Not Ready for this Jelly Juice Glass

Mason jars are having a moment. If you’ve attended a wedding (particularly the barn variety) or eaten at a brunch establishment in the last decade, chances are you’ve consumed a beverage out of a Mason jar. What the youngest among us may not realize is that drinking out of jars isn’t a radical new trend. Look no further than the Mason jar’s less Instagrammable cousin: the jelly juice glass. Perhaps you remember drinking your morning OJ out of a repurposed jelly jar printed with characters from Howdy Doody, the Peanuts, or Pokémon. Perhaps you’ve always wondered why those were a “thing”. If so, read on to explore the ingenious marriage of packaging and marketing that led to the jelly glass, including one CAP recovered from the site of the former East Lansing city dump during excavations at the Brody Complex.

Swanky Swigs tumblers produced by Kraft. Image source

Swanky Swigs tulip pattern tumblers produced by Kraft. Image source

In 1916, America’s first self-service grocery store, a Piggly Wiggly, opened in Memphis, Tennessee (1). Before self-service stores, customers went to their local grocer and handed the clerk their shopping list (2). The clerk then retrieved these items behind the counter and packaged them for the customer to take home. Self-service stores allowed customers to peruse aisles of pre-packaged items before making their selections. As this business model boomed, point of sale factors such as the appeal of a product’s packaging became increasingly important in influencing customer purchases (2). As such, packaging became a key point of interaction between mass production and modern supermarkets (3).

Commercial glassmakers played an important role in producing appealing packages. Before the rise of plastic, mass-produced products such as jam, jelly, peanut butter, and dairy products were packaged in glass containers called packers. After these products were consumed, packers could be reused as drinking glasses (4). Knowing this, glassmakers designed packers that doubled as attractive tumblers. Small tumblers such as those for jams and jellies were the perfect size for juice (5). Products packaged in tumblers were an appealing choice to consumers who were more likely to buy if they were getting a premium with their purchase (3).

In order to make them more marketable, packer tumblers were often decorated in eye-catching and collectible designs. Early tumblers were molded into different patterns. Later designs were hand-painted or applied using a silkscreen process (5). In the 1930s, Kraft spreadable cheeses were famously packaged in tumblers marketed as “Swanky Swigs” (6). Swanky Swigs were decorated with pretty, neutral patterns such as bands, stars, and flowers. Brand loyalty was encouraged as customers repurchased products to acquire a complete set. This was an effective marketing strategy during the Depression, when companies had to adapt to sell products to a nation with little money to waste (6). In the 1950s, companies like Welch’s began featuring cartoon characters (5, 7). Various character glasses have been produced since.

Capstan tumbler from Brody/Emmons Complex.

Capstan tumbler from Brody/Emmons Complex.

In contrast to Swanky Swigs, the tumbler from the Brody dump is plain, the only decorative element being a small band of vertical ridges below the rim. The bottom of the glass is embossed with an image of a capstan, the spool-like machine used to haul ropes and cables on ships and docks. This distinctive logo belonged to the Capstan Glass Company, a subsidiary of the Anchor Cap & Closure Corporation from April 1918 until February 1938 (8). Anchor Cap purchased the Ripley & Co. glass factory in South Connellsville, Pennsylvania in 1917 and replaced all the old equipment for hand-blown and pressed glassware with new automatic machinery (9). Capstan’s operations at the plant began in 1919 with the first load of tumblers shipped on June 9 of that year (3). By 1927, Capstan’s plant employed 500 workers with shipments averaging from seven to twelve carloads a day (3,9). Business was so strong that Capstan’s president claimed the operation to be the world’s largest exclusive manufacturer of commercial packers’ glassware (3). After a series of mergers between 1928 and 1937, Anchor Cap and Closure acquired Capstan and became the Anchor Hocking Glass Corporation. Container production continued at the South Connellsville plant under the Capstan name until February 18th, 1938, when it reopened as Anchor-Hocking (3).

Bottom of tumbler showing Capstan makers mark and date stamp.

Bottom of tumbler showing Capstan makers mark and date stamp.

