Rounding Up Rubbish

The site where Brody Hall stands today (intersection of Harrison & Michigan Ave) was once used by the city East Lansing as a landfill. There is little historical documentation on the landfill, which made it difficult to find information about the site. What we do know is that it was active from the early 1900s until the 1940s. The artifacts recovered during construction projects and CAP excavations near Brody and the Emmons amphitheater date to the late 1920s and early 1930s. This suggests that this particular portion of the landfill was used during that time period. The most plentiful artifact type is glass bottles. The bottles show us a rare glimpse of the different kinds of products used by people living in East Lansing at the time, from health products to milk and alcohol bottles.

Bottom of bottle with Owens Illinois makers mark, factory and date codes.

Bottom of bottle with Owens Illinois makers mark, factory and date codes.

The process of dating the bottles was not too complicated, mostly due to the guide the Society for Historical Archaeology has that explains the changes of bottle morphology though time. Small markings such as lines or pontiff marks that are caused during the process of glass molding can tell help you narrow down the time frame more. As the methods used for making glass bottles changed, small characteristics of the bottles changed with it. Another way for dating glass bottles are the codes/date stamps or company marks found on the bottom, similar to the way modern day plastic bottles have numbers for the quality of plastic and recycling marks. These bottle marks are a much faster way to identify the company that manufactured the bottle and can even be helpful enough to tell you the time frame it could have been made and even the location it was manufactured.

Owens-Illinois made Steuer wine bottle

Owens-Illinois made Steuer wine bottle.

It has been interesting to learn about how the process for making bottles has changed throughout time because it is something that I normally would not have the opportunity to research. For my research project this semester I have decided to focus on learning what I can about health in East Lansing around that time. By looking at these bottles I have started thinking about the types of products we found and comparing it with the kinds of products we still use today. The similar products were household cleaners, such as bleach or ammonia, and various kinds of alcohol like whiskey and wine, but when looking at the healthcare products we found some things I would not have thought of as being used.

Bromo-Seltzer ad from 1937

Bromo-Seltzer ad from 1937. Image Source.

The products used for cleaning such as Roman Cleanser, the first commercial version of bleach cleansers, and Little Bo beep Ammonia are not new to many people. Some of the kinds of alcohol we found that many have not heard of are Wilkin’s Whiskey and Hiram Walker Whiskey. The healthcare products we found were Wildroot and Vitalis, haircare products that are still around, but have fallen out of common use. There were also a few bottles of Bromo-Seltzer, an early form of antacids. Hair gel and antacids are not new products, but it is easy to see that varieties and companies can be popular at a point in time, but then other companies rise to replace them. There were still some healthcare products that were easily recognizable, such as the Listerine bottle mentioned in a previous post. Another way to be able to see how the culture thought of the product in that time is to look at their advertisements. Looking at these products and their advertisements can show us the differences in ways of life that we normally would not think about. Researching health from this time period has been an eye-opener for how people used to live. I have learned so much about the different kinds of health and how much we have changed over the past hundred years.

Out in the Wash: Laundry Products from the East Lansing Dump

Little Boy Blue Bluing bottle from the Brody/Emmons Complex

Little Boy Blue Bluing bottle from the Brody/Emmons Complex

For many of us today, laundry is a pretty simple affair: separate the lights from the darks, add detergent, and let the washing machine do its work. Before the advent of automatic washing machines and newfangled detergents with optical brighteners, laundry was more of an art form involving many complicated steps. Housekeeping books often contained lengthy descriptions of the best way to do laundry. Mrs. Christine Frederick’s Household Engineering book, published in 1920, contains a 55-page chapter on laundry alone. Mrs. Christine Frederick may have been able to tell us immediately the purpose of two whimsically labeled bottles recovered during excavations at Brody/Emmons Amphitheater: a small, round, clear glass bottled embossed with “Little Boy Blue Bluing” and a large, oval, clear glass bottle embossed with “Little Bo Peep Ammonia.” Since none of us here at Campus Archaeology are laundry experts, we needed to do a little research to figure out the purpose and product history of these objects.

Little Bo Peep Ammonia Bottle from the Brody/Emmons Complex.

Little Bo Peep Ammonia Bottle from the Brody/Emmons Complex.

