif B and letter 7.

As can be seen from the two images, the base itself is relatively complete, except for a piece I accidentally managed to break off when I unknowingly struck it with my shovel. Additionally, unlike the Diamond Ink Co. bottle I found a couple of weeks ago, this bottle still had a portion of the body attached. The words “Pint Full Measure” stamped into the body indicate this bottle used to contain liquor. After a fair amount of research on the serif-B maker’s mark on the bottom of the base, I have been able to determine that this bottle was produced by the Charles Boldt Glass Co.

Charles Boldt Bottle Base. Image Source.

Charles Boldt Bottle Base. Image Source.

The Charles Boldt Glass Co. was born in 1900 when the Muncie Glass Co., headed by Charles Boldt, purchased the Nelson Glass Co. Boldt’s new namesake company remained in operation until 1919. During its peak, the company had factories at four different locations: Muncie, Indiana; Cincinnati, Ohio; Louisville, Kentucky; and Huntington, West Virginia. Not much is known about the factories in Louisville or Huntington, but the factory in Muncie mostly produced Mason fruit jars, milk bottles, and other food package ware, while the factory in Cincinnati mostly produced liquor bottles and flasks. In 1910, Boldt obtained a license to manufacture his liquor bottles using automatic machines from the Owens Bottle Co., another large Ohio-based glass company. The bottle I found was most likely produced by one of these machines. Even though we are missing the portion of the bottle body that normally exhibits the tell-tale clamp scar of an Owens machine, the general shape of the base, as well as the circular seam pattern present, coincide with complete Boldt bottles that are known to have been made with these machines. After obtaining his license from Owens, Boldt dramatically increased his manufacture of liquor bottles, and the Cincinnati plant became Boldt’s most productive factory until the onset of Prohibition in 1919. Over the next few years, Owens Bottle Co. purchased most of the stock in Boldt’s company, and by 1926, had completely purchased the organization. Today, the company is known as the Owens-Illinois Glass Company, and is based in Perrysburg, Ohio.

Whereas I am ecstatic about unearthing a more complete bottle, this discovery has served as an important lesson for me: If I strike an object while shovel skimming, I better check to see what it is before I make an attempt at forcing my shovel forward. I’m just thankful that this was not a complete bottle to begin with, and that the damage done was not too severe. From now on, I plan to be extra careful while I shovel skim.



Lockhart, Bill. “Owens-Illinios Glass Company.” Society for Historical Archaeology, Accessed 17 June 2017.

Lockhart, Bill, Pete Schulz, Carol Serr, and Bill Lindsay. “The Dating Game: The Distinctive Marks of the Charles Boldt Glass Co.” Bottles and Extras, Mar. – April 2007, pp. 2-6, Accessed 16 June 2017.

Schulz, Pete, Bill Lockhart, Carol Serr, Bill Lindsay, Beau Schreiver, and David Whitten. “Charles Boldt Glass Co.” Society for Historical Archaeology, 3 May 2014, Accessed 16 June 2017.

Poor’s Manual of Industries. Vol. 7, New York, Poor’s Manual Company, 1916. Accessed 16 June 2017.


Let Them Eat Paste: Sanford’s Library Paste Jar

While I myself have never experienced the Wiggum-ian urge to consume paste, I’ve encountered an unnamed few who, at one time or another, failed to resist sneaking a sweet, illicit taste of the stuff. In defense of our paste-loving friend Ralph, eating paste isn’t all that different from eating pasta: the basic formula of paste is water, vegetable flour, and starch. In fact, the words “paste” and “pasta” share a common Greek etymology. As used in thirteenth century English, “paste” meant something akin to “dough.” It wasn’t until the fifteenth century that the word “paste” was first used to reference to the glue mixture we know and eat today.

Death from paste! Image source

Death from paste! Image source

This is not to say that paste eating is without hazards. A hand-painted marker in Esmeralda County, Nevada, marks the grave of an unknown man—a “starving vagrant”—who expired in 1908 after eating a jar of library paste foraged from the trash. The paste contained alum, a common additive in adhesives that serves the purpose of 1) preventing mold by keeping excess moisture out and 2) whitening the mixture for improved aesthetics. As our hungry vagrant discovered too late, alum is also toxic in large doses.

The unnamed vagrant may have been tempted by the sweet smell of library paste, but not all historical adhesives were so appetizing. In the past, glue-making and using was often a smelly, messy affair. Prior to the 20th century, many adhesives were derived from animal products including bones, cartilage, skin, or—as I learned traumatically from a childhood reading of Black Beauty—horse hooves. Animal-based adhesives often required cooking or melting before use, at great inconvenience to the user.

Enter: Sanford’s Library Paste.