The history of Capstan Glass indicates that the tumbler from the Brody Dump dates between 1918 and 1938. These dates are consistent with other items recovered from the same context. The bottom of the Brody glass features the Capstan logo with “1C” above and “5” below. According to Barry Bernas, who has written substantially about Capstan, the letter C was used to identify their line of plain tumblers (3). Bernas writes that this line came in twenty sizes ranging in volume from one to sixteen ounces and was advertised from at least 1922 until January 1935 (3). The American Stores Company employed plain Capstan tumblers of this style as jackets for ASCO brand products peanut butter (3). However, these tumblers were likely used for a variety of brands and products, as they were not marked with a particular brand name.

Jelly juice jars are simple, yet fascinating items. They are located at the nexus of mass production and consumption, yet they are also a brilliant example of reusable packaging. Jury’s still out on whether you can expect to start seeing jelly glasses replace Mason jars at wedding receptions. If you do, now you’ll have an instant conversation topic. You’re welcome.




99 Colors of Beer Glass on the Wall: A Short History Bottle Colors

Why are there different colored beer bottles and what does it mean? Today, beer bottles are manufactured in a number of colors, but has that always occurred? These are the questions I have been asking myself as I have been looking through Campus Archaeology artifacts, especially the several beer bottles curated in our collections.

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

Jadeite bowl fragment from the Emmons Amphitheater assemblage

Jadeite bowl fragment from the Emmons Amphitheater assemblage

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 the large quantity of glass from the Brody/Emmons Complex assemblage we came across another piece of glowing glass: part of a horizontally ribbed bowl in a striking jade green color. If you’re a collector or a frequenter of antique stores, you’ve probably already guessed the identity of our second piece of glowing glass: jadeite, another type of uranium glass.

Jadeite bowl fragment under black light

Jadeite bowl fragment under black light

Before we continue we should probably address the radioactive elephant in the room: why would people put uranium in stuff we eat and drink from? It might sound strange, but uranium was once a common colorant added to glass and ceramic glazes. Uranium glass was particularly popular in the early 20th century, when large quantities of uranium salts were being produced as byproducts of the radium extraction industry (1). The addition of yellow uranium oxide during the initial glass melting process produces colors ranging from yellow to green, though other hues including pink, blue, and white can be obtained by adding other colorants to the mix (2). Glass colored with uranium salts is easily identified because uranium fluoresces bright green under ultraviolet light (3). Luckily, since these items emit only negligibly tiny amounts of radiation, they are safe to handle, eat and drink from (3). Uranium fell out of use after World War II when it became critical to the war effort (think: the Manhattan Project). From 1942 to 1958 civilian use of uranium was heavily regulated, so glassmakers had to find different ways of achieving similar colors (3). The fact that the fragment from the Brody/Emmons Amphitheater assemblage glows green under black light tells us it contains uranium and therefore that it dates prior to 1943.

So what’s the deal with jadeite? Or is it Jadite? Jade-ite? All of these terms refer to the opaque, milky green colored glass originally manufactured by one of three glass companies: McKee, Jeanette, and Anchor Hocking (4). McKee Glass Company of Jeannette, Pennsylvania was the first to make kitchen and dinnerware from this material. Beginning in 1930, they produced opaque green dinnerware they marketed as “Skokie” green (5). Jeannette Glass Company, also located in Jeannette, began manufacturing a similar glass product starting in the mid-1930s (4). Jeanette coined the term “Jadite” in reference to the product’s resemblance to the semi-precious stone. The Fire-King division of Anchor Hocking was the last of the three companies to start making this product, which they called “Jade-ite” (4). After World War II, Fire-King began selling jadeite kitchen and dinnerware similar to those made by Jeannette and McKee (6). They also made a highly successful line of restaurant ware that was thicker, heavier, and sturdier than the products intended for home use (6). Fire-King Jade-ite was manufactured and sold between 1945 and 1975 and is highly collectable today (6).

(3)Reproduction of a Jeannette ribbed bowl. Source:

Reproduction of a Jeannette ribbed bowl. Source

The discerning reader will notice that these later dates of production mean that Fire-King Jade-ite could not have contained uranium. This tells us that our jadeite was probably made either by McKee or Jeannette, which both used uranium in their production during the 1930s and early 1940s (3). While the fragment we recovered unfortunately does not have a maker’s mark, there are many examples of ribbed jadeite products produced by Jeanette during this period.

Fire-King ball jug – the holy grail of jadeite collectables. Image Source.

Fire-King ball jug – the holy grail of jadeite collectables. Image Source.

