A “Killer” Artifact for Babies

A Partial Bone Disc Recovered from the Houston-LeCompt Site

By Sara Rivers Cofield and Kerry S. González

This month we are going to revisit an artifact that Dovetail recovered from their data recovery excavations at the Houston-LeCompt site in New Castle County, Delaware. This work was sponsored by the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) as part of the DelDOT Route 301 study. Thousands of artifacts were recovered during the fieldwork, some of which have been discussed in previous blog posts (see April 2016, December 2015, January 2015, and March 2017). For this blog, we not only have a guest author, Sara Rivers-Cofield, Federal Curator at the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory (MAC Lab), but we are unabashedly highlighting an artifact we misidentified in 2013.

When Sara took on an analysis of the clothing-related artifacts from the Houston-LeCompt site in 2014, she photographed this partial bone disc (Photo 1) because she thought it might have been a button mold. One-holed bone discs were often used for making thread- or cloth-covered buttons in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, but the holes for such buttons were usually much smaller. For that reason, this artifact was not included in Sara’s subsequent analysis and report.

Photo 1: Partial bone disc from the Houston-LeCompt site
(Test Unit 80, Feature 18, Strat. I, Lev. 2).

 

As it turns out, leaving the artifact out of the clothing analysis was the right decision. Earlier this year Sara was researching artifacts online when she stumbled across an Australian archaeological report showing several similar discs labeled as “bone feeding bottle nipple guards” (Stocks 2013:79, 110, 161, 184). It was an “aha” moment because she had seen nineteenth-century baby bottles that had long tubes with a nipple at the end (Photo 2). The bottles are famous for having been difficult to clean and therefore a perfect breeding ground for bacteria that led to illness and death for many infants. As a result, the bottles were nicknamed “murder bottles” and eventually were removed from the market (Baby Bottle Museum 2016). By the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century, other materials like rubber and celluloid were available for bottle nipples, however according to the 1902 and 1908 Sears, Roebuck Catalogs some guards were still made of bone (Figures 1-2).

Photo 2: Many babies were photographed with their bottles, perhaps to keep them happy and still for the photo session (Parent24 2018).

 

Figure 1: Disc-shaped nipple guards can be seen on bottles, nipple shields, and teething rings in the 1902 Sears, Roebuck Catalog. The description of the glass nipple shield specifies that the guard is made of bone (Sears, Roebuck Co. 1902:454).

 

Figure 2: Two teething rings/pacifiers featured in the 1908 Sears, Roebuck Catalog specify that the nipple guard is made of bone (Schroeder 1971:794).

 

It was exciting to have a lead on that tricky bone disc that she remembered from Houston-LeCompt. Not long after this discovery, Sara found a complete bone guard in a collection from the City of Baltimore that had just been delivered to the MAC Lab, and this example even has a rubber lining remaining in the ring (Photo 3). No doubt there are many more of these in collections that have never been properly identified.

Now that we can recognize these bone discs for what they are, it is possible to connect the Houston-LeCompt site to an interesting era in the history of parenthood when new bottles were designed to make parents’ lives easier by letting babies feed themselves. How awful it must have been for parents to realize that their adoption of these convenient feeders could have such deadly consequences.

This artifact is just one example of the importance of retaining archaeological collections. Human beings have made an amazingly diverse array of products, and it just isn’t possible for any one archaeologist to know about them all. Archaeology is an ongoing learning process that keeps going once the initial written report is finished.

 

Photo 3: Complete nipple guard with surviving rubber in the center. From the Albemarle Rowhouse site (18BC50/40H-292).

 

 

Any distributions of blog content, including text or images, should reference this blog in full citation. Data contained herein is the property of Dovetail Cultural Resource Group and its affiliates.

References:

Baby Bottle Museum
2016   Murder Bottles: Baby feeding bottles that could kill. Electronic document, http://www.babybottle-museum.co.uk/murder-bottles/, accessed November 2018.

Parent24
2018    Timeline: From ‘killer bottles’ to baby cages, weird and wonderful baby gadgets from the past, electronic document, https://www.parent24.com/Baby/Fun/timeline-from-killer-bottles-to-baby-cages-here-are-baby-gadgets-from-the-past-20180522. Accessed August 2018.

Schroeder, Joseph J., Jr, editor
1971    Sears, Roebuck & Co. 1908, Catalogue No. 117: A Treasured Replica from the Archives of History. DBI Books, Inc., Northfield, Illinois.

