The Golden Eagle Promotion: How Sprite Bottles Became a National Park Service Advertisement

The Golden Eagle Promotion: How Sprite Bottles Became a National Park Service Advertisement

While looking through the artifacts recovered from the 2020 Service Road project, the CAP crew found an interesting green glass bottle fragment. After further investigation, I found that this fragment was the remaining portion of a Sprite bottle made by the Chattanooga Glass Company (as 

Visibility of Indigenous Students in Michigan State University’s History

Visibility of Indigenous Students in Michigan State University’s History

It has been nearly 167 years since Michigan State University first opened its doors in 1855. Starting with only three buildings, five faculty members, and 63 male students, it has grown to encompass 5,192 acres and has over 50,000 students enrolled, making it the state’s 

Getting ‘Ghosted’: Calamitous Clay Creations from the Outré Outhouse

Getting ‘Ghosted’: Calamitous Clay Creations from the Outré Outhouse

During archaeological excavations, some of the most ubiquitous artifacts unearthed are ceramic sherds that were once part of bowls, plates, vases, or other decorative pieces. It is relatively easy to appreciate the skills and techniques that go into the creation of meticulously crafted ceramic vessels. Even in the cases of plainer wares whose value comes from their utilitarian style, there is still an immense amount of training and proficiency required by the individual at the potter’s wheel.

Variety of decorated ceramic sherds from Gunson site.
A variety of decorated ceramic sherds from Gunson site (also excavated in 2015) showing some of the more stylistic and detailed artifacts typically found in historical archaeological excavations and on MSU’s campus. Photo by Jeff Painter (

The CAP archaeological collections contain thousands of ceramic sherds that exhibit exquisite designs, motifs, and the utmost finesse in their creation. Within these assemblages are fragments from a few terracotta flowerpots that absolutely do not display any of these characteristics. AT ALL. WHATSOEVER. In fact, these vessels look like they had the “help” of Patrick Swayze as they were on the potter’s wheel, all the while “Unchained Melody” by The Righteous Brothers crooned in the background. In other words, these flowerpots look like they got “Ghosted”. Although this description may sound disparaging, it is truly not intended to be as such. In fact, it is the belief of the author that this flowerpot fiasco, this terracotta transgression, this clay catastrophe, this misshapen malady of moistened minerals (I have more) actually brings the human aspect back into the cultural and historical significance of these forgotten faux pas.

These flowerpot fragments were found during the 2015 excavation of the Saints’ Rest privy, the outhouse associated with the first dorm on campus that burned down in 1876. Based on other artifacts found within the privy, it is obvious that it was used as a convenient disposal area for unwanted or broken items, most of which date to the mid-late 19th century (see numerous other blogs on the CAP website discussing the privy finds). It appears that this was the same fate that befell the terracotta flowerpots discussed here, and one in particular. It is unknown whether they were dropped down the privy because of cracks in the vessel walls, or possibly due to disappointment in how they came out of the kiln. However, their presence in the undisturbed midnight soil meant that one of the vessels could be fully reconstructed by the author.

3D model of the flowerpot created by the author, Jack A. Biggs using Agisoft Metashape. You can also access the model on the Sketchfab website by clicking here.

While most flowerpots have straight walls that terminate at the rim, the one seen in the 3D model above clearly bulges near the base, giving it a somewhat lumpy appearance. The bulging indicates that the pot started to collapse while the clay was still wet. Wide and spiraling grooves about the width of a finger can be seen on the internal surface. These grooves probably occurred as the potter tried to pull the clay upwards to both widen the pot and make it taller, but accidentally applied too much force. As a result, the walls near the base became too thin and weak to support the weight of the thicker and wetter clay above. In other words, this sad vessel was doomed to collapse.

Compounding the weakened walls are two areas just above the bulges where the walls are slightly pinched in. These are located roughly on opposite sides of the pot from one another. This suggests that the pot was stuck to the bat (the spinning disc where the clay is thrown) and the potter grabbed it with a little too much force to remove it. Subsequently, indentations were formed with their thumb and another finger on opposite sides of the pot. It is also equally possible that grabbing the pot off the bat caused the bulging in the walls. The already weakened walls near the base were on the brink of collapse, but the catalyst for their failure may have occurred as it was removed too forcefully from the bat.

