Bottles, Embossing, and (Unidentified) Base Marks– Oh My!

In light of our more recent readings and discussions, wherein the topic of 19th century women and their use of pharmaceuticals arose, I felt it was appropriate to shine the spotlight on this particular item:

cataloged as 45K1765/M-54

cataloged as 45K1765/M-54

Pictured above is a medicinal bottle. The embossed label marks it as a prescription/druggist’s container, and reads: LANG DRUG CO. COLMAN BUILDING, 807 FIRST AVENUE- -SEATTLE WASH. According to the Society for Historical Archaeology, other samples of the same bottle type date to the mid-1880s.


Of particular interest are two embossed marks, one on the shoulder and the other on the base. The first consists of a stylized number “3”, followed by the numerals “vi”. This mark is an indicator of measurement belonging to a system known as the apothecaries’ system. In this case, the stylized “3” stands for ounces, and the “vi” stands for the number six, meaning this particular bottle contained six ounces, or the equivalent of forty-six teaspoons, of some sort of fluid remedy.

m in a diamond base mark

The second mark features the letter “M” situated within a diamond shape. Though other marks similar to this one (often a different letter located within the diamond) are recognizable as makers’ marks, this particular letter/shape configuration has yet to be attributed to any manufacturer, though one source dates it at around 1890. Though information about the Lang Drug Company is scarce, one source highlights the company’s move to 807 First Ave. in 1905; this later date might indicate that the bottle was reused since its manufacturing.

Given the bottle’s type and place of origin, it’s not unreasonable to expect that this artifact was once belonged in the medicine cabinet of a household in Seattle, perhaps near what is today Pike Place Market (with 807 First Ave. located roughly eight blocks southeast). Further analysis of the assemblage as a whole will provide a better picture of the deposition context, and will likely contradict such expectations. In any case, it’s far removed from the context of the lives of women in Five Points, New York, though it might raise similar questions as to the lives and livelihoods of those on the opposite coast.


1. For an in-depth guide to medicinal bottles, try the SHA:

2. For a shorthand of apothecaries’ style, see

3. A brief note about Lang Drug Company:

4. For more on letter-in-diamond and other maker’s marks:

Theodor(e) Jacobsen (Jacobson?) Observatory


In 1891, Dr Joseph M Taylor built the first observatory on the University of Washington campus.  According to the Jacobsen Observatory’s own site (which, interestingly enough is operated outside of the UW site), the first observatory was built by Taylor himself between teaching classes, employing carpenters to build the frame and a mason to professionally mount the telescope.  I dearly wish this information was sourced, as it sounds rather too fantastic and anecdotal for my preferences (but then again, maybe maths professors in the late 19th century were super human, I don’t know).


When the University campus moved, less than a decade later, a new observatory was constructed; it was designed by the same architect, Charles Saunders, who designed the Administrative building, now Denny Hall.  The Observatory is the second oldest building on campus (in line directly behind Denny Hall) and was build out of the remaining sandstone from the Administrative construction.


In 1912, the water tower that had been near the observatory was converted into a chime tower.  This lasted until 1949 when the chime tower was damaged in a fire and was not reconstructed.  In 1928, the UW hired one Theodor S. Jacobsen as the astronomy professor.  He taught for 37 years as the only astronomy professor at the school.


Even in its earliest state, on the old campus downtown, the observatory has had a goal of reaching out to the public and exposing them to the wonders of the stars (weather permitting of course).  This tradition continues even now, the same telescope Dr. Taylor installed in the 1891 observatory (a 6-in refracting Warner & Swasey) that was refurbished in the ‘90s.


The observatory remains on campus, just across from the Burke Museum.  The historic building seems, like its older sibling, Denny Hall, lost in time and tucked away in a forgotten corner of the University Campus.

From doing research, the information on a minor building, such as the observatory, seems to be surprisingly difficult to find.  I could find a lot of information on the telescope inside the building, articles about the chime tower burning down, and advertisements for sky-viewing within the observatory; but there wasn’t a lot to be gleaned from about the building itself.  One source would claim that Dr. Taylor designed the building himself (I guess it was the old, wooden building on the old, downtown campus?), and other than the building being the second oldest on campus that was about it.

Observatories and Instruments:  A great piece on a great building.  There’s a link to the survey from the ’70s when it was being made a historic building.

Graves and Identity

Social identity is an odd thing.  I could get into the details of how fluid a thing it is, but instead I would like to address a specific aspect of identity: social status.  In the tradition of social anthropology, there are two distinct types of social statuses—ascribed and achieved.  An ascribed status is one we are born with: race, ethnicity, and gender are some examples of such (this is a generalized statement, when decolonizing anthropology, ascribed statuses are NOT an essential part of a person’s identity).  An achieved status is precisely as it sounds, the sort of status that can be achieved during one’s lifetime: doctor, high school graduate, dog-owner.

