Where did the kitchenware at MSU come from during the early years of the school? As it was not economical to purchase dinnerware sets in the same way families purchased dishes for their home, the college most likely turned to catalogue companies, the Costco of…
Tag: Brody-Emmons complex
One of the best parts about doing research on artifacts we find during CAP excavations is coming across incredible stories or histories that stem from what some people would consider mundane and ordinary objects. Such is the case with a seemingly ordinary piece of a…
Dating archaeological sites that we discover is one of the most basic tasks that archaeologists perform. While we all must do it, dating archaeological assemblages is not always easy. Luckily, marketing and branding, a crucial part of our consumer world, helps to make dating historic sites a little easier. Every company needs a brand, something that makes them stand out among their competition and reminds the consumer that they are buying a quality product. A great deal of branding is done through material culture, creating visual cues that trigger people’s memories and make them want to buy your product. Like clothing lines, long-lived brands must change over time to keep up with both their competition and the current fashions and culture, leading to variation in the products of companies. This variation, when documented, can help us to date different deposits at archaeological sites. One great example is the Coke bottle. Here at Campus Archaeology, we occasionally come across Coke bottles in various forms. Depending on some particular characteristic of the bottle, we can give a general date to the materials found with that bottle.
Coca-Cola first made its appearance in 1886 as a soda fountain drink in downtown Atlanta, GA. Over the next number of years, Coca-Cola was only served by the glass at drinking fountains until around 1899, when the company signed its first bottling contract (Coca-Cola 2011). The earliest Coca-Cola bottles were Hutchinson style bottles, but were quickly followed by straight-sided bottles with crown tops in a number of different colors of glass. Dating to between 1900 and 1920, the dates of these straight-sided bottles can be narrowed even further based on the shape of the script and where the script is placed on the bottle. For example, straight sided Coke bottles with script in a diamond shape in the center of the bottle are dated to 1907-1912, while ones with a vertical arrow in the center date to between 1912 and 1916 (for more variations: www.antique bottles.com/coke/). During the time of the straight-sided Coke bottles, the Coca-Cola brand was expanding greatly. As such, competitors tried to take advantage of this brand by closely mimicking Coke branding strategies. In response, the Coca-Cola company had bottle manufacturers create a unique bottle type, one that had a distinct look and feel, which would forever be synonymous with the Coca-Cola brand: the contour (or hobbleskirt) bottle. Patented in 1915, the contour bottle went into production in 1916 and was subsequently sold all over the world (Coca-Cola 2011; Lockhart and Porter 2010).
Since the beginning of their production, Coca-Cola contour bottles have changed very little, as this bottle served as the hallmark of the Coca-Cola brand. While the bottle designs stayed relatively consistent, the patent for the bottle was renewed several times. Since the patent date or patent number was included on the bottles to prove that they were from true Coca-Cola distributors, these numbers can help narrow down the date range of when the bottle may have been made. For example, from 1917 to 1928, Coke bottles had the patent date of “NOV. 16 1915” on each bottle. When a different patent was acquired on Dec. 25th, 1923, the bottles eventually began to display this date. From 1928 to 1938, the so called “Christmas Cokes” (due to the Christmas patent date) were produced that possessed this second date. Other such markings are “PAT. D 105529” (1938-1951), “US PATENT OFFICE/MIN CONTENTS 6 FL OZ” (1951-1958), and “US PATENT OFFICE/ MIN CONTENTS 6 ½ FL OZ” (1958-1965) (Lockhart and Porter 2010; www.antiquebottle.com/coke/). Starting in 1960, Coke began selling their products in cans, followed by plastic bottles in 1978, marking the slow decline of the glass Coca-Cola contour bottle (Coca-Cola 2011; Coca-Cola Journey Staff 2017).
On campus, if we find a Coke bottle during excavation, we know that the deposit dates to around 1900 or younger. We can then use more specific details about the bottle to further narrow down the date range. For example, within the Brody/Emmons dump, an early trash disposal site for East Lansing, CAP recovered at least one Coke bottle. The presence of this bottle indicates that at the dump was being used sometime between 1900 and the present. Looking closer on the bottle, one sees a patent date of Dec. 25th, 1923. This date indicates that the bottle was an old “Christmas Coke” bottle, made and sold between 1928 and 1938; a date range that fits well with what we know about the use of this dump. Coke bottles, used in this way, serve as excellent diagnostic artifacts for more recent historic sites. But, as marketing never ceases, we must also be wary of recent reissues of old Coke bottles, which promise to confound our efforts in the future.
Antique Bottle Collectors Haven
n.d. “Antique Coke Bottles.” Website. http://www.antiquebottles.com/coke/
2011 125 Years of Sharing Happiness: A Short History of the Coca-Cola Company.
Coca-Cola Journey Staff
2017 “Contour Bottle History.” Coca-Cola Website.