Screenshots of the flowerpot 3D model. The image on the left shows the external surface of the pot with the bulging wall (indicated by the blue arc) and the indentation just above it (indicated by the red arc). The right image shows the internal aspect of the pot with the indentation just above the red arc. Also notice the spiral grooves on the internal aspect near the base that weakened the overall structure.

Other interesting aspects of this flowerpot are the presence of thumb- or fingerprints as well as (likely) unintentional textures made by the wet hands of the potter that were still covered in sticky clay. This could have been made in the process of removing the pot from the bat or placing it on a shelf to dry. However, as these marks are not all over the pot, it is clear that they were not intentional and could have easily been smoothed off. It is in the author’s honest opinion that after the collapse of the walls, the potter probably saw these fingerprints and other marks and thought “I’m too angry to care about making it look pretty at this point…”

Smudges and fingerprints left over by the potter. The left image shows where hands wet with sticky clay left behind slightly raised lines. The right image shows where the potter grabbed or attempted to smooth an area, only to leave behind striations from their finger- or thumbprints.

Lastly, and despite the numerous ‘unintentional traits’, the rim of the flowerpot has decorative grooves and is smoothed and rounded off. This was likely done in the ‘leather hard’ stage where the clay is still wet so that it can be sculpted, but dry and sturdy enough that it will not collapse (any further). Although not perfect and following the narrative the author is unjustifiably weaving, these finishing touches suggest that maybe the potter had an emotional cooling off period while it was drying. Perhaps they decided to finish and take pride in their work despite the flaws that almost made them want to throw the collapsing pot on the studio floor.

Screenshot of the flowerpot 3D model showing the decorative grooves and smoothed rim.

There is no way of knowing who the individual was that made this flowerpot, but they clearly left their mark. Many of the artifacts we find in archaeological digs so rarely have such a personal touch to them. Artifacts on display at museums generally represent the pinnacle of artistic achievement, unmatched skill, or the finalized and perfected form of an object. The “mistakes” and “works in progress” do not usually receive the spotlight.

It is very unlikely that this flowerpot was ever sold or even given as a gift (unless it was to a family member…a very close family member who loved it because of who made it…not necessarily because of the way it looked…). This means it was possibly used by the actual person who made it, specifically because it looked “Ghosted” (i.e. no one else would probably want it). Accompanying this misshapen flowerpot are the emotions that the potter could have felt had while making it. They may have been just learning how to work with clay, so this vessel represented the exploration of a new hobby and the joy of being able to create something. Conversely, it may represent anger and frustration as they saw their hard work begin to collapse in front of their eyes. The author can also confirm that both these emotions occur simultaneously as a very similar scenario played out when they took a beginner’s ceramic class many years ago. Whatever the case, this frumpy little flowerpot has a much more human connection than the vast majority of the artifacts in the CAP collections. This is especially true because it has the literal fingerprints of its creator on it.

While this misshapen goblin of a flowerpot might not have the sophisticated execution compared to some of the more artisanal examples in the CAP collections, it undoubtedly has much more personality. Its life history can be more readily interpreted since its flaws are closely connected to the emotions its maker likely felt. Whatever the reason for being unceremoniously placed (or perhaps ritually deposited) in their final resting place, these ceramics with spunk bring a fun and more easily understood human component to the cultural history of Michigan State University.

CAP Update: Spring 2022

CAP Update: Spring 2022

Here at Michigan State we welcome winter as we return to classes and our labs. I would like share what we have been up to over break and provide a preview of what CAP will be working on this semester. What We Did Over The 

All the Names She Could not Bear

All the Names She Could not Bear

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 

Walking Through MSU’s Culinary Past

Walking Through MSU’s Culinary Past

When COVID hit our campus, CAP was forced to rethink how we perform our community outreach. We needed new, innovative ways to engage and educate the public without requiring them to meet in large groups. One of the ways we did this was to transition our outreach to digital platforms. This led us to create a series of tours about MSU’s history through the archaeology and archives.

CAP is working with the Geocaching Adventure Lab smart phone application to create seasonal adventures around MSU campus based on different themes. Each tour will have 5 stops for explorers to visit and learn interesting facts about each location, as well as about any excavations CAP has performed at that site. Our first adventure tour, entitled Walking Through MSU’s Culinary Past, is being released today! This tour teaches explorers about the history of MSU’s foodways, including various aspects of food production and consumption.

