Construction along Service Road in 2020 found a mid-20th-century midden. The artifacts found were associated with the history of temporary post-World War II student housing on Michigan State’s campus. After the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, or the GI Bill, became law, college enrollment increased …
Archaeology, Communities, and Civil Rights: A Review of the 2022 Midwest Historical Archaeology Conference
As we near the end of the semester, I want to reflect on one of my favorite experiences of fall 2022: the Midwest Historical Archaeology Conference! This year’s conference was organized by: Dr. Michael S. Nassaney, Professor Emeritus of Western Michigan University; our own Director …
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 unlabeled or small fragments, providing few clues beyond their shape of what they once held or were used for. So it was no surprise that the faint etchings of letters and color on this container drew my eye – however, my intrigue quickly turned into bewilderment when I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what those letters said!
The mix of fading and unique font produced the perfect storm, which wasn’t helped by the fact that the bottle was missing most of its bottom, with only “DE / .A.” still visible. While this did clue us in that this bottle was “MADE IN U.S.A.”, if a maker’s mark existed, it was lost along with the whole back side of the jar. So we knew the letters were the key to solve this puzzle!
After some debate with another CAP fellow on whether the last two letters were a “ZA” or were not letters but “2A,” and the use of some eye drops to see if that would help clear up my vision, we decided it was time to try another strategy. First, we tried using the UV light method that Aubree, another CAP fellow, introduced in her blog last year – however, while we have seen great results on other artifacts, it wasn’t able to do the trick for us with this particular label. So we moved on to Plan B: holding up a good ole iPhone flashlight behind the label to provide some back light. And it worked!
We could now make out what we thought was an “R U T M Z A.” Although Plan C, or a quick google search, helped us realize we were a little off, as google suggested that what we were really looking for was in fact “NUTMEG” – and it was right! (And maybe a bit too smart for its own good!) And with that, our now our artifact is no longer a mystery, but one of a set of Dutch stylized spice jars, often purchased by collectors today.
To complement our struggles reading the label, our archival research similarly led us down a few rabbit holes, as these jars have been attributed to a few different companies, including McKee Tipp City and Hazel Atlas. However, after matching our artifact to a picture of a spice jar for sale online with its brand label still in place, we realized that they were likely made as part of Frank’s Dove Brand, by the Frank Tea and Spice Company, which produced spices, food extracts, food colorings, apple butter, sauces, olive oil, and olives – quite the array of goods! Originally started in 1896 by three brothers in Cincinnati, Ohio, who aimed to replace the purchase of bulk goods with smaller, self-sized products, you might be more familiar with their Frank’s® RedHot® buffalo sauce, a popular product still in stores today!
As for our artifact, and the production of nutmeg jars of the Dutch style, the trademark logo dates between 1938 and 1996. Although a big range, this overlaps with other dates we’ve found of other Service Road artifacts and gives us some insight into ingredients used for cooking – we can only imagine some of the nutmeg recipes used by the person who threw away this jar!
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 …
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 at a land grant university.
This past year and a half has been one filled with anxiety and challenges. We mourn all of the people lost to COVID and the substantial impact it has had on our lives.
While most of our campus was remote up until August 2021, CAP worked on construction projects during the pandemic to ensure the university remained in compliance with federal and state guidelines concerning below ground heritage.
In fact, this past year was one of the busiest for our program due to taking on a federal compliance project that involved campus, city, state, federal, and tribal agencies. We learned how to go through the Section 106 process with the aid of many on and off campus partners. This included assessing, mitigating, and monitoring the construction of a substantial bike pathway that transverses much of our beautiful campus. Our CAP fellows and staff spent the summer overseeing the project, laboring in the heat with masks on to keep each other safe.
We also oversaw a substantial construction project at the beginning of the pandemic back in May 2020. The project lasted through August 2020. This project has resulted in several forthcoming publications and multiple public (online/remote) talks about our findings at conferences and at the MSU Science Festival in the spring of 2021. Artifacts from this construction site, which is located on Service Road, reveal campus life during the 1940s, 1950s, and early 1960s.
We oversaw a smaller, but equally important construction project involving the area known as Spartan Village, which is most recently used to house graduate students. Part of that property has been converted to build a new TechSmith building. After conducting substantial historical research on the property, we conducted a geophysical survey with the assistance of MSU alumni Dr. Duane Quates in the fall of 2020. We used Dr. Quates’ data to help inform test excavations on the site later during the 2020-2021 academic year. We monitored construction on the site this summer (2021), which revealed numerous artifacts and building foundations.
We also continue to be involved in tree plantings on campus to ensure dirt removed as part of their planting is screened for artifacts.
Though our mission will remains clear – to protect and mitigate below ground resources on MSU’s campus while training students in archaeological research and public history – this year has also given us time and space to reflect upon what we have accomplished and what we would like to do for our community in the coming years. As we discussed in our blog last summer, we are working towards sharing more about the diverse communities who have lived and work on campus.
