Tag: Saints Rest

Precursor to the Porcelain Throne: The Chamber Pot Lid from Saints’ Rest

Precursor to the Porcelain Throne: The Chamber Pot Lid from Saints’ Rest

The Saints’ Rest Dormitory has a foundational history with Michigan State University, acting as the first dormitory for the fledgling college, and with the Campus Archaeology Program itself, being the first large-scale excavation and archaeological fieldschool on campus.  Built in 1856, Saints’ Rest was the […]

The Life of a Bed: Not as Boring as One Might Think

The Life of a Bed: Not as Boring as One Might Think

Take a long look at the objects in the picture below. What do you think they are? I bet that your first guess was just a little bit off. They are not small hand-cuffs (as they were originally labeled in the lab!), buckles, or tiny […]

Lice Lice Baby

Lice Lice Baby

For my personal research I study issues related to health and disease, so whenever I see something health related in the CAP collection I jump at the opportunity to do a blog post about it. That happened recently when I came across this seemingly simple comb recovered from excavations at Saints Rest in 2012, but I knew immediately that this was more than an average comb, this is a lice comb.

Comb recovered during 2012 Saints Rest excavations.
Comb recovered during 2012 Saints Rest excavations.

Now I’ll give you a moment to stop your skin from crawling when you think about lice. While lice aren’t something we tend to think about regularly today (unless you have young children), that wasn’t always the case.  Dealing with pesky varmints in the home and on your body was just a part of life.

Lice have been bothering humans for a long time. Humans are parasitized by two genera of lice: one shared with chimpanzees and the other shared with gorillas. By using DNA to figure out when the lice diverged between the species, scientists are working to piece together part of our evolutionary history (Reed et al. 2007). Researchers have also looked at clothing lice to reveal when they may have diverged from head lice, giving us a better idea of when clothing when first used by anatomically modern Homo sapiens (Toups et al. 2011).

Combs recovered from a Roman Fort. Image Source.
Combs recovered from a Roman Fort. Image Source.

Archaeologically lice have been found in Greenland, Iceland, on Dutch combs, Egyptian mummies, and in Israeli cave deposits (Bain 2004). The oldest direct archaeological evidence of head lice are from a human louse egg recovered in Brazil dating to over 10,000 years (Araujo et al 2000). Lice combs (and the lice that come with them!) have been recovered all over the world, in including from sites in Egypt (c. fifth-sixth century AD (Palma 1991)) and Israel (c. first century B.C. – eighth century A.D. (Zias 1988)). They are also routinely recovered at historic archaeological sites.

Today to get rid of lice you wash all of your linens in hot water, apply a medicated shampoo to the unlucky individual, and use a very fine-toothed comb to remove any bugs/eggs from the scalp. This comb style is the epitome of “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” as the general form has remained unchanged for hundreds of years.

1895 catalog advertisement for India Rubber Company Comb. Image Source
1895 catalog advertisement for India Rubber Company Comb. Image Source

Our double sided fine tooth comb was produced by the India Rubber Company. “I R Co Goodyear 1851” can be seen stamped on one side of the comb. A similar version is found in the 1895 advertisement seen to the right. 1851 is not a production date, but rather is the patent year for the Goodyear hard rubber vulcanization process (see Amy’s blog post on the comb from the outhouse for more info!). Combs were some of the earliest products made of hard rubber that were produced on a large scale (Fox 1899).

Manufacturers mark on Saints Rest lice comb - lower image enhanced by author
Manufacturers mark on Saints Rest lice comb – lower image enhanced by author

This tiny comb provides a glimpse into the health and hygiene routines of MSU’s earliest students.  Campus records and diaries/correspondences in the archives discuss larger health related issues on campus (like diphtheria, measles, or typhoid fever outbreaks), the minutia of everyday hygiene habits tends to go unrecorded, but of course, this is where archaeology comes in.