The walking tour comprises five stops, including the Old East Lansing Dump, Beal’s Lab, the West Circle Privy, the Gunson home, and the MSU Dairy Store. Each stop has a georeferenced location allowing the Adventure Lab app to map users to each stop. You can visit the Old East Lansing Dump to learn about how campus residents consumed alcohol during prohibition or community dinners that took place at Gunson’s house.

When approaching each location, explorers will be presented with a brief history of the site followed by the archaeological connection. We describe any excavations that took place at the site, as well as the artifacts recovered and their significance to MSU’s culinary past. Explorers will also be presented with archived photographs of the site, such as the historic Gunson home and Diary Store, and images of the excavation and artifacts. Additionally, we included 3D models of notable artifacts associated with each location.

The tour will end at the MSU Dairy store where explorers can partake in MSU’s cuisine by stopping in to get a delicious ice cream! All of the stops are easily accessible from sidewalks and do not require locating any tangible objects away from the sidewalks. Explorers will simply navigate to the location and explore the digital resources from their phones!

Access our tour directly though the QR code linked here or search for the tour on the Geocaching Adventure Lab app! We hope this will be a good way for students, alumni, and local alike to get outside safely and learn about the work we do around campus. Please feel free to suggest tours you would like to see in the future! Have fun exploring Spartans!

Shedding light on faded artifacts: How to rediscover marks using UV light and phone apps

Shedding light on faded artifacts: How to rediscover marks using UV light and phone apps

The artifacts that we find in the archaeological record can tell us so much about the past – but what happens when the decorative elements of an artifact are worn away? Luckily, technology has provided with potential tools to help us identify faded applied color 

Looking to Have a Good Twine? Get Ready for Our New Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Archaeology Twine!

Looking to Have a Good Twine? Get Ready for Our New Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Archaeology Twine!

Here at Campus Archaeology, we love outreach – just this past week, we presented at both Michigan Archaeology Day and at our annual Apparitions and Archaeology Tour! (Thank you to those who stopped by!) We love outreach so much because we are passionate about archaeology 

Alluring Artifacts: Interrogating Cosmetics and Bodily-Hygiene Products from the Late Post-War Campus

Alluring Artifacts: Interrogating Cosmetics and Bodily-Hygiene Products from the Late Post-War Campus

Cosmetic and hygiene-related products, perhaps due to the personal and often somewhat private nature of their use, are a deeply compelling class of artifacts. As commodities through which we tailor our appearance (or odor) and in turn shape our relationships and encounters with others, objects used to groom the body are embedded within, and utilized to communicate and negotiate, a complex and varied range of social meanings. These meanings are, of course, not static. Such objects are made meaningful through the ways in which agents utilize them within their specific social worlds and in relation to existing fields of power, i.e. the negotiation of one’s position relative to historically situated sets of gendered, racialized, and classed expectations of ‘proper’ appearance and behavior.

            Gender is perhaps a particularly apparent dimension of the meanings negotiated through the consumption of cosmetic and hygienic products, given the significant divergences between normative cosmetic and hygienic routines among differently gendered bodies. For example, when second-wave Feminist currents mounted resistance to the imposition of gendered expectations of make-up use in public life in the late 1960s and 70s—a move that prompted cosmetic marketing to emphasize “natural” make-up regimens—they were effectively engaging in discursive and material negotiation over the meanings and expectations associated with womanhood in a specific time and place (Smithsonian Institute 2021). Archaeology, with its attention to material culture and mundane, everyday contexts of social life, is well suited to explore the meanings invested in—and negotiated through—cosmetics and grooming products within locally and historically specific conjunctures.

The Service Road Landfill Assemblage

        CAP recently encountered an opportunity to explore these meanings through artifacts recovered from a mid-twentieth century landfill deposit impacted by IPF activities along Service Road. Recovery efforts for the disturbed materials were carried out over the course of two months by CAP director Dr. Stacey Camp, former Campus Archaeologist Autumn Painter, and current Campus Archaeologist Jeff Burnett. Since then, a sizeable portion of this assemblage has been cleaned, processed, and catalogued by CAP fellows Aubree Marshall, Rhian Dunn and myself, with the assistance of Jeff Burnett. While much remains to be done with this collection before a comprehensive analysis can take place, this post aims to describe aspects of the assemblage and point towards potential avenues of analysis and interpretation for cosmetics and bodily-hygiene related artifacts.

