Picking out Kitchenware: Large Scale Purchasing at MSU

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 the past. Evidence for this large scale purchasing of dinnerware and kitchenware items lies in purchasing logs and archaeological evidence. As discussed previously, the college purchased many different types of plates, bowls, cookware, and glassware in order to accommodate the students living in the dormitories on campus. Several ceramic sherds have been uncovered through Campus Archaeology excavations at the Brody/Emmons site, the first East Lansing dump, with the makers mark present showing that they were from “Albert Pick & Company.”

In 1857, Albert Pick and his brother Charles founded ‘Albert Pick & Company’, based in Chicago, as a kitchenware and furniture supplier for hotel and restaurant markets (Clayman, Made in Chicago Museum). The company grew steadily, and by the early 1900s, it had become a major supplier for hundreds of leading hotels, selling tables, chairs, silverware, linens, dinnerware, and even the first dishwashers! While most of the earliest ceramics purchased by MSU were from England, ‘Albert Pick & Company’ wares became more popular in the United States during the 1910’s, 20’s, and 30’s, corresponding well with the time period in which the Brody/Emmons dump was in use.

Among their many items for sale, Albert Pick and Company offered a wide variety of dishes, as can be seen in the photos below from their 1913 catalogue. Not only were different types and designs of dinnerware available, but a range of sizes were also provided. For example, six different sizes of plates were advertised in ‘The Green Newton Pattern,’ allowing the purchaser to tailor their choices based on their specific needs.

Albert Pick & Company catalogue

Albert Pick & Company catalogue

Albert Pick & Company catalogue

Albert Pick & Company catalogue










Pictured below is an example of one type of Albert Pick and Company plate or saucer bought and used in the East Lansing area. Unfortunately, we are currently unable to narrow down the manufacturing date of this dish, or find the name of its pattern, but future research may be able to address these questions. The makers mark below states:

Albert Pick & Company
Vitrified China


Albert Pick & Co. ceramic sherd

Albert Pick & Co. ceramic sherd

Albert Pick & Co. ceramic sherd

Albert Pick & Co. ceramic sherd










While there is no direct evidence that this specific dish was purchased by MSU, as it was recovered from the first East Lansing dump, it is possible that it was bought for use on MSU’s campus or at a restaurant or hotel in East Lansing.


References Cited

Sheridan Plaza Hotel Silverplate Creamer by Albert Pick & co., c. 1920; Andrew Clayman – https://www.madeinchicagomuseum.com/single-post/2016/02/03/Sheridan-Plaza-Hotel-Silverplate-Creamer-by-Albert-Pick-Co-c-1920s

Trade catalogs from Albert Pick & Co. http://americanhistory.si.edu/collections/search/object/SILNMAHTL_32473

The Archaeology of Shopping: Variations in Consumerism in the Past http://campusarch.msu.edu/?p=5070

From China to Historic MSU: A Not-so-Short History of Porcelain Part 1 http://campusarch.msu.edu/?p=4869

From China to Historic MSU: A Not-so-Short History of Porcelain Part 2 http://campusarch.msu.edu/?p=4943

Aren’t Bowls Just Bowls? Not for the First Students at MSU http://campusarch.msu.edu/?p=4541


The Mount Clemens Pottery Co. Plate Sherd from the 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 plate recovered from the Brody/Emmons Complex.  The plate sherd (Figure 1) is about 15cm long and 7cm deep and is a from a pleasant jade-colored plate.  Since only the rim and part of the base are present, the portion with maker’s mark (which is usually centrally located on the underside) is not there.  However, the design of the plate itself hints at its origins.  Around the rim of the plate is what appears to be a petal design such that when whole, the plate would quasi-resemble a big flower.  Based on this rim design, it is most likely that this plate is part of the Petal style from the Mount Clemens Pottery Co., made right here in Michigan.

Figure 1 – Petal plate from Mount Clemens Pottery Co. from the 1930s found in the Brody/Emmons Complex excavations

Figure 1 – Petal plate from Mount Clemens Pottery Co. from the 1930s found in the Brody/Emmons Complex excavations

The Mount Clemens Pottery Co. has its origins back in the 1910s in the aftermath of an area-wide economic depression in the Mount Pleasant area [1, 2, 3].  A local businessmen’s association looked to economically boost the area and traveled to pottery factories in Ohio and Pennsylvania and looked at how these different companies produced their wares.  After a few years preparation, production officially started in 1915 in a warehouse built on an old farm.  By the end of the first year, over 36,000 pieces per week were produced [1].  The Petal style seen by the plate discovered at the Brody/Emmons Complex was mostly produced during the 1930s.  Right after this period, the company became embroiled in a legal battle that still has ramifications today.