 

Sources:

Reed, David with Jessica Light, Julie Allen and Jeremy Kirchman
2007 Pair of lice lost or parasites regained: the evolutionary history of anthropoid primate lice. BCM Biology 5(7) – https://bmcbiol.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1741-7007-5-7

Melissa Toups with Andrew Kitchen, Jessica Light and David Reed
2011 Origin of Clothing Lice Indicates Early clothing Use by Anatomically Modern Humans in Africa. Molecular Biology and Evolution 28(1):29-32.

https://www.licedoctors.com/blog/history-of-head-lice-treatment.html

Palma, Ricardo
1991 Ancient Head Lice on a Wooden Comb from Antinoe, Egypt. The Journal of          Egyptian Archaeology 77:194.

Zias, Joseph
Head lice, Pediculus humanus capitis (Anoplura: Pediculidae) from hair combs excavated in Israel and dated from the first century B.C. to the eighth century. Journal of Medical Entomology 25(6):545-547.

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/cootie-catchers-say-lice-reveal-lots-about-early-humans-34883996/

Bain, Allison
2004 Irritating Intimates: The Archaeoentomology of Lice, Fleas, and Bedbugs.   Northeast Historical Archaeology 33:81-90.

Araujo, A. with F Ferreira, N Guidon, N Serra Freire, Karl Reinhard, and K Dittmar
2000 Ten Thousand Years of Head Lice Infection. Parasitology Today 16:269.

https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/of-lice-and-men-an-itchy-history/

Mumcuoglu, Kosta
The louse comb: past and present https://watermark.silverchair.com/ae54-0164.pdf?token=AQECAHi208BE49Ooan9kkhW_Ercy7Dm3ZL_9Cf3qfKAc485ysgAAAbswggG3BgkqhkiG9w0BBwagggGoMIIBpAIBADCCAZ0GCSqGSIb3DQEHATAeBglghkgBZQMEAS4wEQQM_PXl7w2JzGNcRujgAgEQgIIBblHIP7oC0UV__MYXk1ngxxH_mfI1Om7WjPa2ymveG4sEef7kE8KxycNlII2jRePwEKddbmMNzviLhWvWL5a_AckqfWODGLegXbp5VJ9csuSjkMmeFSUJkQJPp6NO45y_UhAKhlv-Q7Q351kBnnhhYBj_YzPmlcGMmnwZ_HEy1Px_REs4M4992RVH-c6oaXUghJ-rOC5YghpM-NzaYto9E-BurLp516x5-1fzFQu-t_bl_AHKy-TNwAoDCgR-nhPIgplNJqvAkWJbGU23oEgpfgzNtZf9KXInccVoYYxmX3ZCq0KXhnLrTzA5vUrPSAwWmqO5HHxU5pSYpaKZMHl1FLpNHVksDRxntJFucPgz5NfoBJ1y_z-6JD901x2c7xarbsEoR9pRXULxLTZClop8wO1q3vQ8EJQtF__r0J2xU2j6usWZGuCID54C3i94JCbwaHUpJSaKCr5pdtA00DSNjW4x4IjoPX9cBX3yqCWBnA

Fox, Irvine (editor)
1899 The Spatula Volume 6 (https://books.google.com/books?id=FhhOAAAAMAAJ)

 

Another Persons Trash (Midden) is an Archaeologists Treasure

Another Persons Trash (Midden) is an Archaeologists Treasure

As you may know from my previous blog posts, I have been working on analyzing the faunal remains from Campus Archaeology excavations. My current research project focuses on the Saints’ Rest trash midden, excavated in several seasons by CAP near the location where Saints’ Rest […]

All Over the Board: Student Discontent and Agency in the Historic MSU Boarding Halls

All Over the Board: Student Discontent and Agency in the Historic MSU Boarding Halls

I’ve written at length about the foods purchased by the early campus boarding hall (aka dining hall), as well as the dishes they likely served. However, what we do not know is what the students thought of this food. Did they like it? Or did […]

In Sickness and Health: Dr. Sage’s Catarrh Remedy Bottle

In Sickness and Health: Dr. Sage’s Catarrh Remedy Bottle

Dr. Sage's medicine bottle from Saints Rest.
Dr. Sage’s medicine bottle from Saints Rest.

