This semester two of the CAP undergrad interns are re-examining bottles recovered from the Brody Hall/Emmons Amphitheater area. Way back in 2009 and 2011 construction around the dorms revealed many historic bottles. That’s because, as Mari pointed out in her last post, the dormitory complex…
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.
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.
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?
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”.
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 http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search=paste&searchmode=none
Sanford Ink bottles http://www.bottlebooks.com/inkcompanyhistory/sanford_ink_company.htm
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)
Sanford Manufacturing Company Pamphlet (year unknown-courtesy of University of Chicago)
Utopian Jar Ad http://vintage-ads.livejournal.com/6675127.html
Photos from the MSU Archives
Forest Akers Scrapbook http://onthebanks.msu.edu/Object/1-4-245/h-pages-from-a-forest-akers-scrapbook/
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…
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…
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. (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.
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.
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. 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.
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. 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. It’s use in food is highly regulated today in both the EU and the USA as allerigies to it have occurred.
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, nicoleraslich.wordpress.com) or campus archaeology at (@capmsu or campusarch.msu.edu).
1.More Than Just Nightsoil: Preliminary Findings from MSU’s First Privy., Bright, Meyers Emery & Michael. 2015. http://campusarch.msu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/PrivyPosterMAC.pdf
3.“How to Paint on China”. The Art Amateur. Kellogg, Lavinia Steele. 1884 http://www.jstor.org/stable/25628234?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents
5.Watercolour paints. http://watercolorpainting.com/pigments
6.Asthma and allergy due to carmine dye. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/13679965
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…
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. Luckily, the logo remains intact and, after some Googling, it was…
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.
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.
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.
MSU Archives. Dairy. http://msuarchives.wordpress.com/?s=dairy
MSU Dairy History. http://www.kbs.msu.edu/research/pasture-dairy/dairy/dairy-history
Milk Dealer: National Journal for City Trade 1922, Vol. 11. http://books.google.com/books?id=j6YzAQAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false
Hill House History, Artic Creamery. http://www.coventrycrest.com/history.htm
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…