Today, jadeite is highly sought after by collectors. While the more common pieces are fairly affordable, rare pieces like the coveted Fire-King Jade-ite ball pitcher or the handled soup cup can sell for hundreds of dollars (4,7). At the time it was produced, however, jadeite was not a high-end product (8). Jadeite wares were sold at five and dime stores and were often given away as promotional items. Citrus reamers were given away to customers for free with the purchase of boxes of fruit (5) and smaller jadeite items were included in bags of flours or boxes of oatmeal in hopes of enticing consumers to buy the complete set or larger, more expensive items such as dinner plates (8).

Jadeite could be sold cheaply is because it was cheap to make. It was originally made with green scrap glass added into milk glass mixtures (8). Additionally, most jadeite items were made using presses, which allowed for mass production. Pressed glass is made by pouring molten glass into cast-iron molds either by hand or by automated machines (9). Pressed glass was particularly popular in the Depression era because this mode of production made it possible to produce a large quantity of items quickly and in a range of patterns and styles (10). These inexpensive pressed glass items carried many glass companies through the Depression (10,11).

Despite its low cost, jadeite is very durable, which explains why it can still be readily found intact in antique and vintage stores (5). Jadeite has many enthusiastic fans, including Martha Stewart and her daughter Alexis (5). Martha’s jadeite collection was featured prominently in her cooking show, which helped drive up the popularity—and prices—of vintage jadeite in the 1990s (7). Avid collectors can be very particular about their jadeite. Purists consider only McKee, Jeannette, or Anchor Hocking products authentic jadeite (4). However, jadeite’s newfound popularity has inspired production of a variety of new pieces. Martha Stewart’s company, Martha by Mail, and Cracker Barrel make jadeite reproductions that are fairly close approximations of old pieces (4,7). You know… if you’re looking to start collecting.



Photo Captions

Liquor Bottle Base

Earlier this week, Josh Eads and I concluded our work on Feature 1 and began working on the third level of our unit, which required us to remove 10 centimeters of soil from the floor of the unit. While shovel skimming along our western wall, I struck a hard object. Thinking I had come across another one of the annoyingly plentiful tree roots or large rocks in our unit, I forced my shovel forward in an attempt to slice through the object. Unfortunately, I succeeded and ended up knocking a few sherds of glass off a hidden object. After collecting all of the glass sherds, some of which were no larger than the tip of my thumb nail, I began pawing around in the soil to find the object I had struck. After a few seconds, I pulled a mostly complete bottle base out of the ground.

Pint Full Measure bottle from Unit A.

Pint Full Measure bottle from Unit A. Base with two serif B and letter 7.

As can be seen from the two images, the base itself is relatively complete, except for a piece I accidentally managed to break off when I unknowingly struck it with my shovel. Additionally, unlike the Diamond Ink Co. bottle I found a couple of weeks ago, this bottle still had a portion of the body attached. The words “Pint Full Measure” stamped into the body indicate this bottle used to contain liquor. After a fair amount of research on the serif-B maker’s mark on the bottom of the base, I have been able to determine that this bottle was produced by the Charles Boldt Glass Co.

Charles Boldt Bottle Base. Image Source.

Charles Boldt Bottle Base. Image Source.

The Charles Boldt Glass Co. was born in 1900 when the Muncie Glass Co., headed by Charles Boldt, purchased the Nelson Glass Co. Boldt’s new namesake company remained in operation until 1919. During its peak, the company had factories at four different locations: Muncie, Indiana; Cincinnati, Ohio; Louisville, Kentucky; and Huntington, West Virginia. Not much is known about the factories in Louisville or Huntington, but the factory in Muncie mostly produced Mason fruit jars, milk bottles, and other food package ware, while the factory in Cincinnati mostly produced liquor bottles and flasks. In 1910, Boldt obtained a license to manufacture his liquor bottles using automatic machines from the Owens Bottle Co., another large Ohio-based glass company. The bottle I found was most likely produced by one of these machines. Even though we are missing the portion of the bottle body that normally exhibits the tell-tale clamp scar of an Owens machine, the general shape of the base, as well as the circular seam pattern present, coincide with complete Boldt bottles that are known to have been made with these machines. After obtaining his license from Owens, Boldt dramatically increased his manufacture of liquor bottles, and the Cincinnati plant became Boldt’s most productive factory until the onset of Prohibition in 1919. Over the next few years, Owens Bottle Co. purchased most of the stock in Boldt’s company, and by 1926, had completely purchased the organization. Today, the company is known as the Owens-Illinois Glass Company, and is based in Perrysburg, Ohio.