The question of purpose is easy to answer. Ammonia has various uses as a household cleaner. When added to laundry ammonia can help whiten whites, soften fabrics, and remove an impressive array of stains due to grease, food, ink, grass, rust, and even blood, urine, and sweat (1). Bluing is a product that can be added to laundry to make whites look whiter and brighter. Whereas bleach whitens fabrics by removing color, bluing creates an optical illusion that makes fabrics look whiter. Since blue is opposite yellow on the color wheel, small amounts of blue dye help neutralize yellowness. Trace amounts of dye also leave a bluish cast that our eyes perceive as brilliant white (2).

Historically, various substances have been used for bluing. Early bluing was sold in solid form. Blocks of indigo, a plant dye, were placed inside muslin bags and shaken into the laundry water during rinsing (3). Another type of solid bluing used ultramarine, a pigment derived either synthetically or from ground lapis lazuli (3). Ultramarine was mixed with baking soda and rolled into balls. For this reason, it was sometimes called ball bluing (4). Today most bluing is sold in liquid form (2). Liquid bluing is often made with Prussian blue, a synthetic pigment made from the suspension of ferric ferrocyanide (colloidal iron) in organic acid (5).

Research into the product history of Little Boy Blue Bluing and Little Bo Peep Ammonia took a bit more digging. These products can be traced back to a Chicago company called the Condensed Bluing Company. John Puhl, president of Condensed Bluing, applied for trademarks for Little Boy Blue laundry bluing in 1914 (6,7) and Little Bo Beep Ammonia in 1922 (8). In 1924, historical records show trademarks for Little Boy Bluing and Little Bo Peep Ammonia given to the John Puhl Products Company (9).

Advertising pamphlet featuring a Fuzzie Wuzzie Fairy Story and “Daddy Puhl and his kiddies”

Advertising pamphlet featuring a Fuzzie Wuzzie Fairy Story and “Daddy Puhl and his kiddies” Image Source

Advertisements for these products ran in newspapers in Midwestern and Central States from the 1910’s to the 1940’s (10). The products were often advertised together and contained cheerful imagery of the fairy tale characters for which they were named. These names were likely meant to evoke the fleecy whiteness of sheep—both Bo Peep and Boy Blue were caretakers of sheep. One series of advertisements featured short stories about cartoon bears named Fuzzie and Wuzzie, illustrated by Chicago artist Milo Winter. These “fairy stories” described Fuzzie and Wuzzie doing things like playing store, gardening, and cleaning, and they always featured Little Boy Blue Bluing and Little Bo Peep Ammonia products prominently. The use of fairy tales as a motif in advertising was particularly common at the beginning of the 20th century (11). According to Zipes, allusions to well known fairy tales were supposed to remind readers of magic, happy endings, and wish fulfillment (11).

Advertising pamphlet featuring a Fuzzie Wuzzie Fairy Story and “Daddy Puhl and his kiddies”

Advertising pamphlet featuring a Fuzzie Wuzzie Fairy Story and “Daddy Puhl and his kiddies” Image Source

This advertising strategy sometimes even pulled John Puhl himself into the fairy tale. Some ads featured a photograph of Puhl surrounded on either side by cartoon Bo Beep and Boy Blue, labeled “Daddy Puhl and his kiddies.” This takes on a somewhat sinister tone considering Puhl’s own record. An 1894 Report of the Illinois Department of Factory Inspection reports John Puhl, then manager of Puhl & Webb baking powder factory at 157 East Kinzie Street, was charged with illegally employing 4 children without affidavits (12).

Ownership of Little Boy Blue Bluing and Little Bo Peep Ammonia changed hands at least two times after 1924. Sterling Drugs purchased John Puhl Products in 1949 (13). In 1958, Purex purchased the John Puhl Division of Sterling Drugs (14). Both Little Boy Blue Bluing and Little Bo Peep Ammonia continued to be sold under the Purex brand name after the purchase (14). Unfortunately, we do not have precise dates on our Little Boy Blue and Little Bo Peep bottles. However, styles of the bottles are consistent with products featured in advertisements from the 1930’s and early 1940’s. These dates are also consistent with those of other artifacts found in the Brody/Emmons assemblage. This would suggest that the bottles date prior to the purchase of John Puhl by Purex.

Many times when we are looking at artifacts in the CAP lab we come across brand names or products that were once ubiquitous but that we don’t often see today. It is always an interesting time researching these objects, learning how and why they were used, and trying to trace their origins. Sometimes, you even learn a little something about laundry along the way.

