As you may know from my previous blog posts, I have been working on analyzing the faunal remains from Campus Archaeology excavations. My current research project focuses on the Saints’ Rest trash midden, excavated in several seasons by CAP near the location where Saints’ Rest once stood. Because of the sites’ use as a small public dumping area, the artifacts recovered are expected to reflect the daily life of those living at and nearby Saints’ Rest dormitory. The end goal of this research project, in conjunction with research by Lisa Bright, Amy Michael, Jeff Painter, and Susan Kooiman, is to better understand the everyday lives of the early MSU students.
How do you picture campus before Michigan State University came into existence? For me, on hearing that the first students spent a good portion of their time everyday cutting trees, pulling stumps, and draining swamps so that they could then get to the business of agriculture, a romantic image pops into my head of an unaltered wilderness from which an institution of learning would soon rise (thanks to the strong backs of the first students, faculty, and staff). This is not exactly true. While the area purchased by the State of Michigan to start a new agricultural college was largely forested wilderness, it was not unoccupied. This is important to understand for us at the Campus Archaeology Program, as we need to be able to recognize and interpret early finds when they are discovered.
When the land for the Michigan Agricultural College was purchased in 1855, it encompassed a number of ecological zones, including closed forests, patches of open forest, marshes, swamps, river bottoms, and others, which all provided habitats for a variety of plants and animals (Kuhn 1955:12). Such diversity in wildlife and soils, as well as access to the Red Cedar River and a small creek or stream, made this area ideal for individuals looking to live off the land. Both Native Americans and frontier settlers saw the potential of this area and aimed to make the most of it. As early as 3,000 years ago, Native Americans had been using this abundant landscape for hunting, fishing, and other activities, which you can read about here. Much later in time, as the state of Michigan was being increasingly populated by Euro-American settlers, two families lived on plots of land that would soon become the north half of MSU’s campus. In the corner of campus that now contains the Psychology Building, Mason-Abbot Hall, and Synyder-Phillips Hall, the Smith family ran a small farm, which included fruit trees and small agricultural fields, as well as a wood frame house that was eventually moved and reused by the College (Kuhn 1955:12). On the other side of campus, in the current location of Adams Field and the Music building, was a small farm ran by Robert Burcham and his family (Beal 1915:14; Kuhn 1955:12; Lautner 1978:17, 35). As I am currently exploring the history of this western side of West Circle, I decided to delve a little deeper into the Burcham Farm.
In 1851, four years before the land was purchased in order to form the college, Robert Burcham began to build a small log cabin and clear several small fields in the area of where the Music building and Adams Field now stand (Beal 1915; Kuhn 1955. Lautner 1978). He also planted and tended a few fruit trees in this same area (Beal 1915:14). Based on a map that used various resources to create a vision of what campus would have looked like in 1857 (Figure 1 above, found in Lautner 1978:35), Burcham’s agricultural fields and orchard were laid out in the area that is now Adams Field, while his log cabin appears to have been built where the Music Building now stands. Since this map is a composition from various sources and was not scientifically charted, it is unknown if the footprint of the Music building completely covers where the Burcham Cabin sat or if the cabin was located a short distance away.
In 1852, Burcham and his family moved into the cabin and began farming and trading. While they made their living off the land, the Burchams also interacted with Native Americans that intermittently camped along the south side of the Red Cedar River. At any one time, hundreds of Native Americans may have camped in this area, hunting, fishing, processing maple sap, and trading skins and meat with the Burchams for various agricultural products and refined goods like flour (Kuhn 1955:12; Lautner 1978:17).
After 1855, when the land was purchased by the State of Michigan, it is unclear exactly what happened to the Burcham Farm. While Kuhn (1955:37) writes that the fields previously cleared by the Burchams were used from the very beginning of the College for growing crops and instructing students, other records indicate that the Burcham’s continued to live on this small plot of land. As seen on the above map, their farm appears to have still been operational as of 1857, when the College first opened its doors. Housed in the MSU Archives and Historical Collections (Madison Kuhn Collection- UA 17.107 box 2410 folder 40) are also a small number of receipts of payment spanning into the mid-1860s (Figures 2 and 3). These receipts document payments made to Robert Burcham for a number of jobs done on behalf of the College, such as hauling stones for building materials, chopping down trees and turning them into fire wood, and days of digging. These receipts, along with the lack of construction that took place in this area early on, suggest that the Burcham family lived on campus for at least a decade after the land was purchased. While it is unknown when they left, the Burcham farm is not identified on a map made by Dr. Beal in 1870, indicating that they no longer lived on this property by that time.
So, next time you stop by the Music Building, remember the Burchams and how they helped to tame the wilderness that would soon become the campus of Michigan State University.
Beal, W. J.
1915 History of the Michigan Agricultural College and Biographical Sketches of Trustees and Professors. Michigan Agricultural College, East Lansing.
1955 Michigan State: The First Hundred Years. The Michigan State University Press, East Lansing.
Lautner, Harold W.
1978 From an Oak Opening: A Record of the Development of the Campus Park of Michigan State University, 1855-1969. Volume 1. Self-published manuscript on file at the MSU Archives and Historical Collections.
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Burcham, Robert- Receipts for Services, 1853-1864. UA 17.107, Box 2410, Folder 40.
As I’m sure any of our regular readers are aware, CAP has been looking into the foodways of the early MSU campus this year. Our ultimate goals for the project were to create a website documenting early foodways on campus, and to recreate an 1860’s MSU-inspired meal based on archaeological and archival research. Autumn is almost ready to launch our website, and our meal recreation is this Thursday, April 27!