Whereas I am ecstatic about unearthing a more complete bottle, this discovery has served as an important lesson for me: If I strike an object while shovel skimming, I better check to see what it is before I make an attempt at forcing my shovel forward. I’m just thankful that this was not a complete bottle to begin with, and that the damage done was not too severe. From now on, I plan to be extra careful while I shovel skim.



Lockhart, Bill. “Owens-Illinios Glass Company.” Society for Historical Archaeology, Accessed 17 June 2017.

Lockhart, Bill, Pete Schulz, Carol Serr, and Bill Lindsay. “The Dating Game: The Distinctive Marks of the Charles Boldt Glass Co.” Bottles and Extras, Mar. – April 2007, pp. 2-6, Accessed 16 June 2017.

Schulz, Pete, Bill Lockhart, Carol Serr, Bill Lindsay, Beau Schreiver, and David Whitten. “Charles Boldt Glass Co.” Society for Historical Archaeology, 3 May 2014, Accessed 16 June 2017.

Poor’s Manual of Industries. Vol. 7, New York, Poor’s Manual Company, 1916. Accessed 16 June 2017.


Investigating Historic Laboratory Glassware at MSU

At Campus Archaeology, we often encounter laboratory glassware in contexts such as the veterinary and botanical laboratories, excavations near lab row, and even the Gunson assemblage. This is not surprising, as MSU has a long history of scientific research. However, the presence of lab glass presents us with some interesting challenges as we attempt to answer questions such as: what kind of equipment is this from? When is it from? What might it have been used for?

Various types of laboratory glass can be seen in this photograph of the Bacteriology laboratory from 1905. Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

Various types of laboratory glass can be seen in this photograph of the Bacteriology laboratory from 1905. Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

In order to begin identifying the large quantities of lab glass in our collections, it helps to understand what forms of glassware exist and what they are used for. Beakers and flasks are used to hold reagents for chemical reactions. Graduated cylinders are used for measuring the volume of samples. Retorts are used for distillation, pipettes for transferring fluids, condensers for cooling hot liquids or vapors, and so on. As we encounter distinctive pieces in our assemblages, we can compare their shapes and sizes to catalogs of laboratory glass to try to identify the type of equipment they came from.

Sometimes, the color or thickness of glass might help us identify its use. Dark brown or amber (actinic) glass might indicate a bottle used for chemical storage. Actinic glass is often used for storage purposes because it blocks ultraviolet and infrared radiation that causes chemical degradation. In contrast, laboratory glass used for experiments is colorless and transparent to allow for viewing of chemical reactions. Very thick, heavy-walled glass may indicate glass used in pressure reactions, while thin, flat glass tends to be used for more delicate objects such as microscope slides.

As I learned in my research, even the type of glass and its place of manufacture can provide some information about an artifact. Ideally, laboratory glass should be resistant to cracking due to thermal stress. When glass is heated or cooled rapidly, the temperature of the external surface changes more quickly than the internal surface. This causes unbalanced expansion of the glass, which can produce cracks. Early 19th century glassmakers addressed this problem by producing thin-walled glassware made of lime glass. Thinning the walls reduced the temperature differential between inner and outer surfaces, limiting the risk of cracks.

At the end of the 19th century, a German chemist named Otto Schott discovered a more elegant solution to the problem of thermal stress. Between 1887 and 1893, Schott and his associates Carl Zeiss and Ernst Abbe developed borosilicate glass, a type of glass composed of silica and boron trioxide that expands very little in the presence of heat. This heat-resistant property quickly made borosilicate, over lime glass, then the industry standard for laboratory glassware. Borosilicate glass was marketed as “Jena glass” after Jena, Germany, where it was developed.

Whitall Tatum & Company bottle from Gunson assemblage. Chemical symbol for KO on bottle body.

Whitall Tatum & Company bottle from Gunson assemblage. Chemical symbol for KO on bottle body.