 

References

  1. Frederick, Christine. Household Engineering: Scientific Management in the Home. American School of Home Economics: Chicago, 1920.
  2. http://mrsstewart.com/purpose-of-bluing/
  3. http://www.victorianpassage.com/2009/11/what_is_bluing.php
  4. http://www.oldandinteresting.com/laundry-blue.aspx
  5. Wailes, Raymond B. Analyzing Everyday in the Home. Popular Science, December 1934, pp. 56-57.
  6. https://www.trademarkia.com/little-boy-blue-71080638.html
  7. Official Gazette of the United States Patent Office, Volume 295. February 21, 1922.
  8. Practical Druggist and Pharmaceutical Review of Reviews, Volume 40. October, 1922.
  9. Official Gazette of the United States Patent Office, Volume 331. February 19, 1925.
  10. Printer’s Ink, Volume 120. August 31, 1922.
  11. The Oxford Companion to Fairy Tales, Second Edition. Jack Zipes, ed. Oxford University Press: New York, 2015.
  12. Record of Convictions. Second Annual Report of the Factory Inspectors of Illinois. 1894, p. 66.
  13. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. November 30, 1949. Retrieved from https://www.newspapers.com/newspage/88841505/.
  14. Purex Corp., Ltd. V. Procter & Gamble Co. 419 F. Supp. 931 (1976). Retrieved from https://law.justia.com/cases/federal/district-courts/FSupp/419/931/1979114/.

Photos

Photos of bottles taken by Lisa

Advertising pamphlet featuring a Fuzzie Wuzzie Fairy Story and “Daddy Puhl and his kiddies”

https://www.ebay.com/itm/Advertising-Pamphlet-Fuzzie-amp-Wuzzie-Play-Story-Little-Boy-Blue-Bluing-Bears-/371079369173

Dating a Site (With Milk Bottles)

With only one week until the CAP 2015 Field School begins, where we’ll be digging behind the Hannah Admin Building, we came across one more means in which to narrow down the date of the Admin Assemblage. Getting an idea of how old a site is can be tricky, especially when all that remains of it is rubble, which, is exactly what we stumbled across in our survey of the river trail sidewalks last summer. What began as just another shovel test pit in the lawn behind the Hannah Administration building quickly turned into a full scale excavation unit as we started pulling handfuls of window glass, ceramics, and metal out of the ground.

In situations like this we try to document and recover as much of the feature as possible, preserving artifacts and structures before either covering the feature back up or allowing construction crews to continue working. Finding this refuse pit on the last day of our field season however meant we could only recover so much before the end of the day, leaving the mystery of this feature still largely unresolved. As such, the question still remains: what is it?

Due to the array of artifacts from fine china to lab equipment, there were two buildings that we hypothesized for the origins of the assemblage, the Engineering building and the Gunson House/Home Management program. After intense archival research this past semester, we began to think the the Admin assemblage had its origins in the Gunson House/Home Management program.

Milk Bottle labeled MSC Creamery, found at Brody.

Milk Bottle labeled MSC Creamery, found at Brody.

Working with this in mind, the recovery of several milk bottle fragments allowed us to place the feature within a relatively precise time frame. Now, it is important to note that MSU’s name has changed several times over the course of its history, with one such change occurring in 1925 from the Michigan Agricultural College (M.A.C) to the Michigan State College (M.S.C.). So the fact that we found milk bottles stamped with “M.A.C. Dairy” instead of ‘M.S.C Creamery‘  shows us that the rubble belongs to a source that was buried prior to the name change in 1925. Knowing further that the MSU dairy program started in 1895, we arrive at a probable time frame for the feature between 1895 and 1925, which potentially negates our hypothesis for the Bayha House since it was not established until the 1940s.

Before the Bayha house was used for the Home Management program, it was the private residence for Prof. Gunson and his wife from 1892-1940. The date range on the milk bottles in the Admin assemblage fit the time frame for the Gunson house, but the range of material still leaves us with questions.

Hopefully, field school excavations of the area will lead us to more answers about the Admin Assemblage.