            Background research into the Service Road landfill provide some details to help date and contextualize the assemblage. While archival materials concerning the landfill are scarce, MSU Infrastructure Planning and Facilities (IPF) maps made in advance of the construction of the T.B. Simons Power Plant along Service Road indicate that the landfill was in operation up until at least 1963 (MSU IPF 1963). While no firm date has been found for the initial commissioning of the Service Road Landfill, aerial photography of the vicinity suggests it had been established by October 15, 1953 (MSU Spatial Data Management Team (SDMT) 2021). MSU’s prior landfill arrangement involved use of an East Lansing City dump located nearby the intersection of E. Michigan Avenue and S. Harrison road, approximately the present location of the Brody complex of residence halls (Forsyth 2021, Isa 2017). The Brody dump was decommissioned sometime in the early to mid-1950s, lining up cleanly with the rough date for the commissioning of the Service Road landfill gleaned from historical aerial images.

Aerials of the vicinity of the Service Road landfill in years 1953, 1955, 1958 and 1965 (left to right, top to bottom). The 1953 aerial (top left) is the first available imagery of the landfill, and the 1965 aerial represents the area after the decommissioning of the landfill, the establishment of Service Road, and completion of the first phase of construction on the T.B. Simons Power Plant (bottom right) (SDMT 2021)

            The preliminary round of cataloguing has provided some additional information that helps to date the assemblage. When considering artifacts for which we were able to get a firm date of production, the assemblage dates to between the late 1930s and the early 1960s. However, this is somewhat distorted by mid-century bottle return systems which involved the direct refilling of containers, making associated artifacts—primarily soda bottles—less useful for finely dating the deposit (Friedel 2014). Accounting for this and selecting for only finely-dated non-returnable or ‘one-way’ containers (grooming products, beer, wine, juice, etc.) results in a narrower date range of 1958-1963. Given the possibility that the landfill would have been flattened during its decommissioning, it seems plausible that while the landfill overall represents a wider date of deposition, the portions of this fill disturbed and recovered by CAP in 2020 may represent a sample of more recently deposited materials.

            The contents of the assemblage seem to represent a variety of campus spaces. Residential settings are represented by the substantial volume and variety of domestic and personal items—such as the cosmetic/hygienic products discussed in this blogpost. Institutional dining spaces are contributors to the landfill, as suggested by the presence of multiple patterns of MSU dining hall ceramics. Educational and research settings also appear to be represented, judging by the inclusion of various data-recording related artifacts, as well as injection vials, syringes, and laboratory glass.

            This finer date range provides us with a means to contextualize the recovered materials within the history of campus. A date range of 1958-1965 places the assemblage at the end of a series of substantial transformations of campus life following the end of World War II. Spurred by provisions of the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944 (also known as the G.I. Bill) that paid tuition for returning servicemembers, Michigan State University—then known as Michigan State College of Agriculture and Applied Science—expanded dramatically in the early post-war era (Goldstein 2015; U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs 2013). To accommodate this influx of students, the Campus erected a large volume of temporary residential units, including those often referred to as ‘Quonset Huts,’ across a wide swath of campus (Goldstein 2015; MSU Archives and Historical Collections [AHC] 2012).  This dynamic brought on additional changes to campus, including a more age-variable student population and an increasing amount of students with spouses and/or children. While part of a longer, more gradual trend since the early-twentieth century, this era also saw an increasing number of women attending the institution.

A breakdown of enrollments at MSU between academic years 1939-1940 and 1962-63. Figures represented are total enrollment statistics for academic years up until 1957-1958, for which this figure is no longer available. Fall semester enrollments are used instead for the remainder of the chart—likely causing a slight distortion of the actual data. (MSU Office of the Registrar 2021).

