History Well-Preserved

Featured Fragment – Nineteenth-Century Pickle Bottles

By Kerry González 

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Gothic Revival style shown in the design of the pickle bottle

Recent excavations by Dovetail, conducted on behalf of Stafford County, recovered two cathedral-style pickle bottles (displayed below). They were located within two separate trash pits at a Civil War-era encampment in the town of Falmouth in Stafford County, occupied between 1862 and 1863. The area is now part of Pratt Park.

Bottles such as these were often used to hold foods that had been preserved through drying, smoking, pickling, etc. (Society for Historical Archaeology [SHA] 2016). This process, developed by M. Nicolas Appert, began during the Napoleonic War era as a means to help the military store foods for longer periods of time (SHA 2016). Appert’s process, formalized in 1809, began with direct heat which killed the bacteria in the food. This was followed up by the installation of an airtight seal over the mouth of the vessel to avoid additional contamination. Oddly, scientists of the time, Appert included, did not fully understand how or why the process of heating and sealing of a container preserved perishables for long periods of time; they just knew it worked (SHA 2016).

The ornate pint-sized bottles shown here exhibit a wide mouth, which allowed for bulky and large foods, such as pickles, to be packed and removed easily. The design of the bottle features beautiful elongated cathedral windows; it is a reflection of the Gothic Revival style en vogue during the mid-nineteenth century in America (SHA 2016). This revival not only affected the style of bottles of the time but architecture as well. Houses reflective of Gothic Revival style often feature steeply pitched roofs with a central cross gable lined with decorated vergeboards (ornate trimwork lining the roof eaves), a one-story entry or full-width porch, and windows with Gothic detailing, including drip molds, pointed arch (lancet), or false shaping (McAlester 2013 267–268). Clearly it was a popular motif and one that extended to even the most seemingly ordinary of objects—the humble pickle jar.

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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:

Society for Historical Archaeology
2016 Society for Historical Archaeology Historic Glass Bottle Identification & Information Website. https://sha.org/bottle/index.htm, accessed September 2016.

McAlester,Virginia Salvage
2013 A Field Guide to American Houses. Alfred A.Knopf, New York, New York.

Archaeological Amusement

Featured Fragment – Brandywine Springs Carousel Ring

By Bill Liebeknecht

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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

 

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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.