The United States produced little of its own glassware in the 19th century. By 1902 at least one American company (Whitall Tatum & Co.) was also making borosilicate laboratory glass under the brand name of “Nonsol.” Several Whitall Tatum & Co. bottles with chemical names and formulas were recovered from the Gunson site. However, most American companies struggled to compete with German-made scientific glassware. It wasn’t until World War I when, economically cut off from Europe, America began to produce most of its own laboratory glass. A 1918 Bureau of Standards study of laboratory glassware showed five American brands of borosilicate glass (Macbeth-Evans, Pyrex, Nonsol, Fry, and Libbey) performed as well as German Jena Glass. All six borosilicate glass brands were more resistant to thermal shock than Kavalier, the most popular brand of lime glass.

Archival information on campus purchases of laboratory glassware is often limited. The archives do not always provide specifics about the types of laboratory glass that were being purchased or what they were used for. Sometimes, there are records that glass purchases were made—in the 1897 Minutes of the Meeting of the Board of Trustees, for example, the records show that the veterinarian requested $100 worth of “glassware—test tubes, etc.,” but no other information is provided. Photographs of students and faculty working in various laboratories across campus can provide more direct evidence as to the types of glassware used around campus. A photograph of the bacteriology laboratory in 1905 shows a collection of bell jars, petri dishes, test tubes, glass reagent bottles, a microscope (and, I presume, microscope slides), and a large Erlenmeyer flask. A 1914 photograph of students in the chemistry laboratory shows an array of clear reagent bottles with glass stoppers (some helpfully labeled “Alcohol” and “Acid Acetic”), volumetric flasks, an Erlenmeyer flask, and a graduated cylinder.

Glassware in the chemistry laboratory in 1914. Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

Glassware in the chemistry laboratory in 1914. Image courtesy of MSU Archives & Historical Collections

Sometimes we are lucky enough to come across lab glass with makers’ marks. A piece of a flask or beaker with the mark “Schott & Gen” recovered from the Gunson assemblage probably refers to Schott & Genossen, the glass manufacturing company founded by Otto Schott and associates. This tells us that this item was manufactured after 1887, and was probably imported from Germany, likely before World War I when American production of borosilicate glassware became more common.

Recent excavations have provided us with an abundance of laboratory glassware. As we encounter these artifacts in our laboratory, we will continue to use some of the strategies described here to identify them and connect them with activities on campus.



MSU Archives & Historical Collections. UA 1 State Board of Agriculture/Board of Trustee Records. Board of Trustee Meeting Minutes Notes: 1897

Jenson, WB. The Origin of Pyrex. J. Chem. Educ., 2006;83:692-693.

Walker PH and FA Smither. Comparative Tests of Chemical Glassware, Technological Papers of the Bureau of Standards, No. 107, Government Printing Office: Washington, DC, 1918.

An inkling from the privy: Cox’s Carmine Ink

In June of 2015, CAP discovered a privy during archaeological monitoring. This discovery was the first privy to ever be excavated on campus. From the collection of artifacts recovered during the excavation, this structure has been narrowed down to a decade of use, from 1850’s-1860’s[1]. (To learn more about this excavation click here.) During this excavation, two ink bottles were recovered, shown here. The one on the right is clearly decorative, probably being placed on a desk and used as an ink well. The one on the left however has been the subject of a many empty searches.

Ink bottle/well found in the privy. Left: Cox's Carmine Ink, Right: Cobalt Conical Inkwell

Ink bottle/well found in the privy. Left: Cox’s Carmine Ink, Right: Cobalt Conical Inkwell

The bottle on the left is an ink bottle, used to refill wells and other ink receptacles. It is embossed with the phrase, “Cox’s Carmine Ink.” As with most of our artifacts here at Campus Archaeology, the fun part of lab work is chasing leads on artifacts. This is one of the benefits of archaeology. Once the artifacts are excavated, cleaned and catalogued the fun begins. Historic archaeology is unique in that it allows us to create a very narrow timeline for the use life of the artifacts recovered based upon historic records. Usually, these lines of research yield a wealth of information. However, in some cases, we need to put a shout to the public to see if they know of any information about our items. This is the case with our Cox’s Carmine Ink bottle.

