An Examination of Gendered Space Through Glass, Ceramics, and the Occasional Doll Head

For the past year, I have been investigating the gendered landscape of the historic campus. University Archives keeps the scrapbooks made by past female students and we can find newspaper clippings detailing female exploits on campus, but until recently it has remained fairly difficult to “see” women in the archaeological record. Of course we know women lived, worked, and studied at MSU throughout the years, but why is their archaeological imprint so invisible?

Perfume bottle from the Admin/Gunson assemblage

Perfume bottle from the Admin/Gunson assemblage

This summer CAP field school students excavated a deposit believed to be connected to the Gunson House. The amount of materials culled from the site was incredible! I have spent the past month going through the many bags in the lab and selecting the glass and ceramic artifacts that appear to be those most exclusively used and belonging to women. We know that the house became a women’s home management home after Professor Gunsons death. We also know that the Gunson house was likely home to some pretty fancy dishware as Professor Gunson and his wife were known to throw parties. The number of different patterns of plates, cups, and bowls, however, was surprising even given this knowledge.

"Lu 1905" souvenir glass from the admin/Gunson assemblage

“Lu 1905” souvenir glass from the admin/Gunson assemblage

Some examples of artifacts found at the site are included below. A definite feminine theme unites the assemblage as perfume bottles, doll parts, delicate glassware, and ornate dinnerware are pervasive throughout. Perhaps most interesting was the souvenir glass artifact with the “Lu…” and “1905” inscription. Campus Archaeologist Lisa Bright and I hypothesized that this was a personalized piece belonging to Lutie Gunson, the second wife of Professor Gunson (and housekeeper to the home when the first Mrs. Gunson was still alive!). This is the first piece of personalized material found in the assemblage so far. It was exciting to link an historical person with this assemblage!

 

Doll head from the admin/Gunson assemblage

Doll head from the admin/Gunson assemblage

Ceramic fragment from admin/Gunson assemblage

Ceramic fragment from admin/Gunson assemblage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Floral print and gilded ceramic fragments from the admin/Gunson assemblage

Floral print and gilded ceramic fragments from the admin/Gunson assemblage

 

Figure from admin/Gunson assemblage

Figure from admin/Gunson assemblage

Detroit: Stove Capital of the World

Detroit Stove Works, 1883, via ATDetroit

Detroit Stove Works, 1883, via ATDetroit

For most people, Detroit is known as the Motor City.  With the big three companies situated around the city, Detroit is a proud producer of automobiles for customers all over the world.  However, what people don’t know is that cars aren’t the only product that Detroit was once famous for.  Even before the first Model T rolled off the assembly line and on to the city streets, Detroit was known as the “Stove Capital of the World.”  Because of Michigan’s abundance of natural resources, the 19th and 20th century would prove to be an industrious time period for Michigan; the large amount of cast iron stoves produced in Michigan during this time is a clear indication of this.  There were many stove producing companies within the state, but the “big three” included the Detroit Stove Works, Michigan Stove Company, and the Peninsula Stove Company.

So why is this important? As you may already know, the Campus Archaeology staff spent part of this past June at the Saints’ Rest site, digging under the sidewalks and eventually expanding to a trench.  Saint’s Rest was the first dorm to be used on the MSU campus, and it stood between the years 1856 and 1876, until it (sadly) caught on fire and burnt to the ground.  The site was first excavated in 2005 by CAP, and we have continued working on it since then.

This summer, we were thrilled to discover a piece of a (very rusted and burnt) stove door at the Saints’ Rest site.  It’s not very large, and with the large amount of rust on it it’s hard to make out many features.  However, we do know it says “Detroit Mich” on the center of the door, and the number 25 is on the bottom edge.   Because Saints’ Rest burnt down in 1876, we know that the stove had to have been manufactured and used before 1876.  This is interesting, because the Detroit Stove Works wasn’t founded until 1864, and the Michigan Stove Company was founded in 1874.  This probably means that the stove we found on campus was probably one of the first stoves to be made in Michigan for it to have been on campus the day Saints’ Rest burnt down in 1876.

