Snake Oil? Nope, even better!

One bottle in my assemblage stood out in particular to me. It was a a brown bottle about 8 inches tall, ovoid with two flat sides, and had the word Ozomulsion prominently embossed onto it. “What in the world is Ozomulsion?” said a heavy eyed me as I wrapped up categorizing my bottles. Well little did I know, this little brown bottle once contained a miracle cure more powerful than snake venom! Ozomulsion was a patent medication which claimed to cure a host of ailments. The following picture is an advertizement from a turn of the 20th century New York newspaper The Argosy.

The be-all end-all miracle cure!

The be-all end-all miracle cure!

After finding out Ozomulsion was cod oil, I couldn’t help but think about the current fad to eat fish oil tablets, which seem to have some scientific backing. Perhaps there really is something to this Ozomulsion stuff after all. Come to think of it, I could use a cure for coughs, colds, grip (whatever that is), bronchitis, zombies, pneumonia, and everything else this mean world has to throw at me. Think that free sample bottle is still available?

Medicine Here and Now

“Drinking too much of a certain potent potable may require a leave of absinthe”




As seen in our assemblage, a vast majority of our examples seem to be of the medicinal type holding various tonics (about 29% of our assemblage). It’s hard to know exactly what was in the bottles and what they were used for so I took it upon myself to look around the internet for bottles with their labels still in tact. What I found is that not only were a good majority of these bottles were medicine for coughs but also that their ingridients would be considered downright illegal to sell in that state today.

It’s hard to imagine in a day where vaccines and modern medicine can nearly eliminate the large amount of diseases that were prevalent in earlier times. In the above photo we see an example of medicine for whooping cough, which is not nearly as prevalent as it is today thanks to vaccines which I know I received as a child. Just from googling around to find differing examples of cough medicine I was taken aback by the sheer number of different brands for the same illnesses (and the questionable ingredients in them). My favorite example found online was this bottle which contained fun ingredients such as:

1. Cannabis


3. Morphine

Although the above picture refuses to comply, nowhere on the bottle does this state if this is for children or adults. Just “one teaspoon every three to four hours depending on the severity of the cough”. What is interesting about the above sample is that it complies with the 1906 “Gould Amendment to the Pure Food and Drug Act” which requires products to list their ingredients and information on the bottle (Taken from the site). This doesn’t mean that their ingredients were necessarily “safe” but just have known information on the product. Nearly all these ingredients today are much harder to access without a prescription or the right permits, so seeing these three ingredients mixed together for a cough might suggest how severe these coughs may be for these people at the time or perhaps it was popular due to easy acquirement and abuse.



The above picture is of a modern medcine label which now has side effects, ingridient information, usage and various other warnings such as for pregnant women and even a hotline for parents to call about children abusing cough syrup. Although the Pure Food Act certainly helped get the ball rolling I can’t help to think of how many people were taking previous forms of medicine without really understanding what was going in their body. Although going off in a tangent, I think that people today also have this same problem although there is much more information avaliable today on these types than there was back then.

Also Fun Fact: often times these companies were not required to list the volume information until September 3, 1914 (which occurred about 15 years before the Seattle dump we looked at was sealed and ~15 years after our mean date which is about 1898). As anyone who has taken (or rather chugged) the generic brand of cough syrup or allegry medication, having a volume count to help you portion out your samples is useful so you don’t end up a droning zombie after a unfortunate encounter with NightQuil. It even comes with a measurable cap to help you portion out. Different from older medicines that used only corks or seals.

This makes dating the assemblage from Seattle a bit easier in regards to bottles that have volume information (generally seen similar to a symbol looking like “3iv”) this means the bottles most likely date to about 1914 when the law was put into effect and at least two bottle matches this from the collection (45K1765/Lw-1 is one example). Due to the dump being sealed in 1929 and the regulation before placed in 1914, this means there is a much smaller window of only fifteen years from when the bottle was probably produced to when it was finally discarded. One final note is the rather high lag date we recieved in our group project for these particular set of items. At 37.17 years for the lag date, this means that the medicine was either being kept around or being reused for later points in time. This is interesting due to the perishable contents found within. With all the laws and regulations today on medicine, looking back into bottles of the time is an inside look into how people regarded medicine and the casual use of what we consider now today opiates.

Milk Glass? Milk Glass!

