While cataloguing artifacts from Service Road, we stumbled across an intriguing piece of a milk glass jar featuring an applied color label with bright red and blue hues. I say it was intriguing because many of the artifacts we have left from Service Road are …
This past summer, the Campus Archaeology program had the opportunity to offer a field school to archaeology students from MSU and across the state—our first field school since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. Directly taking part in ongoing CAP research into life in the …
A Salty Tale
I wanted this blog to be about patents, not Ruth Van Tellingen. Or should I call her Ruth Bendel? Or Ruth Elizabeth Thompson? I’m getting ahead of myself. Before we delve into Ruth’s life, let’s review the concept of patents as they pertain to archaeology.
As many know, a patent refers to a legally-recognized title on intellectual property that allows an individual or group to control the production and sale of specific designs. In the U.S. patents, as a legal concept, extend back to the late 1600s when some individual states would grant legal rights to an idea or invention. Federal interventions on designs and innovations were not introduced until The Patent Act of 1790. The registration number associated with a granted patent is often printed on items that become artifacts. These numbers provide a multi-tool for archaeological interpretations. With them, we can often identify a purpose or maker of an artifact and a period for the use and production of an item. Sometimes, patents allow us to discover unexpected insights into our social pasts.
The CAP Patent that Gave Paws
About a year ago, I was sitting in the CAP lab researching a ceramic bear. The item was uncovered during our 2020 Service Road Construction Project (read more here). We had plans to use the artifact in a conference presentation covering Children’s lives on MSU’s campus (read more here).
When searching the patent for the bear I found that it is not merely a decorative item, but rather a clever and original design for two interlocking condiment dispensers (salt, pepper, oil, etc.) (read more here). Something else caught my attention– something other than the unconventional nickname, “Huggers”. It was the title associated with the patent, filed on May 6th, 1947… The name belonged to… a woman?
Ruth Van Tellingen Bendel. Let me be clear. I was not surprised a woman had invented a new design or kindled an original concept. My eyebrows were raised because the idea was documented and credited to her. Archeologists, like anyone looking into the past, generally struggle to find and verify diversity in the past, especially when it comes to historically marginalized or oppressed groups. Without identifiers like patents, it can be difficult, if not impossible, to identify who created something. Objects themselves do not have social identities– humans assign them. And because restricted and privileged groups have historically held the pen that writes the Western narrative, many historical accounts overestimate the contributions of certain individuals to society. In the same stroke, the experiences of people outside of the most privileged circles have been silenced or ignored (1).
Woman with a Peppered Past
So what can we know about the creator of this patent? Ruth Elizabeth Thompson was born in Hinsdale, Illinois, in 1910. Census records tell us she married Oscar Van Tellingen, a salesman from Iowa, and assumed the role of a “Housewife and commercial artist” by the age of 30 (see census data below).
Her artistry, including several children’s books, received mixed reviews (2). While active in illustration, she also commissioned figurines created for the Chicago Royal China and Novelty Company (3), including the multiple Huggers in different animal forms. Her interlocking bear design was conceived in 1947, but not submitted for a patent until 1949. Our bear lacks the name “Bendel,” which Ruth added after her second marriage to Victor T. Bendel, in 1948. It is therefore likely one of the first bears off the production line.
Ruth’s shaker patent, granted in 1951, preceded the women’s liberation movement (4) in the United States by more than a decade. Women first patented a product in the U.S. in 1809, but as of 2020, the percentage of self-identified women contributing to annual patents remains less than 22% (5; 6). By the time she died in 1986, Ruth had acquired at least two more patents, several copyrights, and was listed as an author on multiple books. Between two CAP fellows, we found seven names associated with Ruth’s life. Even by today’s standards, her intellectual capital and enigmatic flair for unique titles would be considered remarkable.
Time to Shake It Up
Want to explore patents yourself? Here are two possible methods:
- To search patents through the U.S. government portal navigate to:
In the “Query” box type in the patent number.
For example, Ruth’s patent no. 2,560,755.
The landing page should provide a patent number and issue date. To view the scanned file, click “Images” at the bottom. Have in mind that most patents are a few pages long, so you’ll want to download more than the landing page of the PDF. It is also worthwhile to note that some patents may have a number in front of them, which indicates the type of patent represented.