Workers at the Mount Clemens Pottery Co. producing casserole dishes, 1924. Image source:

Workers at the Mount Clemens Pottery Co. producing casserole dishes, 1924. Image source.

In 1941, workers were being docked pay for the time between when they clocked in and when they started work due to long prep time before they would actually start working.  Workers had to clock-in, walk a long way down to their work stations (the factory was 8 acres large), and prepare their work station before finally starting work [1, 4].  The workers filed a class-action lawsuit (Anderson v. Mount Clemens Pottery Co.) claiming that the company was unfairly docking their wages and violating the Fair Labor Standards Act.  The district court ruled mostly in favor of the company and that it was up to the employees to prove that needed to be compensated for their prep time, although they did require the company to pay the workers over $2000 in back-pay.  The workers then appealed the decision which made its way all the way up to the United States Supreme Court [4].  They remanded the case back to the lower courts with the strong recommendations that it was up to the employers, not the employees to provide the proof for such decisions.  This led to the creation of the “Portal to Portal Act” in 1947 which defined work time as the time you entered the workspace to the time you leave it, and it is then up to the employer to justify docking wages within that timeframe [4].  These court cases have been revisited and used over the years, most recently in Tyson Foods v. Bouaphakeo in 2016 where workers claimed that the company was unfairly docking wages for the time it took them to put on the protective gear needed for processing pork.

After the case was settled in 1946, Mount Clemens Pottery Co. still had issues with workers but things eventually stabilized.  The factory permanently shut its doors in 1986 after sales plummeted. Researching these histories lets us rediscover the stories that otherwise are unknown to us.  What seems to be just a normal plate is actually symbolic of workers’ right that still have lasting effects into the 21st century.



[1] MCPL (Mount Clemens Public Library), 2008. Mount Clemens Pottery Company – Local History Sketches, pp.1-3

[2] Doll, C.E., 1993. The Mount Clemens Pottery Company: History and Memories.

[3] http://www.laurelhollowpark.net/orp/mtclemenspottery.html

[4] Goldberg, H.M. et al., 2014. When Does Compensation for “Time Spent Under the Employer’s Control” Include Pre and Post Shift Waiting and Other Activities?. Southern Journal of Business and Ethics; vol. 6:33-45.

Who Knew My Coca-Cola Addiction Could Be So Useful: Using Coke Bottles to Date Archaeological Sites

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.

Coke bottles through the years

Coke bottles through the years. Image source

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).

Coke bottle found by CAP in the Brody/Emmons Dump

Coke bottle found by CAP in the Brody/Emmons Dump

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).

Close up of bottle from Brody/Emmons Dump showing the Dec. 25, 1923 patent date.

Close up of bottle from Brody/Emmons Dump showing the Dec. 25, 1923 patent date.

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.

References Cited

Antique Bottle Collectors Haven
n.d.   “Antique Coke Bottles.”  Website.  http://www.antiquebottles.com/coke/

Coca-Cola Company
2011   125 Years of Sharing Happiness: A Short History of the Coca-Cola Company.
http://www.coca-colacompany.com/content/dam/journey/ us/en/private/fileassets/

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
      Extras: 46-61.


Close Only Counts in Horseshoes & Hand Grenades

Horseshoe from Brody/Emmons Complex site.

Horseshoe from Brody/Emmons Complex site.

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 and partial horseshoes at a number of locations around campus. However, this horseshoe from the Brody/Emmons Complex (site of East Lansing’s first landfill) never saw a horses hoof. This horseshoe was made specifically for gaming.

Although much of archaeological evidence relates to the more routine portions of life, such as cooking, hunting, or household structure, archaeologists have also found evidence of sports and gaming. Artifacts that are believed to be associated with games have been found all over the world, such as these 5,000 year old gaming tokens from Turkey, or evidence of Pre-Columbian ball courts. CAP, however, has not uncovered many sports or game related artifacts.

Men playing horseshoes circa. 1942. Image source.

Men playing horseshoes circa. 1942. Image source.

