Tag: ceramic

International Students and Institutional Wares at MSU

International Students and Institutional Wares at MSU

The presence of international students on campus began early in MSU’s history. Not even two decades after MSU’s founding, four international students were enrolled for the fall semester in 1873. Two of these students were from Japan, one from Holland, and one from Canada [1]. 

A Close Shave: Personal Grooming and Social Interaction during the Early History of MAC

A Close Shave: Personal Grooming and Social Interaction during the Early History of MAC

The Saints’ Rest excavations conducted by the Campus Archaeology Program have been well-documented and researched not only because this was the inaugural project for CAP, but also that it is one of the earliest buildings on campus, giving us a rare glimpse into how students 

A sweet discovery: a Bavarian sugar bowl in the East Lansing dump

A sweet discovery: a Bavarian sugar bowl in the East Lansing dump

Tea has a long tradition as both a beverage and a social event (1). In turn of the 20th century America, tea was enjoyed both at home and in public tearooms, by men and by women (1, 2). At a time when women were typically excluded from other public dining rooms, it was considered acceptable for women to go to tearooms with or without male escorts (1). Whether taken at home or in public, teatime was an event requiring several pieces of equipment. For a respectable tea, etiquette and cookbooks from the 19th and early 20th centuries list non-negotiable items as a teapot, teacups and saucers, a jug for cream, and a bowl for sugar (2). Tea services were often beautiful objects made of fine china or silver, intended to be displayed and admired by guests.

Z.S. & Co Sugar Bowl from the Brody/Emmons Complex.
Z.S. & Co Sugar Bowl from the Brody/Emmons Complex.

CAP archaeologists recovered one of these beautiful objects, a flowery porcelain sugar bowl, during excavations at Brody/Emmons complex, the former site of the East Lansing city dump. Luckily for us, the bowl is nearly intact and displays a backstamp on its base reading “MIGNON Z.S.& Co. BAVARIA.” This stamp provides several key pieces of information about the item, starting with the name of the manufacturer. Z.S. & Co refers to Porzellanfabrik Zeh, Scherzer & Co., a German company that produced porcelain tableware, coffee and tea sets, and other decorative items from the time it was founded in 1880 until 1992 (3). The backstamp also gives us a clue as to a date. Manufacturers often changed the design of their backstamps to reflect new ownership or updates. Z.S. & Co. used the plain green mark with the name of the company and place of manufacture divided by a wavy line between 1880 and 1918 (3).

Makers mark on base of Z.S. & Co Sugar Bowl from the Brody/Emmons Complex.
Makers mark on base of Z.S. & Co Sugar Bowl from the Brody/Emmons Complex.

The backstamp also tells us where the bowl was made: the German state of Bavaria. Until the 1700s, the best quality china was made in, well, China (4). In the early 18th century, German manufacturers in Saxony discovered the secret to producing high quality porcelain using a combination of kaolin and alabaster. The Meissen porcelain factory near Dresden was the first European company to successfully manufacture and market hard paste porcelain. By the height of china production in the late 1800s, there were hundreds of porcelain factories and workshops in Germany. German china gained a formidable reputation for its quality and beauty. Starting in 1887, many companies began stamping their wares with the label “made in Germany” to differentiate them from competitors, primarily the English workshops in Staffordshire. The inclusion of this phrase served as a proxy for quality (4). Some German porcelain simply includes the region of manufacture, such as Saxony, Bavaria, or Prussia (3). Until the 20th century, many porcelain items were imported from Germany. However, anti-German sentiment at the beginning of World War I reduced demand for many German goods in America.

Mignon style sugar bowl.
Mignon style sugar bowl. Image source.

Finally, the word “Mignon” on the backstamp refers to the name of the series. Z.S. & Co. produced various styles of dishes including the Mignon, Orleans, and Punch series (3). Dishes in the same series had the same shapes, but were available in a wide variety of patterns. The Mignon sugar bowl recovered from the Brody dump has the same shape as a Mignon sugar bowl I found on Ebay, but it is painted in a different pattern. The CAP sugar bowl is decorated with pink and white flowers and green leaves and flowery gold fleur-de-lis near the rim. The pattern itself actually tells us about how the piece was made. The flowers are crisp, multi-colored and multi-dimensional in that they exhibit shading. This indicates the use of ceramic decals, a technique involving the transfer of an image printed on special paper onto a ceramic object (5). This process is much faster and requires less skill than hand painting. The advent of this technique in the 19th century allowed for mass production of affordable china (5).