           In the intervening time between World War II and the decommissioning of the Service Road Landfill, the school had also gone through substantial changes in relation to its status as an institution. In 1955, Michigan State College of Agriculture and Applied Science became Michigan State University of Agriculture and Applied Science (AHU 2021a). Accompanying this change was a concurrent expansion of academic programming, an increasing emphasis on research, and growing investment in surrounding communities through MSU’s extension program (Goldstein 2015). Physically, MSU had expanded significantly; the university had bought up substantial amounts of land from small farmsteads south of campus’s former boundaries, and the construction of new buildings entailed an increasing density of structures south of the Red Cedar river. The Service Road collection, then, represents a slice of MSU’s materiality following a period of rapid growth, the increasing representation of women and married students, and amidst a transformation to a more professionalized, research-oriented university—sitting at the dawn of the 1960s and the intensification of cold war tensions, mid-century anti-communism, and student activism.

            Before jumping into an interpretive discussion, it may be helpful to briefly review some of the materials recovered from the Service Road landfill. As cataloging is still underway, this section does not attempt any quantitative analysis or to provide a comprehensive overview of recovered materials.

Close-ups of Revlon’s gold-tone “Petite Love-Pat” compact, showing interior and top. Notably, one can still make out the mirror and bits of the applicator pad this item contained. Slide to open and close the compact!

Interpreting the Assemblage: Mid-Century Marketing and Gender Ideologies

           Due to a lack of substantial archaeological investigation into post-war settings, resources for dating specific products from this era are relatively underdeveloped. Cosmetics and bodily hygiene products from this era are particularly difficult, as they are less likely than other artifacts—such as food and beverage containers—to have date codes indicating the year of its production.  Some non-archaeology focused resources, such as James Bennett’s impressive and well-researched website on “the history and science of cosmetics, skin-care and early Beauty Culture” were incredibly helpful in patching some of these gaps, even in some cases providing a date for the launch of specific product lines. For artifacts for which I could find no substantial information, newspaper advertisements—particularly for mass-produced and well-marketed products—offered a means to produce reliable date ranges.

           Coming in contact with advertisements for the products I was cataloging produced a useful, if unintentional entrance-point into thinking about aspects of gender ideology surrounding the consumption of these items. While not representative of any comprehensive analysis, in this section I share some of the advertisements I encountered in newspapers and supplementary searches for magazine ads, and attempt to unpack some of their ideological content relative to entangled relations of gender and class. Each ad depicted in this section represent specific artifacts recovered from the Service Road landfill. While many themes and tactics of these ads are not unfamiliar relative to contemporary advertising, I feel this makes them no less interesting to examine.

           Advertisements for scent-oriented products (deodorant, perfume, cologne, etc.) offered some of the most direct examples of the gender ideologies embedded within contemporaneous advertising for cosmetic/bodily-hygiene products. Women’s deodorant ads intensely mobilized insecurities about body odor, often threatening the failure of romantic pursuits—within an unsurprisingly heteronormative frame—if one did not properly control perspiration. Such ads, typically depicting women in social situations with men while comprised by body odor, emphasize the connection of femininity and romantic success—itself figured as an indicator of a normative femininity—with specific regimes of bodily care.

           These implications are also apparent within ads for medicated lotions used to treat acne, such as “Ten-O-Six” lotion, Bonne Bell’s medicated make-up, and Tussy Medicated Lotion and Make-up. Product lines like Mennen’s “Date-Line” deodorant combined this approach with heavy marketing towards young women—emphasizing that “it’s made exclusively for our age”.

           The common denominator of these ads is that failure to adopt the ‘proper’ regimes of bodily-care—to properly discipline the body—risked one’s exclusion from the world of romantic success. Viewed within a frame of compulsory heterosexuality in which romantic failure itself indexes a divergence from idealized femininity, a tacit second exclusion is implied here: exclusion from normative femininity itself.

           If odor-oriented products for women were mobilizing insecurities about romantic failure and exclusion from normative femininity, ads for men’s deodorant, cologne, and after-shave evince no comparable threats of exclusion from masculinity and rarely posit failure to adopt standards of bodily care as a liability in romantic pursuits. Deodorant, and to some extent odor-control products more broadly, were initially a heavily gendered category of products marketed almost exclusively to women (Meyer & Casteel 2017). Marketers in the 1940s and 50s began to try to change this dynamic and increase demand by unsettling the gendering of such products and advertising more directly towards men. This move prompted a series of amusingly heavy-handed appeals to normative notions of masculinity. Some brands, such as “King’s Men,” aimed to form associations between ‘masculine’ scented products and British nobility, emphasizing that their “cool, virile scents” could help one project an air of gentlemanly refinement.

