It’s official… the fish skeletal material recovered from the Saint’s Rest privy, the toilet associated with the first dormitory on campus contained walleye! Walleye are the largest member of the perch family and can be caught in shallow bays and inland lakes. As there are…
Happy Fat Tuesday! After flocking to the nearest paczki-filled bakery, I hope that you sit down and enjoy your Polish donut on some fine china. Perhaps, if you’re historically or archaeologically inclined, you might want to enjoy your treat on a nice British ceramic plate.…
Archaeologists care a lot about garbage. We can learn a great deal from looking through what people throw out, how much they throw out, and when they throw it out. Because trash is the byproduct of what humans consume and use in their daily lives, middens and refuse deposits can help us fill in the gaps of our knowledge about the historic campus experience and student behavior.
Campus Archaeology has been involved in excavations of three separate components of life at Saint’s Rest Dorm: the refuse pit from Saint’s Rest, the West Circle privy, and the excavation of the building itself. Several blogs have been written on each of these sites, but no comparison between sites has yet been done.
This semester, Lisa Bright and I will work on re-cataloging and accessioning artifacts from the 2011 trash pit excavation (with some help from several undergraduate honors students from ANP 203) so that we may get a better sense of what is present (and, interestingly, what is absent). For now, we have some general observations about each site such as abundance of serving dishes in the trash pit, but only dining plates being present in the privy. The trash pit and the privy also contain some of the same ceramic patterns. The location of each site also serves as an interesting variable for comparison. Because the building and trash sites were likely public and at least partially, if not totally, accessible, the artifacts found at each site are expected to be reflective of daily life (e.g. bones from butchered animals, empty food containers, etc.) and human error (e.g. broken plates, bowls, lamps, etc.). In contrast, the assemblage within the privy is potentially reflective of secrecy, prohibition, or mishap. Knowing that no one would retrieve items from a privy, students may have thrown items away in this space (or perhaps dropped them accidentally). Saint’s Rest burned down in December of 1876. The accidental destruction of the building also creates a different context for the artifacts compared to the trash pit and the privy. These items were still in use, and their owners were not, at that time, intending to dispose of them.
Lisa and I believe that comparing the assemblages from these sites will be useful in piecing together student and faculty behavior as well as use of space on the campus. The opportunity to compare and contrast three sites from the same time period, but with disparate function, allows us to examine some largely intangible aspects of the past. Last semester we finished the privy report, so this semester we will do a quick re-analysis of some the Saint’s Rest materials and dig further into their meaning. Stay tuned for our findings!
Hi, I’m Becca Albert, and I’m a CAP undergrad intern this semester. I participated in the 2015 field school, volunteered in the CAP lab last year, and worked on the field crew last summer. My internship project for this semester includes testing to see whether…
While Lisa Bright and I were accessioning artifacts from the West Circle Drive privy excavation, we noticed that one of the short combs had some lettering. Faint, tiny print spelled out, “IRC CO. G YEARS” with a few other letters (or numbers) that we could…
I am from Wisconsin. Not only was I born and raised there, but I am also a Wisconsin stereotype—I grew up on a dairy farm. After 25 years in the Dairy State, I relocated to Illinois, but I never felt at home on the flat plains. I moved to Michigan a few years later and although the Great Lakes State has its own unique cultural flavor, there is a sense of familiarity here among the lakes and woods.
However, a sense of excitement still moves through me whenever I find a connection to my home state here in Michigan. The discovery that yet another treasure from the privy excavated by CAP last summer also originated in Wisconsin filled me with curiosity. The artifact in question is a bottle embossed with the words “Flavoring Extract” on the front panel and “Tallman and Collins” on the side.
Tallman and Collins Manufacturing was a company in Janesville, WI. The company’s founder, William Henry Tallman, was the son of William Morrison Tallman, a renowned lawyer and abolitionists, whose grand house (now a museum in Janesville) hosted a short stay from Abraham Lincoln in 1859. William Henry did not follow in his father’s political footsteps, instead purchasing a stake in a local drugstore business. By 1857, Tallman was running the company and took on Henry W. Collins as his new partner. Initially, Tallman and Collins was an import and wholesale business, selling medicine, drugs, chemicals, perfumery, and liquors. By 1864, Tallman expanded the business to include manufacturing a new line of perfumes and extracts. However, by 1869, Tallman and Collins ended their business partnership and Tallman continued on, focusing solely on perfume manufacture. Tallman perfumes and colognes were incredibly popular in the 1870s, but the company closed in 1883 due to William’s poor health.
While it may seem odd that a company known for its perfumes also manufactured flavoring extracts, it was, in fact, a common pairing. The rise of organic chemistry in the mid-nineteenth century led to a flourishing field of crafting new fragrances, and given the close relationship between smell and taste, also led to the discovery of synthetic flavors. Various fruit-flavored candies, full of delicious synthetic flavor, were one of the attractions of the 1851 Crystal Palace exhibition in London, which was a celebration of the world’s technological advancements.
