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 …
Mason jars are having a moment. If you’ve attended a wedding (particularly the barn variety) or eaten at a brunch establishment in the last decade, chances are you’ve consumed a beverage out of a Mason jar. What the youngest among us may not realize is …
No, I’ll stop any speculation; we haven’t uncovered any hand grenades (think of how much paperwork that would be!). But we do have a horseshoe. Now you might be saying, so what? You’ve surely recovered horseshoes before. And yes, that’s true. We have found full and partial horseshoes at a number of locations around campus. However, this horseshoe from the Brody/Emmons Complex (site of East Lansing’s first landfill) never saw a horses hoof. This horseshoe was made specifically for gaming.
Although much of archaeological evidence relates to the more routine portions of life, such as cooking, hunting, or household structure, archaeologists have also found evidence of sports and gaming. Artifacts that are believed to be associated with games have been found all over the world, such as these 5,000 year old gaming tokens from Turkey, or evidence of Pre-Columbian ball courts. CAP, however, has not uncovered many sports or game related artifacts.
Horseshoes is an outdoors game played between two people, or two teams of two people, using four horseshoes and two targets (stakes) set up in a lawn or sandbox area. Players alternate turns tossing horseshoes at stakes in the ground, which as typically 40 feet apart. There are two ways to score: by throwing the horseshoes nearest to the stake, or by throwing “ringers”. A ringer is when the horseshoe has been thrown in a way that makes it completely encircle the stake. Disputes about the authenticity of a ringer is settled by using a straightedge to touch the end points of the horseshoe, called heel caulks. If the straightedge does not touch the stake, the throw is classified as a ringer.
It’s possible that this horseshoe was homemade/handmade, but they were also being sold in kits during the early 1900s. Our horseshoe weights approximately 1 1/2 lbs, but rusting has resulted in some loss. It is interesting to note that the pitching horseshoe catalog entry on the right sells different weights for men’s pitching horseshoes and women’s pitching horseshoes. Since our horseshoe is close to the 1 3/4 lb weight range, it’s possible that this horseshoe was meant to be used by women. Additionally it’s also possible that this horseshoe simply did not meet regulation standards for size and weight requirements.
The first formal rules for the game were established in England in 1869. However the first recorded tournament in the United States wasn’t until 1909 in Bronson, Kansas. Though the popularity of horseshoes had faded some, yard games are easy to spot today at MSU, especially on game days and at tailgates. Games like corn hole (aka bag toss, sack toss, baggo, and many other regional variations of the name) and ladder toss are easy to spot, but a horseshoe pit is slightly more illusive these days. Although we’ll never know why someone decided to throw away this horseshoe, we’re happy to have found it. This artifact provides an interesting viewpoint into East Lansing’s past.
The site where Brody Hall stands today (intersection of Harrison & Michigan Ave) was once used by the city East Lansing as a landfill. There is little historical documentation on the landfill, which made it difficult to find information about the site. What we do …
For many of us today, laundry is a pretty simple affair: separate the lights from the darks, add detergent, and let the washing machine do its work. Before the advent of automatic washing machines and newfangled detergents with optical brighteners, laundry was more of an …
Peanut butter is a staple of the average American kitchen. It’s a favorite in the lunch boxes of school age children, college students, and archaeologist’s in the field. And although the peanut has been widely cultivated for a long time, peanut butter as we know it today only dates to the late 1800s. In 1895 John Harvey Kellogg (yes that’s Kellogg) applied for a U.S. patent for a nut butter made from peanuts or almonds. By 1896 the Kellogg Company was producing nut butter on a small scale. By the turn of the century peanut butter was fairly widely available from commercial sources, as it gained popularity following the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. By 1922 there’s even a National Peanut Butter Manufacturers Association (Shurtleff and Aoyagi 2015).