Sanford's Library Paste Jar discovered at Station Terrace - Image Source: Lisa Bright

Sanford’s Library Paste Jar discovered at Station Terrace – Image Source: Lisa Bright

This summer, an intact jar of Sanford’s Utopian Library Paste was uncovered during the excavation of Station Terrace. As Campus Archaeologist Lisa Bright discussed in a previous blog post, Station Terrace was built in the early 1890s and used as housing for visiting researchers and faculty. The discovery of the paste jar begs the question, what place might such an object have on the campus of Michigan Agricultural College?

Sanford's Library Paste Utopian Jar Ad - Image Source

Sanford’s Library Paste Utopian Jar Ad – Image Source

The Sanford Ink Company was founded in 1857 by Frederick W. Redington and William H. Sanford, Jr. Today, Sanford L.P. is one of the largest writing products manufacturers in the world. Its products include PaperMate, Sharpie, and Uni-Ball. In its early days, Sanford was better known for quality ink, paste, and mucilage products. Sanford patented its library paste formula in 1892. The company proudly contrasted its potato-based “clean, sweet smelling” paste with the stinking, cumbersome hoof glues of old in a series of advertisements that ran in magazines such as the American Stationer, The Magazine of Office Equipment, and The Coach during the early twentieth century.

Sanford’s library paste was sold in collapsible tubes and quart or pint jars to meet its customers’ various adhesive needs. Seeking total library paste domination, the Sanford Ink Company patented its special “Utopian” paste jar in 1898. The jar was designed with a small air space under the cover and a central water well that kept the brush and paste from drying inside. It was called “Utopian” presumably because its design beckoned a futuristic paradise in which paste flows freely and brushes stay eternally moist. As a bonus, the paste was “snowy white” and dried quickly—in less than ten seconds—to prevent paper from puckering. Sanford’s library paste became enough an industry standard that it even appeared in the 1906 Report of the Clerk of the House of Representatives’ as part of the contingent fund for stationery.

According to Sanford’s own advertising, its library paste had a variety of office, home, and commercial uses including “mounting photographs, paper flowers, scrap book and general use.” As much as I like to imagine early Spartans dècoupaging paper flowers, the mention of scrapbooking is especially intriguing. The MSU Archives houses an impressive and fascinating collection of student and faculty scrapbooks. Before the advent of social media, scrapbooking served as a means of compiling treasured memories and carefully curating one’s personal identity for posterity.

Scrapbooks contained material evidence of memories such as ticket stubs to football games or social events, newspaper clippings, personal letters, and photographs. These range from the serious—librarian Linda Landon’s cyanotype photograph of herself working in the library in the 1890s—to the personal—Forest Akers’ scrapbook pages commemorating his marriage to Alice Rockwell—to the silly—an unidentified student’s scrapbook page with a 1902 newspaper article detailing the common prank of “room stacking”.

Room Stacking scrapbook image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

Room Stacking scrapbook image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

Scrapbooks encapsulated students’ unique experiences and perspectives. Chinese student Onn Mann Liang was one of twenty international students who studied at Michigan State College in the 1920s. His scrapbook contains photographs of his travels around Michigan, his registration as a Civil Engineer, and portraits of himself as he wished to remember himself and how he wished to be remembered during his time in Michigan—graduating from MSC, canoeing down the Red Cedar, and posing with other students. Read more about Onn Mann Liang and view his scrapbook in the MSU Archives exhibit on pioneers in international education here.

We may never know exactly what Michigan State students and faculty were doing with library paste—apart from, of course, snacking on it. However, the discovery of this artifact connects us to early Spartans’ methods of self-expression, memory making, and construction of personal identity.


Paste etymology

Paste ingredients

Sanford Ink bottles

Sanford Ink Company

Advertisement in The Coach magazine (January 1917, Vol. 4-6)

Advertisement in The Magazine of Office Equipment (March 1917, Vol. 25)

Advertisement in The American Stationer (March 28, 1908)

Annual Report of the 59th Congress, 2nd Session of the House of Representatives (1907)

Sanford Manufacturing Company Pamphlet (year unknown-courtesy of University of Chicago)


Unknown Vagrant

Utopian Jar Ad

Photos from the MSU Archives

 Room Stacking

Forest Akers Scrapbook

Wisconsin Extracts: A Tasteful Tale of Artificial Flavoring in the Midwest

I am from Wisconsin. Not only was I born and raised there, but I am also a Wisconsin stereotype—I grew up on a dairy farm. After 25 years in the Dairy State, I relocated to Illinois, but I never felt at home on the flat plains. I moved to Michigan a few years later and although the Great Lakes State has its own unique cultural flavor, there is a sense of familiarity here among the lakes and woods.

