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.
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
It’s been a busy summer for Campus Archaeology. If you were on campus it was hard to miss all the construction thats been going on. West Circle Drive was completely torn up on the northern side, Chestnut Road and Kalamazoo Street were alternatively interrupted, and various smaller projects are continuing to occur across the campus. Campus Archaeology was quite busy bouncing around these projects. We conducted surveys along the entire length of the northern portion of West Circle Drive and along Chestnut Road’s western boundary. We also were actively overseeing and testing areas around the Hannah Admin building, Music Practice building, and Brody-Emmons complex. We conducted a major excavation of a portion of the Morrill Hall boiler building found under East Circle Drive as well!
Overall, we were actively present at 8 different construction or demolition projects on campus, conducted 3 full archaeological surveys, surveyed 11 sweeps, dug 220 survey test pits, opened up 3 excavation units, and conducted one rescue excavation. Our team varied over the year, but in total we had 11 field and lab volunteers including graduate, undergraduate and high school students from a variety of schools. From our field work we recovered approximately 640 artifacts including various nails, pieces of bottle or window glass, ceramic sherds, and unique items like a portion of a plastic comb, a penny from 1897, a porcelain bead, and the great bottles we discussed in the past couple weeks (Read about the Vicks and Whiskey bottle here or the Listerine and Vitalis bottle here). We also found the old boiler building for Morrill Hall that dates from 1900-1904! You can read about the find and excavation on this blog post: Historic Boiler House Uncovered.
The map above shows all of the shovel test pits (STPs) that we excavated for the West Circle Steam project, with the blue dots representing holes that we didn’t find artifacts and green representing those which did contain artifacts.
So after five months of survey, excavation and lab work, what have we learned about MSU that we didn’t know before?
- Morrill Hall had an early boiler building attached to it that fueled the women’s dorm prior to the construction of the larger main utilities facility in 1904. It was a large stone building, and while it was razed to make room for new roads there are still portions of the foundation and walls left underneath West Circle Drive.
- The sidewalk pattern currently found within West Circle Drive (also known as the Sacred Space) are not where the historic sidewalks are. We found remnants of the old cinder pathway near Linton hall that travels in a completely different direction than the modern sidewalk. It also matches a historic sidewalk we uncovered last summer during the fieldschool!
- The current elevation of campus isn’t what it historically used to be either! Throughout our excavations near Linton Hall, we found layers of old rubble and building material suggesting that when buildings were removed they were placed on the landscape to even out the elevation. As we know from testing near Beal Street, the campus has frequently used collapsed buildings in order to build up the landscape and prevent flooding. Our finds this summer show that it wasn’t limited to the banks of the river.
- Our community wants to learn more about our history at MSU! Throughout the project we’ve had numerous people stop by to check out our work including those attending Grandparent’s University, the various construction crews we worked around, and people who were just walking by. We’ve even had people get involved in our work, bringing us historic photos and artifacts that they’ve found on their own.
Thanks for following us throughout the summer. We’re looking forward to the return of students in the next week and the beginning of the new semester!
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
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.