From looking at the data collected from the Calvary Cemetery in Seattle, there are some very interesting things to note about the titles granted to the deceased after their death.  Women, buried in this particular cemetery, are far more likely to be identified with ascribed statuses: sister, daughter.  There is a fair share of achieved statuses as well, but many of them are mother and wife; domestic-based titles that pair their identity with other people, particularly with a male in their lives.  Men’s titles, while not all achieved (there’s a fair amount of brothers and fathers), the larger percentage are identified as doctors or with military ranks.  Their identities are independent of anyone else (and certainly not dependent on a woman to create their identities).

All of these are identities that were chosen for the deceased by those who were left behind, generally grave markers are chosen for a person after they have already died.  Nearly all of them, even the achieved statuses like doctor and military ranks, while perhaps not dependent on other people, are about relationships, especially with those who are left behind.

Death Through the Ages: Yep, it’s always been a thing

The only time I feel comfortable in large groups of people is when most of them are dead. A couple weeks ago, as I milled through Calvary Cemetery, noting births and deaths, epitaphs and adornments, I reflected on how lucky I was to be doing my favorite kind of activity in my favorite kind of place, and to be getting academic credit for it. Reading the various grave-markers, I made up stories about the lives of all the people interred beneath me; their relationships to one another, how far away their place of birth was from their place of death, and particularly, how did they die? I don’t think anyone can stroll between hundreds of gravestones without wondering how their owners died. For this reason, I focused on death frequencies as I analysed the data collected by myself and my peers at Calvary.

Death Frequency by Period- Collated Group Data

Death Frequency by Period- Collated Group Data

The first thing I looked at was the general death frequencies by year. There are two distinct peaks: one around 1940, and the other within the last five years. Now, I am a bit skeptical as to how meaningful any of the data examined and presented here is meaningful, due to the extremely small sample size. However, another reason I chose to focus on death frequency, was that, although there may have been a selection bias that effected which stones were recorded, the actual dates themselves are reasonably objective. By this I mean that the criteria for what is recorded as “1945” by me is the same criteria that made a colleague record “1945”: the gravestone says the individual whose death it marks died in 1945. Because of this, I feel comfortable making a prediction about the cause of these two spikes in the data, and this prediction is (you guessed it) war.

1940, as we all know, is the beginning of US involvement in World War II. Thousands of soldiers were shipped off, and thousands of soldiers died. I would not be remotely surprised if the cause of the Calvary spike around this period is somehow related to this war.

Now my suggestion for the most recent spike is also related to the war, though perhaps a little further removed: the Baby Boomers are dying. The average lifespan of an adult male is somewhere around 70 years old. After the war, when all those spry sweethearts hopped into the post-war bed they popped out a bunch of babes. Well, these babes are now reaching their seventies, and, statistically, it’s about their time to pop back off.

As I’ve mentioned before, this study came packed with bias and oozing inadequate sample size. I am very curious to see if, upon more detailed and further analysis, these same frequencies would hold true. If they don’t then perhaps they reflect that the areas of the cemetery that we examined were simply utilized the most during the peak time periods because of spatial or organizational issues.

The irony is strong in this one

The irony is strong in this one

Just for fun, I also looked at the months in which people in the cemetery died and, surprisingly, found that most deaths in our data of both men and women occurred between July-August. My only hypothesis for this is extremely unscientific: perhaps, after the cold Seattle winter, perhaps they just couldn’t take the heat.

Death Frequency by Month

Death Frequency by Month

It All Comes Down to Good Bones

"$1,400,000 Renovation of Denny Hall Set." Clipping courtesy of America's Historical Newspapers.

“$1,400,000 Renovation of Denny Hall Set.” Clipping courtesy of America’s Historical Newspapers.

Like many prospective freshmen, I was first introduced to Denny Hall during a tour of the University of Washington. My tour guide captioned it the oldest building on campus. Since then, I’ve come to know Denny Hall rather well, though I’m not sure I’ll ever make sense of its seemingly nonsensical layout. Recently, it seems I may have come across an explanation for the building’s current arrangement.

Designed by Charles W. Saunders, Denny Hall was originally constructed in1895, at which time it was designated the Administration Building. At the end of the 19th century, it was large enough to serve the university’s full student body as well as the faculty. It housed classrooms, a library, and a large amphitheater situated in the back of the building. However, decades down the line would see the UW student body increased significantly. Strapped for space and anticipating even more growth in the future, the UW looked to Denny Hall (so renamed in 1910) as an affordable opportunity. Plans for a renovation budget were approved in 1954, and again in 1974. Below are plans for the second floor dated 1894 and 1956 respectively. Notice that the auditorium has been converted into classrooms by 1956.

Denny Hall, second floor plan, 1894. Image courtesy of Campus Engineering records (0001-A-_3_).