We have worked closely with Chef Kurt Kwiatkowski and Chef Jay Makowski of MSU Culinary Services and Cindy Baswell of MSU Bakers to create a historic menu fit for a king… or maybe just a nineteenth-century college student. In any case, I believe this will be a delightful treat.
Here is the menu, with explanations as to why each dish was chosen:
Appetizer: Codfish Balls
While we have no evidence that anyone ever made codfish balls on the early college campus, codfish was purchased by the boarding halls in the 1860s. A church cookbook from Port Huron, MI, lists this appetizing recipe:
“Parboil fish, pick it up; mash a few potatoes, mix well with the fish; add a little butter, enough sweet cream to moisten, then make in small cakes, dip into corn meal and fry in pork gravy.”
Basically, it is a fancy fish stick that will clog your arteries faster than you can say “I love Midwestern cuisine!” So naturally, we had to include it as our appetizer.
Main Dishes: Walleye; Spiced Beef; Turkey with Oyster Dressing; Beef Tongue
What initially inspired our meal recreation was the food remains found in a privy excavated on campus in 2015. Many fish bones were encountered, including walleye, a quintessential Midwestern fish. There is no mention of walleye in the boarding house account books, so this fish may have been caught locally rather than purchased.
Beef was purchased by the early college boarding halls and undoubtedly was a common item on their menu. A menu from 1884 (for the Class of ’86) lists both “pressed beef” and “beef tongue, spiced” on the menu. Both pressed beef and spiced beef are brined and cooked slowly, then pressed and served cold. Spiced beef has, well, more spices and presumably more flavor, and it is common in nineteenth-century cookbooks, so we selected that as our primary beef dish. Beef tongue is also frequently featured in historic cookbooks, and we threw it in there just to have a more oddball option that we can dare our guests (and ourselves) to try!
Turkey was a special dish served at the Agricultural College. It was purchased seasonally for Thanksgiving and early students took part in hunting and feasting on wild turkeys as well. We have written much about oysters on our blog in the past, and so we felt we had to include them in our dinner. Since we felt we should adhere to the historic habit of consuming canned oysters, which sound wholly unappealing, we decided to incorporate them into a stuffing for the turkey. Together, the turkey and stuffing represent the “special occasion” dish for this meal.
Sides: Chow-Chow; Potato Croquettes
Chow-chow is a popular vegetable relish in the nineteenth century, and it is still popular in parts of the South. Made with tomatoes, peppers, onions, as well as with other vegetables such as cabbage and cauliflower, it consists of foods that would have been easily grown in the college gardens. Chow-chow is also featured on the 1884 banquet menu, suggesting it was an important and common side on historic tables.
Potato croquettes are basically deep-fried mashed potato balls, so naturally we wanted to eat them. A cookbook from St. Paul’s Episcopal Church of Lansing (ca. 1890) had a whole section devoted to croquettes, suggesting their local popularity. Early campus boarding halls did sometimes purchase potatoes, but also grew their own, as student work logs record them “working in potatoes” and “hoeing potatoes and peas” in 1869.
Desserts: Ginger Cake; Charlotte Russe with Raspberries
It is apparent from nineteenth century cookbooks and banquet menus that cake was a popular dessert. And can you blame them? Cake is amazing. There is nothing in the MSU records specifically mentioning ginger cake, since specific recipes weren’t written down and specific spices were never recorded in the account books. In his diary, Edward Granger mentions stealing cakes from “downstairs” (presumably the kitchens) and eating ginger snaps at Christmas in 1859. Recipes for gingerbreads and cakes are abundant in historic cookbooks, meaning it was likely a common dessert at the time.
Our final dish will be Charlotte Russe. Nowhere is this fancy molded dessert of custard, gelatin, and cake mentioned in the MSU records but it is heavily featured in historic cookbooks, as are molded and gelatin desserts in general. Furthermore, an abundance of raspberry seeds were found in the historic privy on campus, so the raspberries will be incorporated into the meal in the Charlotte Russe.
Bread: Graham Bread
Graham bread is just a fancy term for whole wheat bread. While today we consider whole wheat to be the healthiest and premium flour, in the past it was not considered as refined as bleached white flour. The early boarding halls purchased graham flour and undoubtedly made much of their bread and rolls using it. It may sound like a healthy component of our meal, but historic recipes often incorporate molasses into the bread.
We are very much looking forward to our lovely meal on Thursday. Invitations have been sent out and we hope to have a wonderful time with guests from across the campus. Autumn will be writing a summary of the event, so look for that next week!
What the Baptist Brethren Eat, and How the Sisters Serve It, a variety of useful and reliable recipes compiled by the Ladies of the first Baptist Church, Port Huron, Mich. Times Company, Port Huron, 1876.
Michigan State University Archives:
Edward Granger Papers, UA10.3.56
Diary of E.G. Granger, 1859
Peter H. Felker Papers, UA10.3.44, Folder 2, Box F.D.
Peter Felker Diary, 1869
Madison Kuhn Collection, UA 17.107, Vol. 32,
So far this year, I have been examining the ceramics from various assemblages associated with early Michigan State. While I have looked at what types of dishes were present and how they were used, I have not looked at how these assemblages compare to other sites in the Midwest. Comparative analyses are one of the most powerful tools that archaeologists use to learn about the past. Not only are they great for looking at similarities and differences between sites and people, but they can also be used to look at larger social and economic processes, such as the intersection of class and wealth, that go into the choices made by people. Here, I will compare the tableware assemblages from historic MSU with those from various contemporary sites in the Midwest as a way to better understand the different choices made in terms of purchasing and the rationale behind them.