Stove Door found at Saints Rest Rescue Trench 1

Stove Door found at Saints Rest Rescue Trench 1

This is one of the coolest parts about historical archaeology.  We can take written and recorded accounts of what was going on at a certain point in history and compare it to the artifacts we find.  This comparison then helps us to fill in the gaps between what is written and what is found.  The stove door we found is an example of this.  From the writing on the door, we know it was manufactured in Detroit, Michigan.  From there we can figure out that it was probably made from either the Detroit Stove Works company or the Michigan Stove Company.  We also know the stove lived a short life – it was manufactured in the late 1860s to early 1870s, and was then burnt down with the rest of the building it resided in during the Saints’ Rest fire of 1876.  Of course, we’ll never know exactly what “life” this stove led, but from the information we do know, we can figure out the general idea of where it was made, who made it, and what became of it.

Works Cited

“Tales of Michigan” by Constance M. Jerlecki

Excavating Saints’ Rest

Saints’ Rest was first erected in 1856. It is the second building constructed at Michigan State University and the first dormitory. The name, Saints’ Rest, was a nickname from the students to the building more commonly known as the ‘hall’ or ‘home’. It was named so after a religious devotional book by Richard Baxter, The Saints’ Everlasting Rest, which was first published circa 1649 and was required reading for the first class of MSU students. A three story building, it served as the primary dorm until 1871, when Williams Hall was built. Sadly, Saints’ Rest was poorly constructed and, in the winter of 1876, it burned down.

Saints' Rest 1865, via MSU Archives on Flickr

Saints’ Rest 1865, via MSU Archives on Flickr

In 2005, excavations uncovered much of the northern portion of the structure as part of MSU’s Sesquicentennial. This dig was able to capture much of the last days of the building’s life- the cellar was full of brick from the collapsed building, there was charred wood beam, and the stoves from the different floors collapsed and stacked on top of each other. Due to the fact that it was winter break and that Williams was becoming more highly used, very few household artifacts were found. In 2007, more of the interior was investigated during a sidewalk realignment. In 2008, a refuse pit from the building was recovered during a tree-plating. These artifacts included ceramic whiteware, glass tumblers, and cut animal bone, all dating to the 1860s and 70s. The refuse pit was further excavated during 2009 during Grandparents University. In 2012 the northwest corner of the building was excavated during another sidewalk replacement project, and we were able to map a corner that had not been discovered previously.

This past week, Campus Archaeology got another chance to explore a new section of this historic building. Sidewalk removal and placement caused one walk above Saints’ Rest to be completely taken out and replaced with sod, and a new one was being placed in. The goal of this change in sidewalks was to protect the trees in the area, however it also allowed us the chance to explore the southern portions of the building. We opened up two trenches along the area where the new sidewalk was being placed, one in the north and one in the south. Shovel tests were done in between these areas.

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North Trench, via Katy Meyers

In the northern trench, we uncovered almost 80 centimeters of pure brick. Some were burnt, most were in small pieces, and only a few were whole. As we slowly moved through the brick and soil, a tough task in the hot sun, we found that there was a distinct change in soil color about halfway through the trench. As we progressed, we found all the components (minus the wood) for a door including the hinges and handles, portions of a stove door, and large amounts of nails. At 86 centimeters down we hit a dark level of compact plaster- the floor of the basement. We carefully revealed the floor, and halfway through the trench it stopped. There was a section of bricks, and then the second half of the trench was compacted sand. We think perhaps we found the division between two rooms, one with a raised plaster floor and the other a sand floor.

South Trench

South Trench, via Katy Meyers

The second trench to the south contained fairly high numbers of broken glass, whiteware, porcelain, metal, and even a complete spoon. However, as we got deeper around 40cm we found more brick and eventually hit an entire layer of brick that was stuck together in place with mortar. At first glance it looked like a patio or floor, but the bricks weren’t aligned correctly for that. Further digging we found that the bricks were in mortared sections, and had the appearance that they had been once upright instead of horizontal. In the eastern wall of the trench we found a pipe that ran the length of the trench through the bricks. It is highly likely this pipe was a chimney flue and the brick was the support for the chimney. It probably fell down during the fire or razing of the building, and was simply buried.

These two trenches have further helped us understand the layout and makeup of the building, and hopefully in the future we will be able to explore this southern area more!

Rainy Day Work: Integrating GIS and the Artifact Catalog

The large amount of rain East Lansing has experienced over the past three weeks has deeply affected the construction and archaeology on campus.  This delay in work has allowed us at the Campus Archaeology Program to turn our attention to the other side of archaeology: finds and analysis.  Back here at our homebase in MSU’s Consortium for Archaeological Research, we’re working on analysis and interpretation of our artifacts and integrating this with our maps.