           Drawing on similar themes, with perhaps a slight added dimension of ‘ruggedness’, the Vick’s Chemical Company’s “Seaforth” product line located associations of masculinity within the imaginary of the Scottish highlands. Seaforth products (cologne, after-shave lotion, and deodorant) included prominent notes of ‘masculine’ scents such as heather, fern, and peat moss, with the added touch of having the cologne packaged in white milk-glass containers designed to look like stoneware whiskey jugs (Bennett 2021.

           A slightly more subtle, but not necessarily less gendered approach was taken with Shulton’s “Old Spice” line, each bottle of which featured prominent ships of the British and American navies. This nautical branding of Old Spice drew on established associations between maritime spaces, as well as naval service, with masculinity (Glasco 2004). Other products, like Mennen’s “Brake” deodorant, took the approach of emphasizing physical difference to masculinize the product, declaring the product to be “man-sized” and stronger than a “little woman’s roll on”.

           It is interesting to note that among these efforts to masculinize odor-control products these ads take a different tact than the advertisement for woman’s deodorant, and do not threaten the compromising of one’s masculinity or the failure of romantic pursuits due to failure to properly discipline the body. Instead of representing alleviation of the risk of romantic failure, odor-control products oriented towards men offered a distinctly classed masculinity. Whereas the risk of romantic failure threatened women with exclusion from femininity, men’s colognes and deodorants promised a form of inclusion within class-laden notions of gentility and refinement.

           This isn’t the only area in which heavily class-laden conceptualizations of gender identities are articulated within the ads I reviewed while cataloging. Many products recovered from the landfill, particularly for make-up, perfume, and shampoo, combined an idealized feminine aesthetic with notions of luxury and fame. An advertising campaign for “Halo” shampoo in the late 1950s features women with elegantly styled hair facing away while a man, notably a TV personality or musician—indexing proximity to fame—looks on infatuatedly above the tagline “you can always tell a Halo girl.”

           Max Factor’s “Hi-Fi” liquid make-up, took a similar approach by drawing on the brand’s established association with Hollywood make-up. “Hi Fi,” an abbreviation for ‘high fidelity,’ drew a metaphor from sound engineering advancements made in the mid-twentieth century (Olson 2005) and aimed to associate the product with the expensive audio equipment of Hollywood and the music industry, claiming that it “does to color what high fidelity does for sound.”

Advertisements for Avon’s Topaz line of fragrance products promised “luxury” and a “jewel of a fragrance.”

           Companies like Revlon partnered with established European jewelers like Van Cleef & Arpels to lend an air of refined luxury to their petite “Love Pat” gold-tone compacts.

           Through advertisements such as these, one can see how marketers tied consumption of these products to a certain kind of classed femininity embedded within mid-century aspirations for class mobility. By working these commodities into mundane regimes of bodily discipline women could—according to the logics of the advertising—stand out above the crowd as women of distinction and refinement.

           Taken together, unpacking the ideological content of ads for cosmetic/bodily-hygiene products from this era may serve as a useful starting point for interpreting materials from the Service Road landfill, particularly as they relation to the mutual constitution and intersections of classed and gendered identities.

Beyond Advertisements: Cosmetic and Hygiene Products as Forms of “Body Work”

           While newspaper and magazine ads may provide some useful insight into the gender ideologies surround the use of cosmetic and bodily-hygiene related products, it is insufficient to furnish a comprehensive understanding of the social meanings invested in much materials. To employ this kind of frame alone runs the risk of obscuring the agency of past social actors—painting them as passive recipients of a predetermined and static set of gender ideologies rather than active participants in their construction and transformation.

            Instead, a more promising approach would need to be able to reckon with how social actors made such items meaningful in mundane, everyday practices and interactions and in relation to historically and locally specific social worlds. Such a framework could provide a way to consider how people may have sought to challenge, transform, or reproduce the meanings attached to such products in marketing campaigns and the gender ideologies that animated them. A potentially helpful direction might be to conceive of the meanings produced through use of such products as a form of what Debra Gimlin calls “body work”. In Body Work: Beauty and Self-Image in American Culture (2002), Gimlin uses body work to describe and investigate how the presentation and modification of the self through cosmetic products, services, and procedures constitutes a means to “negotiate the relationship between body and self in the context of a social structure and culture that simultaneously provide resources for the creation of identities and place limits on those identities” (2002:9). Drawing from a background in cultural studies, feminist theory and symbolic interactionism, Gemlin joins a wider transdisciplinary turn towards approaches focusing in at “the level of the body” (2002:3, 7). The combination of attention to bodies and the agentive dimensions of self-presentation and identity formation provides a way around interpreting the significance of cosmetic/bodily-hygiene products in a reductive way that takes for granted a foreclosed and static set of gender ideologies tightly confining and predetermining their meanings. While it is beyond the scope of this blogpost to offer such an analysis here, this points towards potentially fruitful avenues for further work on the Service Road landfill collection.