At MSU, the majority of the dishes that we find from MSU are inexpensive plain or embossed/molded whitewares and plain or simply decorated industrial wares. These are typically associated with dorms and student life on campus, and were purchased by the university for everyday student use in dining halls. Much more elaborate and expensive ceramics, decorated in many patterns and colors, are associated with faculty houses on campus, which were likely purchased by the faculty using their own funds.
Ceramic assemblages are somewhat similar at other sites. At the Woodhams site, an urban farmstead in Plainwell, MI owned by families of modest means, there were about twice as many undecorated whitewares as decorated whitewares. While not common, decorated vessels were relatively expensive transfer printed and decalomania dishes (Rotman and Nassaney 1997). In the former Corktown neighborhood of Detroit, the home of working class immigrant families, people relied heavily on mass-produced whiteware vessels that were cheap and easily accessible through local merchants. Despite this, some more expensive wares were also present, such as porcelain teaware, English transfer printed dishes, and other imported decorated vessels. Interestingly, the homes in the area all differed in the types of dishes, wares, and styles that they bought, highlighting the greater selection available to those dwelling in a growing city and consequently the greater ability to differentiate oneself through decorative style (Ryzewski 2015). At the Clemens farmstead in Darke County, Ohio, the home of wealthy free African Americans, 81% of the tableware were plain whitewares, while the rest of the assemblage was made up of a small number of hand painted or transfer printed vessels. While this family had enough money to buy expensive dishware, they chose to be conservative with consumer goods while broadcasting their wealth through architecture and improvements to their land (Groover and Wolford 2013). For those who lived in the Moore-Youse House in Muncie, Indiana, a middle-class family influenced by Victorian ideals and class consciousness, the possession of decorated and expensive tableware was more important. Out of all of the tableware recovered, most was whiteware and ironstone, and 48% of it was hand painted. Out of the other decorated vessels, 44% were transfer printed ceramics. While porcelain was not present, the high number of decorated ceramics suggest that this family spent a considerable amount of money in order to have fashionable tablewares that demonstrated their social class (Groover and Hogue 2014).
While these different homes are similar to MSU in the types of ceramics that are found, they represent very different choices and needs. For individuals and families, their decisions in what tablewares to purchase are often based on cost, personal style, and the ways in which they wished to demonstrate their social standing within the Victorian world. For example, the Clemens family chose to use simple ceramics while improving their home and the grounds, making it one of the few examples of expensive Victorian architecture in the region and a clear statement of their social standing to all who passed by. At the Moore-Youse house, the family chose to purchase more expensive and fashionable tableware, which would have displayed their standing to those who were invited into the home. Some of these same concerns are reflected at MSU, such as in the delicate and expensive tablewares sometimes purchased and used by faculty living on campus, but we also must consider the institutional context that is much different than the homes discussed above. At early MSU, the university needed a large number of dishes to supply their student body, as well as dishes that were durable and would survive abuse by students on a daily basis. Faculty may have needed more dishware as well, as some of them often entertained groups of students and visitors during the academic year. On campus, one needed to consider such factors as durability, the economics of supplying and entertaining a lot of people daily, and having dish sets that were similar so as not to alienate certain divisions of the student body. Both MSU and different homes in the Midwest had access to similar ceramics, but made choices based on different needs, so we must take this into account and interpret ceramics from campus using a different mindset and theoretical base. Only using economic scaling models, as is often done with ceramic assemblages from homes, misses many of the more nuanced aspects of ceramic selection that takes place at an institution such as Michigan State.
Groover, Mark D., and S. Homes Hogue
2014 Reconstructing Nineteenth-Century Midwest Foodways: Ceramic and Zooarchaeological Information from the Moore-Youse House and Huddleston Farmstead. Midcontinental Journal of Archaeology 39(2):130-144.
Groover, Mark D., and Tyler J. Wolford
2013 The Archaeology of Rural Affluence and Landscape Change at the Clemens Farmstead.
Journal of African Diaspora Archaeology and Heritage 2(2):131-150.
Rotman, Deborah L, and Michael S. Nassaney
1997 Class, Gender, and the Built Environment: Deriving Social Relations from Cultural Landscapes in Southwest Michigan. Historical Archaeology 31(2):42-62.
2015 No Home for the “Ordinary Gamut”: A Historical Archaeology of Community Displacement and the Creation of Detroit, City Beautiful. Journal of Social Archaeology 15(3):408-431.
You heard me wax poetic about dairy and the history of dairy production in my previous blog. However, as I pointed out then, the importance of dairy at MSU lies not only in the delicious cheese and ice cream produced but also in dairy education and research. The Dairy Department, and now jointly the Department of Food Science and Nutrition and the Department of Animal Science, have carried on a tradition of instruction of students, research, and outreach since the founding of MSU.
No official courses on dairying were taught in the earliest days of the College, although its tenets and techniques were incorporated into more general instruction. Professor Peter M. Harwood was first to bear the title of Instructor in Dairying, which he received in 1892, but was succeeded in 1983 by Clinton D. Smith. Smith strongly believed in the potential for Michigan to develop a strong dairy industry and therefore offered the first dairy course at the college in the winter of 1894/1895. These early courses were taught in the basement of the Agricultural Laboratory, which is now known as Cook Hall. A new building, which housed both Dairy and Forestry classes, was built in 1900, modern-day Chittenden Hall. In 1910, courses offered included Elementary Dairying, Creamery Butter Making, Cheese Making, and Market Milk (Anthony 1929).