Horseshoes is an outdoors game played between two people, or two teams of two people, using four horseshoes and two targets (stakes) set up in a lawn or sandbox area. Players alternate turns tossing horseshoes at stakes in the ground, which as typically 40 feet apart. There are two ways to score: by throwing the horseshoes nearest to the stake, or by throwing “ringers”. A ringer is when the horseshoe has been thrown in a way that makes it completely encircle the stake. Disputes about the authenticity of a ringer is settled by using a straightedge to touch the end points of the horseshoe, called heel caulks. If the straightedge does not touch the stake, the throw is classified as a ringer.

1929 catalog featuring pitching horseshoes. Image source.

1929 catalog featuring pitching horseshoes. Image source.

It’s possible that this horseshoe was homemade/handmade, but they were also being sold in kits during the early 1900s.  Our horseshoe weights approximately 1 1/2 lbs, but rusting has resulted in some loss.  It is interesting to note that the pitching horseshoe catalog entry on the right sells different weights for men’s pitching horseshoes and women’s pitching horseshoes.  Since our horseshoe is close to the 1 3/4 lb weight range, it’s possible that this horseshoe was meant to be used by women.  Additionally it’s also possible that this horseshoe simply did not meet regulation standards for size and weight requirements.

Horseshoes diagram. Image source.

Horseshoes diagram. Image source.

A 1940s beer advertisement showcasing a family playing horseshoes. Image source.

A 1940s beer advertisement showcasing a family playing horseshoes. Image source.

The first formal rules for the game were established in England in 1869. However the first recorded tournament in the United States wasn’t until 1909 in Bronson, Kansas. Though the popularity of horseshoes had faded some, yard games are easy to spot today at MSU, especially on game days and at tailgates. Games like corn hole (aka bag toss, sack toss, baggo, and many other regional variations of the name) and ladder toss are easy to spot, but a  horseshoe pit is slightly more illusive these days.  Although we’ll never know why someone decided to throw away this horseshoe, we’re happy to have found it.  This artifact provides an interesting viewpoint into East Lansing’s past.











Water of Life: How One Whiskey Bottle can Remind Us of an Infamous Part of Michigan History

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 of this while researching an old whiskey bottle recovered by CAP from the Brody/Emmons Dump. Seemingly simple enough, this object has unlocked a small piece of Michigan history that I had never heard before.

Hiram Walker bottle recovered from the Brody/Emmons complex, site of East Lansings first dump.

Hiram Walker bottle recovered from the Brody/Emmons complex, site of East Lansings first dump

It all started while researching the company whose name was embossed on the top of the bottle’s lid: Hiram Walker and Sons, Inc. Hiram Walker was born in Massachusetts in 1816.  As a young man, he moved to Detroit in 1838 and began to go into business buying and selling various goods.  By setting some of his earnings aside, he saved up enough money to begin his own distilling business, starting with vinegar.  He also began producing whiskey (Chauvin 1927), whose name is an old corruption for a word meaning “water of life” (Lyons 1999).  By the early 1850’s, Walker’s whiskey had become a local favorite, but the prohibition movement threatened his success.  In 1855, a number of states, including Michigan, began to ban the sale of liquor except by apothecaries for medicinal purposes.  In response, Walker began buying property in what would become Windsor, Ontario starting in 1856 and began building new facilities.  In 1858, his new distillery and flour mill were complete and Hiram Walker and Sons was born.  Their most popular product was Walker’s Club Whiskey, which was immensely popular in the United States (Chauvin 1927).

As the prohibition movement and the Civil War shut down liquor production in the Confederacy, where most U.S. distilleries were located, Walker’s Club Whiskey was smuggled across the Detroit River into the U.S. and then distributed across the Union (Chauvin 1927; Hill 2016).  Walker’s whiskey was so popular that it was rumored that he had built a pipe running underneath the Detroit River purely for the purpose of pumping his whiskey directly into the U.S.  As alcohol production once more picked up after the war ended, Walker’s Club Whiskey dominated the market, so much so that U.S. competitors begged the U.S. legislature to require a liquor’s country of origin to be clearly marked on every bottle.   Once the law passed, his whiskey was rebranded as Canadian Club Whiskey (Chauvin 1927).

By the 1910’s, prohibition once again reared its head, this time leading to a national ban on alcohol in the U.S. from 1920 to 1933.  Prohibition hit Hiram Walker and Sons hard, but they were once again able to find outlets for their product across the Detroit River (Chauvin 1927; Hill 2016).  Al Capone, the famous gangster, was one of their best customers, who succeeded in distributing Canadian Club Whiskey across the Midwest with the aid of Detroit’s infamous Purple Gang (Pearson 2014).  Despite their rum-running success, Hiram Walker and Sons was sold in 1927 for little of its original worth.  Today, Hiram Walker’s distillery is now the largest distillery in North America and produces around 150 different products that are distributed widely.  They still make world renowned whiskeys, but their first product, Canadian Club Whiskey, is now owned and produced by a nearby competitor (Hill 2016).

