Makers Marks from the Admin Assemblage

For the past few weeks the Campus Archaeology fellows completed washing the artifacts recovered from a possible trash pit along the Red Cedar River near the Administration Building and have begun sorting and analyzing the assemblage. This was a particularly exciting find due to its sheer enormity compared to other test pits explored in the area. Our initial hypothesis for this assemblage is that it may represent debris that was discarded on campus from the Engineering Building that burned in 1916. This is due to the presence of a high volume of what appears to be broken laboratory glass and metal ware.

There is also a high frequency of whiteware associated with the assemblage, including a few sherds that have makers marks which are crucial to providing a relative date for the trash pit. Three distinct makers marks have been identified that identify two ceramic manufacturers: the Edwin M. Knowles China Co. and Knowles, Taylor and Knowles Co. (KT&K). Sherds bearing the Edwin. M. Knowles Co. mark are generally dated by the presence or absence of numbers beneath the mark. Those that include numbers have specific production years associated with them. These production numbers were present on all of the makers marks from the Edwin M. Knowles Co., however three of them were broken such that the numbers are not discernable. Based on sherds complete enough to analyze, the assemblage may date from roughly 1910-1920. This would definitely suggest that the assemblage might have originated from the Engineering Building after the fire.

There are two variations of the KT&K marks, which may be separated by many years. The mark on one sherd, a medallion-like emblem with an eagle in the center and the word, “WARRANTED” printed across the top, was in circulation as early as 1879. One reference book on makers marks indicates that this design was printed on dishware prior to 1904. The second, simpler design first appeared in 1919, with variations appearing in 1926.

As it turns out, the dates on the whiteware seem to bust our working hypothesis regarding the origin of this assemblage. In reality, considering that the university probably lacked the means to transport this much material the distance between the engineering building and the current Admin building as well as the fine nature of the whiteware, it is likely that this material came from elsewhere. Determining the origin of this interesting assemblage will continue through the spring semester as part of a year-long process to locate a site for this summer’s Campus Archaeology Fieldschool.


Author: Josh Burbank

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