As recounted in my previous post, the first building completely devoted to dairy education and manufacturing, the aptly-named Dairy Building, was constructed in 1913. It was the home of the first Dairy Plant, housed all dairy courses and faculty offices, and contained state-of-the-art laboratories for that time. Graduate courses were added in 1920, and following Dr. Ernest L. Anthony’s appointment as Head of the Dairy Department in 1928, the curriculum had expanded to include Farm Dairying, Dairy Standards and Tests, History of Dairy Cattle, Market Milk, Milk Production, Elements of Dairying, Advanced Dairy Cattle Judging, Advanced Dairy Products Judging, Dairy Farm Management, Butter Making, General Dairy Production, Plant Management, Ice Cream Making, Cheese Making, Concentrated Milk Products, and Dairy Seminar (Anthony 1929:4-5)
The Dairy Department (later called the Department of Dairy Science) was ultimately absorbed by the Dept. of Food Science and Nutrition and the Dept. of Animal Science. Today among the only courses specific to dairy foods is FSC 432 Food Processing: Dairy Foods, and the general principals of food science are taught in courses such as Food Safety, Food Chemistry, and Food Microbiology, and Food Engineering. Animal Science offers courses in Dairy Farm, Herd, Feed, and Cattle Management; Diary Cattle Judging; Dairy Growth, Health and Lactation in Dairy Cattle; just to name a few.
Research has also been important component of the dairy curriculum at MSU. In 1896, Dr. Charles E. Marshall arrived at the college and became a pioneer in the field of bacteriology, all through his research on the bacteriology of milk (Anthony 1929:3-4). Early faculty and students also conducted extensive work in dairy cattle breeding (Anthony 1929:10). Malcolm Trout, a professor at Michigan State between 1928 and 1966, discovered how to homogenize milk by linking it to the process of pasteurization, the combined techniques which are integral to commercial milk sales. C. F. Huffman was a leader in the field of the effects of animal nutrition on production, while research and publications on market milk and ice cream were also spearheaded by the department (Trout 1955).
Much of the current research conducted within the Department of Food Science and Nutrition now focuses to expand the use of underutilized commodities, using by-products of the meat and dairy processing industries; and to determine how the biochemical and physical properties of foods influence their quality and safety. The Animal Science department researches bovine lactation biology, including regulation and manipulation of ruminant lipid metabolism and the impact of milk on human health.
Outreach and collaboration with local Michigan farmers has also been a priority of the dairy department. Dissemination of latest developments by researchers both at Michigan State and elsewhere through farmers’ institutes has a history extending back to 1871 (Trout 1955). The Babcock test, a method for testing milk fat content which was developed at the University of Wisconsin, was brought to farmers in 1892 and demonstrated the need for quality control of milk products (Anthony 1929). Also part of the diary extension work has been the development of Michigan’s farm youth through organizations such as 4H and Future Farmers of America (FFA) (Trout 1955). Today, MSU is active in outreach with the Michigan Dairy Youth Program and 4H, and the Dairy Extension program is still active in engaging with the public and with dairy educators across the state. They have also added online resources, bringing outreach into the modern age.
Michigan State University has not only been a center of production for dairy products, but perhaps more importantly has played a central role in scientific innovation for improving food safety standards, food production, and production and manufacturing efficiency. It has also served to utilize this research by educating students in both the practical and scientific aspects of dairying and production and by disseminating new information to farmers across the state.
So next time you sit down and eat your Dairy Store ice cream, take the time to appreciate all that past MSU researchers and educators have done to make it safe and… udderly delicious.
Michigan State University Archives & Historical Collections
Madison Kuhn Collection. UA17.107, Folder 3, Box 2411.
L. Anthony, History of Dairy Development at MSC, 1929.
UA 16.37, Box 521, Folder 14
Malcolm Trout, Two Hundred and Fifty Years of Michigan Dairying,1955.
I am a Midwestern stereotype: I grew up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin. We sold our milk to a creamery in the Cheese Curd Capital of the World (Ellsworth, WI). Milk runs through my veins. I admire my vegan friends for their ability to resist the creamy deliciousness of cheese, ice cream, and yogurt, without which I would languish in despair. As you can guess, my interest in anything dairy-related is rather high.
Therefore I was delighted upon my arrival in East Lansing to discover the MSU Dairy Store. Most of you who have spent any time at MSU are familiar with the delicious flavors of the ice cream and cheese produced here on campus. Since we are in the middle of project documenting early foodways of the college, I thought it would be fun to explore a topic integral to both my personal history and the agricultural origins of MSU. This first in a series of two blogs about the history of MSU dairying will chronicle dairy production and manufacturing on campus.
In the earliest days of the College, the only cows on campus were kept by the families of the professors. Frank S. Kedzie, a former MSC president, was the son of one of the first professors, recalls that his mother made the first cheese on the campus grounds (UA 17.107, Folder 1, Box 2411). In 1867, Dr. Manley Miles, Professor of Practical Agriculture, bought the first dairy cattle for the college, which were Ayrshires. Jerseys were added to the herd in 1871, and the first Holsteins, the black and white standard dairy cattle, arrived in 1880 (Anthony 192: 12-13). Brown Swiss and Guernseys were slowly added into the mix, as well. We know from the early account books that the boarding halls were acquiring milk from the early herds of the Farm Department by 1871, if not before.
The first dedicated Dairy Barn was built in 1900 and held 100 cows. A new barn was constructed in 1929, which could house almost 150 heads of cattle and contained the most up-to-date equipment of that time (Anthony 1929:19). While updates were part of the reason for this move, another reason was disease. Tuberculosis wiped out most of the herd in 1904 (Anderson 1929), and contagious disease continued to plague the herd in the decades after. Those in charge of the dairy hoped the move to a new, sanitary location would break the disease cycle (Anthony 1929:16).