However, a sense of excitement still moves through me whenever I find a connection to my home state here in Michigan. The discovery that yet another treasure from the privy excavated by CAP last summer also originated in Wisconsin filled me with curiosity. The artifact in question is a bottle embossed with the words “Flavoring Extract” on the front panel and “Tallman and Collins” on the side.

Extract Bottle from West Circle Privy

Extract Bottle from West Circle Privy

Side of Extract Bottle from West Circle Privy - Reads "Tallman & Collins"

Side of Extract Bottle from West Circle Privy – Reads “Tallman & Collins”

William Henry Tallman - Image Source

William Henry Tallman – Image Source

Tallman and Collins Manufacturing was a company in Janesville, WI. The company’s founder, William Henry Tallman, was the son of William Morrison Tallman, a renowned lawyer and abolitionists, whose grand house (now a museum in Janesville) hosted a short stay from Abraham Lincoln in 1859. William Henry did not follow in his father’s political footsteps, instead purchasing a stake in a local drugstore business. By 1857, Tallman was running the company and took on Henry W. Collins as his new partner. Initially, Tallman and Collins was an import and wholesale business, selling medicine, drugs, chemicals, perfumery, and liquors. By 1864, Tallman expanded the business to include manufacturing a new line of perfumes and extracts. However, by 1869, Tallman and Collins ended their business partnership and Tallman continued on, focusing solely on perfume manufacture. Tallman perfumes and colognes were incredibly popular in the 1870s, but the company closed in 1883 due to William’s poor health.

Tallman and Collins offices, 609 W. Court St, Janesville, WI

Tallman and Collins offices, 609 W. Court St, Janesville, WI – Image Source

While it may seem odd that a company known for its perfumes also manufactured flavoring extracts, it was, in fact, a common pairing. The rise of organic chemistry in the mid-nineteenth century led to a flourishing field of crafting new fragrances, and given the close relationship between smell and taste, also led to the discovery of synthetic flavors. Various fruit-flavored candies, full of delicious synthetic flavor, were one of the attractions of the 1851 Crystal Palace exhibition in London, which was a celebration of the world’s technological advancements.

Advertisement in the Wisconsin and Minnesota Gazetteer, Shipper's Guide and Business Directory for 1865-'66

Advertisement in the Wisconsin and Minnesota Gazetteer, Shipper’s Guide and Business Directory for 1865-’66

In the aftermath of the Industrial Revolution and increasingly mass-produced food, there was a need to make otherwise bland processed foods a bit more palatable. Spices and natural flavoring extracts, a major component of worldwide trade, were expensive, so chemically synthesized flavors became a cheaper alternative for giving food some extra delicious flavor. Tallman and Collin’s company jumped on the flavoring market a mere thirteen years after its world debut, demonstrating Tallman’s business acumen. Although better know for his perfumery, the presence of its extracts in Michigan suggest their demand was great enough to warrant distribution to other parts of the Midwest.

Cheese extract - it actually exists!"

Cheese extract – it actually exists!

The flavor contained within our privy bottle remains a mystery (a chemical analysis of the contents are perhaps a bit out of the scope of CAP’s resources). The likeliest candidate is the one of the earliest and most common artificial flavors, vanilla (synthesized through the chemical vanillin), used to make early MSU campus food just a smidge less bland. However, in my vivid imagination, it contained cheese extract, obtained by another Wisconsinite desperate for the flavor of home while away at school. Fanciful interpretations aside, this small bottle provides us the opportunity to explore the history of chemistry, product distribution, and food trends and preferences of the recent past, a delicious addition to our knowledge, indeed.


Hayes, Dayle and Rachel Laudan
2009    Food and Nutrition, Volume 7: South Asian Cuisines to Yogurt. Marshall Cavendish, Tarrytown, NY.

Wisconsin and Minnesota State Gazetteer, Shippers’ Guide and Business Directory for 1865-’66. Geo. W. Hawes, Publisher and Compiler, Indianapolis.


Let’s Ketchup: Curtice Brothers Preservers Ketchup Bottles from the Gunson Assemblage

Ketchup can be found in 97% of American kitchens. Think about that for a moment, 97%! Some people can’t imagine eating a French fry, hot dog, or hamburger without it. The only condiment/sauce used more here on campus is most likely ranch dressing (I was told once that each cafeteria goes through several gallons a day). As beloved as ketchup is in America, it’s origin lies elsewhere. It originally was not the thick, sweet, tomato based condiment we think of today. The original precursors to what we know as ketchup was a fermented fish sauce popular across South East Asian, known as “keo-cheup”. The earliest known western recipes for ketchup were published in the UK in the 18th century (possibly the 1758 cookbook The Complete Housewife), and were made from kidney beans, mushrooms, anchovies, and walnuts. Early colonists in North America adapted these recipes to later include tomatoes, and the first known recipe for tomato ketchup made its debut in 1812.