For many of us in America, the word “mentholatum” brings backs memories of being ill and having a certain gloppy, sticky medicine called Vick’s VapoRub rubbed on our chest that through some unknown magic that rid us of our coughs and helped us get to sleep. The name Mentholatum is a portmanteau of the words menthol and petrolatum, petroleum jelly.


Originally founded in 1889 by one Alexander Hyde in Witchita, Kansas, Mentholatum Company hit its stride with Mentholatum Ointment, allowing for rapid expansion and eventually relocation to Buffalo, New York in 1903. Mentholatum Ointment was a precursor to that Vick’s VapoRub we all know and love. Let’s talk about that big hit for the company, Mentholatum Ointment and the little white jar that it was originally distributed in. The ointment itself works through a cooling chemical reaction caused by the inclusion of menthol in a petroleum jelly base.

Unfortunately, I did not take a picture of the jar in our collection, however this specimen is rather similar to what ours would have looked like if it were whole. It is a cylindrical, milk glass container approximately 2 inch tall and about an inch and a quarter in diameter. Just like our specimen, this one has a ground, threaded finish to take a cap of kind or another that seems to have changed over time: metal for earlier specimens and plastic for later. Given that our site was covered over in 1929, it’s likely that our little jar had a metal lid, just like this one.
One of the more interesting tidbits about this jar is the glass that it’s made from, known now as milk glass. The history of this type of glass has its roots in Venice sometime in the 1500’s, and originally could be of an assortment of colors. Usually just called opaque glass contemporarily, this type of glass began to be representative of American wealth and success, even being displayed in homes alongside fine porcelain. While a small jar of a smelly ointment isn’t the highpoint of class and refinery, this little piece of history is none the less rather striking and has an interesting history.

Image taken from etsy

Ointment Bottle

Broken ointment bottle from the lab

Broken ointment bottle from the lab

One of the most interesting artifacts that I analyzed during the bottle lab is a small medicinal-type of bottle. The bottle is colorless and it has a wide-cylindrical body with threaded lips. The embossing on the surface of the bottle says, “CHESEBROUGH, NEW YORK.” So I decided to do some research on those words and it turns out that “Chesebrough” is the name of the manufacturing company which was created by a person named Robert Augustus Chesebrough in 1872. This bottle contained some type of medicinal ointment (i.e. cream, unguent) used for minor wounds or bruises.

According to the information that I found from the SHA website on glass bottles, Chesebrough company was located in Brooklyn, New York. Many ointment containers were made out of glass but it was also common to see metal and ceramic containers during the 19th century. Many containers include the trademark, “Vaseline” which started to be used in 1877. The product was initially marketed around 1860s as “good for man or beast.”

I also found a website that provides a brief history of the company. According to the information, oil workers initially used the ointment bottles in order to heal cuts or burns. These were widely used by regular people working in extreme cold weather (to prevent dry skin). It is interesting to know that U.S. soldiers also used such bottles during WWI in order to heal their bruises or prevent sunburn.


Who are you? Fox corporation?

Soda/Mineral bottle from the Fox company

Soda/Mineral bottle from the Fox company

I found an interesting glass bottle in the assemblage of Atlantic/Central Bus Base Expansion CRM project.

It has embossing motif with “Fox/ Trade Mark/ J.G.Fox & Co/ Seattle Wash” on the cylindrical body, according to the seams on the body and bottom, we can know that this bottle was made by two-piece mold with cup-bottom, and this bottle has tooled crown finish on the top. The two-piece mold with cup-bottom method is dated in 1850-1910’s which just in the dating range of this site.

Since there is “Seattle. Wash(ington)” on the body, we know that this bottle has great possibility made in Seattle locally. This bottle might be used as soda or mineral water bottle. J.G Fox & Co. seems both beverage and bottle company, but there isn’t much information about this company. Some beer company use the bottle from the Fox but Fox has it own ‘snappy soda’ as well.

In the archaeological assemblage, we found over 20 percentage bottle can be classified as soda/mineral bottle, this is a relatively high percentage, Maybe this number indicate the popularity of soda and mineral water around 1900’s in Seattle, means people might buy and consume these drinks everywhere, in restaurants, on the street or in their homes.