Sears, Roebuck Co.
1902    The 1902 Edition of the Sears, Roebuck Catalogue. 1986 Edited reprint by Bounty Books, Crown Publishers, Inc., New York, New York.

Stocks, Robyn
2013    Miscellaneous, Organics and Non-structural Metals Report: Darling Quarter, Darling Harbor. Vol. 3, Section 8.2 of the Casey & Lowe Darling Harbor report. Electronic document, http://www.caseyandlowe.com.au/pdf/darlingquarter/DarlingQuarter_Volume_3_Section_8.2_Misc_Report_Part1.pdf, accessed November 2018.

The Tines They Are A Changing

Featured Fragment – Eighteenth-Century Forks

By Kerry S. González

Dovetail Cultural Resource Group recently installed two exhibits highlighting archaeological finds on behalf of the Delaware Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration: one at the Smyrna Rest Area in Smyrna, Delaware, and the other at the Delaware Welcome Center in Newark, Delaware. The exhibits feature artifacts recovered during the excavations at the Houston-LeCompt (7NC-F-139) and Armstrong-Rogers sites (7NC-F-135).

 

Close Up of Shelf Showing Fork on Display in Houston-LeCompt Exhibit.

 

View of Armstrong-Rogers Archaeological Exhibit.

 

This month’s blog focuses on two of those artifacts, one found at each site. We are using two similar artifacts found during our excavations in Delaware to: one, shamelessly plug the recently installed artifact exhibits on the Houston-LeCompt and Armstrong-Rogers sites; and two, highlight an artifact associated with eating, which seems appropriate considering it is Thanksgiving week.

The fork recovered from the Armstrong-Rogers site consists only of the tangs and shoulders but even these seemingly insignificant attributes provided information on its date and use. Around 1770 the shoulders of a fork became more squared and less rounded, suggesting that the fork from Armstrong-Rogers predates 1770 (Dunning 2000:38). Additionally, according to Phil Dunning (2000:38), “average-quality forks began to be made with three tines, which had previously been found only on fine cutlery.” While this fork is not displayed in the exhibit on the Armstrong-Rogers site, many other artifacts are on display and highlight the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth occupation of the site.

 

Fork Recovered from the Armstrong-Rogers Site, Conserved by the MAC Lab. Image courtesy of the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Lab (MAC Lab).

 

The fork from the Houston-LeCompt site, which can been seen in the newly installed exhibit at the Smyrna Rest Area, is a two-tined fork with a bone handle. Based on the design of the scored bone handle and rounded shoulders, as discussed above, this fork also predates 1770 (Dunning 2000).

Fork and Scored Bone Handle Recovered from the Houston-LeCompt Site, Conserved at the MAC Lab. Image courtesy of the MAC Lab.

 

During the mid-eighteenth century, forks were gaining popularity but were not used in the same manner as today. The fork’s main role was to hold the food in place while being cut with a knife. A person would then deliver the bite-sized piece using the knife into their mouth, leaving the fork with no task other than to anchor the food. According to Ivor Noël Hume (1969), as forks became more popular at the end of the eighteenth century, the knife became more rounded, all but reversing their roles.

 

The Industrious ‘Prentice Grown Rich and Sheriff of London: Industry and Idleness (Hogarth 1747).

 

When you sit down to dinner this Holiday season and pick up your trusty three- or four-tined fork, think of how far we have come since the eighteenth century. And if your holiday travels take you through Delaware and you happen to pass by one of the above-mentioned rest areas, please stop by and take a peek at our exhibits!

http://www.visitdelaware.com/listings/smyrna-rest-stop-and-information-center/381/

http://www.visitdelaware.com/listings/delaware-welcome-center/2029/

 

Any distributions of blog content, including text or images, should reference this blog in full citation. Data contained herein is the property of Dovetail Cultural Resource Group and its affiliates.

References: 

Dunning, Phil
2000    Composite Table Cutlery from 1700 to 1930. In Studies in Material Culture, edited by Karlis  Karklin, pp. 32–45.  The Society for Historical Archaeology, California University Press, California, Pennsylvania.

Hogarth, William
1747    The Industrious ‘Prentice Grown Rich and Sheriff of London: Industry and Idleness (Plate 8). Metropolitan Museum of Art, https://www.metmuseum.org/art/
collection/search/398593, accessed November 2017.