Today the non-prescription medicine we can buy at the drug store is heavily regulated yet readily available. But in the 19th century patent medicine was dominant. Patent medicines are proprietary (i.e. secret formula) mixtures that were unregulated, advertised widely and sold directly to the public. The popularity of the patent medicine industry is tied to issues with the 19th century medical industry. Qualified doctors were sparse and expensive. Medical knowledge was also undergoing profound changes during the 1800s. Prior to the 1880s most people subscribed to the miasmic theory of disease transmission. It held that diseases like cholera or the Black Death were caused by poisonous vapors or mists (called miasmas). According to the theory, illness was not passed between people, but would only impact people that were near a miasma. In the 1870s and 1880s the work of Joseph Lister and Robert Koch were instrumental in moving the germ theory of disease forward (1,2).

A family member relying on home remedies, the recipes for which were often found in cookbooks, generally provided routine health care.  However treating many of the terrible diseases that became widespread during the 19th century (typhoid, yellow fever, cholera) were beyond the skills of the average citizen. The fear of these diseases directly resulted in the incredible success of the patent medicine industry. Medicine became big business and entrepreneurs began selling all manner of completely unregulated medicine. During the 19th century any drug could be included in the formulas (like Heroin cough suppressant or cocaine toothache drops!), and any claim about the benefits and effectiveness of the medicine could be made.

Dr. Sage's Catarrh Remedy ad. Image Source.
Dr. Sage’s Catarrh Remedy ad. Image Source.

Our patent medicine bottle was recovered from the Saints Rest dormitory during excavations in 2012. As a quick reminder, Saints Rest was the first dormitory on campus and it unfortunately burned to the ground in December of 1876. This small square bottle is embossed on four sides and reads: “Dr Sage’s”, “Catarrh Remedy”, “Dr. Pierce Propr”, “Buffalo”. So what’s the story with this bottle you might ask?

Catarrh is an excessive discharge or buildup of mucus in the nose or throat – i.e. a very very stuffy nose with drainage. Today we would think of this condition as a symptom of a cold or allergy. The bottles sold for 50 cents (3). 

Figure 12 from “The People’s Common Sense Medical Adviser”, illustrating use of Dr. Pierce's Nasal Douche. Image Source.
Figure 12 from “The People’s Common Sense Medical Adviser”, illustrating use of Dr. Pierce’s Nasal Douche. Image Source.

The directions for use were published in newspaper advertisements as well as Dr. Pierce’s immensely popular book “The People’s Common Sense Medical Adviser”, which was essentially an advertisement for his various patent medicines. This book sold millions of copies and included patient testimonials touting the near-miraculous cures provided by his medicine. The Catarrh Remedy could be administered in several ways. After the powder was mixed with water, it could be snorted. Or, it is recommended that the best way to ensure that the remedy reaches all impacted areas is via hydrostatic pressure by means of Dr. Pierce’s Nasal Douche. Yes, a nasal douche.  Think of it as the great grandfather of todays neti pot. The nose is first flushed out with a saline solution, and then the Catarrh remedy fluid (4). Dr. Pierce’s remedies dominated the patent medicine market. Pierce was a master of marketing, using newspapers, broadsides, and billboards to saturate the market (5).

Advertisement for Dr. Pierces Family Medicines. Dr. Sage's Catarrh Remedy can be seen. Image Source.
Advertisement for Dr. Pierces Family Medicines. Dr. Sage’s Catarrh Remedy can be seen. Image Source.

By the beginning of the 20th century blind faith in patent medicine was beginning to waiver. A scathing exposé series, “The Great American Fraud“, was published in Colliers Magazine in 1905-1906.  The journalist, Samuel Hopkins Adams, revealed the dubious practices of the patent medicine industry, and highlighted the many shocking ingredients (6).  These articles created an immense public backlash and helped pave the way for the 1906 Pure Food & Drug Act.  The patent medicine industry, spearheaded by Dr. Pierce, fought viscously against the legislation, but eventually lost the battle.  The 1906 act dealt a substantial blow to patent medicine.  While it did not outlaw the use of alcohol or opiates in the products, the new labeling laws meant that consumers were no longer kept in the dark.  Sales of patent medicine declined rapidly (1).