 

The Chittenden Forestry Cabin

Not many students and recent alumni of MSU know that a rustic log cabin once stood very near where many of us have taken

1950 Campus map, courtesy MSU Archives

1950 Campus map, courtesy MSU Archives

classes, crossed the quad on the way to the International Center, or just sat out to enjoy the sunshine in the green space colloquially known as People’s Park. The Chittenden Memorial Forestry Cabin stood on the south banks of the Red Cedar River just outside of where Wells Hall now stands between 1935-1965. It was named for former MSU  Forestry Professor Alfred K. Chittenden(the namesake of present-day Chittenden Hall as well). It served as a meeting-place for all kinds of campus organizations and social groups in those decades as well as a central point for the Forestry Department. A campaign run by Forestry alumni over the last few years recently succeeded in raising funds to cast and erect a memorial plaque near the former site of the cabin (see the image below, or better yet, head over to Wells Hall and see it for yourself!). 1935-1965, the years in which the cabin served the MSU community, is fondly referred to by members of the department as the “Forestry Cabin era”. A reunion was held this June for all MSU Forestry alumni from this time period.

That the cabin represented something over and above just another campus building is clear from the Forestry Department’s record of how the cabin was constructed: “Many of our alumni have fond memories of the Chittenden Forestry Cabin, which stood among pine, larch, and oak trees on the south side of the Red Cedar River near where Wells Hall now stands. Originally conceived in
1931 by forestry students, the cabin was built over several years. Tamarack logs were cut in a swamp near Bath. The Southern Cypress Manufacturers’ Association contributed the shingles, and the porch floor came from the California Redwood Association. The interior floor was hard maple with birch inlays. The spectacular stone fireplace was built by a mason of the Works Progress
Administration. The pine-tree facsimile hinges for the main door were specially cast by a Munising foundry owned by the family of two students.” The cabin was a labor of love for students and local laborers alike, and brought together both numerous species of American trees and numerous people to create.

Interior view from Chittenden Memorial Cabin, courtesy MSU Archives

Interior view from Chittenden Memorial Cabin, courtesy MSU Archives

The Campus Archaeology Program has spent the week surveying People’s Park with the goal of locating the foundations of the Forestry Cabin and any associated artifacts that may have been discarded nearby. Prior work in the area has recovered a number of fascinating artifacts that speak to student life of days past, such as inkwells, glass milk bottles, and ceramic dishes. Our hope is to contribute more information about the everyday experiences students and faculty had in this unique historical structure and its role in MSU’s development as an agricultural research institution.

 

Update on Research into MSU Sustainability

Over the past few weeks, I have continued to read through the documents collected by former university historian Madison Kuhn. While my project focuses specifically on articulating historical documents detailing food and transportation with archaeological materials, I have found items in the Archives collection that have been at turns funny, poignant, surprising, and sobering. Simply holding a 100 year old pamphlet in one’s hand can be a bit of an experience, especially for those of us fascinated by the past. This project has allowed me to learn about the small details of the university that do not get published in retrospective books or highlighted in newspapers; it is in these details that we can start to piece together daily activities that can help us to better understand the archaeological materials recovered by CAP. Reading through handwritten diaries and recollections of certain events has been particularly illuminating, and in a strange way, fairly intimate. The writers of many documents express not only their fondness for the university, but give some description of their years spent here in a very personal manner. In short, it has been fun to read first-hand accounts of fires, labor, war, and hardship, in addition to circuses, dances, and classes.

West Circle Drive by the Faculty Residences in late 19th c, via MSU Archives and Historical Records

At the inception of the university, there were no proper roads linking the college to surrounding towns. A plank road was built using trees sourced from local farmers’ lands. The toll gates on this road were manned by students and crossing the road in a horse and buggy would have cost 1 cent per mile. Initial construction of the road started when a group of businessmen in the Lansing area obtained a charter from the state legislature to lay the plank road. In a number of documents detailing the early years of the college, it is evident that farmers and state legislators were wary of the university. Many accounts reveal that the university had to work toward legitimization in both the eyes of the local people, and several accounts actually describe incidents in which farmers and students clashed ideologically. From the perspective of a student in 2012, this was quite interesting to read, especially the bits about the state government being fairly unsupportive of the university for some years. Today, we often defer to the notion that higher education is inherently a positive endeavor, but in the mid 1800s this was not the case. The university was viewed as impractical and expensive, though this perspective changed rapidly as more students enrolled and the university expanded.