The first building containing a plant dedicated to dairy manufacturing was constructed in 1913. Known as the Dairy Building, it was located on the north end of Farm Lane and cost $55,000 (Anthony 1929:16). It contained a well-equipped creamery for the practical training of the students. The original Dairy Store was opened in this building, although the exact date of this event is unknown.
The Dairy Department and Plant remained in the Dairy Building until 1954, when Anthony Hall was constructed. Letters from the Michigan Agricultural Conference (1948), Michigan Purebred Dairy Cattle Association (1950) and Michigan Livestock Improvement Association (1952) to the state complained about the poor facilities and outdated equipment of the Dairy Building plant and called for improved agricultural, livestock, and dairy facilities at MSC (UA 16.37, Box 521, Folder 8). Following the construction of Anthony Hall—which was named after Ernest L. Anthony, the former head of the Dairy Department—the new dairy plant was highly productive. They provided milk to all of the residence halls, and made products such as chocolate milk, cream, half-and-half, sour cream, cottage cheese, buttermilk, dry milk, butter, and, of course, cheese and ice cream (including ice cream bars).
Dr. John Partridge, an emeritus faculty member of both the Dept. of Food Science and Nutrition and the Dept. of Animal Science, could be considered the Oral Historian of dairying on campus. He showed me and Lisa, our Campus Archaeologist, his stash of old dairying equipment, packaging, and photos from the mid-century era of the Dairy Plant. It provided us insight into the type of things we might encounter during our archaeological investigations on campus, such as historic milk bottles, bottle crates, and milk cans.
According to Partridge, the high level of productivity during the 1960’s become a point of contention with local private dairies, who did not feel it was fair that the MSU Dairy should have a monopoly on the campus milk market. Therefore, the dairy plant closed in 1968. In the meantime, local dairies found out how difficult it was to handle the fluctuating demands for milk of a college campus, and the dairy plant opened up again in the early 1970s. After this time the plant ceased to distribute fluid milk. The plant was gutted in the early 1990s and refitted with updated equipment.
John Engstrom, the Dairy Complex Manager, kindly gave Dr. Goldstein and several CAP fellows (myself included) a tour of the dairy plant in early February. The facilities are spacious, shiny, and clean, and we saw the production of the curd for cheeses take place, which thrilled this Cheesehead. Some of those curds were bagged and sold the following day in that form, while the others were packaged into box forms to be pressed and aged and sold as various kinds of block cheese later on.
The Dairy Plant currently focuses on producing shelf-stable cheese and ice cream. They produce 40,000 gallons in 40 different flavors of ice cream each year and 40,000 lbs of cheese in 11 different types or flavors. The milk is supplied by the 180 cows milked on campus in the Dairy Teaching and Resource center, as well as those milked in the Pasture Dairy center in the Kellogg Biological Station (although cream is acquired from another source). The MSU Dairy Store is both locally and nationally renowned, and you can even order their products online here.
While the long history of diary production and manufacturing on the Michigan State Campus is intriguing, the role of dairy in our institution extends far beyond just the delicious output of the Dairy Store. Part II of this series will explore the illustrious history of diary research and education and MSU, so stay tuned!
Michigan State University Archives & Historical Collections:
Madison Kuhn Collection. UA17.107, Folder 3, Box 2411
E. L. Anthony, History of Dairy Development at MSC, 1929.
Madison Kuhn Collection, UA17.107, Box 2411, Folder 2
A.C. Anderson, “The Dairy Herd” (1929)
Madison Kuhn Collection, UA 17.107, Folder 1, Box 2411
F.S. Kedzie, Letter to Mr. G.A. Bowling, Graduate Assistant in Dairy Husbandry, ca. 1955.
UA 16.37, Box 521, Folder 8
While ceramics from the Early Period of Michigan State were primarily inexpensive, simple, and durable institutional wares, assemblages changed along with the campus. One of the main changes to take place was the increased number of delicate and stylishly decorated serving dishes, some of them made of porcelain. Porcelain was a highly sought after ware type that was expensive to buy and considered a status item by many elite of the day. Its value was based both in its technical prowess and its history.
To make porcelain, it requires relatively pure white-firing clay, ground quartz, and something known as a flux, usually a type of rock composed largely of feldspar. These three substances are mixed with water and used to form the shape of the vessel. Once the vessel is ready, it then must be fired to a temperature somewhere between 1280°C and 1400°C, hotter than any other type of ceramic ware. When fired to this temperature, the feldspar in the flux melts and mixes with other minerals, creating a glassy ceramic body that is hard and translucent. While this might not sound too hard given our knowledge of modern technology, it is actually quite difficult! In order to make porcelain, not only did potters have to find the correct combination of materials, but they also had to invent new firing technology that could hold enough heat to correctly fire porcelain. This required immense knowledge, skill, and trial-and-error, as people who first produced porcelain did not have machines who could characterize raw materials for them, process and purify those materials, regulate the temperature and environment within their kilns, or even paint the intricate designs for them. Overall, porcelain wares were the most complex and difficult to make vessels during this time and were considered the height of ceramic technology. For much of their history, access to them was also difficult.
True porcelain was first made by Chinese potters at Jingdezhen in the 13th century. While proto-porcelain or porcelain-like wares had been made in China for centuries, the characteristic hardness and translucency of true porcelain was developed at that time. Shortly after its invention, porcelain became a valuable commodity, but like all ceramics, it was difficult to transport over land. Vessels were sometimes large, always fragile, and when packed together for transport, could weight quite a lot, so porcelain was not a great item for the major over-land transportation routes of this time, such as the Silk Road. As such, Chinese proto-porcelain and porcelain were not widely traded until maritime trade in the region expanded.