It is impossible to say for sure why the sugar bowl ended up in the East Lansing dump, but a likely explanation is that it was broken. Delicate pieces of a tea service get picked up and passed around quite a bit, leaving ample opportunity to drop, chip, or smash them. The sugar bowl recovered from the dump is mostly intact, though it is missing two handles and is chipped in several places around the base. It is possible some of this damage came from being buried in a landfill. However, it is easy imagine that its owner decided to discard it after a few too many exuberant tea parties rendered it no longer fit for display.

References

  1. Smith AF. 2013. Tea. In The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America. Retrieved from http://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/acref/9780199734962.001.0001/acref-9780199734962.
  2. http://www.foodtimeline.org/teatime.html#americantea
  3. http://www.porcelainmarksandmore.com/germany/bavaria/rehau-01/index.php
  4. https://antiques.lovetoknow.com/Antique_China_Made_in_Germany
  5. http://www.jefpat.org/diagnostic/Post-Colonial%20Ceramics/Less%20Commonly%20Found/DecalDecoratedWares/index-DecalDecoratedWares.html
Picking out Kitchenware: Large Scale Purchasing at MSU

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 

Jadeite: the (Negligibly) Radioactive Kitchenware for the Nuclear Age

Jadeite: the (Negligibly) Radioactive Kitchenware for the Nuclear Age

Avid readers of the CAP blog might remember our excitement last year when we discovered a piece of yellow-green vaseline glass in the Gunson assemblage. The glass glowed bright green under black light, indicating it contained uranium. This week as we continued to sort through 

CAP 2017: Week 3

CAP 2017: Week 3

Hot Weather and New finds.

This past week has had the most unbearable weather so far, but overall, the learning process at CAP 2017 Field School is still continuing! Although I probably differ from my peers, I find that the most difficult thing about this project is not dealing with the weather and the environment, but learning new processes, such as mapping, can be the most time-consuming. However, once the process is learned, future applications of that process tends to be done smoothly and more quickly.

As my “squadmate”, Kaleigh Perry, noted in her most recent blog, much of our time at the end of last week and this week has been spent excavating the Field School’s first feature, Fea 1A. We are almost done with that and we will then move onto the next layer. Oh joy! A quick summary of the feature is that it contains a gigantic amount of cultural deposits, such as coal and nails, and the high frequency of roots that pass the feature could indicate that the deposit was filled in slowly and naturally over time.

Knob and Tube Wiring

However, besides talking about the current state of the field school, I also wanted to discuss one of our more notable finds, which was the ceramic tube found in our unit’s first layer. Knob and tube wiring was used in “old school” electrical wiring in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, but more specifically, the tubes were used to pass wires safely though beams, such as wood, to avoid electrical and thermal damage to the surroundings (Myers 2010).

Thomas ceramic insulator from Unit A.
Thomas ceramic insulator from Unit A.

At the digestion of this sweet and tasty (and very simple) knowledge, most people may think, “Cool. You found a nasty old ceramic tube used in outdated electrical wiring.” Although they are partially right, they would be missing the real meat of the knowledge sandwich, which is that you can use the ceramic tube to date an area! Ceramic tubes followed specific styles of their time, and not only that, but they also contained makers’ marks as well, both of which can be cross-referenced to give an idea as to what time period the tube, and potentially, a building, came from (Myers 2010).

And this, right here, what I just told you about dating, is one of the reasons why archaeology and anthropology is so important. Everyday items used by populations in the past can provide us with a massive insight as to what those people were doing and also when they were doing it. Thousands of years into the future, future societies could be able to date areas or buildings by which iteration of an Apple I-phones are in an area. So, the same dating processes that work in the past and present will always stand the passage of time, and will always aid archaeologist in uncovering what shenanigans people in the past were engaged in.