This tiny bottle tells quite an interesting story that provides a glimpse into the everyday life of an early M.A.C. student.  Perhaps he suffered from allergies brought about by the abundant campus plants, or had contracted a severe head cold while out pilfering fruit from the orchard. Either way it’s a fun peek into the medicine cabinets of the past.

References:

  1. http://www.pilgrimhallmuseum.org/pdf/Patent_Medicine.pdf
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Germ_theory_of_disease
  3. The Current Publishing Company. July 23, 1887. No. 188: page 128.
  4.  Dr. Pierce “The People’s Common Sense Medical Adviser” 1895. http://www.gutenberg.org/files/18467/18467-h/advise.html
  5. https://www.nyheritage.org/collections/nickell-collection-dr-rv-pierce-medical-artifacts
  6. https://www.gutenberg.org/files/44325/44325-h/44325-h.htm
Thirsty Throwback Thursday: A History of Ginger Beer

Thirsty Throwback Thursday: A History of Ginger Beer

Today is the day! Campus Archaeology is throwing it wayy back with an 1860’s-inspired three-course meal. For my blog post this week, I thought I’d get into the spirit of historic food and drink with a little history—and some of my own, highly professional market […]

A Closer Look at the Berlin Swirl Ceramic Pattern

A Closer Look at the Berlin Swirl Ceramic Pattern

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. […]

Wedgwood Ceramics on MSU’s Historic Campus

Wedgwood Ceramics on MSU’s Historic Campus

Last week I spent some time in the CAP lab with Campus Archaeologist Lisa Bright resorting and accessioning artifacts from the 2008 and 2009 Saint’s Rest rescue excavation. This excavation uncovered many ceramic artifacts (among other items) including plates, bowls, and serving dishes. Among the many fragments of whiteware, Lisa showed me one fragment that stood out: part of a plate, embossed with a pattern of figs and bearing a Wedgwood maker’s mark.

Wedgewood blue jasperware. Image Source
Wedgewood blue jasperware. Image Source

If you’ve ever found yourself deep in the throes of an Antiques Roadshow binge-watching spiral, chances are you’ve heard of Wedgwood china. Perhaps you’ve seen pieces of Wedgwood’s iconic blue jasperware decorated with Greek figures in white bas-relief. Or, perhaps you’ve seen one of Wedgwood’s Fairyland Lustre Art Nouveau vases, opulently adorned with jewel-toned elves and dragons. Since the founding of the company in 1759, Wedgwood has graced the tables of such dignitaries as Queen Charlotte, consort of King George III, Catherine the Great of Russia, and President Theodore Roosevelt (1). And, as the Saint’s Rest bowl fragment indicates, Wedgwood also graced the tables of MAC. For my blog post, I researched Wedgwood to get a better idea of how a piece of the ceramic dynasty made its way to our campus.

The story of the CAP Wedgwood begins in the 17th century in the rural English county of Staffordshire. The soil in Staffordshire wasn’t much for farming, but the region was rich in clay, salt, lead, and coal – key ingredients for making pottery. The use of coal for fueling kiln fires gave Staffordshire potters an advantage over other rural workshops that still depended on timber for fuel (2). For centuries, Staffordshire was known as a prominent center for pottery production and innovation.

Josiah Wedgewood. Image Source
Josiah Wedgewood. Courtesy of National Portrait Gallery (source)

The Wedgwood dynasty began with a Staffordshire potter named Josiah Wedgwood (1). Born into a family of potters, a leg amputation left Josiah unable to work as a “thrower” in his family’s workshop (3). Instead, he developed an interest in experimenting with formulas and design. Wedgwood developed a durable, attractive, cream-colored type of earthenware that gained favor with Queen Charlotte (3). The serving set he made her pleased her so much, Charlotte agreed to allow Wedgwood to call himself the “Queen’s Potter” (1). This celebrity endorsement set Wedgwood’s sales booming.