Once maritime trade increased, porcelain became hugely popular in many areas, including Korea, Japan, the Philippines, India, and farther west toward the Middle East. The trade for Chinese porcelain became so popular in these regions that it had dramatic effects. In the Philippines, it was quickly incorporated as a prestige item and as an object of cosmological and spiritual importance, so much so that many local potters could not compete, devastating local pottery traditions. In Korea, potters were able to recreate the process of making porcelain, allowing them to emulate Chinese ceramics. For the Japanese, porcelain was so valuable a commodity that during an invasion of the Korean Peninsula they targeted Korean pottery workshops in order to capture potters who knew the secret of porcelain-making so that they could begin production for themselves. Chinese porcelain was also influenced by others, as Chinese potters borrowed the innovations of Persian potters with cobalt to make the blue decorations used on world famous blue-on-white Ming Dynasty porcelain.
Portuguese traders in the early 16th century were the first to bring Chinese porcelain back to Europe. At this time, the flow of porcelain to Europe was very slow and most pieces ended up in the hands of the aristocracy. It was not until the early 17th century, when the Dutch were able to begin importing large amounts of Chinese porcelain in the form of dishes and display objects, that it became a major commodity for a larger portion of European society. This popularity was aided by a few factors. First, foodways in Europe were changing at this time, as drinks like tea and coffee became more popular. Communal dining also was declining in popularity, especially for those who could afford the dishes necessary for individualized dining settings. Both of these changes necessitated new dishware. The fact that the first porcelain shipments all ended up in royal and aristocratic hands also helped increase the popularity of porcelain, as it was seen as a great marker of status and wealth, one required for all those wanting to demonstrate that they belonged in elite circles.
While porcelain was widely popular with the upper classes in Europe, it was still an expensive import that many could not afford. For instance, a set of personalized porcelain dishes typical of those desired by the elite cost over 10 times the amount of an ordinary setting. It is no surprise that shortly after a market for Chinese porcelain was established in Europe, European pottery makers began experimenting with porcelain production. One of the first pottery workshops to produce European made porcelain was funded by the Medici family in Italy during the late 16th century. While they were able to produce porcelain, it was a type of “soft-paste” porcelain, which had similar translucent properties but was not as strong as Chinese porcelain, which is considered to be a “hard-paste” ware. It was not until 1708 in Saxony that a method to make “hard-paste” porcelain in Europe was developed. A major workshop in Meissen was quickly opened for production and China lost its world monopoly on the production of high-quality porcelain. While Europeans could now buy locally-made porcelain for their homes, Chinese imports were still highly desired symbols of wealth and status.
While I have not yet followed porcelain’s crossing of the Atlantic, it is the history explored here that forms the roots for the meaning and value of porcelain in the early United States. In Part 2, hitting newsstands soon, porcelain will reach the New World and make its way through time and space to historic MSU, where fine porcelain ceramics met the needs of administrators at a Great Lakes institution.
Finlay, Robert 1998 The Pilgrim Art: The Culture of Porcelain in World History. Journal of World History 9(2):141-187.
Rice, Prudence M. 1987 Pottery Analysis: A Sourcebook. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago.
Shulsky, Linda R. 2002 Chinese Porcelain at Old Mobile. Historical Archaeology 36(1):97-104.
For East Lansing residents, Grand River Avenue is the place to turn to for almost anything, from bookstores to restaurants to college bars. Its sidewalks are almost always bustling with students walking to class, business men and women meeting for lunch, and enthusiastic Spartans heading to football games. However, Grand River Avenue hasn’t always been the hotspot for college students and East Lansing residents. It hasn’t always been the well-traveled, paved road that we know it as now. In fact, Grand River’s history begins even before MSU’s does.
Grand River Road (the name wasn’t changed to Avenue until later on) wasn’t established until 1840; prior to this year, no record of any established roads in the area had been preserved. As it was for many early roads of the state, Grand River followed the trail that the Native Americans had made along the north bank of the Cedar River. The road stretched from Detroit to Portland (though now it stretches to Grand Rapids), and it was known as the primary overland stage-and-wagon-freight route through central Michigan until the railroad was built.
In 1852, the Lansing Central Plank Road Company built a plank road over the Lansing and Howell Road (the section of Grand River Road that ran between Howell and Lansing) and tollgates were distributed along the road every four to six miles. The plank road was completed in 1853 and was built of oak planks three inches tall and fourteen feet long. They were laid crosswise across heavy oak stringers to make a flat and hard road surface. Due to constant weathering and decay however, travelers often filled gaps in the road with gravel and mud. Eventually, the planks were completely removed, the road was paved with a gravel surface, and a streetcar was installed.
With the ever-increasing student population of MAC during the early 1900s came the development of shops and stores along the campus stretch of Grand River. The college drug store and the college café were built at the intersection of Grand River, and the Delta Apex, (where Michigan meets Grand River) became a popular place for gas stations as well as the location of the First East Lansing State Bank (established in 1916).
Because this section of Grand River was becoming busier and more popular, it was decided that the old streetcar was inadequate, and the new Interurban line was installed. It wasn’t long before East Lansing changed its major choice of transportation again, and in the 1930s the bus line took the interurban’s place. Parking along the avenue was officially banned in the 1950s
So why are we, the CAP team, interested in the history of this Grand River Avenue? Because (once again) the city of East Lansing intends to start construction on Grand River in the next couple of years, with plans to make room for a new bus route. We want to make sure that we have fully researched the history of the road so that we can anticipate any potential archaeological finds that might surface once the construction begins. We are not the official archaeological team in charge of this project, but we have written up a report to forward on to help with the process.