Future Directions for Analysis

            Considering this perspective in light of the changing dynamics of campus life over the course of the landfill’s operation generates additional questions. What meanings did cosmetics and bodily-hygiene products take on in the context of a student body with an increasing proportion of women? Or in relation to increasing age-diversity and numbers of married students? What meanings might such objects acquired within an atmosphere of increasing professionalism and emphasis on research and community outreach?

            Future analyses of gendered life on campus utilizing the Service Road materials would also benefit from considering a broader range of materials with significant gendered meanings. For example, one ceramic pattern from the assemblage identified by CAP this summer appears to have been exclusive to women’s dining halls (AHC 2021c:60, 2021b).

“Cross-Stitch” MSU women’s dining hall ceramics recovered from the Service Road landfill.
Students line up for food at Landon Women’s Hall in 1949. The ‘cross-stitch’ pattern ceramics are visible in front of the servers. Image courtesy of MSU Archives and Historical Collections (AHC 2021d).

           This pattern is designed to resemble floral cross-stitch embroidery patterns, evoking a heavily gendered symbology in its representation of an activity often associated with an idealized vision of feminine domesticity. Unpacking the meanings attached to this motif, and the ways in which it might have been made meaningful in the lives of past social actors is a worthwhile endeavor for future discussions elsewhere. Was it an unwelcome rearticulation of hegemonic gender ideologies that ascribed the home and domestic labor as the purview and appropriate social domain of women—particularly for those in academic spaces still largely dominated by men? Or might its meanings have been more ambivalent, contingent, and/or contested?

Women students eat cafeteria food together, as pictured in the 1960s Student Handbook. The ‘cross-stitch’ ceramic pattern is visible in front of the diners. (AHC 2021c).

           Such inquiry might be a useful starting point for thinking about gendered space on campus, a goal set out by former CAP fellow Amy Michael in a series of 2014 and 2015 blogposts. Such a focus would also benefit from attention to the regulation of gendered space on campus through the ‘Women’s Handbooks’ given to women students during orientation at MSU (AHC 2021b). These handbooks are primarily rule-books, laying out a series of regulations women students were subject to beyond the universal school rules. Such materials may help to furnish a more complete understanding of the divergent ways in which gendered bodies were differentially surveilled and regulated on campus.

           While this blog post does not approach a comprehensive look at cosmetic and bodily-hygiene related objects from the Service Road landfill collection, it does point towards a few productive avenues for future analyses. Combining attention to the sets of gender ideologies surrounding the consumption of these materials with the framework of ‘body work’ may allow for analyses that work to contextualize consumption within broader fields of power—particularly as they relate to intersections of gender and class—without reducing their meanings to reflections of the messaging of mid-century advertising or neglecting the agentive and transformative ways they may have been made meaningful by past social actors. Expanding analysis to other classes of materials, such as the “cross-stitch” patterned ceramics mentioned above, alongside attention to archival documents such as the MSU women’s handbooks, may furnish useful insight into gendered space on campus. Future analysis would also benefit from attention to the racialized aspects of beauty culture in the mid-twentieth century and exploring their intersections with the gendered and class-laden meanings explored here.

Works Cited:

Bennett, James

—2021a  “Deodorants and Antiperspirants.” Article, Available online, Accessed September 2021.

—2021b  “Cold Creams.” Article, Available online, Accessed September 2021.

—2021c “Seaforth.” Article, Available online, Accessed September 2021

Clark, Laura

  2015 “How Halitosis Became a Medical Condition with a ‘Cure’.” Article, Smithsonian Magazine ‘Smart News’. Available online, Accessed October 2021.

Dozier, Vickki

  2017  “From the Archives: Old photos – we asked, you answered”. Article, Lansing State Journal, August 23rd 2017. Available online, Accessed October 2021.