Cox's Carmine Ink Bottle from West Circle Privy

Cox’s Carmine Ink Bottle from West Circle Privy

There is no information on the bottle other than the lettering and no mold seams are evident on the bottle. I was unable to find a Cox’s Ink company but there is a wealth of information on carmine ink itself. Carmine ink has a very long history. Carmine dye, used to make the ink, is made from the cochineal, a scale insect that is crushed to produce a deep red hue that is illustrated in the border of the picture. These insects are native to Central and South America. It has been exported since the 1500’s from Central America and most assuredly used long before that by the native populations of Central and South America[2]. Aside from fabric dyes, carmine was used to make any colored inks that contained a red pigment, such as red, pink, purple, blue and black. There are formulas that mix it with a Cox’s gelatin to make a paint for ceramics and china.[3]

Base of Cox's Carmine Ink Bottle from West Circle Privy

Base of Cox’s Carmine Ink Bottle from West Circle Privy

Today, carmine is also called crimson lake, natural red 4, and cochineal and is often produced synthetically. It is used to color foods, watercolour paints, artificial flowers, and cosmetics such as rouge[4]. Some of its other uses include thermal inks for x-rays, fax machines and screen printing. A true carmine ink or paint is higher in quality and thus more expensive than it’s synthetic counterpart[5]. It’s use in food is highly regulated today in both the EU and the USA as allerigies to it have occurred[6].

So, what does all this mean for our bottle? Well, we can speculate many uses for this ink from red ink used to grade papers, an additive for a ink solution used to decorate cakes or other foods, an additive used to make paints for ceramics/china to an ink used for x-rays. All of these uses make sense on a college campus during the 1850’s and 1860’s. Information about Cox’s Ink company still remains a mystery however. If anyone reading this blog has information about this company, please contact either myself (@nicolle1977 on Twitter, or campus archaeology at (@capmsu or


1.More Than Just Nightsoil: Preliminary Findings from MSU’s First Privy., Bright, Meyers Emery & Michael. 2015.


3.“How to Paint on China”. The Art Amateur. Kellogg, Lavinia Steele. 1884


5.Watercolour paints.

6.Asthma and allergy due to carmine dye.


Gunson’s Glowing Glass: History and Archaeology of Uranium Glass

Over the summer, we found some yellow-green bumpy glass within the Gunson collection. It was a unique color that didn’t fit with the normal range of aqua, clear, green and brown glass, and appeared to be in a form that was nicer- like a vase or drinking glass. It also had an odd raised pattern that we hadn’t seen before.


Our vaseline glass in normal light

That’s when we pulled out the black light and discovered it glowed! We had found our first sample of Uranium Glass on campus.

Our vaseline glass under black light

Our vaseline glass under black light

Uranium glass, also known as vaseline glass due to its color, is glass that has uranium added to the mixture during the molten period when color is added. The amount of uranium can range from 2-20%, and can vary in color from yellow to yellow green or even avocado coloring. Due to the presence of uranium oxide in the glass, the glass will glow a bright green color when put under a black light- this is the best way to identify it. While uranium is radioactive, it isn’t actually bad to drink or enjoy food in the glassware that uses this. The amounts that leach out of the glass is so tiny, that it won’t have an effect on you.

Vaseline glass became popular during the mid-19th century, and was at its height of popularity from the 1880s to 1920s. Uranium oxide was first used as a coloring agent in the 1830s, and spread throughout Europe during the 1840s. It was produced by a variety of companies, who specialized in different tones of greens and yellows. Each company had unique names for their specific color of uranium glass, including citron, jasmine, golden green, mustard, Florentine and more. During the Depression, iron oxide was added to the glass to increase its green glow- although antique collecting purists argue that this shouldn’t be included in true uranium glass collections. The glass was formed into a variety of decorative and practical dinnerware pieces including cups, bowls, plates, vases, figurines, paperweights and more.

In 1943, production of vaseline glass was stopped due to the implementation of heavy regulations on the use of uranium. It wasn’t until 1958 that uranium was deregulated and the production of vaseline glass resumed, this time using depleted uranium instead of the natural radioactive version.

Vaseline hobnail glass bowl - our fragment is likely from the base. Image Source

Vaseline hobnail glass bowl – our fragment is likely from the base. Image Source

At the Gunson/Admin site, our uranium glass included a piece of golden green hobnail glass. Hobnail glass is a specific pattern of decoration where bumps of glass are added to the exterior or interior of the glass to produce a raised pattern. While these were most popular during the 1940s and 1950s, they came into production during the Victorian period. Our uranium glass is a unique piece of history, and is just plain cool. The glowing glass is something that today we may view as strange- who would ever want to drink out of a glass colored with a radioactive material- but in the past was a unique collectible. You can still find examples of uranium glass today in antique shops, but buyer beware. There are fake vaseline glass products that have the neon green coloring but do not glow under a black light. Unless it glows, it isn’t real uranium glass!