Over the years, Wedgwood continued to innovate. He developed two new types of stoneware known as Black Basalt and Jasperware (3). Both are known for their matte, biscuit finish. Jasperware was produced in a variety of colors, though light blue was the most iconic. White ornamental appliques were molded separately and baked onto the pottery in emulation of Roman cameo glass vases. In 1773, Wedgwood developed a method of transfer printing enamel (4). This decorative technique reduced inconsistencies, eliminated the need for hand-painting decorations, and gave customers a wider array of customization options (3). Perhaps Wedgwood’s greatest innovation was as a businessman. Wedgwood sold his products via printed catalogs and advance orders (5). Since he knew which pieces his customers wanted, he was able to reduce waste and therefore costs.

So how did we get from the elegant designs of the Staffordshire Potteries to the humble piece of CAP Wedgwood? The answer is in the design: white ironware, to be precise.

Wedgewood plate base with makers mark and RD stamp.
Wedgewood plate base with makers mark and RD stamp.

The ceramic game changed in 1813 when a Staffordshire potter developed a new type of vitreous pottery dubbed “ironstone china” or, sometimes, graniteware (6). In the 19th century, ironstone quickly gained popularity as a cheap, mass-producible alternative to porcelain. It was especially popular in the America. In the 1840’s, undecorated white ironstone headed for America comprised the largest export market for Staffordshire’s potteries.

Wedgewood fig design fragments.
Wedgewood fig design fragments.

In contrast to England, where customers favored elegant designs, American consumers preferred plainer tableware (6). In the 1850’s and 60’s, however, English potteries (including Wedgwood) decided to introduce some whimsy into the American market. Potteries began embossing designs inspired by the American prairies. Stoneware from this era were commonly embossed with grains such as wheat, corn and oats, or fruits such as grapes, peaches, berries, and— like the CAP Wedgwood—figs. Because of its durability and popularity in rural America, this china became known as “farmer’s” or “threshers’” china (6).

So, there we have it. The CAP Wedgwood fragment from Saint’s Rest may have made its way to campus as a piece of thresher’s china. Its durable form and folksy fig design likely appealed to someone living at a rural Michigan college.

In parting, I’d like to leave you with some (non-alternative) facts about Josiah Wedgwood, a fascinating figure in his own right.

Fact 1: We may have Josiah Wedgwood to thank for theory of evolution. Wedgwood was the grandfather of both Charles Darwin and Darwin’s wife, Emma (7). Inheritance from the Wedgwood fortune is often credited for allowing Darwin the leisure time to sail on the S.S. Beagle and formulate his theory of evolution.

Fact 2: Apart from his pioneering efforts in the ceramics industry, Wedgwood was a prominent abolitionist (8). In the late 18th century, he commissioned and paid for a series of iconic cameo medallions that became the emblem for the abolitionist movement. The design depicts a kneeling slave beneath the inscription “Am I not a man and a brother?” The figure is prepared in Wedgwood’s own Black Basalt against a white background. It became fashionable for men and women to wear these medallions, which helped popularize the abolitionist cause.

Anti-slavery medallion (courtesy of the Smithsonian Museum of American History)
Anti-slavery medallion (courtesy of the Smithsonian Museum of American History)

 

References

  1. https://www.wedgwood.co.uk/history/
  2. http://www.thepotteries.org/six_towns/index.htm
  3. http://www.thepotteries.org/potters/wedgwood.htm
  4. http://virtual.parkland.edu/lstelle1/len/archguide/documents/arcguide.htm
  5. http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/quick-history-wedgwoodretrospe-131733
  6. http://www.thepotteries.org/types/ironstone.htm
  7. http://www.thepotteries.org/misc/Darwin.htm
  8. http://www.abolitionseminar.org/the-eighteenth-century-atlantic-world/wedgwoodmedallion/
Let’s Get Trashed! A Comparison of the Saint’s Rest Dorm, Privy, and Trash Pit.

Let’s Get Trashed! A Comparison of the Saint’s Rest Dorm, Privy, and Trash Pit.

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, […]