 

References

Adrian Myers. “Telling Time for the Electrified: An Introduction to Porcelain Insulators and the Electrification of the American Home” Society for Historical Archaeology Technical Briefs in Historical Archaeology 5 (2010): 31-42.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/adrianmyers/4

Rhapsody in Flow Blue: the History of a Plate

Rhapsody in Flow Blue: the History of a Plate

Whenever we at CAP come across an interesting artifact, it sparks the inevitable, if inelegant question, “what was this thing doing on our campus?” It’s a simple question, but I’ve often found as I delve into researching an artifact that the journey of that object 

Institutional Wares: What Are They Good For?

Institutional Wares: What Are They Good For?

On university campuses, all sorts of different items are present.  One type of item that is commonly found but under-utilized are industrial ceramics.  Also known as hotel wares, hotel china, or restaurant china, these ceramics are designed to be extremely tough and cheap, perfect for 

Why all the fuss about the Onondaga Pottery Co.?

Why all the fuss about the Onondaga Pottery Co.?

As every archaeologist knows for every hour you spend in the field, you can expect to spend 4 hours in the lab. This has proven true for our recent field school excavations. A fruitful 5 week field school this past summer has left us with hours and hours of lab work. Our steadfast team of undergrad volunteers has been chugging along since September and we’ve finally put a dent in the artifact cataloging, yay! Now that we’re beginning to understand our vast array of artifacts, we can start to analyze patterns and research artifact types.

Onondaga Pottery, a.k.a. Syracuse China
Onondaga Pottery, a.k.a. Syracuse China: Gunson Unit D

One of the most common pottery types we found during our excavations of the Gunson site was green striped Onondaga Pottery Company Syracuse China. The company was initially founded as Farrar Pottery 1841, and changed hands a number of times until it became the Onondaga Pottery Company in 1871. Located in Geddes New York, Onondaga was named after Onondaga county, where it was located.

Onondaga Pottery Company quickly built a reputation for having high quality earthenware. Later, their shift to semi-vitreous China made them a nationally renowned pottery company. Their non-crackle guarantee (during this time the glaze on most American made pottery would crack, leaving marks across the product) made them the first pottery company in the US to carry such a warranty.

O.P.Co Makers Mark with date stamp - July 1914. Gunson Unit A
O.P.Co Makers Mark with date stamp – July 1914. Gunson Unit A

In 1884, the Onondaga Pottery Company teamed with Elmer Walter, who had a China decorating factory directly across the street from Onondaga Pottery. Before this partnership Onondaga produced only plain white China. Later, when Elmer’s factory was destroyed by fire, Onondaga hired Elmer and created an in-house pottery decorating department, one of the first of its kind.

Another O.P.CO. makers mark - Gunson Unit A
Another O.P.CO. makers mark – Gunson Unit A

The biggest turn for the company came in 1884 when James Pass became the company’s superintendent. James Pass, the son of Richard Pass the previous superintendent, grew up studying pottery. James studied analytical chemistry at Syracuse University in order to understand and overcome the problems in pottery manufacturing. When James became superintendent he developed America’s first truly vitreous china, known as Syracuse China.

The development of Syracuse China made the Onondaga Company what it is today. The company did not officially change its name until the 1960s, it quickly became known as Syracuse China because of the product’s popularity. The company found an intense market for Syracuse China in places like hotels, restaurants, and railroad companies. Onondaga’s 1896 chip resistant technology only enhanced its popularity in these markets.

Taking the history of the Onondaga Pottery Company a.k. Syracuse China, into consideration it’s easy to understand why we discovered so much of this pottery in the refuse pit on MSU’s campus. This high-quality, durable, china would have been ideal for a college campus. Dinner ware that can hold up to the trauma inflicted by college students and visitors is well worth its weight in gold.  With regards to the Gunson house, it may have served as more everyday serving ware as we also have Onondaga Pottery Company ceramic fragments that are not the three green stripes.  These examples are more delicate and detailed, with embossing and scalloping although we have yet to find a fragment with a date stamp.

 

References:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Syracuse_China

http://syracusethenandnow.org/History/SyracuseChinaHistory.htm

Maker’s Marks from the Gunson Assemblage

Maker’s Marks from the Gunson Assemblage

My project involves examining where, what company, and the timeframe the different marker’s mark, collecting from the excavation from the Admin/Gunson site, came from. As we wrapped up with Unit A on Monday, I finished taking and collecting pictures of the marker’s mark found from