Antique Vaseline Glass. Collector’s Weekly.

These People Love to Collect Radioactive Glass. Are They Nuts? Collector’s Weekly.

Uranium Glass. Wikipedia.

Vernor’s, A Michigan Tradition and MSU favorite

Vernor's Bottle Found in Peoples Park

Vernor’s Bottle Found in Peoples Park

In light of the Venor’s sesquicentennial (150th anniversary), we here at CAP decided to highlight one of our finds from the People’s Park excavations in February of 2011. We found an intact Vernor’s bottle labeled as “Detroit’s Drink”. What is the connection to MSU and Detroit other than freeways you ask? Well keep reading and I’ll tell you.

We know that this slogan appeared on bottles with cork stoppers between 1918 and 1921 [1]. In 1921, the Vernor’s slogan changed to “Deliciously Different”. The apostrophe was dropped in 1959 [2] and the embossed Vernor’s Ginger Ale logo appeared on the very first bottles as early as 1896. The logo was put on the bottom because the bottles were shipped and cased upside down to keep the cork wet so the carbonation would not be lost. There was also a paper label that would have been under the embossing. According to the maker’s mark, our bottle was produced in Evansville, Indiana by the Graham Glass Company. Now comes a little Michigan history.

Close up of Vernor's Ginger

Close up of Vernor’s Ginger

Close up of Detroit's Drink

Close up of Detroit’s Drink

Vernor’s has long been a Michigan staple and favorite to those of us that call the mitten home. It is also one the oldest ginger ales and the oldest soda/pop/soft drink in continuous production in the country, predating both Coca-Cola and Dr. Pepper [3]. It was invented by James Vernor, a Detroit pharmacist just prior to the Civil War. He was trying to develop a stomach tonic of vanilla, ginger and spices. As the urban legend goes, Mr. Vernor was called to fight in the Civil War in 1862 when he stored the new drink in oak casks until his return in 1866 [4]. The casks were cracked open and a new ginger ale born. The drink was first served in his soda fountain adjacent to his pharmacy until carbonation could be bottled in 1896. Mr. Vernor was very strict over the production of his drink, being known as a perfectionist and remained so until his passing on October 27, 1927 [5]. His family sold the company in 1966.

Vernor's Bottle Base

Vernor’s Bottle Base

If you’re interested in learning some recipes for this famous beverage, check out the MSU Special Collections Library for their collection of little cookbooks here that have lots of recipes [6] and don’t forget to follow them on Twitter at @msulibraries. Some of the most famous recipes include the Boston Cooler (named for the street Vernor’s fountain shop was on, it consists of Vernor’s and vanilla ice cream), a Flint Town favorite when paired with an olive burger from Halo Burger and Aretha Franklin’s own favorite, Vernor’s glazed holiday ham [7]. Both of these recipes can be found in the little cookbooks mentioned above.

Downtown East Lansing Vernor's Ad

Downtown East Lansing Vernor’s Ad – Image Source

East Lansing, along with Flint were distribution centers of this Great Lakes ginger ale as evidenced by some little known advertising around town. In the summer of 2001, building demolition in downtown East Lansing revealed this Vernor’s advertisement along the side of the Curious Book Shop.  The MSC mural advertisement next to the Vernor’s one dates between 1925, (when our name changed from Michigan Agricultural College to Michigan State College) and 1955 (when we officially became Michigan State University)[8]. Note the custom Spartan Helmet Woody, the Vernor’s mascot gnome, is wearing!

Drink Vernor's Ad from early 1950's in downtown East Lansing

Drink Vernor’s Ad from early 1950’s in downtown East Lansing – Image Source

If you find yourself craving some of these concoctions and immersing yourself in a Michigan tradition check out the 150th birthday party that will be held in Detroit from June 5-11 where the city will be awash in green and gold. More information can be found here courtesy of Detroit Historical Society. If you’ve ever wanted to experience a ginger beer crawl, world record numbers of Vernor’s drinkers or restaurants featuring the aforementioned recipes, this is your chance. Nothing says Michigan like MSU and Vernor’s.


Antique Bottle Forum.