Artifacts cleaned and ready for cataloging

Artifacts cleaned and ready for cataloging

Artifacts found on this campus vary from types of ceramics and metal fixtures found within homes to industrial pipes and building materials.  After the dig, the collected finds are returned to the lab and processed.  This means that all of the finds are washed and dried.  Following this process, members of our team work to identify the artifacts and input them into a database.  Our team notes the type of artifact and the presence of identifying characteristics such as decorative styles, any wording or maker’s mark (trademark stamps), and/or if the piece is a specific part of a vessel such as rim, handle, or base.  This allows us to look at just what types of things were being used in the early days at Michigan State College.

In the meantime, another type of analysis is occurring upstairs in the archaeology computer lab.  It is here where a slightly more technologically literate group (with skills I personally envy) works on the digital side of Campus Archaeology.  Using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) members input the location of our digs on to real satellite images of the area.  This creates a multilayered map with extensive information on the site.  At current, these maps show the location of all our shovel tests (ST) (a surveying technique where a small pit is dug to sample the area).  Each shovel test is associated with the archaeological project site it is within, who dug it, and a positive or negative indication of whether finds were collected.  This process helps us located the areas of early activity on Michigan State’s campus.

So far these two important processes have been separated.  While the rain has kept us off site and stuck indoors, we have been inspired to initiate an integration of the two forms of analysis into one helpful mapping system.  Our goal is to create a more robust and useful purpose for the Campus Archaeology Program’s GIS maps.  The result of this will be the creation of a way to integrate the catalogue of artifacts into the map.

In order to represent the artifacts in the GIS system our team needed to come up with a list of artifact types that not only fully incorporates the variety and cultural relevance, but also is not overwhelming to the system.  This took a rather tedious meeting and lots of debate in order to develop the shortest and most complete list.  We debated whether we should focus on broad types such as pottery or metal, or more specific types like whiteware, stoneware or pearlware. A second debate was whether we should assess them by presence or absence, a technique that works well if something is broken within the pit, or by the frequency of finds, which works well with lots of little artifacts. We also debated how to classify artifacts, like whether we should separate items by function or material used, which becomes problematic with items like buttons that are all different materials but same function. We came up with a semi-finalized list of around 25 artifact types will be inputted in to the GIS system.   From here, each ST will be associated with either a presence/absence or item amount for each of the 25 types.

Once this is done we will be able to use the GIS maps to show where artifacts were collected, and further look at the location and concentrations of artifacts by statistical analyses. This process, which is one of the most intensive off site projects, will with all hopes be fruitful to the knowledge of your Campus Archaeology Team.

Preserving MSU’s Past, One Sidewalk at a Time.

Summer 2013 has provided MSU’s campus community with many changes. While students are partaking in various summer activities away from campus, MSU has push forwarded with various construction projects to revamp an aging campus infrastructure. Returning students in the fall may not recognize parts of the campus that they left in the spring. In particular, campus north of the Red Cedar has been subjected to various projects throughout these spring and summer months. This means that MSU’s Campus Archaeology Program has been out in full force ensuring that MSU’s rich historical past is preserved and to make sure that we mitigate any potential damage.

Shovel testing near Saints Rest, via Katy Meyers

Shovel testing near Saints Rest, via Katy Meyers

On this particular day, we found ourselves working on around fifteen shovel test pits, while monitoring and documenting the continued demolition of Morrill Hall. The area we focused on was a small grass triangle formed by sidewalk borders that were due to be taken up in the next week for reconstruction. This location was of importance to us due to the proximity it had with both the original dorm, Saint’s Rest, and the second dorm, Old Williams Hall. The area of interest is located next to the MSU Museum and the MSU Museum parking lot. The modern day grass triangle is located to southeast of where the Old Williams Hall existed and to the southwest of where Saint’s Rest existed. A potential prime spot for historical artifact concentrations.

Our initial shovel tests (STs) began closes to the east part of the museum and its parking lot, or the west part of the triangle. Most of our test pits showed regular stratigraphy and small or no artifact densities. As we moved to the east of the triangle, closer to Saint’s Rest, we began encountering higher artifact densities. Our test pits closes to Saint’s Rest provided interesting finds. One test pit provided evidence of animal butchering, while another had a high enough concentration of whiteware, stoneware, pipe pieces, and glass that we decided that we should open it up to a one meter by one meter test unit.