Denny Hall, second floor plan, 1894. Image courtesy of Campus Engineering records (0001-A-_3_).

Denny Hall, second floor plan, 1956. Image courtesy of Campus Engineering records (001-A-_27_).

Denny Hall, second floor plan, 1956. Image courtesy of Campus Engineering records (001-A-_27_).

Though endeared to some for its enduring history, Denny’s primary appeal was its foundation. The interior could be reworked for less than it would have taken to build a comparably sturdy though considerably newer structure elsewhere; meanwhile the exterior would remain for the most part unchanged, the legacy of the UW’s earlier architectural and historical achievements.

Students posed on the steps of Denny Hall (then the Administration Building), 1904. Photo courtesy of UW Libraries Digital Collections.

Students posed on the steps of Denny Hall (then the Administration Building), 1904. Photo courtesy of UW Libraries Digital Collections.

Denny Hall has undergone numerous other changes since its establishment, including remodeling for the Anthropology Department. Even today it’s slated for renovation in the near future, at which time the Anthropology Department will be moved to Condon Hall. Even so, Denny Hall stands as a sort of palimpsest. Every so often its internal workings are metaphorically erased and rewritten. The only traces of past structures appear to be the twists, turns, and chronological disorder that characterize its halls and rooms. In this way, Denny encompasses remembrance and progress all in one—the adaptation of old materials to accommodate new needs.


Fig. 1. “$1,400,000 Renovation of Denny Hall Set.” (1954). The Seattle Times 35.

Fig. 2. Saunders, Charles W. Second Floor Plan. 1894, Architectural drawing. Available from: Campus Engineering Facilities Records,

Fig. 3. Baar, Granger & Thomas Baar. Second Floor Plan. 1956, Architectural drawing. Available from: Campus Engineering Facilities Records,

Fig. 4. 1904 Campus Day showing students on Denny Hall steps, University of Washington. 1904, Photograph image. Available from: University of Washington Libraries Digital Collections,

Columbia Center: Largest Building in all of Seattle

The Columbia Center is the largest structure in the city of Seattle and the also the largest in the state of Washington. In fact, the Columbia Center is the 2nd largest structure on the entire West Coast and stands at 943 ft. tall. The only other building that is taller is the U.S. Bank Tower located in Los Angeles, CA. The construction of the building was completed in 1985 by Howard S. Wright Construction. The original architect was Chester L. Lindsey and the design was done by Martin Selig.

Photo by K.L. Slusher

The Columbia Center went through various name changes such as the Columbia Seafirst Center and The Bank of America Tower before ultimately being called the Columbia Center. Many businesses such as banks, tech companies, and law firms are located within the building. There is also an observation deck located on the 73rd floor in the tower called the Sky View Observatory and is open to the public! So if you aren’t afraid of heights and enjoy scenic views this might be worth the trip!

Although this building is not fairly old, it surely is one of Seattle’s most iconic and recognizable buildings. Features of the building such as viscoelastic dampers and triangle shaped bracing make the Columbia Center resistant to hurricane force winds as well as earthquakes. Anyone who is interested can now purchase the Columbia center as it is currently for sale. Beacon Capital Partners bought the building for $621 million dollars in 2007 so it is speculated that the Columbia Center will sell for more than that!

In any case, the building is truly something to be marveled. The views are outstanding, the building is equally as iconic as the Space Needle, and the history of the building is in depth although the building itself is not that old!

Columbia Center Seattle, WA Picture provided by

Here are a few links to look at!


The Good Shepherd Center: Homey, Haunted, Historic

I think I lived next to the Good Shepherd Center for a good six months before I realized it was not, in fact, a church. As I attempted to direct my grandfather, Bob, to my house, we got in an argument about the purpose of the building when I told him to “park next to the big church on Sunnyside and 50th.” Dedicated to prove Bob wrong, I asked a close friend (Google) to back me up. Google was not on my side, and I ceded the discussion. For this reason, I was determined to learn as much as I could about thee history of the Center when the opportunity arose this quarter, so as to regain my shattered pride.


Home of the Good Shepherd, Seattle, April 17th, 1922 Photo by A. Curtis, UW Special Collections (Neg #42734)


Home of the Good Shepherd (Alfred C. Breitung, 1907), 1908 Postcard Courtesy Archives Sisters of the Good Shepherd, Mid-Atlantic Province

Home of the Good Shepherd (Alfred C. Breitung, 1907), 1908
Postcard Courtesy Archives Sisters of the Good Shepherd, Mid-Atlantic Province

As it turns out, the Good Shepherd Center has a pretty rad story. The building was initially constructed by the Breitung and Buchinger architectural firm and was completed on July 29th 1907 for the Roman Catholic Sisters of Our Lady of the Good Shepherd, an order dedicated to providing refuge to “wayward girls and children.” The congregation moved from their previous location on First Hill, which was established 1890, so they could have a larger space. It remained a home for troubled girls and young women until 1973, when the building was closed to make room for an 11 story shopping center. Thankfully, the neighborhood rejected that idea and in 1975 was purchased, using residual Forward Thrust and Federal funding, by the City of Seattle, who gave the building to the historic preservation agency Historic Seattle. It was added to the National Registry of Historic Places in May 1978.