Dairy Bottles

Dairy Bottles

In the next few weeks, I plan to locate documents written during years of turmoil (i.e. wars, the Depression). I would also like to investigate the fires that were happening across the state in the 1870s, as there are accounts of student and faculty involvement in controlling and manipulating these disasters. It may be interesting to see if the fires changed the landscape of campus or student activity in a meaningful way that may be read in the archaeological record. Additionally, I plan to expand upon the information I have found regarding dairy production, as CAP has excavated many bottles linked to the manufacture and distribution of dairy products. A letter written by EL Anthony, a former head of the Dairy Department at MSU, noted that prior to 1925 the dairymen of the state produced enough product required by consumers. However, after that time, dairy products began to be sourced from other locales as consumer demand escalated. This type of historical documentation can be matched up with archaeological information to provide a more sophisticated picture of the past experiences of the MSU community.

More on the Brody Bottles

After a few days of research we’ve been able to learn many interesting facts about the bottles recovered from the Brody Complex. Other than our Vicks Vatronol and Wilkens Whiskey bottles, we also found some other bottles that we were able to identify. Not only were these interesting because many of them are still available today or have intriguing histories, but it tells us more about what people were using in the past.

Vitalis Bottle from Brody Dig

The bottle to the left is embossed with Vitalis at top and bottom, and the screw top says Bristol-Myers corp. 1887. This bottle type is only associated with hair tonics. The bottles are round or oval shaped with a skinny neck. The mouth of the bottle is quite small to allow for the liquid to be shaken out in small amounts. Hair tonic is primarily an oil-based liquid meant to style hair. It was used primarily from the late 19th to mid-20th centuries to aid in keeping hair shiny, prevent hair loss and control dandruff. It was applied directly to the scalp and massaged in. Hair tonic was primarily used by barbers, and it was only in the 1930’s that it became marketed to the masses. It has been replaced now by the use of gels, shampoos and conditioners.

From the company website: “Our company has a strong legacy of innovation that began in New York in 1858 when Edward R. Squibb, M.D., founded a pharmaceutical company in Brooklyn, and in 1887 when two friends, William McLaren Bristol and John Ripley Myers purchased a struggling drug manufacturing firm in Clinton. Together, they laid the foundation for our company today — a global BioPharma leader that continues this legacy of innovation.” In 1938 they began producing Vitalis for individual home use instead of just for barbershops. It was touted as the first greaseless hair product to give your locks a nice shine. It didn’t hold hair in place or smell good. Vitalis must be massaged into the hair for 50 seconds and combed through for 10 second. The result is less dryness, control of dandruff and prevention of hair loss.

Listerine Bottle from Brody Dig

This bottle is small clear glass with the words: “LISTERINE” embossed above where the label would have been located and “LAMBERT PHARMACAL COMPANY” at the bottom. The bottle type is similar to many patent medicines. Listerine was invented in 1879 by Dr. Joseph Lawrence from St. Louis, MO. It was initially marketed as a surgical antiseptic with many uses. Its name comes from Sir Joseph Lister, an English surgeon who pioneered antiseptic surgery by applying Louis Pasteur’s germ theory to surgical practice. In 1881, Lambert licensed the formula from Lawrence to create the Lambert Pharmacal Company. Bottles were corked until the 1920’s when screw top became popular, and glass was used until the 1990’s.

In 1895, Listerine began being marketed as an oral antiseptic. It was only available to medical professionals until 1914, and it’s reception with the public was underwhelming. To market it so that it sold better, the Lambert Company made appeals to consumers’ insecurity by using advertising campaigns that discussed “halitosis”, or bad breath. The ads often warned of the severe social injury that having bad breath could cause, such as one’s friends talking behind one’s back or inability to find a husband. Bad breath was presented as a medical condition with a quick fix, thus the more scientific sounding, Latin-derived term of “halitosis”. These techniques of advertising caused Listerine sales to boom.

We also have some bottles that we are struggling to identify. If you know anything about Oriental Show-You brown soy sauce bottles or Jumbo Peanut Butter jars let us know!

Oriental Show-You Soy Sauce

Jumbo Peanut Butter Jar

Identifying Historic Bottles from MSU’s Campus

This past week we collected a number of bottles from the recent construction at the Brody Complex. This isn’t the first time we’ve been called out to this area, and it likely won’t be the last. The Brody Complex is built on the site of the historic East Lansing landfill. Since the site has been revealing high numbers of bottles and other artifacts, we can’t collect everything. As you can see from Terry’s earlier post on our first excursion to the site (See post here: Better Call Campus Archaeology…), we have a good sample already of the types of bottles found from this period.