During construction of the road in 1995, approximately 20 logs were uncovered at the Bailey street entrance of Grand River. These logs were, in fact, part of the original plank road that was used back in the 1800s. There is potential to find more of these planks during the new construction. However, because it appears that the center of the original plank road was likely within the northernmost part of the current road, it doesn’t seem probable. Due to the current construction plans primarily focusing on the excavation/removal of the current median, it is unlikely that this work will intersect with any of the former plank/corduroy road sections.
However, that doesn’t mean that the teams involved won’t be keeping an eye out for anything with archaeological significance. The National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) was created with the intent to preserve all historical and archaeological sites in the United States, and it’s important that here in East Lansing we do just that. Should anyone involved with this project find anything significant, the necessary precautions will be taken to preserve the discoveries.
Towner, J.D. (1933) History of the City of East Lansing.
Miller, W. (2002) East Lansing: Collegeville Revisited. Arcadia Publishing
Dunham, Sean B., John M. Gram and Mark C Branster. 1997. M-43/Grand River Avenue, East Lansing, Michigan: The Lansing and Howell Plank Road, A Data Recovery Effort. 96-07. Great Lakes Research Associates, Inc.
The discovery of several horseshoes in Munn Field a couple of weeks ago (near the location of the old horse arena),
coupled with the CAP team’s ongoing archival research on the origins of the Grand River corridor, got me thinking about the importance of transportation during the early days of the university.
It comes as no surprise that travel by horseback or horse-drawn vehicles would have featured as a regular part of life for both students and professors in the pre-motor-vehicle days of 19th-century campus.
It also stands to reason that shipments of supplies or mail, or the arrival of visitors, to M.A.C. by wagonload or railroad would have been a noteworthy event at a time when even a place like Grand Ledge was far enough away to which to send a postcard (The cost per ounce of postage in 1885: 2 cents, the 2013 equivalent of which is 51 cents).
The M.A.C. Board of Trustees’ meeting minutes from the late 19th century regularly mention reimbursing members of the college for transportation costs, or votes to allow the payment of transportation for building supplies, new farm animals, or faculty trips.
For example, in 1876: “Resolved that the Farm Dep’t be instructed to accept the offer of a Harvester from the College to pay the cost of transportation.” (By comparison today, transportation costs with large purchases today are often covered by the seller).
In 1877: “Resolved: That Prof. Gulley be allowed Five dollars each for the fifty pigs furnished by him to the Farm Department.
Resolved that the pair of Poland China pigs purchased by Prof. Gulley for the Farm Department be returned and the bill for their cost including transportation amounting to $52.95 be paid” (the 2013 equivalent would be $1141.88).
In 1881, a professor’s participation in an agricultural expo was contingent upon the reliability of the rail system:
It was resolved that the Prof. of Agriculture be required to make an exhibition of Cattle at the next State Fair, provided the railroads give the usual facilities for transportation
In 1902, transportation problems prevented the college from receiving shipments of coal necessary for smithing, smelting and coking:
I have thus far been unable to purchase any hard coal though it is greatly needed and some difficulty is being experienced in getting delivery of soft coal under our contract. The following letter from A.B. Knowlson who has our soft coal contracts will show this situation:
” Grand Rapids, Mich. Dec. 5th 1902.
A.M. Brown, Sec’y.
Agricultural College P.O., Mich.
Replying to yours of the 4th we have had trouble with the parties whom we had our contract covered with for Hocking coal, and they would not ship us coal, claiming they could not get transportation. We have been forced to go out in order to try and fill the contract, and pick up coal without any profit. We are doing the best we can for you in order to
fill the contract, although our contract with you is made subject to strikes and transportation, etc. We want to fill the order even if we don’t make a cent, and trust you will bear with us, as well as you can under the circumstances. If you think it is necessary we will come down and talk the situation over with you.
The importance of transportation for the time period (and the awareness of such) is underscored by the copy of the commencement address by E.D. Partridge printed in the September 15, 1896 issue of the M.A.C. Record (the student paper at the time).
Titled ‘Transportation’, Partridge opens the address by commenting that “The growth [of the American transportation system], though slow and almost unnoticeable at times, has resulted in more good to the nation, and greater advantages to the people than any political movement could have brought about…. For, as farming increased, as manufacturing progressed, as the people turned their eyes westward and located at a distance from the center of civilization, as each community became less and less independent, it became plainer and more desirable that some regular means of transportation be established.” In this case, Partridge is speaking primarily of the trans-continental railroad system. He later says, “It is hard to say just what line of development the future will follow; so let us leave the future, and look at few of the needs for, and results of a good transportation system.”
He goes on to discuss the relative costs and benefits of cable cars, electric railroad, and bicycles for both urban and rural areas alike.
It’s interesting to note that, by the time Partridge’s speech was published in 1896, automobiles had been in production for 10 years in Europe (not that they were big sellers). Just a few years after Partridge’s speech, automobiles would go into large-scale production down the road from M.A.C. at the Oldsmobile Plant in Lansing, established in 1902, and a few years later by Ford. Yet it doesn’t appear that Partridge or his contemporaries would have predicted how predominant motor vehicles would become, nor their effect on the infrastructure and even social organization of a place like the M.A.C. Just a few years later, students at the college were apparently part of the growing national discourse passionately arguing over whither the future of American technology. A printed version of a speech given by one Mr. Geo B. Fuller, M.A.C. 1900, printed in the March 13, 1900 issue of the M.A.C. Record, titled “The Evolution of the Automobile”, demonstrates the underlying optimism many had regarding this new technology and its potential for social and economic progress. Mr. Fuller’s speech talks of the public prejudice against early automobiles and their inventors in Europe. “The Englishman is an admirer of the horse; and those engaged in the horse trade were afraid of the automobiles, and took measures to have laws passed which would render them useless…. It was not until recently that movements might have been seen preparatory to the development and manufacture of automobiles as a new industry.” He furthermore speaks of automobiles as the solution to several extant problems, and predicts a new age of technological equality: “For the future, the automobile promises a city practically free from the rumbling of heavy drays, and the clatter of the horses hoofs which make modern urban life more or less miserable…. Not only will the rumble of heavy trucks disappear, but the removal of the horse from the street will practically solve the problem of street cleaning. The repairing of roads will be reduced to a minimum…. Once the horseless age is in full sway, every man will own his automobile. The bicycle will be put away – except for sport. Even on the farm motor-driven wagons will carry the hay from the field and the grain to the market. The horse will still be harnessed to the plow, furnish sport on the race course, and exercise for the few, but he will no longer be the burden carrier of man.”