1899 Curtice Brothers Ketchup Ad - Image Source

1899 Curtice Brothers Ketchup Ad – Image Source

The popularity of tomato ketchup really took off following the Civil War. In fact, an 1891 issue of Merchant’s Review boasts that ketchup was the “sauce of sauces”, and in 1896 the New York Tribune declared tomato ketchup as America’s national condiment.Today ketchup is nearly synonymous with the Heinz Company, but they haven’t always cornered the market. At the beginning of the 20th century one of their biggest competitors was Curtice Brothers Preservers Blue Label Ketchup.

After cataloging two units from the Gunson/Admin assemblage we have identified at least eight Curtice Brothers Ketchup bottles. Having large amounts of condiment bottles in a historic assemblage is not surprising, but we have been surprised to find so many of the same brand. Brothers Simeon and Edgar Curtice founded Curtice Brothers Co. Preservers Rochester, New York in 1868. The canning business was created to save surplus vegetables and fruits that they could not sell in their small grocery store. By the early 1900s they were one of the largest ketchup and preserves producing firms, and continued production into the late 1960s. The specific bottles we have been recovering from the Gunson assemblage date from the early 1890s to the mid 1920s.

Curtice Brothers Preservers Ketchup Bottle Embossed Mark

Curtice Brothers Preservers Ketchup Bottle Embossed Mark

Base of Curtice Brothers Ketchup Bottle

Base of Curtice Brothers Ketchup Bottle

The Curtice Brothers blue label line helped distinguish their bottle from other competitors. In the early 1900s they were equally as popular as Heinz. So what happened? Why did their brand fall out of popularity? That answer lies in the benzoate food wars.

The pure food and drug act of 1906 was the first series of significant consumer protection laws enacted by Congress that also led to the creation of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The act served to ban foreign and interstate distribution of adulterated and mislabeled food and drug products. It required active ingredients to be placed on the product label. During this time benzoate was a preservative widely used in condiments, and the pure food law outlawed its use in food products due to health concerns.   On one side of the ketchup establishment were those such as the Curtice Brothers that believed that it was impossible to make ketchup without the additive, and that it was not harmful in the small amounts used in their products. On the other side were manufacturers, like Heinz, that believed they could solve the preservative issues with modern science. They began to make ketchup with ripe tomatoes, increasing the amount of vinegar, and charging more, but offering a money back guarantee. Multiple lawsuits were filed by the Curtice Brothers Company fighting the ban, but their protests ultimately failed. The benzoate ketchups slowly disappeared from the market. By 1915 the Curtice Brothers Blue Label Ketchup had fallen out of favor, due to their insistence at using benzoates.

The benzoate content now appears on the bottle label in this 1910 ad - Image Source

The benzoate content now appears on the bottle label in this 1910 ad – Image Source

The Curtice Brothers Ketchup thus far dominates our known condiments from the Gunson house. We have only one other ketchup bottle, Sniders Homemade Catsup from Cincinnati. Did the Gunsons love their ketchup? Perhaps. But the large number of bottles in this trash pit, specifically repeats of the same bottle type (such as the M.A.C. Dairy bottles) makes me suspect that Professor Gunson may have been saving and reusing the bottles, potentially in his experimental greenhouse. There also has not been a single paper label, complete or fragment, on any of these bottles. We will most likely never known for sure why there are so many ketchup bottles, but it’s always fun to investigate a small slice of the past.


Smith, Andrew. 1996 “Pure Ketchup: A History of America’s National Condiment, with Recipes”.!The-Beginning/c1p05/550596df0cf27b8ab28dfe79

An inkling from the privy: Cox’s Carmine Ink

In June of 2015, CAP discovered a privy during archaeological monitoring. This discovery was the first privy to ever be excavated on campus. From the collection of artifacts recovered during the excavation, this structure has been narrowed down to a decade of use, from 1850’s-1860’s[1]. (To learn more about this excavation click here.) During this excavation, two ink bottles were recovered, shown here. The one on the right is clearly decorative, probably being placed on a desk and used as an ink well. The one on the left however has been the subject of a many empty searches.

Ink bottle/well found in the privy. Left: Cox's Carmine Ink, Right: Cobalt Conical Inkwell

Ink bottle/well found in the privy. Left: Cox’s Carmine Ink, Right: Cobalt Conical Inkwell

The bottle on the left is an ink bottle, used to refill wells and other ink receptacles. It is embossed with the phrase, “Cox’s Carmine Ink.” As with most of our artifacts here at Campus Archaeology, the fun part of lab work is chasing leads on artifacts. This is one of the benefits of archaeology. Once the artifacts are excavated, cleaned and catalogued the fun begins. Historic archaeology is unique in that it allows us to create a very narrow timeline for the use life of the artifacts recovered based upon historic records. Usually, these lines of research yield a wealth of information. However, in some cases, we need to put a shout to the public to see if they know of any information about our items. This is the case with our Cox’s Carmine Ink bottle.