Papers upon the addition of the Home of the Good Shepherd to the National Registry of Historic Places

Papers upon the addition of the Home of the Good Shepherd to the National Registry of Historic Places

Screenshot 2015-05-01 18.30.43

Nowadays, the building functions as a community center that houses over 30 non profit organizations and individuals, including the Meridian School, Seattle Tilth, Alliance Française and the Wallingford Senior center. In 2002, low-cost residential artists lofts were added on the buildings top floor. The chapel was also renovated to a performance space. Additionally, it’s hella haunted.

Although hundreds of troubled girls have roamed it’s halls, the architecture of the Good Shepherd Center remains virtually unchanged. The largest structural change to the building was probably the repairs to the damages caused by a fire in 1967. The records concerning this fire were particularly entertaining, due to the discrepancy between the media report and the memory of one of the nuns who was in the building as it burned. According to the Seattle Times on Aug. 8th, 1967, firemen had responded to a fire on the 7th at the Home of the Good Shepherd, safely evacuating the 85 girls and 16 nuns living there at the time. Although the building sustained $30,000 worth of damage (almost $220,000 today), the only significant injury was a paper cut on one of the firemen. The news reports the cause of the fire to be “undetermined.” However, an oral history conducted by Toby Harris provides an alternate story. Sister Valerie Brannon, a nun interviewed by Harris for this history, confesses to know exactly how the fire started. Apparently, a girl got ahold of the attic keys the day before the fire, and then snuck away to light a rack of costumes aflame. According to Sister Brannon, even the firemen knew that this was the cause of the fire, and the guilty party was evicted from the home in less than two days. This is just another glimpse into the complex nature of history and the intricacies of the material record.

Home of the Good Shepherd, typing class, 1957 Courtesy Archives Sisters of the Good Shepherd, Mid-Atlantic Province

Home of the Good Shepherd, typing class, 1957
Courtesy Archives Sisters of the Good Shepherd, Mid-Atlantic Province

Home of the Good Shepherd, ice cream in summerhouse, 1957 Courtesy Archives Sisters of the Good Shepherd, Mid-Atlantic Province

Home of the Good Shepherd, ice cream in summerhouse, 1957
Courtesy Archives Sisters of the Good Shepherd, Mid-Atlantic Province

Girls after my own heart.

Anticipation and Agency in an Analysis of Grave Markers

Calvary Cemetery, St. Michael marker

While examining the aggregate class data from our trip to Calvary Cemetery, I feel that in some ways I found less than expected and yet more than hoped. Not that I knew exactly what I would find during my walk around the cemetery. Differences correlated with gender were of immediate interest to me, though in hindsight I feel that I may have been trying too hard to locate such differences where they might not have occurred or been meaningful. A larger sample per section and consequently a larger overall sample would have provided a better basis for determining if such differences occurred and were indeed significant. Nevertheless, I would not be deterred! I found that a few of the trends I extracted from the data may yet provide insights.

gravestone imagery chart

My first examination concerned the relative consistency of the use of religious imagery on women’s grave markers compared to the use of such imagery on men’s grave markers. Whereas men’s graves tended to feature religious motifs (including crucifixes, religious figures, angels, and bibles) from 1927-1970, women’s graves displayed such images in smaller but more consistently occurring amounts from 1883-2014. My second examination focused on the use of kinship terms as epitaphs; these results revealed a tendency for women’s epitaphs to feature kinship terms more than did men’s epitaphs. And yet, this was not the only point of interest I drew from the data. Despite that women’s graves, like men’s, featured non-kinship and even full-phrased epitaphs, many of these appeared to be religious titles such as “Mother” and “Sister.”

Overall, women’s graves tended to demonstrate strong associations with religion and religious institutions. By contrast, men’s graves begin to shift from religious representation to non-religious, sometimes occupational, representations toward the end of the 19th century. This at first stood out to me as a trend indicative of a tendency to highlight women’s religious affiliations at the expense of their other, possibly occupational, attributes.

However, as recent class discussions have advised: we cannot ignore the potential for agency. It is likely that those interred in Calvary Cemetery, women included, had a say in how they are presented, and remembered, in death. Thus, it is possible that women themselves chose to represent themselves and their religious affiliations in such a way. That is not to say that such a choice was made outside a larger sociocultural context, but it does speak to the potential for women’s active involvement in their own representation.