In the aftermath of the Industrial Revolution and increasingly mass-produced food, there was a need to make otherwise bland processed foods a bit more palatable. Spices and natural flavoring extracts, a major component of worldwide trade, were expensive, so chemically synthesized flavors became a cheaper alternative for giving food some extra delicious flavor. Tallman and Collin’s company jumped on the flavoring market a mere thirteen years after its world debut, demonstrating Tallman’s business acumen. Although better know for his perfumery, the presence of its extracts in Michigan suggest their demand was great enough to warrant distribution to other parts of the Midwest.
The flavor contained within our privy bottle remains a mystery (a chemical analysis of the contents are perhaps a bit out of the scope of CAP’s resources). The likeliest candidate is the one of the earliest and most common artificial flavors, vanilla (synthesized through the chemical vanillin), used to make early MSU campus food just a smidge less bland. However, in my vivid imagination, it contained cheese extract, obtained by another Wisconsinite desperate for the flavor of home while away at school. Fanciful interpretations aside, this small bottle provides us the opportunity to explore the history of chemistry, product distribution, and food trends and preferences of the recent past, a delicious addition to our knowledge, indeed.
Hayes, Dayle and Rachel Laudan
2009 Food and Nutrition, Volume 7: South Asian Cuisines to Yogurt. Marshall Cavendish, Tarrytown, NY.
Wisconsin and Minnesota State Gazetteer, Shippers’ Guide and Business Directory for 1865-’66. Geo. W. Hawes, Publisher and Compiler, Indianapolis.
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.…
If you follow us on Twitter, read this post about 3D printing, or if you came to the Apparitions and Archaeology tour last fall, you may have heard about Mabel, the undisputed star of 2015 CAP excavations. During the excavation of the historic privy on…
Today is a holiday that goes by many names: Shrove Tuesday, Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday. The day involves the practice of eating richer and fatty foods before Ash Wednesday when Lenten begins. It is celebrated in different ways depending on where you are. In England it is also known as Pancake Tuesday and, not surprisingly, involves eating rich pancakes. In New Orleans it is a colorful celebration with parades, dancing, eating and drinking. One of the more interesting traditions of this celebration is the King’s Cake– a cinnamon sugar dough twisted into a ring and decorated with icing and purple, green and yellow sugar. Most importantly, baked within the cake, it a small plastic or porcelain baby meant to symbolize the Jesus, and whomever gets the slice of cake with the Jesus becomes the ‘king’ or ‘queen’ for the day and gets a prize or special privileges. But this isn’t the only type of doll found in a cake…
This past summer, we excavated a privy to the southwest of Saints’ Rest, and found two dolls. One of those is a fairly intact bust of a larger doll, but the other is a small porcelain girl with few features. When we started looking into the history of this smaller doll, we learned that this was a very important figurine in the late 19th century, and has a slightly morbid story behind it.
Her name is Frozen Charlotte
The doll was first created in Germany in 1850 as a playmate for bath time, perfect since the doll does not have clothing in many instances. However, it quickly became associated with a dark Victorian poem by Seba Smith. In the poem, a young woman named Charlotte who takes a sleigh ride with her beau on New Years Eve. As she leaves her home, her mother warns her to bundle up against the cold weather.
“O, daughter dear,” her mother cried,
“This blanket ’round you fold;
It is a dreadful night tonight,
You’ll catch your death of cold.”
“O, nay! O, nay!” young Charlotte cried,
And she laughed like a gypsy queen;
“To ride in blankets muffled up,
I never would be seen.”
Charlotte doesn’t take her mother’s advice, and rides through the night without a blanket so that everyone can see her clothing and beauty. When Charles and Charlotte arrive to the party, he holds his hand out to her, but she isn’t responsive.
“He stripped the mantle off her brow,
And the pale stars on her shone,
And quickly into the lighted hall,
Her helpless form was born.
They tried all within their power,
Her life for to restore,
But Charlotte was a frozen corpse,
And is never to speak more.”
The poem and doll became a cautionary tale for children. The dolls sold for a penny, and were extremely popular in America. It may seem morbid, but for the time period this type of children’s story was actually quite common. Struwwelpeter was a popular book of children’s stories from this period that included children being burned alive after playing with matches, becoming sick after being naughty, and having their thumbs cut off if they sucked on them. Pretty gruesome.
What does this all have to do with King’s Cake and Fat Tuesday? Well, similar to the King’s Cake Baby, Frozen Charlottes were often baked into cakes or other desserts for children as a nice surprise during Christmastime! Perhaps our Frozen Charlotte was hidden within a cherry pie and accidentally discarded?
Happy Birthday! There’s a Corpse in your Cake. Nourishing Death. https://nourishingdeath.wordpress.com/2014/06/11/happy-birthday-theres-a-corpse-in-your-cake/
Frozen Charlotte. Dangerous Minds. http://dangerousminds.net/comments/frozen_charlotte_the_creepy_victorian-era_dolls_that_slept_in_coffins_and_w
Frozen Charlotte- Full Poem. Whimsical Flea Market. http://awhimsicalfleamarket.blogspot.com/p/frozen-charlotte-story_21.html
As CAP fellows and volunteers continue to research and analyze materials excavated from the earth closet this past summer, we are slowly becoming more “privy to the past” (yes, I’ll wait for the laughter to subside). Thus far we have covered several individual objects from…