Cox's Carmine Ink Bottle from West Circle Privy

Cox’s Carmine Ink Bottle from West Circle Privy

There is no information on the bottle other than the lettering and no mold seams are evident on the bottle. I was unable to find a Cox’s Ink company but there is a wealth of information on carmine ink itself. Carmine ink has a very long history. Carmine dye, used to make the ink, is made from the cochineal, a scale insect that is crushed to produce a deep red hue that is illustrated in the border of the picture. These insects are native to Central and South America. It has been exported since the 1500’s from Central America and most assuredly used long before that by the native populations of Central and South America[2]. Aside from fabric dyes, carmine was used to make any colored inks that contained a red pigment, such as red, pink, purple, blue and black. There are formulas that mix it with a Cox’s gelatin to make a paint for ceramics and china.[3]

Base of Cox's Carmine Ink Bottle from West Circle Privy

Base of Cox’s Carmine Ink Bottle from West Circle Privy

Today, carmine is also called crimson lake, natural red 4, and cochineal and is often produced synthetically. It is used to color foods, watercolour paints, artificial flowers, and cosmetics such as rouge[4]. Some of its other uses include thermal inks for x-rays, fax machines and screen printing. A true carmine ink or paint is higher in quality and thus more expensive than it’s synthetic counterpart[5]. It’s use in food is highly regulated today in both the EU and the USA as allerigies to it have occurred[6].

So, what does all this mean for our bottle? Well, we can speculate many uses for this ink from red ink used to grade papers, an additive for a ink solution used to decorate cakes or other foods, an additive used to make paints for ceramics/china to an ink used for x-rays. All of these uses make sense on a college campus during the 1850’s and 1860’s. Information about Cox’s Ink company still remains a mystery however. If anyone reading this blog has information about this company, please contact either myself (@nicolle1977 on Twitter, or campus archaeology at (@capmsu or


1.More Than Just Nightsoil: Preliminary Findings from MSU’s First Privy., Bright, Meyers Emery & Michael. 2015.


3.“How to Paint on China”. The Art Amateur. Kellogg, Lavinia Steele. 1884


5.Watercolour paints.

6.Asthma and allergy due to carmine dye.


Vernor’s, A Michigan Tradition and MSU favorite

Vernor's Bottle Found in Peoples Park

Vernor’s Bottle Found in Peoples Park

In light of the Venor’s sesquicentennial (150th anniversary), we here at CAP decided to highlight one of our finds from the People’s Park excavations in February of 2011. We found an intact Vernor’s bottle labeled as “Detroit’s Drink”. What is the connection to MSU and Detroit other than freeways you ask? Well keep reading and I’ll tell you.

We know that this slogan appeared on bottles with cork stoppers between 1918 and 1921 [1]. In 1921, the Vernor’s slogan changed to “Deliciously Different”. The apostrophe was dropped in 1959 [2] and the embossed Vernor’s Ginger Ale logo appeared on the very first bottles as early as 1896. The logo was put on the bottom because the bottles were shipped and cased upside down to keep the cork wet so the carbonation would not be lost. There was also a paper label that would have been under the embossing. According to the maker’s mark, our bottle was produced in Evansville, Indiana by the Graham Glass Company. Now comes a little Michigan history.

Close up of Vernor's Ginger

Close up of Vernor’s Ginger

Close up of Detroit's Drink

Close up of Detroit’s Drink

Vernor’s has long been a Michigan staple and favorite to those of us that call the mitten home. It is also one the oldest ginger ales and the oldest soda/pop/soft drink in continuous production in the country, predating both Coca-Cola and Dr. Pepper [3]. It was invented by James Vernor, a Detroit pharmacist just prior to the Civil War. He was trying to develop a stomach tonic of vanilla, ginger and spices. As the urban legend goes, Mr. Vernor was called to fight in the Civil War in 1862 when he stored the new drink in oak casks until his return in 1866 [4]. The casks were cracked open and a new ginger ale born. The drink was first served in his soda fountain adjacent to his pharmacy until carbonation could be bottled in 1896. Mr. Vernor was very strict over the production of his drink, being known as a perfectionist and remained so until his passing on October 27, 1927 [5]. His family sold the company in 1966.