1935 ad with a drawing of a bottle very similar to that recovered from the Brody/Emmons Dump

1935 ad with a drawing of a bottle very similar to that recovered from the Brody/Emmons Dump. Image Source

Aside from the name of the company, this bottle contains other information that can help us to place it within this history of Hiram Walker and Sons, Inc.  Using the free bottle dating reference guide created by Bill Lindsey (https://sha.org/bottle/index.htm, supported by the Bureau of Land Management and the Society for Historical Archaeology), I was able to narrow down when this bottle may have been produced for sale.  Present on this bottle are embossed designs and mold seams that reach the very lip of opening, which indicate that it was machine-made.  This technology first became popular after 1900, meaning that CAP’s Hiram Whiskey and Son’s bottle post-dates the Civil War smuggling days of the company.  Since there are very few bubbles present in the glass itself, it is likely that this bottle was made with more advanced manufacturing technology, further narrowing the time table of this bottle into the 1930’s or later.  The presence of an external screw top also suggests this later date, as this closure type only became popular starting in the late 1920’s.

Close up of the embossed federal disclaimer on the bottle recovered by CAP

Close up of the embossed federal disclaimer on the bottle recovered by CAP.

Our greatest piece of evidence is one simple sentence embossed prominently on the bottle: FEDERAL LAW FORBIDS SALE OR RE-USE OF THIS BOTTLE.  Post-prohibition, this message was required by federal law on all liquor bottles to further discourage illegal liquor sales.  Passed in 1935, the law was repealed and the message discontinued by the mid 1960’s, placing the manufacture and use of this bottle firmly between 1935 and 1965.  Based on all of this evidence, this bottle of Hiram Walker and Sons’ whiskey was distilled and consumed legally in post-prohibition East Lansing.  While this bottle may not have been part of Al Capone’s illegal liquor empire, it still has an incredible story to tell about Michigan’s past.


References Cited

Chauvin, Francis X.
1927   Hiram Walker: His Life and His Work and the Development of the Walker
      Institutions in Walkerville, Ontario.  Manuscript accessed online through the
Southwestern Ontario Digital Archive, University of Windsor.

Hill, Sharon
2016   “Hiram Walker and Sons Distillery No Longer Shy About Telling Its Story.”
      Windsor Star, Windsor Ontario.  Published Sept. 17th, 2016.

Lyons, T. P.
1999   Production of Scotch and Irish Whiskies: Their History and Evolution.  In The
Alcohol Textbook, edited by K. A. Jacques, T. P. Lyons, and D. R. Kelsall, Pp. 137-
164.  Nottingham University Press, Nottingham.

Pearson, Craig
2014   “From the Vault: Prohibition.”  Windsor Star, Windsor, Ontario.  Published Nov.
22nd, 2014.


Looking for Some Gin-spiration: Fleischmann’s Gin from The East Lansing Dump

Photo of the Fleischmann’s Dry Gin bottle from the Brody/Emmons excavations, dating to 1935

Photo of the Fleischmann’s Dry Gin bottle from the Brody/Emmons excavations, dating to 1935

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).

1949 Fleischmann’s Gin ad in the July 19th edition of Look Magazine.

1949 Fleischmann’s Gin ad in the July 19th edition of Look Magazine. Image Source

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 ad from the late 1930s or 40s about eating yeast cakes to get rid of acne.

Fleischmann’s Yeast ad from the late 1930s or 40s about eating yeast cakes to get rid of acne. Image Source

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.



  1. Klieger C.P. The Fleischmann Yeast Family, Arcadia, 2004.
  2. Woods,M.L. The Fleischmann Treasury of Yeast Baking, The Company, New York, 1962.
  3. Gross L.P. & T.R. Snyder. Philadelphia’s 1876 Centennial Exhibition, Arcadia, U.K., 2005.
  4. Bottling Medicinal Gin, The Wall Street Journal. 1933. Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.proxy2.cl.msu.edu/docview/131061850?pq-origsite=summon
  5. 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)
  6. Sazerac company website: http://www.sazerac.com/fleischmann.aspx

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.



  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 of bottles taken by Lisa

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


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. http://www.pencollectorsofamerica.com/pennant/FALL%2009%20PENNANT%20FINAL.pdf