Noël Hume, Ivor
1969    A Guide to Artifacts of Colonial America. Vintage Books, New York

Let It Bleed: A Historical Medical Device from New Castle County, Delaware

Featured Fragment – Fleam Cover

By Kerry S. González 

In the fall of 2012 Dovetail Cultural Resource Group (Dovetail) conducted a data recovery excavation on a mid-eighteenth through late-nineteenth century domestic site (7NC-F-135/Armstrong-Rogers) in New Castle County, Delaware. The data recovery was sponsored by the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) as part of the DelDOT Route 301 study. Over 6,500 artifacts were recovered during the excavation, one of which was a copper alloy fleam cover (pictured below).

Fleam Cover From Dovetail Excavation of Site 7NC-F-135.

 

Fleams (pictured below), also known as bloodletting devices, were used in the historic medical practice of bloodletting. This instrument was a folding handheld device (much like a pocket knife) with several blades or lancets sharp enough to cut the median cubital vein at the elbow (Greenstone 2010). Once the blood flow began, a bowl known as a ‘bleeding bowl’ was placed under the arm to catch the blood.

Bloodletting as a medical practice is thought to have begun with the Egyptians around 3,000 years ago and grew in popularity throughout the centuries peaking in the nineteenth century (Greenstone 2010). During the third century B.C. a Greek physician named Erasistratus thought that all ailments stemmed from an excess of blood (Cohen 2012). By the second century A.D., Galen of Pergamum, also a Greek physician, believed that an illness was the direct result of an imbalance of the four “humors”, represented by liquids in the body, and the best way to restore balance was by bleeding (Cohen 2012). Furthermore, Pergamum believed each humor to be associated with the essential elements of air, water, earth, and fire as well as the four seasons of the year.

Blood=Air=Spring
Phlegm=Water=Winter
Black bile=Earth=Autumn
Yellow bile=Fire=Summer

Complete 5-Bladed Fleam (Ebay 2017).

 

The art of bloodletting became as ubiquitous as antibiotics are today in medieval Europe where physicians and even barbers began using the fleam, which at the time was an iron rod with a sharpened point that would get ‘hammered’ into the vein (Cohen 2012). In 1978 Saturday Night Live aired a satirical sketch (shown below) on bloodletting called “Theodoric of York: Medieval Barber.” During the sketch Theodoric orders 2 pints of blood to be removed from a sick woman stating: “Isabel is suffering from an imbalance of bodily humors” (Martin 1978). In the sketch the woman died, not unlike many real patients who were subjected to bloodletting.

 

Bloodletting continued through the years with historical figures such as Marie-Antoinette and George Washington reportedly being subjected to bloodletting. By the late-nineteenth century new medical practices were being discovered and luckily bloodletting as a treatment for all ailments became less frequent. While used today for conditions such as hemochromatosis (disorder leading to abnormal iron accumulation in organs) and polycythemia vera (stem cells bone marrow disorder causing red blood cell overproduction), we can count on never having to hear our doctor say: “you are in need of a good bleeding; let’s take 2 pints” (Greenstone 2010).

Reproduction of European Medieval Fleam and Bowl Based on Archaeological Finds at The Abbey Of Saint Eutizio, Italy (N.R.C. 2017).

 

Any distributions of blog content, including text or images, should reference this blog in full citation. Data contained herein is the property of Dovetail Cultural Resource Group and its affiliates.

References: 

Cohen, Jennie
2012   A Brief History of Bloodletting. Electronic documentation, http://www.history.com/news/a-brief-history-of-bloodletting, accessed June 2017

Ebay
2017   Antique Baldinelli Veterinary Blood Letting Brass Cased Fleam. Electronic documentation, http://www.ebay.com/itm/Antique-BALDINELLI-Veterinary-Blood-Letting-Brass-Cased-FLEAM-5-Blades-Tools-/282525911312, accessed June 2017.

Greenstone, Gerry MD
2010   The History of Bloodletting. British Columbia Medical Journal (BCMJ) 52(1):12‒14. Electronic documentation, http://www.bcmj.org/premise/history-bloodletting, accessed June 2017.

Martin, Steve
1978   Theodoric of York: Medieval Barber. Saturday Night Live: Season 3. Electronic document, http://www.nbc.com/saturday-night-live/video/theodoric-of-york/n8661?snl=1, accessed June 2017.

N.R.C
2017   Reproduction of European medieval bloodletting and cautery tools based on archaeological finds at the abbey of Saint Eutizio, Italy. Image source: Medieval Design. In Pinterest [Personal Page]. Electronic document, https://www.pinterest.com/pin/132152570287486399/, accessed June 2017.