Vernor's Bottle Base

Vernor’s Bottle Base

If you’re interested in learning some recipes for this famous beverage, check out the MSU Special Collections Library for their collection of little cookbooks here that have lots of recipes [6] and don’t forget to follow them on Twitter at @msulibraries. Some of the most famous recipes include the Boston Cooler (named for the street Vernor’s fountain shop was on, it consists of Vernor’s and vanilla ice cream), a Flint Town favorite when paired with an olive burger from Halo Burger and Aretha Franklin’s own favorite, Vernor’s glazed holiday ham [7]. Both of these recipes can be found in the little cookbooks mentioned above.

Downtown East Lansing Vernor's Ad

Downtown East Lansing Vernor’s Ad – Image Source

East Lansing, along with Flint were distribution centers of this Great Lakes ginger ale as evidenced by some little known advertising around town. In the summer of 2001, building demolition in downtown East Lansing revealed this Vernor’s advertisement along the side of the Curious Book Shop.  The MSC mural advertisement next to the Vernor’s one dates between 1925, (when our name changed from Michigan Agricultural College to Michigan State College) and 1955 (when we officially became Michigan State University)[8]. Note the custom Spartan Helmet Woody, the Vernor’s mascot gnome, is wearing!

Drink Vernor's Ad from early 1950's in downtown East Lansing

Drink Vernor’s Ad from early 1950’s in downtown East Lansing – Image Source

If you find yourself craving some of these concoctions and immersing yourself in a Michigan tradition check out the 150th birthday party that will be held in Detroit from June 5-11 where the city will be awash in green and gold. More information can be found here courtesy of Detroit Historical Society. If you’ve ever wanted to experience a ginger beer crawl, world record numbers of Vernor’s drinkers or restaurants featuring the aforementioned recipes, this is your chance. Nothing says Michigan like MSU and Vernor’s.


Antique Bottle Forum.

2.  Vernor’s Club.

3. Detroit Historical Society.

4. Dr. Pepper Group.

5. MSU Library blog.

6. MSU Special Collections Library.

7. Huffington Post.

8. Michigan State University Archives

Done Up and Polished: The Brief History of a Nail Polish Topper

The Gunson/Admin assemblage continues to reveal gendered historical items linked to early females on campus. Most recently, Lisa Bright alerted me to the presence of a glass nail polish bottle stopper in the collection.

Dr. Jay Parker Pray Bottle Top - Gunson Unit D

Dr. Jay Parker Pray Bottle Top – Gunson Unit D

Luckily, the logo remains intact and, after some Googling, it was determined to be manufactured by the Dr. J. Parker Pray Company (established 1868). The New York City based company specialized in manicure and medicinal goods. Dr. Parker Pray began his career as a chiropodist, a hand and foot doctor, before transitioning into selling ladies’ cosmetic products.

In 1874, Dr. Parker Pray met Mary E. Cobb who had moved to New York City following the end of the Civil War. The two married that same year and Mary allegedly went to France shortly after to be trained in the techniques of manicure (1). Although Mary learned the traditional French manicure method, American women at the time did not greatly desire the French style. In 1878, she opened Mrs. Pray’s Manicure shop in New York City where she practiced a revised process of manicure that modern women are familiar with today (2). By all accounts, the shop and manufacturing businesses were wildly successful and the Prays are even credited with the invention of the emory board.

After the couple divorced in 1884, Mary returned to her maiden name and invested her energy into the expansion of her business through mail order and increased retail exposure (1). Mary even began to train women in the manicurist trade so that they could secure independent income. By 1900, Mary was in charge of one of the largest female-owned business operations in the world (as well as the largest manufacturer of pink and red nail polish) (1).

Boxes containing the polish were sold for 25 and 50 cents (3). While the bottle has not yet been found in the assemblage, just the discovery of the top is pretty cool! I was not able to secure dates (besides post-1868), but if the bottle is recovered we may be able to determine better manufacturing dates. If only Mary Cobb could have seen the variety of polish colors worn by women on campus today!

Dr. J Parker Pray Ad Circa 1905 - Source

Dr. J Parker Pray Ad Circa 1905 – Source




Dairy Bottles Found on MSU’s Campus

Michigan State College Creamery Bottle from Brody-Emmons Dig

Recently we’ve been looking at the history of sustainability practices at Michigan State University. Part of being ‘green’ is reducing one’s food miles. This is the distance of the production to the distance of consumption. Food transported long distances or across continents burns up fossil fuels and contributes to global warming. In recent years, prevention of this has led to increased emphasis on growing and eating local foods. Michigan State University is currently trying to be more local, but also has a long history of sourcing food from the area and producing our own.

One way of examining where our food came from in the past is by looking at the containers that they came in. We have a number of milk bottles from the Brody-Emmons surveys that have occurred. The site dates to the early 20th century, when there was increasing long distance travel due to the introduction of automobiles. Milk bottles can show us where students and the community were getting their dairy supply, and how far the dairy traveled to reach us.There are three types of milk bottles that we have found: Arctic Dairy, Lansing Dairy, and MSC Creamery.