Artifacts found from ST near Saints Rest, via Katy Meyers

Artifacts found from ST near Saints Rest, via Katy Meyers

As we dug the test unit, the concentration of artifacts began to wane. This high concentration was only present in the A horizon and the very top of the B horizon. Once we made our way through this artifact concentration we came upon some unique, linear soil lines. One line, separated the north third of the unit from the middle third. The north third of the unit was the natural B horizon, a dark orange loam. This was right next to the middle third of the unit, which was a light tan fill. The south third of the unit was the same as the middle third but had been mostly removed by the original STP. This strange anomaly left us contemplating what might have caused this. Original thoughts were that prior excavations had all ready happened in this area. Why would there be such a distinct, linear line?

Distinct soil difference in the test unit, via Katy Meyers

Distinct soil difference in the test unit, via Katy Meyers

As the modern day archaeologists that we are, we decided to turn to Twitter to see if our follow archaeologists could help us solve this mystery. With the help of past Campus Archaeologist Terry Brock, we were able to determine that the light tan fill of the middle third and south third of the unit was likely due to a backhoe, presumably for a utility trench. To make sure that we were not dealing with a feature of a different kind, we put in test pits about half a meter to the north and south of our test unit. Both of these units had little to no artifact densities, as well as a natural stratigraphy. These final two STP’s helped support the idea that the soil lines in the test unit we were dealing with were due to a utility line disturbance.

Finding the Old Road In Front of the MSU Museum

Michigan State University’s landscape is consistently changing.  The area north of the Museum and west of Linton hall, known as the sacred space, is a great example of this.  Although no buildings have been built within this space the changing of the roads from inside the space to outside the space was one of the major changes altering the size and appearance of campus.  This change, which is suspected to have occurred in the late 1920s, is the focus of one of Campus Archaeology’s current investigations.  What we are looking for is how the original road was laid within the sacred space in front of William’s Hall one of the first dorms.

Photo from the late 19th c of Williams Hall and the fountain, road and sidewalk in old positions can be seen, via MSU Masterplan

Preliminary investigations involved comparing archival data such as pictures and maps.  We looked to compare the location of the road based on two structures: the fountain between Linton and Museum and the Museum itself, which is believed to stand directly on top of the old William’s Hall. You can see in the image below that the road was to the right and the sidewalk to the left.  Today the sidewalk sits to the right of the fountain.

It was made clear that the road followed a curve from the west entrance of Linton Hall to the north side of the old William’s Hall via the north side of the fountain. This is drastically different from the roads and sidewalks we see today.

To investigate the location of the road a test pit was dug in the green space 7 meters north of the northeast edge of the Museum.  Recovered from this pit were multiple layers of road materials from a gravel layer followed by a layer large river rocks and a subsequent layer of chunks of granite (about 15 cm x 6 cm) and clay.  As this was the expected location of the road the layers of road materials confirmed the location.  Now we ask the broader questions: “What did this road look like?”, “How wide was it?”, “Where did it curve?”, and “What was it made of?”.

To further investigate we went back to the archives searching for pictures of the road to help identify its composition.  Archival research showed that in the past a process called macadam was used in which “crushed stone surfaces, 6 to 10 inches thick, were merely bound by dirt and clay” (ASCE, 2013)  As this older technique was widely used it is extremely possible the lowest granite and clay layer is campus’s old road.

Today we open up a section to explore the layering of this area in hopes to answer these questions.  If we find that this layer of granite and clay reaches out further we will be able to confirm this is the old macadam road and further test pit to see its boundaries.

American Society of Civil Engineers. 2013. “Macadam Roads”. http://www.asce-sf.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=252&Itemid=79 accessed 5/20/13

Sustainability at MSU: End of Year Update

I spent my year working on the sustainability project with a specific focus on using University Archives materials to understand food and transportation on the historic campus. Through pamphlets, diaries, newspaper clippings, photos, reports, and ledgers, I pieced together information about early student experience in MSU’s beginning years. Much of the archives research required locating documents that were tangentially related to the project in order to track changes over time.