Lockhart, Bill, and Bill Porter
2010 “The Dating Game: Tracking the Hobble-Skirt Coca-Cola Bottle.” Bottles and
No, I’ll stop any speculation; we haven’t uncovered any hand grenades (think of how much paperwork that would be!). But we do have a horseshoe. Now you might be saying, so what? You’ve surely recovered horseshoes before. And yes, that’s true. We have found full…
In archaeology, we frequently use large assemblages of different artifacts to interpret what happened at an archaeological site. While a greater number of artifacts is always useful, the ability of just one single artifact to tell us a story is also amazing. I am reminded…
Continuing with my theme of alcohol bottles found on campus, I’ll be discussing one particular bottle that was discovered during excavations of the Brody/Emmons area. The bottle is a clear, rectangular-based bottle, no doubt a liquor bottle given this shape. If there was any doubt as to its intended use, all you would have to do is look on the side of the bottle where the words “DRY GIN” stand out in relief. Embossed on the other side is the name “FLEISCHMANN’S”, giving us the actual company name. In doing research about this bottle and this company, I went down a surprisingly interesting rabbit hole that has foundations all the way back into the Mid-Late 19th century.
Fleischmann’s Distilled Dry Gin boasts that this was the first gin to be distilled within the United States with production beginning in 1870 out of Riverside, Cincinnati, Ohio. However, gin production was not the original intention or only business and manufacturing venture by the company’s owners: Charles Louis Fleischmann, his brother Maximilian Fleischmann, and American businessman James Gaff (1).
The Fleischmann brothers came over to the United States in 1865 from Moravia-Silesia (now a region in Czechia). Their father had previously been a distiller and yeast producer in Europe, with the brothers following in his footsteps. After settling in Cincinnati, Charles Louis and Maximilian found that the quality of baked goods was not up to the standards they were used to back in Europe. Charles returned to Europe to retrieve yeast samples and upon his return, the brothers partnered with a businessman named James Gaff (1, 2). In 1868, they began a standardized production of yeast with their new company Fleischmann Yeast Company. Advances in their research and production into yeast led them to create active dry yeast which we all use today in our baking. This allowed for a much longer shelf-life of the product. Two years later, they opened their first gin distillery using their knowledge of distilling from their father and their newly improved yeast (2). This is still the Fleischmann Distilled Dry Gin that we know of today.
Despite their early advances, widespread success would not come until the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia, PA, the first official World’s Fair to be held in the United States. There, they set up a model Austrian bakery (The Vienna Bakery) and showcased the benefits of using their improved yeast in cake and pastry baking (3). Other new inventions and goods that premiered at the Exhibition were Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone, the Remington Typographic Machine (the typewriter), Heinz Ketchup, the arm, hand, and torch from the Statue of Liberty currently under construction, and the Kudzu vine from Japan (3). The Exhibition brought massive commercial and financial success for the company. Their success at the Centennial Exhibition revolutionized baking in the United States and made the company a house-hold name. (A quick check of my cupboards confirmed that I too have Fleischmann’s Active Dry Yeast as I consider myself a VERY amateur bread baker.)
Newfound commercial success (each of the three owners became multi-millionaires almost overnight) allowed them to open another yeast factory and gin distillery in Peekskill, NY (2). More success for the company came when they developed yeast for the U.S. Army during WWII that could survive without refrigeration, meaning that a wider range of food could be consumed by U.S. troops abroad.
Prohibition, lasting from 1920 to 1933, no doubt hurt the company as they could no longer legally sell or distribute spirits. The Fleischmann’s gin bottle from the Brody dump dates to 1935, so we know that alcohol consumption at MSC and East Lansing was back in full swing after Prohibition ended, but a decade’s worth of minimal liquor sales would have hurt the company, despite their thriving yeast empire. To make up some of the potential loss in sales of liquor, the Fleischmann Company attempted to rebrand their yeast and market it as high in vitamins as well as a health restorative, especially for energy, constipation, and skin improvement (5). They even started distilling gin under a medicinal permit right after Prohibition ended (4)!
Fleischmann’s Yeast Company still exists today and is owned by Associated British Foods, but alcohol production is no longer directly associated with the original yeast industry. After changing hands a few times in the past few decades, Fleischmann’s Distilled Dry Gin is owned by Sazerac of New Orleans, LA (6). Although not the most popular gin on the shelves today, this gin has the longest distilling history of any in the United States and is intimately tied to modern baking practices. Without finding and researching artifacts such as the bottle from the Brody Dump, we potentially lose how people lived their daily lives. Few people write down exactly what they do everyday or what they use to do certain tasks (although social media is changing that narrative), be it using Fleischmann’s Active Dry Yeast while making bread, snacking on a Fleischmann’s Yeast Cake, or having a Fleischmann’s Gin & Tonic after a long day at the office or school, all of which may have been done by the original owner of the gin bottle, back in the late 1930s.
- Klieger C.P. The Fleischmann Yeast Family, Arcadia, 2004.
- Woods,M.L. The Fleischmann Treasury of Yeast Baking, The Company, New York, 1962.
- Gross L.P. & T.R. Snyder. Philadelphia’s 1876 Centennial Exhibition, Arcadia, U.K., 2005.
- Bottling Medicinal Gin, The Wall Street Journal. 1933. Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.proxy2.cl.msu.edu/docview/131061850?pq-origsite=summon
- Price C. The Healing Power of Compressed Yeast, Chemical Heritage Foundation, 2015 (URL: https://www.chemheritage.org/distillations/magazine/the-healing-power-of-compressed-yeast)
- Sazerac company website: http://www.sazerac.com/fleischmann.aspx
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…
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…