Musical Musings

Featured Fragment – Instrument Fragments of Houston-LeCompt

By Kerry S. González

Concertina and Harmonica Reeds from Site 7NC-F-139 Top row: concertina reeds Bottom row: harmonica reeds

In the summer of 2012 Dovetail Cultural Resource Group conducted a large-scale excavation at the Houston-LeCompt site in Middletown, Delaware sponsored by the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) as part of the DelDOT Route 301 study. Thousands of artifacts were recovered, some of which have been discussed in previous blog posts (See April 2016, December 2015, and January 2015). A total of seven artifacts relating to free-reed musical instruments were recovered from the site, representing a concertina and a harmonica. The identifications of the instrument fragments were made based on size and thickness of each artifact and in consultation with professional musicians. The four harmonica fragments consist of one plate and one reed. Both concertina reed fragments have intact rivets.

Both the harmonica and concertina are small portable instruments, which likely made them more desirable to some. The harmonica is a relatively young instrument, as it was not invented until the second half of the nineteenth century in Germany. By the 1890s, the harmonica was being mass produced and sold by many catalog stores such as Sears and Roebuck (Public Broadcasting System [PBS] 2001). The concertina was developed during the early-nineteenth century. It remained popular through the nineteenth century but its allure rapidly faded during the early-twentieth century. Mass production of other instruments such as the piano and accordion aided in the decline in popularity of the concertina. Archival research has shown that the residents of the Houston-LeCompt site in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century were tenant farmers—individuals who traveled from parcel to parcel renting land and planting crops to support their family. Finding fragments of small musical instruments at the site helps archaeologists understand the sometimes-transient lifestyle of these individuals. Although they called many areas home, music often helped provide a mental break from their day-to-day activities and create a comforting sense of place.

 

concertina2

Girl in Kentucky playing the Anglo concertina, ca. 1920

 

harmonica

Harmonica player

 

 

Any distributions of blog content, including text or images, should reference this blog in full citation. Data contained herein is the property of Dovetail Cultural Resource Group and its affiliates.

References:

Public Broadcasting System (PBS)
2001    American Roots Series. Instruments & Innovations. Electronic document, http://www.pbs.org/americanrootsmusic/pbs_arm_ii_harmonica.html, accessed December 2014.

Archaeological Amusement

Featured Fragment – Brandywine Springs Carousel Ring

By Bill Liebeknecht

ring_edited-1

Recovered steel carousel ring

In 1886, Richard Crook rented the Brandywine Springs facilities from the Fell family. Located west of downtown Wilmington, Delaware, Crook envisioned a resort where people would go on weekends and holidays for picnics, parties, and political rallies. Shortly thereafter, his vision shifted to using amusements to draw in the crowds from Wilmington and Philadelphia. By 1889, he had erected a restaurant and a toboggan slide in the grove down from the Chalybeate spring; by 1890, he added a merry-go-round and the amusement park was on its way (Weslager 1949:70–73). He replaced the initial merry-go-round in 1891 with an enclosed structure housing flying horses (otherwise known as a carousel) (Lawlor 2013:15). The park resembled a shore resort community complete with boardwalks and attractions.

Dovetail conducted archaeological excavations on a portion of the former resort this summer. A seemingly unappealing artifact, an iron or steel ring (pictured left), was recovered from Excavation Unit 2, Level III. This simple, steel ring is from the carousel. Riders on the outside row of animals (typically horses, but not always) could play the “Brass Ring” game. They would grab rings from the end of a wooden arm or shoot loaded with steel or iron rings and one brass ring. The rider who grabbed the brass ring was given the honor of staying on for a free ride. Steel rings taken as souvenirs have been found throughout the park, and although not a prize they are valued as mementos of days gone by (Lawlor 2013:19–20).

For more information on Brandywine Springs visit http://www.fobsde.org/

Brandywine Springs Carousel

 

Brandywine Springs Carousel at Night

 

foodstand1-large

Brandywine Springs Food Stand

 

Any distributions of blog content, including text or images, should reference this blog in full citation. Data contained herein is the property of Dovetail Cultural Resource Group and its affiliates.

Photographs courtesy of Friends of Brandywine Springs

References:

Lawlor, Mark R
2013 Brandywine Springs Amusement Park, Echoes of the Past 1886-1923.  M and M Publishing. Wilmington, Delaware.

Weslager, C.A.
1949 Brandywine Springs, The Rise and Fall of a Delaware Resort.  Hambleton Company, Inc. Wilmington, Delaware.