History in the Making

A theme we keep returning to in our discussions is historical archaeology’s ability to connect findings from the recent past to the lives and experiences of communities in the present. Last summer I participated in a collaborative project between researchers at Simon Fraser University and the Heiltsuk Nation of Bella Bella, British Columbia. Integrating archaeological and ethnohistorical evidence, the project seeks to document and understand the history of Hauyat, a cultural landscape near Bella Bella that for centuries has been the site of complex interactions between people, plants, and animals. I worked with SFU archaeologists and Heiltsuk members to identify landscape modifications including clam gardens, fish traps, root gardens, and rock art.

Our search for these landscape modifications was driven in large part by the memories, stories, and traditions of Heiltsuk elders who knew where and when certain activities took place. After a long day in the field, we would often spend time at camp listening to recordings of interviews with these elders, some of which were decades old.

One particular evening, our Heiltsuk colleagues showed us how to prepare salmon using traditional ingredients such as dried seaweed and oolichan grease.


(photo by Julia Jackley)

While eating this delicious meal, we listened to an especially moving recording of an elder detailing how she used to visit her family’s root patches, before this territory was fenced off by newly arrived settlers. Woven within this story were reminisces about her family members, jokes they used to tell, and important events that occurred near Hauyat. It was, in short, a richly contextual account of the cultural and personal significance of this landscape.

Eating our distinctly Heiltsuk dinner, listening to this story, and talking about how it related to the places we had visited that day, I was struck by the the presentness of Heiltsuk history. Far from secluded in a museum archive or site report, the history of the Heiltsuk Nation was on display, informing current members of the community and guiding new understandings of their cultural landscape.

For me, this experience highlights that it is not just the products of historical archaeology that can provide relevant and meaningful insight for contemporary communities. Rather, by including community members, knowledge, and traditions, archaeological practice itself can become a mode by which history is remembered, transmitted, and created anew.

Website resource for artifacts analysis

Modern ceramics and glasses are two main remains in historical site, except scholarly articles, there are many useful websites we can use to support our analysis. Here are two for Japanese porcelain after 19th century and trademark of glass bottles in the US.

Japanese porcelain 陶片窟 TOUHEN-KUTSU

Glass bottle marks

 Although these are very useful resources, we still need to keep caution to everything.

Japanese Internment Camps

This week’s readings touched on the Japanese American experience during WWII. I thought it might be nice to have some more information on Amache, the camp discussed in Clark and Skiles (2010)’s article.

What is most surprising to me is the scale of these camps. Hawaii never experienced this scale of relocation, only a small number of politicians and teachers were relocated as a result of the War Relocation Act, so to realize that 8000 people were forcibly moved to just one of these camps is astounding. Aside from the work done at Amache, I am not familiar with other archaeological projects that have looked at Japanese internment.

Larger Sample, Better Seriation

During our exploration of the Calvary Cemetery a few weeks ago, we examined whether and how gravestone shape changed through time. But despite each group’s careful recording of shape data from across the cemetery, we quickly found that constructing a meaningful seriation was more or less impossible given the small (n=30) sample of gravestones. By combining class data on gravestone shape, I hoped we could turn individual failure into collective insight. Below I present the ARCHY 469 gravestone shape data in its (near) entirety. With a substantially increased (n=97) sample, distinct “battleship-shaped” curves are evident. (A higher resolution image of the graph can be seen here.)

A few words on methodology. I combined a few gravestone shape categories (e.g. horizontal slab and block) that appeared to be used differently between groups. I also omitted data from family plots. These were not only difficult to log (which gravestone goes with which person?), but also because families, I reasoned, may elect to use a single – and perhaps outmoded – gravestone type in order to preserve plot continuity through time. As such, this seriation presents only single gravemarkers, which should give us an in-depth look at the ways in which Seattleites memorialized deceased individuals over five-year periods between 1861-1865 (phase 1) and 2011-2015 (phase 31).

A number of obvious and interesting trends quickly stand out. The increasing and possibility decreasing popularity of horizontal slabs / blocks, the most frequent gravestone shape, is apparent. In fact, we may be witnessing the emergence of monuments or more unique (“other”) shapes as the preferred grave marker in lieu of relatively unadorned slabs / blocks.

Confirming my and other peoples’ observations, the use of particular gravestone shapes (obelisks, columns, pulpits) is confined to the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Save one late 1980s outlier, the brief rise and fall in obelisk popularity is clearly depicted by this seriation.

I’m interested to hear what patterns others see in this seriation. Why do certain gravestone shapes, such as tablets and monuments, remain consistently popular through time? Would more data would alter this seriation? How so?