2.  Vernor’s Club.

3. Detroit Historical Society.

4. Dr. Pepper Group.

5. MSU Library blog.

6. MSU Special Collections Library.

7. Huffington Post.

8. Michigan State University Archives

Red Souvenir Glass: A Beautiful Memory

Collecting souvenirs is not a modern phenomenon. Travelers have been collecting memorabilia of their adventures for centuries- bringing home with them evidence of the amazing sights and curiosities from far away places. They serve as an integral part of the travel experience for the tourist and for the native community. Souvenirs are evidence of where we have been, a tangible piece of our trip that we can bring home with us and share with others. They also provide those living in these areas with a source of income, or allow for protection and maintenance of heritage sites.

Example of Souvenir Glass from the World's Fair

Example of Souvenir Glass from the World’s Fair

One of the most popular types of souvenirs from the turn of the 20th century was a unique style of red glass simply called ‘Souvenir Glass’. The ability to personalize the souvenir was a fairly new phenomenon, and the cheap cost of the glass production made them extremely popular. Souvenir glass is a sub-type of Early American Pattern Glass. In the late 19th century, glass manufacturing greatly improved, making it easier and cheaper to make glass that had the look of more expensive crystal. Molten glass would be pressed into a mold that had a pattern in it, unlike cut glass or crystal where it needs to be hand shaped and cut by an expert.

Postcard from 1900s, sign reads "". via Bergie's Place Antiques

Postcard from 1900s, sign reads “Headquarters For Glass Engraving”. via Bergie’s Place Antiques

By the 1880s, manufacturers figured out how to add color to the pressed glass, allowing for a ruby red color to be placed in the goblet portion of it. This color was achieved by painting copper sulfate or other chemicals onto the glass, then firing it in a kiln at a high temperature, causing a chemical reaction and staining the glass. Since the coloring was painted on, it could be scratched off to engrave the glasses. The detail and precision of the engraving depended on the individual doing it- some appear to be hand-drawn while others were carefully etched with a lathe. During the early 1900s, it was popular for tourists to pick up these engraved ruby red glasses as memorabilia of their trip. The glasses would have the location, date, and could be pre-engraved with sentiments like ‘Mother’ or ‘Father’, or they could be personalized with the individual’s name. Postcards from the 1900s show images of tourists stopping at the “Headquarters For Glass Engraving” to get their ruby red classes engraved.

Souvenir Glass from Gunson Unit B

Souvenir Glass from Gunson Unit B

During the 2015 Campus Archaeology field school, we found a shard of ruby red glass with some engraving on it. Upon closer inspection, it was determined that this was souvenir glass, and was possibly engraved with a name. We know from our archival research, that the area excavated during the field school likely has the reconstruction remains of the Gunson household. Professor Gunson’s second wife, Lutie, may have been the owner of this souvenir glass. It is even possible that she collected it in Michigan. During the early 19th century, souvenir glass was a popular collectible purchases on Mackinac Island, and they have many examples of this type of memorabilia in their current museum. This is a very unique and interesting artifact- just from this one little shard, we can learn so much about who these people were. A souvenir is a keepsake of an important memory, so what might this glass have been a memory of? Perhaps it is from a family outing or a romantic trip?


Bergie’s Place: Early American Pattern Glass.

Frank Kriesche’s Ruby Red Souvenir Glass. Mackinac Park Website.

What do you do with melted glass?

Artifacts cleaned and ready for cataloging

Down in the Campus Archaeology lab we are dealing with an interesting problem. Two of our volunteers, Katie and Dana, have been diligently cleaning and cataloging artifacts from the work we did this past Fall. As most of you know, we excavated the Northwest portion of Saints Rest, the first dormitory. Since the building burned down,  numerous artifacts were affected by the fire. This complicates the identification process, especially when it comes to identifying the glass. Usually differentiating between window glass and bottle glass isn’t difficult. You place the piece on a table, and see if it has any curve to it. Window glass is completely flat, bottle is not.

Warped and burnt glass from Saints Rest


So what do you do when your glass sherds are warped out of shape, color is changed due to the fire, and there are no clear indicators as to what it may have been? That is the question we are dealing with. We are currently examining the glass to try to make sense of the bending and warping in order to better interpret it. Hopefully we will be able to organize some of it.

Anyone know of any resources on identifying burnt artifacts? Any tips for identifying warped glass?