There’s a single peanut butter jar recovered from the Brody/Emmons amphitheater excavations: Frank’s Tea & Spice Company Jumbo Peanut Butter. In 1896, Jacob, Emil, and Charles Frank founded the Frank Tea & Spice Company in Cincinnati, Ohio. The company originally sold small, shelf-size packages of whole and ground spices. They later expanded their offerings to tea, spices, peanut butter, and olives (American Jewish Archive). However, their most famous and most enduring product was Frank’s RedHot® hot sauce, first produced in 1920 (www.franksredhot.com). Unfortunately this jar doesn’t have any makers mark or date stamps. The overall construction of the jar, and the date range of the other artifacts recovered from the Brody/Emmons complex suggests that this jar is from the 1930s.
Information about their Jumbo brand peanut butter is spotty. We know that the Frank Tea & Spice Company applied for a trademark on the world “Jumbo” in 1927 (Shurtleff and Aoyagi 2015). So, why Jumbo peanut butter? To unwrap this decision, we need to look to the elephant on the jar.
Well, today jumbo as a word is part of every day speech – a word to describe something that is large. Merriam-Webster notes that the first use of the word was only in 1883. That’s because the common use of the word comes from Jumbo the Elephant. Jumbo was the most famous elephant of the 19th century. He was sold to the London Zoo in 1865, and became famous for giving rides to visitors. Jumbo was fold in 1882 to Barnum & Bailey Circus, where he quickly became their most popular attraction. Jumbo was a beloved public figure and was featured on soda bottles, popcorn bags, matches, playing cards, puzzle, children’s toys, and even used as advertisement for tires and spark plugs (http://now.tufts.edu/articles/glory-was-jumbo).
Jumbo was killed in an unfortunate train accident in 1885, but that did not mark the end of his illustrious career. Barnum had his hide taxidermied and his skeleton mounted. The skeleton and mount traveled with the circus for years. Today the skeleton is at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. The hide was donated to the P.T. Barnum Hall at Tufts’ University. Although the hide was unfortunately destroyed in a 1975 fire (Jumbo’s ashes are kept in a Peter Pan Crunchy Peanut Butter Jar in the Tufts athletic director’s office), Jumbo remains the Tufts mascot. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jumbo)
The fact that Jumbo had died more than 40 years before Jumbo Peanut Butter was produced speaks to the endurance of his legacy. And the connection between elephants and peanuts. Elephants don’t eat peanuts as part of their natural diets. However, roasted peanuts were popular fair at the circus, and were often purchased to feed elephants. So perhaps Frank’s Tea & Spice Company was playing on national nostalgia in naming their peanut butter Jumbo. Although our jar only has an image of Jumbo, they also produced small jars in the shape of an elephant (wouldn’t that be fun to find!).
Jumbo Peanut Butter was also known for the eclectic sayings on the bottom of the jars including “Try Jumbo Peanut Butter Sandwiches”, “Best for the kiddies”, or like our jar says “Jumbo Good Enuf for Me”.
When I started researching this peanut butter jar I never imagined I’d be learning about a famous elephant (but that’s what makes research fun!). Jumbo the elephant impacted many facets of history: rise of mass entertainment/pop culture, museums, advertisement, ever our lexicon. To learn more about Jumbo, and the wild rumors P.T. Barnum concocted about his death, check out the information video produced by Tufts.
The artifacts recovered from the Brody Complex/Emmons Amphitheater excavations are providing many research avenues.. As Mari mentioned in her previous blog, this area was originally used as the East Lansing City Dump for about three decades – from the 1920s to 1950s. One cultural and …
Keeping with the theme of my last blog post on cosmetics, this week I dug into the history of some more grooming products recovered during excavations at Brody/Emmons Amphitheater, formerly the site of the East Lansing city dump from the 1920s to the early 1950s. …
This semester two of the CAP undergrad interns are re-examining bottles recovered from the Brody Hall/Emmons Amphitheater area. Way back in 2009 and 2011 construction around the dorms revealed many historic bottles. That’s because, as Mari pointed out in her last post, the dormitory complex is built above the old East Lansing city landfill. One bottle from the Emmons Amphitheater area caught my attention. This brown octagonal bottle was embossed “Oriental Show-You”, a early 20th century soy sauce. Show-You is a play on the Japanese word for soy sauce; shoyu (醤油).