- Google now offers a patent look-up that’s even easier:
Type in the name or number and anything affiliated with an individual should show. Between patents and copyrights, we found the following names associated with our Ruth to stamp her intellectual and artistic endeavors. Give ‘er a go and see what you find.
Ruth Elizabeth Thompson.
Ruth E. Van Tellingen.
Ruth Thompson Van Tellingen.
Ruth Van Tellingen Bendel.
Ruth V. Bendel.
Ruth Thompson Bendel.
- Trouillot, Michel-Rolph (1995) Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History. Beacon Press, Boston, Massachusetts. Link
Last Tuesday, November 12, 2019, Campus Archaeology hosted their first Open House. For two hours, Campus Archaeology opened our lab doors to the public. Campus Archaeology strives to have a standing relationship with the community through our numerous outreach events each year, as well as …
Interested in hearing what MSU graduate students and professors are presenting at the 84th annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology? Below is a list compiled including the names, title of presentation/poster, date, time, and location for each MSU scholar! We hope to see you in Albuquerque, New Mexico!
Thursday Morning, April 11, 2019
|Poster Session ~ Geoarchaeology in the New World|
|Room: La Sala||Time: 10:30 am – 12:30 am|
|Sarah Meinekat, Christopher Miller, Emily Milton, & Kurt Rademaker||Quebrada Jagay – 280 (QJ-280) under the Microscope: A Geoarchaeological Investigation of the Site Formation and Anthropogenic Features at a Peruvian Coastal Site||45-c|
|General Session ~ Bioarchaeology: South American Case Studies|
|Room: 20 Laguna||Time: 11:15 am – 12:00 pm|
|Richard Sutter, Gabriel Prieto, Celeste Gagnon & Jordi Rivera Prince||Horizontality Revisited: Evidence for 3,000 Years of Prehistoric Biocultural Continuity of Fisherfolk at Huanchaco, North Coast of Peru||11:15 am|
Thursday Afternoon, April 11, 2019
|Symposium ~ Archaeologies of Health, Wellness, and Ability|
|Room 65 Hopi||Time: 1:00 pm – 3:30 pm|
|Stacey Camp||Healthcare and Citizenship in the Context of World War II Japanese American Internment||2:00 pm|
|Symposium ~ Capacity Building or Community Making? Training and Transitions in Digital Archaeology|
|Room: 18 Cochil/30 Taos||Time: 1:00 pm – 5:00 pm|
|Ethan Watrall||Building Capacity and Communities of Practice in Digital Heritage and Archaeology||1:00 pm|
|Lynne Goldstein||Discussant||4:45 pm|
|Poster Session ~ Experimental Archaeology in the Americas|
|Room: Hall 3||Time: 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm|
|Emily Milton & Joshua Schwartz||Not Something to Grind Your Teeth Over: Experimental Mounting of Enamel for Stable Isotope and Microscopic Analysis||116-g|
Thursday Evening, April 11, 2019
|Electronic Symposium ~ Towards a Standardization of Photogrammetric Methods in Archaeology: A Conversation about ‘Best Practices’ in an Emerging Methodology|
|Room: 10 Anasazi||Time: 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm|
|Amy Hair, Gabriel Wrobel, and Jack Biggs||The Maya Cranial Photogrammetric Field Methods in Burial Excavation|
Friday Morning, April 12, 2019
|Symposium ~ Attention to Detail: A Pragmatic Career of Research, Mentoring, and Service, Papers in Honor of Keith Kintigh|
|Room 275 Ballroom B||Time: 8:00 am – 11:00 am|
|Vincas Steponaitis & Lynne Goldstein||Struggling with Complex Decision-Making in Public Policy||10:00 am|
|General Session ~ Bioarchaeology in Peru|
|Room: 22 San Juan||Time: 10:30 am – 12:00 pm|
|Jordi Rivera Prince & Gabriel Prieto||Defining Markers of Occupational Stress in the Ancient Fisherman of Huanchaco, Peru: When Modern Ethnography and Bioarchaeology Intersect||11:45 am|
Friday Afternoon, April 12, 2019
|General Session ~ Paleoindian Archaeology in South America|