We have committed towards working closely with communities we have yet to serve in our surrounding region, but much of this work is on pause until we feel it is safe to do so. And while we have fallen short of some of our ambitious goals for this past year due to the burnt out, stress, and exhaustion that comes with living and working through a pandemic, we intend to keep them at the forefront of our planning for the coming years. We wish to work with the many communities who have resided on and owned MSU’s land and plan to develop policies that ensure proper consultation during construction projects.
I want to conclude by thanking all of our CAP staff and fellows for working so hard and learning to quickly adapt to in-flux new protocols during the COVID-19 pandemic. I also want to thank the many staff with whom we have worked this past year+ of a pandemic. I also want to thank the undergraduates who helped us this summer with cataloging amid still very stressful times. We appreciate the ongoing support for CAP.
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 …
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 be an archaeologist, because you learn by actually doing archaeology. CAP summer field school students will earn course credits while gaining hands-on experience and developing key archaeological skills: how to survey, excavate, and map sites, how to identify and interpret artifacts in the lab, how to record and communicate findings, and how to maintain and preserve cultural heritage.
Past CAP field schools on MSU’s historic campus have focused on a number of sites across the oldest area of campus known as the “Sacred Space,” a midden associated with construction from Professor Gunson’s house, and Station Terrace, a building that served many uses ranging from housing for bachelor faculty to a post office.
The 2019 summer field school will focus on the site of a historic homestead, located near present day Shaw Lane and Hagadorn Road on the eastern edge of main campus.
Over the past year, the CAP team has conducted archival research to learn more about the history of this area. Using documents such as U.S. Census records, plat maps, and deeds, we were able to discover how the land was used and who lived there from the mid-1800s to the time it became part of campus in the 1950s.
Peter Toolan and his family owned a strip of land between modern Hagadorn Road and Bogue Street (Plat Book of Ingham County, 1939). From at least 1870 until at least 1920 Peter, and later, his son Peter Jr., farmed land in Meridian Township (U.S. Census 1870-1920). After Peter Jr. died his sister, Mary Rogers, became the head of the household (U.S. Census 1940). Census records from 1940 indicate Mary rented space on the property to John Wesley and Lucy Westrom and Lawrence and Annie Bush (U.S. Census 1940). By 1953, the Westroms must have owned the Toolan property, because warranty deeds show that John Westrom and his son Chester transferred ownership of the land to the Michigan State Board of Agriculture in June of that year.
We also consulted historical maps and aerial photographs to learn about any potential buildings associated with these families. Within the investigation area planned for the field school, these documents show evidence of various structures on the Toolan property. A USGS topographic map of the East Lansing area shows that there was a structure on the property by at least 1909 (USGS 1909). However, since the Toolans were in the area since the 1870’s, a cabin or house could have been present there long before the map was made. The first moderately clear aerial photos of the area, from October 1953, show a house and possible outbuildings on the eastern edge of the Toolan property (MSU IPF). All of these structures appear to have been removed by 1965 (MSU IPF), probably to make way for Holmes Hall’s construction. Based on this evidence, we expect that structural remnants or historical artifacts dating from the 1870s to the 1950s are likely associated with the families living on the Toolan homestead.
CAP first began investigating this area during summer 2018 in response to construction projects taking place near the Shaw and Hagadorn intersection. In May, the CAP team conducted pedestrian and systematic shovel test pit surveys. The team recorded various artifacts including colored glass, milk glass, decorated and undecorated ceramics, bath tile, nails, medicine bottles, and butchered animal bones. In June CAP returned to host an Archaeology STEM camp for IB high school students at the site. Most of the artifacts found in May and June are consistent with dates between the mid to late 1800s and the 1950s, the period it was occupied by the Toolan and later the Westrom and Bush families.
We are excited to learn more about this site because it is one of the few known homesteads in the area that may have been in operation around the same time the university was founded and throughout its expansion. Investigation of this homestead can give us insight into the growth of campus and the surrounding city of East Lansing. As we continue work this summer we hope to find more artifacts and potentially locate structural remnants from the house associated with the Toolan, Westrom, and Bush families.
If you’re interested in joining the team for the 2019 field school, you can find more information and the application form here. Applications are due to CAP Director Dr. Stacey Camp (firstname.lastname@example.org) by March 1, 2019.
Michigan. Ingham County, Town of Meridian. 1870 U.S. Census, page 18.
Michigan. Ingham County, Meridian Township. 1920 U.S. Census, Sheet No. 9A.
Michigan. Ingham County, Meridian Township. 1940 U.S. Census, Sheet No. 20A.
United States Geological Survey. Michigan (Ingham County), Mason Quadrangle. Map. U.S. Department of the Interior. 1909. Accessed: http://historicalmaps.arcgis.com/usgs/
Plat book of Ingham County, Michigan. Meridian Township. Map. W.W. Hixon & Co. 1939. Accessed: http://www.historicmapworks.com/Atlas/US/31498/Ingham+County+1939c/
MSU Infrastructure, Planning, and Facilities (IPF) Public GIS. Accessed: https://apps.gis.msu.edu/facilities-information-tool/maps/campus/
- Aerial image, October 15th 1953
- Aerial image, 1965