It’s clear that the “horseless age” as envisioned by Mr. Fuller isn’t quite what came to pass, and the arrival of personal automobiles on the M.A.C. campus came with its own problems, to judge from further mentions of transportation in early 20th century M.A.C. Record issues and Board of Trustee minutes. By the 1920s automobiles had become common enough for college officials to worry about organizing parking during football games, but also popular enough for the student paper to offer advice on driving routes between cities.
The October 15, 1920 issue of the M.A.C. Record provides advice on automobile routes between East Lansing and Ann Arbor. Navigation by automobile in those days was much like driving off-road today, it seems; the routes between the two cities include dirt and gravel roads linking between the incipient state highway system, which did include Grand River (M-16) by 1918.
It’s not clear how students and faculty at an agricultural school such as M.A.C. would have felt about the changes that came with the transition to “the horseless age.” On the one hand, the presence of motor vehicles may have made certain aspects of campus life easier. On the other hand, some, especially those whose work (or research) depended a horse-based transportation system, may have felt that their future livelihood was at stake. It’s also not clear yet (from what I’ve found) just how quickly horse-based transportation truly disappeared from the landscape in a place as rural as the M.A.C. campus once was.
The reports on the first and second annual horse shows at the college in the early 1920s go out of their way both to remark on the presence of numerous automobiles (which underscores how noteworthy they actually were at the time) as well as comment at length on the importance of holding a horse show in the first place:
“The importance of such a contest at M.A.C. is twofold. It inspires interest in well-bred and trained animals and touches also on the preparedness of the military program. As an annual feature the horse show will undoubtedly grow in popularity and in the general interest displayed by the people of the state.” (M.A.C. Record, May 12, 1924). By 1930, however, emphasis on the nature of the horse show in the M.A.C. Record had shifted to its ‘aristocratic’ nature (actual wording used in the article), not its practical one (link). I can’t be sure that this is linked to changes in infrastructure and technological access, but this topic is of continuing interest to me, so I’ll likely be following it up more in the future. Stay tuned.
This is a Campus Archaeology Intern Update by Eve
In 1855, the Michigan Legislature decided to purchase 676 acres of marshy, woodsy, swampy land. These 676 acres would later evolve into what we know today as the beautiful campus of Michigan State University.
When the college opened its doors on May 13, 1857 the campus consisted of three faculty houses, a little cabin, College Hall, and a barn. As years went on the campus expanded; new buildings were built, the land was used for different purposes, and the number of students grew exponentially.
So why is all of this important?? If I were to ask you where the center of campus is located, what would you say?
The answers I have received thus far are very interesting. Some say Shaw Hall, others Spartan Stadium, others say the center of campus is at Beaumont Tower. As you can see, these are all extremely different places. So why do people look at the center of campus as being in such different places?
This semester, my research will be focused on exploring the center of campus, both as a literal center and where people perceive the center to be and asking myself why this is the case. I will be looking at changes that occurred in the four phases of MSU set forth by the Campus Archaeology Program. When looking at the literal center of campus I am first asking myself, “where is it?”. Should be an obvious question to ask right? Thus far in my research however, I have yet to find a source that provides me with this information. I’m then looking at how construction has affected its location and why the campus expanded in the way it did. When researching people’s perception of the center of campus I’m asking my self questions such as “where is it generally located?”, “has it changed and if so when?”, “do landmarks have an influence on the location of the center of campus?”, and “why do people view a certain area as the center?”. I am also interested in looking at how archaeological contexts can be used to observe trends in use of space and identify historically where campus center is located. This research becomes important because it helps us understand how the university has evolved and how students view the change in landscape over time.
So far I have been focusing on the first fifty years of MSU (aka the first “phase” set by forth by CAP). This phase, from 1855-1875, marks the beginning stages of the university. At this time the buildings were concentrated in one area and the boundaries of the campus were the “Lansing-Detroit Plank Road” to the north, the farmlands to the east, the Red Cedar River to the south, and the forests to the west. The buildings that were built reflected the student life at the time. There were dormitories for men only (seeing that Morrill Hall, built for women, was not constructed until 1900), laboratories for students to learn in, barns for the animals that grazed the fields, houses for the faculty, and College Hall which served as the chapel and classrooms among other functions. The buildings were all along what we know today as West Circle Drive.
As I am beginning to look into the next 25 years of MSU history I am beginning to understand the construction and expansion of the university. Although I have yet to look at the actual buildings that were being built, I am noticing trends in the location of the new buildings. In 1900, the mandatory manual labor that students were required to participate in began to fizzle out. The need for the immense farmlands was becoming unnecessary. I am predicting that the building expansion eastward onto the farmlands is a result of the change in class structure. I guess only more research will give me an answer…so back to the books I go!