|Room: 60 Chaco||Time: 3:30 pm – 5:00 pm|
|Lauren Pratt & Kurt Rademaker||An Application of Surovell’s Behavioral Ecology Models of Site Occupation Length in the Peruvian Andes||3:30 pm|
|Taylor Panczak & Kurt Rademaker||Exploring Inter-zonial Connections through a Constructed Projectile Point Typology from Cuncaicha Rockshelter||3:45 pm|
Friday Evening, April 12, 2019
|Awards Presentation and Annual Business Meeting|
|Lifetime Achievement Award||Presented to Lynne Goldstein||5:30 – 6:30 pm|
Saturday Morning, April 13, 2019
|Symposium ~ Archaeological Method and Theory: Papers in Honor of James M. Skibo, Part 1.|
|Room: 10 Anasazi||Time: 8:00 am – 10:00 am|
|Susan Kooiman||Functioning at Full Capacity: The Role of Pottery in the Woodland Upper Great Lakes||8:15 am|
|Autumn Painter & Jeffrey Painter||Walk with Me: Reflections on Almost a Lifetime with Dr. James Skibo||8:30 am|
|Symposium ~ Kin, Clan, and House: Social Relatedness in the Archaeology of North American Societies|
|Room: 240 La Cienega||Time: 8:00 am – 11:30 am||Chair: Jacob Lulewicz|
|Lynne Goldstein||Aztalan from the Perspective of Institutions of Social Relatedness||10:30 am|
|Poster Session ~ New Discoveries in South American Archaeology|
|Room: La Sala||Time: 8:00 am – 10:00 am|
|Michael Cook & Kurt Rademaker||Raw Material Sourcing of Two Terminal Pleistocene Sites in Southern Peru||285-e|
Saturday Afternoon, April 13, 2019
|Poster Session ~ What’s For Dinner? Mesoamerican Diets and Foodways|
|Room: La Sala||Time: 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm|
|Morgan McDenna, Gabriel Wrobel, Amy Michael, Amy S. Commendador & Patricia McAnany||Understanding the Diet of Late to Terminal Classic Period Maya Groups in the Sibun River Valley, Belize, through Food Web Reconstruction||370-g|
Author: Autumn Painter
Still searching for an archaeology field school for this summer? The Campus Archaeology Program will be offering a field school—right here on MSU’s campus—from May 13 to June 7, 2019. A field school is one of the best ways to learn what it takes to …
Next week is the annual Midwest Archaeological Conference (October 4-6, 2018) in Notre Dame. Below is a list of dates and times of all MSU presentations, posters, and discussants. Included in these are two posters on Campus Archaeology projects that you should check out!
Friday, october 5
9 am – 12:15 pm Symposium
Storing Culture: Subterranean Storage in the Upper Midwest (Auditorium)
9:15 am – Now and Later: A Cross-Cultural Comparison of Hunter-Gatherer Food Storage Practices by Kathryn Frederick (former Campus Archaeologist)
12 pm – Discussant, Dr. William Lovis
10 am – 12 pm General Poster Session
Reports from the Field (Room 210-214)
Archaeology along the Banks of the Red Cedar: Summary of 2018 Riverbank Survey by Jeffrey M. Painter, Autumn M. Painter, and Jack A. Biggs (Campus Archaeology Program)
1:30 pm – 4:30 pm General Poster Session
Materials and Methods (Room 210-214)
Historic Cuisine on the Go: A Campus Archaeology Program and MSU Food Truck Collaboration by Autumn M. Painter and Susan M. Kooiman (Campus Archaeology Program)
Saturday, october 6
9 am -11:45 am General Session
Middle Mississippian to Late Prehistoric Lifeways (Auditorium)
11:30 am – A Revised History of the Late Precontact and Historic Era Occupations of the Cloudman Site by Susan M. Kooiman and Heather Walder
1:30 pm – 4 pm General Session
Landscape, Settlements, and Their Detection (Room 100-104)
3:45 pm – Trade Relationships of 18th-Century Ottawa along the Grand River, Michigan by Jessica Yann
Author: Autumn Painter
Speaking as a person with a serious sweet tooth, maple syrup may be one of the greatest products of nature. It is tasty, versatile, and can be made by anyone with enough maple trees and a hot flame. It also has been a part of …