Milk Bottles Collected from Brody-Emmons on MSU’s Campus, From Left to Right: Lansing Dairy, Lansing Dairy, Artic Dairy

Arctic Dairy was founded in 1908 by Alfred Foster Stephens. The first plants were opened in Detroit, but they had factories later in Grand Ledge, Grand Rapids, and Hastings. In 1922, the company had forty-five trucks and thirty five wagons, and employed an average of one hundred and fifty men. In the 1930’s the company was bought by Detroit Creamery, but the name was retained. The company still exists today, but it only produces ice cream. Campus Archaeology recovered a number of these bottles in different sizes, suggesting that Arctic Dairy had a fair amont of popularity in the area.

Lansing Dairy Company was started in the 1920’s as a co-operative organization for area farmers. From a a Milk Dealer’s journal printed in 1922, we see that the group’s goal is to produce primarily fluid milk, using the leftovers for by-products. When it was started the company was lauded for using the most up to date technology for sanitation and production.

Michigan State College Dairy Products Delivery Truck, via MSU Archives and Historical Records

Finally, we have a number of bottles from the Michigan State College Creamery. Due to the campus beginning as an agricultural college, it isn’t surprising that there is a rich history of dairy production here. The first dairy classes began in 1895 at MSU. In 1914 a new dairy building for study and research was opened on campus, and in 1929 the new dairy was erected as part of a generous donation by the Kellogg family. It is unclear when milk started being delivered or when it stopped, but we have evidence of the bottles from the 1920’s East Lansing landfill and bottle caps from their milk bottles dating to the 1950’s. The MSC creamery exists today, but as the MSU Dairy Store where you can buy fresh MSU milk products, delicious ice cream, and on Mondays get the best lunch deal in town!

The fact that most of our milk bottles come from a limited region shows that people were buying local, but not exclusively East Lansing or Lansing products. Increasing use of trucks allowed people to buy milk from Detroit or Grand Rapids instead of the relying on the two closest dairy producers.

Works Cited

MSU Archives. Dairy.

MSU Dairy History.

Milk Dealer: National Journal for City Trade 1922, Vol. 11.

Hill House History, Artic Creamery.

“Ready for my close-up!”: College Make-Up of the 1930s

The mid-August Campus Archaeology survey of the new Emmons Amphitheater revealed some artifacts of a different ‘shade’. While the majority of the items recovered looked like common 1930s-1940s glass bottles, a closer look told the archaeology team that some of them were make-up bottles.  A few of them even had company logos and other information stamped directly into the glass! This is where my part in the project comes in: telling the tale of early cosmetics use on Michigan State’s campus.

Emmons Hall, a part of the Brody Complex here at MSU, was originally constructed in 1952 and is now undergoing a series of renovations. Prior to the construction of the dormitory, this site served as a dump for East Lansing and MSU. This summer, Campus Archaeology did a quick survey of one area of the dump, and recovered at least seven different make-up bottles circa 1930-1940. Two of the bottles, show below, had company logos imprinted in their bottoms. These bottles, engraved with “Max Factor: Hollywood” and “Langlois: New York”, respectively, are the ones that I focused on to help shed a better light on how cosmetics were used by the college students during this time period.

Sample of beauty products excavated on campus

Sample of beauty products excavated on campus

First up is the “Max Factor: Hollywood” bottle, characterized by unblemished milk glass and a missing top. During the 1930s, Max Factor & Company (originally established in 1909) took on the task of developing cosmetics for Hollywood and, during the process, Max Factor himself coined the term “make-up”. The FDA states that a cosmetic is “a product, except soap, intended to be applied to the human body for…beautifying, promoting attractiveness, or altering the appearance” ( Max Factor took this phrasing to a new level by applying it to the verb “makeup”, as in “to make up (one’s face)”—which is generally the intention of cosmetics ( Hence, make-up was ‘created’. After further exploration of the Max Factor make-up of the 1930s, I discovered that I could not identify the exact contents of the Max Factor jar from the Emmons-Brody Complex. Without further identifying characteristics (such as a lid, other embellishments, a statement of contents) to allow a positive match, I was disheartened. However, I took to investigating other make-up brands in the hopes of discovering what could have been inside that jar.