However, we do collect things that have value to the history of MSU or East Lansing, such as MSU Creamery bottles, and anything that will benefit the education of students and the community. To this latter point, we look to recover bottles that can be identified or classified, and that will aid in better understanding the past. These include bottles with embossed or paper labels, and bottles with easily recognizable or unique shapes. Since we recovered the bottles on Tuesday, we have been analyzing our finds and doing background research on their origins.

Small Blue Bottle from Brody Complex

The process of identification in some cases is quite easy, especially if there is a label or embossing. For example, one of the artifacts recovered was a small blue bottle with a metal lid. There was no label to the sides of the bottle, however the white residue on the lower half of the bottle also suggested that at one point it did have a label. There was also embossing on the bottom that read: “VICKS” and “NOL”. The portion between these two groupings of letters was damaged and couldn’t be read. However, this was enough evidence to get started. This small type of bottle is used primarily for medicines, and Vicks is a well known pharmaceutical company that has been producing congestion relieving medicines since 1891.

Vicks Va-Tro-Nol Vintage Sign from 1930's

Looking at historic advertisements and bottles revealed a product known as Vicks Va-Tro-Nol, which were nose and throat drops. Some of the earlier forms of the bottle closely mirror the bottle that we recovered from the site. Even though we were missing the label, the lid was damaged, and the bottom embossing was incomplete- we were able to make a quick identification!

Not all are this easy. It becomes quite difficult trying to identify a bottle that has nothing more than an embossed image and some difficult to read text. In some cases, there is no product name present. We, as archaeologists, must always be up for the challenge of trying to identifying the most difficult things. The bottle we were investigating contained generic federal warning text at the top, an obscure picture of a man embossed front and center, and some decorative embossing along the edges.

Bottle with image of man from Brody Complex

Based on the text at the top: “Federal law forbids sale or reuse of this bottle”, the distinctive shape of the bottle, and the presence of some type of grain embossed on the sides, we could automatically denote that we had an empty liquor bottle on our hands. These facts allowed us to begin a search online for “antique liquor bottles with image of a man”. After panning through various websites and constantly refining the searches. This meant looking at a variety of antique and glass resource websites, looking at bottles with presidents faces and various proprietors of liquors to no avail. However, we did find a similar face and bottle on an antiques dealing website. The size and shape of the online bottle was a bit different from ours, but the images were the same. Their description of their bottle noted that it was an old Wilken’s Whiskey bottle. Further research into this company revealed that our bottle was also that of Wilken’s Whiskey. The company was started in the 1880’s and was a family run business. The face on the bottle was Pa Wilken, who ran the distillery until his death in 1936. We were able to narrow the date of our bottle to pre-1940, as after this date the label was changed to Wilken’s Family Whiskey and featured the faces of Wilkens and his two sons on a paper label.

The process of identification can be difficult, but it is also fun. Throughout our search for information on these seemingly mundane objects of the past, we learn more about daily life in the early 20th century.

Sodapop from Michigan State College

Whether you call it soda, pop or cola, the fizzy beverage has been a staple to the American diet for over a century. The drink was first invented in the early 19th century, and was first bottled in the US in 1835. By 1851, Ginger Ale had been invented in Ireland, and in 1876 the first Root Beer was mass produced in Philadelphia. Dr. Pepper was created in 1885 in Texas, and the following year Coca Cola was invented in Georgia. In 1898, Pepsi was first made, and finally in the 1920’s 7-Up and Nehi were produced. The history of the production of soda is fairly well known, which makes the identification and dating of bottles a fairly straight forward process.

Coca-cola bottle through the years. Image Source -http://dieline.typepad.com/.a/6a00d8345250f069e20120a6a7dbcf970b-550wi

Coca-cola bottle through the years. Image Source

Early soda bottles are easily identified by their thick glass, which was necessarily so to keep the bottle intact during the carbonation process. Bottles are also either round or have over eight sides. The sharp angles of bottles with six or less sides made them prone to breaking due to the pressurized contents. The tops of early soda bottles were extremely thick and ‘blob’ like. The bottles would be held closed by corks, which can be free or fastened by a swinging wire arm (similar to those found on Ball fruit jars). These were replaced in 1892 by the crown bottle cap, a style which remains popular today on beer bottles. Instead of the neck leading to a large blob of glass, the closure consisted of a larger bulging area which thinned out and bulged again in an upper lip. The metal cap would be pressed against this upper lip and the crown was tightened around it.

