Whiskey Bottle – Jim Beam

The coolest old bottle I have is a Jim Beam Whiskey Bottle.  I bought it at a yard sale.  Now I’m not much of a drinker, and I didn’t know what it was at the time, but it was gorgeous.  I had no idea that that Jim Beam had such an amazing history regarding its decanters; although they have been in business since 1795, in 1952 they started crafting a wide variety of specialty bottle for their whiskey.  There are literally thousands of variations, with a wide range of styles. There are fine gold-gilded crystal decanters, automobiles, animals, sports equipment, it seems that the company went out of its way to provide bottle in every shape and form known to mankind.  The result is a truly astounding body of corporate expression.

 Jim Beam White Bottle

my bottle looks just like this, only red

Despite the extreme variety, temporal succession can actually be observed in the record by looking at the progression of similarly styled bottles.  Due to the high level of variation, an analysis of collectors edition, or annual releases,  like in these examples of crystal glass bottles ranging from 1964 to 1973 is the most effective means of observing any sort of meaningful change. (photos courtesy of the Jim Beam Club)

    66crystalGlass     68crystalGlass       1973ambercrystal

Some other really great examples of Jim Beam bottlery can also be found in the pictorial index from the Jim Beam Club, they have some great examples of other series as well!


A Brief Post on Paris History and Archaeology

As many in the class are fairly aware of by now, I happen to be quite fond of anything having to do with French culture or history. However I do notice a high emphasis is placed on history that pertains to the more contemporary eras of France, namely the reign of Louis XIV and the revolution that was inspired after our own. Though both these periods are  important to how France was shaped today, I wanted to talk about much earlier French history, namely in the center of Paris where the city was originally founded. The history here is ancient and doesn’t always pertain to the highly Catholic country or the lavish rulers that lived in the chateaux.  For the sake of convenience I’ll be using calendar dates to describe the sites.

I  just wanted to start by saying that Paris itself is a pre-historic city that has its start at about 250 BC (though there is evidence for even earlier occupation by hunting and gatherer groups) founded by a tribe called the Parisii where the city gets its name.



The map here shows the center island of the city called the Île de la Cité (literally translated to “Island of the City”) and was home to the earliest occupation of a walled fort to keep out invaders. Afterwards after the city was united under the rule of Clovis and quickly expanded outwards from the island.

Skipping forward, the famous church that now is the main attraction  with its finish at around 1345 AD with nearly a 150+ years in which there was periodic construction and additions added over time. However what is usually not told in the history of the building is the vast destruction of lower class housing including a large Jewish sector that was relocated to a different section of Paris. This is was a turning point and in later times the cathedral was seen as a symbol of the Church’s power and something that was the center of debates between non-Catholic religions in France.

So what about the archaeology that could help shed light on early Paris history?

I was lucky enough to get to visit the “La crypte archéologique” during my trip to Paris in 2012. Whereas the church of Notre Dame is flooded with tourists all times of the days it is open, the crypt itself was fairly bare despite being only steps away from the church itself. Despite the destruction the church had on the area, it ended up preserving a large amount of foundations and stone work underneath the church itself. Inside there is a gorgeous example of early Parisian buildings and history dating back over 2000 years.



(I should note that a lot of the photos you will find online make the place seem bigger than it really is, the wonders of photography.)

Here we have an example to how the early city functioned and what kind of activities may have gone on. We can see examples of trash pits, wells, early architecture influenced by roman arches and work and living spaces. The site itself is also layered upon each other presenting different styles of stone work as it built over each other. Here we see a stark contrast to how Paris would like to present itself as a rich, sophisticated city where the common folk is not mentioned (probably one of the reasons they had so many revolutions…) and here we can see how chaotic and busy the city actually was with its people. This is one of the main reasons I love the city so much, there is always something hiding behind its walls ready to tell its story.

On a last note, one of the best ways to tell how the city has expanded over the times lies in a surprising factor, the graveyards. In the past it was generally frowned upon to have bodies in the city limits and thus a lot of the burials took place right outside city walls. As the city expanded it absorbed these cemeteries into the city walls.



Here is a picture of Paris with the graveyards marker in green. The center of Paris is marked with a red circle. As you can see there seems to be a ring around the island which is a sign that these are where ancient city limits are. Eventually this caused problems as the graveyards started to overflow (due to a shift of wanting to be buried in the city) and Catholic graveyards were at their limits. It was Napoleon who enacted a program that created the catacombs of Paris which is now home to over 6 million bodies, most of them nameless lower class people who were unlucky enough to be unburied and tossed aside for the newer generation.

It is impossible to accurately describe the history of the largest city in France but I hope this post was a good tidbit of interesting points and using maps and archaeology to tell a narrative that isn’t based on 18th century nobility.

Of boats, bears and a Bernier

Family is never quite where you expect to find it. When dealing with generations of individuals, it seems that we find ourselves face to face with someone or an event that we had never imagined or possibly had overwrought in our imaginations.

Even though I don’t share the last name, while growing up I was surrounded with these fantastic family mythologies: A grandfather who’s friends insisted on calling him Bon Homme(though it always sounded like “buh’num”), French for ‘Good Man’, for reasons I never quite understood. A strong family tradition of boats, from row boats to poorly maintained sail boats sitting listlessly in Puget Sound. The cabin is L’Islet, Quebec that was the destination of numerous summer fishing trips, not to mention the familial obsession with fishing. Then the eventual trip to the Bernier Maritime Museum, the source of an enormous amount of family pride.

Arial view of Musee Maritime du Quebec

The Musee Maritime du Quebec is dedicated to the history of the St. Lawrence River and Arctic exploration. The Bernier Maritime Museum was eventually rolled into the MMQ, but was originally dedicated to Joseph-Elzear Bernier, who between 1904 and 1911 explored the Canadian arctic and claimed the islands for Canada. It turns out Joseph Bernier is a distant relative of mine, a great-great-great uncle.

CGS Arctic, circa 1905

A captain of his own ship by the age of 17, Joseph-Elzear Bernier was the youngest fully licensed ship in the world in 1869.

The majority of his work between 1869 and 1904 was shipping across the Atlantic, and eventually he retired to take up work in Quebec City. This retirement eventually gave way to boredom and his desire to mount a polar expedition. His first expedition began in 1904 at the age of 52.

Perry Island, 1908. Joseph Bernier and his ships Crew standing in front of the metal plaque claiming the island for Canada.

These expeditions occurred numerous times over the next 7 years, and again he “retired” in 1911. As with all individuals with an adventurous spirit, this was not to last. When WWI began in 1917, he took to the seas again, and operated cargo ships delivering supplies to England and other parts of Europe to help the war effort. Even after the war, he couldn’t give up sailing, he continued on exploring the arctic until his “real” retirement in 1925.

For years there was always the story told to the family of “Jack the Bear” Bernier, an ship captain so tough that he didn’t bother to wear gloves on the deck of his ship while sailing in the arctic. Though the name and the anecdote are likely pure fabrications, truth is yet again much better than fiction.

Captain Joseph Bernier, age 73.