After hours of searching, I finally managed to find two good representations of the type of makeup that was used in milk glass jars of comparable size. As you can see below, there are similar morphologies (shape, size, color, etc.) between the image of the jar from the Langlois Company and the two largest jars from Brody-Emmons

Makeup Jars from Brody Emmons

I soon  learned that the most common substance to be found in milk glass bottles and jars during the twentieth century was facial creams of multiple varieties, and the most common compound was cold creams.  According to, the use of milk glass during this time was due to its inexpensive nature, allowing women intrigued by the increasing popularity of Hollywood to use make-up during this time of penny-pinching. Additionally, facial creams were popular due to the trend towards softer, more feminine-like appearances.

Next is the “Langlois: New York” bottle recovered during the survey process. As you can see from the photograph of the bottom of this bottle, it is difficult to make out the definite name of the company. Even with the artifact in your hands, it is hard to tell whether the bottle read “Langlois” or “Langlor’s”. It took a great deal of ‘digging’ to determine that the bottle indeed belonged to Langlois Inc., who took over the United Drug Company during the early 1900s. Unfortunately, it was unclear whether the top of the bottle once had a metal cover that has since corroded, or whether it was submerged in a substance that had elements that corroded and adhered to the bottle. Nonetheless, further investigation revealed that the bottle was likely that of a perfume. Langolis’ main label during the 1930s-1940s happened to be affiliated with “Cara Nome”, and the majority of the products produced under this name were perfumes and sachets ( Below is a photograph of a close representation of what the “Langlois: New York” bottle may have been: a three-inch Langlois Inc.: Boston Cara Nome Powdered Perfume Sachet bottle. The variations in morphology are probably contributed to the differing locations in which the bottles were produced: New York (the Emmons survey bottle) versus Boston (the Internet photograph). The previously mentioned trend of a feminine air and the historical desire to smell pleasant probably explains the presence of such perfume at MSU.

Langlois: Boston, Cara Nome Powdered Perfume Sachet

Stay tuned for next week’s follow-up blog post comparing make-up use between Michigan State University students in the 1930s and today!


  1. “Antique / Vintage Milk Glass Cold Cream / Makeup Jar with Metal Lid | EBay.” EBay | Electronics, Cars, Clothing, Collectibles and More Online Shopping. Web. 19 Oct. 2011. <>.
  2. “Max Factor.” sensagent. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Oct 2011. < factor/en-en/>.
  3. “Langlois Perfumes – CLEOPATRA’S BOUDOIR.” Cleopatrasboudoir. Web. 19 Oct. 2011. <>.
  4. “1930’s Vintage Makeup and Hair Styles.” Free Beauty Tips: Natural Makeup, Fashion & Hair for Women & Teens. Web. 20 Oct. 2011. <>.
  5. “Vintage Sachet Powder Bottles & Pillows~1.” Vanity Treasures. Web. 17 Oct. 2011. <>.
  6. “Antique / Vintage Milk Glass Cold Cream / Makeup Jar with Metal Lid | EBay.” EBay | Electronics, Cars, Clothing, Collectibles and More Online Shopping. Web. 20 Oct. 2011. <>.
  7. “1930’s Vintage Makeup and Hair Styles.” Free Beauty Tips: Natural Makeup, Fashion & Hair for Women & Teens. Web. 20 Oct. 2011. <>

Dig Deeper: Sengbusch Self-Closing Inkstand

Sengbusch Self Closing Inkstand from Excavation, August 2011

A few weeks ago, some artifacts were recovered from the Brody-Emmons complex. These included a wide range of glass containers, as well as other finds. What is nice about finding early 20th century glass, is that there is a lot of information that can be recovered from the item. Unlike glass and metal today where paper labels alert the consumer on their purchase, many of the items are imprinted with their brand name and contents.

One of the finds was glass container with a bakelite (an early type of plastic) lid. Imprinted into the lid was “Sengbusch Self-Closing Inkstand, Made in USA, Milwaukee, WI” as well as a barely legible patent date and number. Research revealed that this type of inkstand was first introduced in 1907 by  Gustav Sengbusch. In the patent he wrote that these inkwells were designed “designed for mounting in school desks and for like purposes.” Its not surprising then that this type of inkwell would be found in an area around MSU.

Sengbusch Self Closing Inkstand from EBay User Imeon

The story behind the Sengbusch Self Closing Inkstand is a classic invention tale. Gustav Sengbusch was hard at work as a book keeper in the early 1900’s. After taking hours to complete a single ledger page, his inkstand tipped and ruined the entire page. As a result of this event and his frustration he decided to design an inkstand that couldn’t be closed. It was this that led to the creation of the Sengbusch Self-Closing Inkstand Company. The inkstands he designed were created to prevent tipping, allowed one hand access to ink, and prevented evaporation.

Every artifact that we find on campus has a story, and while it may not be as easy to dig up information we still learn more about the campus and community of MSU.

Works Cited

Cowell, W. 2009. An Inkwell and A Mystery. In The Pennant, Fall 2009: 10-11. Electronic Document.