Friedel, Robert

2014    “American Bottles: The Road to No Return.” Environmental History 19(3):505–527.       

Forsyth, Kevin

  2021 “Cedar Banks.” A Brief History of East Lansing, Michigan: City Neighborhoods and the Campus Park, 1850-1925 (blog),, accessed September 2021.

Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí

—2019  “Trilogy of the Desert. Mirage.” Webpage, Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings by Salvador Dalí, Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí, Figueres, Catalonia. Available online, Accessed October 2021.

Gimlin, Debra L.

2002    Body Work: Beauty and Self-Image in American Culture. University of California Press, Berkeley, CA.    

Glasco, Jeffrey D.

2004  “The Seaman Feels Him-Self a Man”. International Labor and Working-Class History 66(Fall 2004):40–56.          

Goldstein, Lynn

  2015  “A Land Grant University and Its Campus Archaeology Program.” Talk given at UMass Amherst, 2015. Michigan State University, Campus Archaeology Program, East Lansing, Michigan.

Hummel, Grace E.

  2013  “Shalimar: Montre Flacon.” Blogpost, Guerlain Perfumes From Past to Present. Available online, Accessed September 2021.

Isa, Mari

  2017 “Beauty Junk(ies): Cosmetics from the East Lansing City Dump.” Blogpost, MSU Campus Archaeology Program Blog, East Lansing, Michigan. Published September 26th, 2017.

Meyer, Michal & Cari Casteel

  2017  “The Smell of Shame: How deodorant became omnipresent in America.” Podcast transcript, Distillations with Michal Meyer and Bob Kenworthy, interview with Cari Casteel, the Science History Institute, Philadelphia, PA. Available online, Accessed September 2021.

MSU Archives and Historical Collections [AHC]

—2012  “Quonset Village.” Blogpost, Archives @ MSU (blog), Michigan State University, Archives and Historical Collections, East Lansing, Michigan. Available online, Accessed October 2021.

—2021a  “Timeline – 1855.” Webpage, On the Banks of the Red Cedar, Archives and Historical Collections, East Lansing, Michigan. Available online, Accessed September 2021.

—2021b  “Associated Women Students Handbooks – Home Page.” Webpage, On the Banks of the Red Cedar, Archives and Historical Collections, East Lansing, Michigan. Available online, Accessed September 2021.

—2021c  “Student Handbook, 1960.” Webpage, On the Banks of the Red Cedar, Archives and Historical Collections, East Lansing, Michigan. Available online, Accessed July 2021.

—2021d  “Students in the cafeteria serving line at Landon Hall, 1948.” Webpage, On the Banks of the Red Cedar, Archives and Historical Collections, East Lansing, Michigan. Available online, Accessed July 2021.

MSU Infrastructure, Planning, and Facilities Division [IPF]

  1963  “Topo of Sanitary Landfill Area.” Map. Michigan State University, Buildings and Utilities Division, Engineering Section. East Lansing, Michigan.

MSU Office of the Registrar

  2021 “Historical Enrollment and Term End Reports.” Webpage, Michigan State University, Office of the Registrar, East Lansing, Michigan. Available online, Accessed October 2021.

MSU Spatial Data Management Team [SPDT]

  2021  “Historical Aerial Imagery:”. Digital map. Layers accessed: ‘1950,’ ‘October 15, 1953’. Available at:, accessed October 2020.

Olson, Lynn

  2005  “A Tiny History of High-Fidelity, Part 1.” Webpage, Available online, Accessed October 2021.

Smith, Ernie

  2019  “Mean, Green, Marketing Machine.” Article, Available online, Accessed September 2021.

Smithsonian Institute

  2021  “Cosmetics and Personal Care Products in the Medicine and Science Collections: Make Up”. Webpage, Smithsonian Institute, Washington D.C. Available online, Accessed October 2021.

U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs [USVA]

  2013  “Education and Training: History and Timeline.” Internet resource, available at Accessed September 2021.

Looking Back, Looking Forward

Looking Back, Looking Forward

Greetings! For those of you just joining our blog for the first time, I am Dr. Camp, the Director of the MSU Campus Archaeology Program (CAP). I am entering my 5th year here at MSU, and my 13th teaching as a tenure track faculty member