Today soy sauce is common place in many American refrigerators, sitting right along side our ketchup and mustard. Although soy products are varied and plentiful today, soy sauce is the best known product made from the soy bean. However, to begin to understand how soy sauce became an everyday product in America (or how to unfold how a soy sauce bottle may have come to East Lansing in the 1920s), it’s necessary to take a step back and talk about Chinese cuisine. Now you might be thinking, but wait you just said that the soy sauce company name was based on a Japanese word, why are we talking about Chinese food? Well, to begin to understand soy sauce, you need to think about Chop Suey.
Japanese food/restaurants are common parts of the American palate today. You can go to most any larger grocery store and buy prepared sushi. Packaged ramen is a mainstay of the American college student diet and budget (last year the U.S. consumed over 4 billion servings of instant noodles). However, Japanese food didn’t gain widespread popularity in the U.S. until the 1980s.
Chinese cuisine, however, gained its foothold at the turn of the 20th century with the emergency of Chop Suey joints. Chop Suey is composed of celery, bean sprouts, and meat simmered in a tasty brown sauce and served over rice. Although its exact origin is clouded in mystery (stories have Chinese chefs in both San Francisco and New York inventing it), the dishes’ popularity quickly grew and the fad spread across the country. Like many popular Chinese dishes in the United States, this particular dish wasn’t actually Chinese. However, adaptation of Chinese cooking to American palates was crucial in the proliferation and popularization of Chinese cuisine in the U.S., and it worked! Today, according to the Chinese American Restaurant Association, there are over 45,000 Chinese restaurants in the U.S. (time.com).
In 1918 the Oriental Show-You Company was founded in Detroit by Shinzo Ohki, a recent immigrant from Japan. The company began by importing shoyu (soy sauce) and tea from China. In 1922 Mr. Ohki traveled back to Japan to learn the traditional natural fermentation method of making shoyu. After returning to the U.S. (later that year) he moved his business to Columbia City, Indiana. By 1924 he was bottling his own brand of shoyu, along with canned mung bean sprouts, chow mein noodles, chop suey, and Jigg’s corn beef and cabbage (Shurtleff & Aoyago 2012). The company was making 12,000 gallons of shoyu a year, which was mostly sold in the Midwest and only east of the Mississippi River (Yates 1998:775). At it’s peak the company was making 30,000 gallons of soy sauce per year. The factory closed in the early 1960s when the company was acquired by Beatrice Food Inc, later becoming a part of La Choy food products. (Shurtleff & Aoyago 2012).
Oriental Show-You sauce wasn’t originally marketed as soy sauce, because the average American consumer didn’t know what soy sauce was at the time. It was marketed both as chop suey sauce, and a sauce that could be used in many American dishes. Although we at CAP agree, we’re not sure how well soy sauce worked in fruit salad.
We don’t have a precise date on our bottle, but it’s likely from 1919-1929 since it has an Owen’s machine production suction scar (SHA). So, what does the presence of this bottle tell us about life in East Lansing at this time? Although the Oriental Show-You company was sold mostly in Asian grocery stores (Shurtleff & Akkiko 2012), it was also being marketed to American oriented grocery stores and housewives. So although cooking Chinese cuisine at home didn’t become common in most American kitchens until the 1950s (Mendelson 2016), it’s possible that this bottle originated from many different types of households. Either way, this bottle is an interesting peak into the Americanization of international cuisine, and life in early 20th century East Lansing.
Author: Lisa Bright
History of Soy Sauce – 160 CE – 2012 compiled by William Shurtleff & Akkiko Aoyago Soyinfo Center 2012
Yates, Ronald 1998 History of Oriental Show-You Co. in Columbia City, Indiana in The Kikkoman Chronics.
Mendelson, Anne. 2016 Chow Chop Suey: Food and the Chinese American Journey.
A fun fact for freshmen: if you live in Brody, you might be living in a dump. To be more specific, from the 1920s to the early 1950s, parts of the area now occupied by Brody Complex once served as the site of the City …