Two male students in dorm at Owen Hall, 1900, via MSU Archives and Historical Records

Two male students in dorm at Old Wells Hall, 1900, via MSU Archives and Historical Records

For instance, I looked through years of brochures from the early 1900s advertising the annual state farmers’ meetings held on campus. In each of these, food, housing, and transportation options for visitors would be listed. As the years went by, food options on campus expanded to include mentions of restaurants on Grand River Avenue. Boarding choices in the earlier years were limited to home stays or college dorms, whereas later years referenced hotels available on the trolley route from Lansing to East Lansing. Transportation prices rose slightly to accomodate, presumably, the growing dependence on trolley cars. From ledgers kept by the agriculture and dairy departments, it is possible to document changes in food prices (and demand for food types) through time. Fortunately, Dr. Manly Miles kept a thorough ledger noting all sales and expenditures for the agricultural college from 1867-1877.

I believe the most interesting finding was in the local and state reaction to the college in the early years. Since the university is so entrenched in the community now (and because I only have the experience of a modern student), I assumed that the college had always been supported by the local and state population. Through diaries and personal accounts, I learned that state farmers and government leaders had been quite wary of the institution, even at times hoping for and predicting its eventual downfall. The hard work of the early students and professors who split their time between academics and manual labor ensured the success of the college. As wars took their toll on college-aged men, the university adapted to national needs and supported the war effort.

The sustainability project has allowed me to pursue many leads at the University Archives, sometimes resulting in exponential research questions. As I try to reign it all in, I have found that the most relevant source material are personal accounts. Reading handwritten documents from MSU’s first students has been a thrill and I look forward to continuing this project.

Getting Ready for the Summer…

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Excavation from Fall 2012

This summer, Campus Archaeology is going to be very busy doing archaeological surveys and monitoring various construction projects. There are eight different projects occurring over the summer that we will be a part of in some manner. Over the past couple months we’ve been meeting with Physical Plant and construction company members to discuss the projects. We’ve done research with the MSU Archives to determine the historic significance of the area. We’re just about ready, and now all we have to do is wait for all the projects to start up!

The first project is the reconstruction of the Jenison Parking Lot. As we’ve discussed about before, parking lots and sidewalks can be great for archaeologists, because they protect any historic or prehistoric material underneath them. We’ve also had good luck finding things on the banks of rivers, so this project will give us the opportunity to do just that and explore a new section of the Red Cedar River.

Next, there is the renovations occurring at Landon Hall. This will also involve removal of asphalt and concrete, under which will we be testing for artifacts. We know that this area was once Faculty Row, and had a number of residences for faculty that were built in the late 19th century. Third, the Bogue Street round-about is being redesigned to match the intersection between Farm Ln, Shaw Ln, and Red Cedar Rd. This project has already begun. There is also a possible project along the railroad and arboretum to the south. The Facility for Rare Isotope Beams will be placing power ducts from the Power Plant to their main site on Bogue and Wilson, so this will required some survey.

There are also two major demolitions that are going to occur. The first is the Old Botany Greenhouse, part of which has already been removed. The greenhouses are over 100 years old, and no longer are in use. The second demolition is the one we’ve all been talking about- the Morrill Hall demolition. Sadly, the building cannot be maintained, so it will be torn down over the summer. For both of these, we will be recording the process for history and then checking the sites prior to renovation.

Finally, just as there was last year, a section of West Circle Drive is going to be removed to replace steam tunnels. We will be closely working with the team to record and survey all their work. In particular we hope to find out more about what happened to the brook that ran through MSU’s north campus, and whether there are remains of the bridge that once was there. Along with this project there will also be some sidewalk replacement around the Sacred Space.

It will be an exciting summer, and we invite you to come out to visit us throughout May, June and July. Further updates on the blog will be given about specific project details, and we will be sharing information from the field on facebook and twitter!

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Map of campus with red circles indicating CAP projects occurring this summer. Sidewalk project not circled.

Beal Street Entrance Construction and Survey

Construction and survey area

Construction and survey area

You may have noticed that the area around Michigan Avenue from Harrison Road to East Grand River  Road is completely covered with construction equipment, orange cones, and various people in neon yellow. In a half mile radius there are three different construction projects that are occurring, two of which will take part on portions of MSU’s campus. Over the next few months, Michigan Ave between Harrison and Grand River, the Beal Street Entrance to campus, and portions of West Circle Drive will be removed for various reasons. The construction began this week, and we were out there bright and early monday morning to discuss the projects and monitor the initial progress.

Tomorrow we will begin to survey one portion of the Michigan Ave project; the green space and sidewalks around the Beal Street Entrance to campus. During the survey we will be digging shovel tests so we can get a sample of what the area is like, and determine if it requires further archaeological investigation.