The decoration, labeling and color are also important for identification. For example, the Coca Cola bottle is easily recognized by the ‘hobble skirt’ or hourglass like shape with the edges slightly rounded off. It is also embossed with the swirling Coca Cola font. Finally, the bottle is a distinctive light green color, often referred to as ‘Georgia Green’. This is easily discerned from the Nehi brand bottles which are straight, with ‘silk stocking’ embossed pattern up the sides, and capitalized bolded logo. The applied colored labels were introduced in 1934, and were baked directly onto the glass.

Pop bottle frags

Pop bottle frags

During our archaeological excavations at MSU, we have found a number of soda bottles in varying conditions. Some are completely intact, such as this classic embossed Nehi Bottle. The bottle has the silk stocking pattern along the sides, as well as an embossed logo. Since Nehi was quick to start using the applied color labels in he 1930’s, this bottle likely dates between 1924 and 1934. We’ve also found numerous shards of glass. Some of which have the applied color labeling, dating them to post-1934. There is a red Nehi label and a red Pepsi label visible on the fragments. By comparing these against historically dated logos, the style of red on white for both dates between the 1950’s and 1960’s.

Learning about styles of soda bottles and the types of artifacts found at MSU is part of our Campus Archaeology project to create an artifact guide for us to use both in the field and lab. Bottles are only one type of artifact we recover, and a lot of information can be gleaned from them.

Works Cited

SHA Bottle Identification Guide. Electronic Resource: http://www.sha.org/bottle/soda.htm

Diving Deeper

Hi! When we last left each other, I had just begun my research at the Archives, digging in to see what I could find in the immense amount of resources we have there. Since then, I have continued to search through the archives, and have also started to research the artifacts themselves, in the hope of finding dates, locations, and the manufacturer’s associated with them.

As far as the Archives go, I have moved on from The Eagle, towards some older sources. I have been reading the diaries of three MSU Alumni from the three oldest decades of Campus History: Edward Granger, written in 1858-1859, Peter Felker, written in 1868-1870, and Albert Crane, written in 1872. By adding these three Alum to my research, I am starting to encompass campus life from when this college was founded in 1855 to the turn of the 20th century.

Portion of Butchered Cow Humerus

An interesting quote I found in Granger’s diary, for example, relates to the night when his roomate “[went] on some very particular business, probably roasting pigs tails, as they buchered here today” (December 9th, 1858). Although the majority of the bones we found were cow, we have had some luck in finding pig bones, suggesting here that the artifacts have a good chance of matching up with our records, a thrilling thought.

The other side of the research I’ve been doing is a lot more challenging. I’m not only researching the basics behind artifacts we find a lot (such as brick, glass, and pottery) but I am also trying to find out some specifics on the artifacts we have been lucky enough to find either in tact, with words or manufacturing marks, or with some other form of identification we can use.

In this I’m having some problems. It seems as though most of what we find was either: A) handmade B) bought from local areas, and harder to trace in a Sear’s Catalog or C) ordered by their parents in their respective hometowns and then sent to them later.

SHA Bottle Typing: Harrison Ink

Although relating the objects to the students themselves is proving difficult, I have been lucky enough to find information on some of our artifacts. One of these is the ink well we found completely in tact. The brand is Harrison’s Colombian Ink, and dates from the 1840’s to early 1860’s. The inkwell we found has a blow pipe pontil scar, which, if you don’t speak glass, means that on the bottom is a rough spot of glass that was broken off once the bottle was shaped, leaving the bottom imperfect, but recognizable to glass experts. I also found that this specific brand of ink was very popular during this time, and since it lost its popularity in the early 1860’s, we can use this to date it to the earliest days of campus.

Within the next couple of weeks, I’m hoping to do a plethora of things, including finish up research at the Archives, get a lot more research done on the artifacts themselves, round off everything I’ve gathered so far, and start creating the OMEKA exhibit. I’ll catch you up later on how everything turns out!