In order to determine the historic significance and potential of discovering archaeological sites, we first look at maps to see what has been located in this area and how it has changed over MSU’s history. A map drawn in 1959, but based on historic sources, recreates what the campus would have looked like in 1857 when it was first opened. We can see the area under investigation was forested, and the road that was present at the time appears quite similar in direction and pathway to the current road.

Map of Campus in 1857, dating to 1959, via MSU Archives and Historical Records

However, a map from 1870 shows that there was no road in this area, and that it was simply forest. This could mean that there was no large main road allowing access, perhaps a smaller path that didn’t warrant placement on the map, or that the 1959 reconstruction map of 1857 was incorrect about accessibility in this area. By the 1890’s though it is clear from maps that a road definitely exists in this area. More research needs to be done to determine what was actually in this area, how it has changed, and what we might possibly find. The survey will also help us determine what is in this area.

From historic sources, we know that this road would have led to Michigan Ave and Collegeville, a residential area founded in 1887 by Beal and Carpenter. As this area became more populated, this entrance under investigation would have been used more. By the 1920’s Collegeville was full of inhabitants. However- it appears the Beal Street Entrance area itself has been fairly vacant throughout history.

Feel free to come out to the site and visit us tomorrow! It may be a little cold, but the sunshine should help. We will be working at the site from about 8 to 10am, and would love some visitors!

Historic Sustainability and Food Practices at MSU

As I continue to work on the sustainability project, I will be sharing excerpts from the draft that I am writing. Last week I came across a very helpful bound volume detailing receipts for food services from 1864-1874. Dr. Manly Miles kept a ledger of all prices paid for food produced on campus, which allows us to examine how costs and demand changed over this ten year period. Each customer (often, the names of notable faculty members appear!) order was recorded and end of the year costs of the college were declared in these volumes. I am still reading through the script handwriting, which is at times a slow procedure, but I am interested to see how the Civil War impacted the sale of foods on campus.

Below is a portion of the manuscript I am writing on campus sustainability in the past. One section of the paper deals with food and agriculture, so in light of my recent discovery of Dr. Miles ledger, I have decided to share that part of the paper this week:

Serving food at the Union Cafeteria, 1941, via MSU Archives and Historical Records

In 1883, dining clubs were developed to more efficiently feed the growing campus community. These clubs allowed students to pool boarding fees and collectively purchase and prepare food, a portion of which was sourced from the campus farms. During large conferences such as the annual Michigan Farmers’ Institutes, the dining clubs would accomodate campus visitors. Dining clubs continued in Period 3 (1900-1925), with advertisements in the MAC Record demonstrating that at least some meat was beginning to be sourced from local off-campus butchers. Advertisements around the turn of the century also indicate that local eateries were established as a result of a growing student population. Period 3 saw an increase in university extension work with outreach focusing on gardening and food sustainability at the household level.

In a pamphlet for the Michigan Farmers’ Institute meeting of 1910, it is noted that meals could be procured for 25 cents each at the college boarding clubs. Two restaurants supplied food for visitors as well, one of which, called Ye College Inn, was in the basement of Abbot Hall. By 1923, the annual pamphlet for attendees of the Institute noted that meals were widely available on campus at the Women’s Building, Dairy Building, and the Armory, presumably in response to increasing student enrollment. Food service on campus appeared to expand rapidly in the third and fourth periods and by 1951, the union cafeteria was serving meals for one dollar each.

During Period 4 (1925-1955), both the Depression and World War II dramatically affected student life on campus. Many struggled economically with the costs of college and moved off campus to rent inexpensive rooms in town. During these difficult times, MSU faculty and administration encouraged victory gardening. This return to campus-based food sustainability benefitted students who were able to purchase fresh, local foods for as little as $2/week (approximately $33/week today). In 1936, the university began to buy houses intended as co-ops where students could live, budget, and cook together. Historical photographs from this time period show university officials biking to work, clearly promoting fuel conservation during wartime.

In a letter dated May 20, 1929, Professor EL Anthony stated that during his term at the college (1921-1928), there was a general agricultural depression though the dairy industry did not suffer as greatly as livestock and grains production. Anthony noted that prior to 1925, the dairymen in Michigan had produced all products required by state consumers. Additionally, a number of dairy products were exported out of the state, especially butter. After 1925, the demands of the consumers surpassed the dairy production operations in Michigan and it became necessary to import dairy products.