Thursday, July 23, 2009

Manhattan Well Diggers Excavate Old America

Dumpdigging in Old American Cities

That would be a good name for a book. Someone should focus on that subject and research and write that best seller; I'd only have to start an online discussion by which everyone involved can contribute their digs and photos. This would amount to half the content. Today that's how people conduct interactive research on a subject. Perhaps a thread on the Dumpdiggers Discussion Forum would help?

On Sunday there came a curious email from someone south of the border. This little birdie was very excited, and very eager to share the thrill and spread the obsession that is the bottle bug virus.

First, remember the cloak and dagger nature of digging relics and why talk of buried treasure engenders such secrets and lies. Only then can you appreciate how difficult it is for anyone to get rare and pretty pictures of a spectacular dig in downtown New York City, because this activity is done in secret. And I believe this blog is the first to display these pictures, another rare honour in this subculture.

You all know how I feel about the heritage police in Canada... Our bureaucracy of backward thinkers have their own blanket rules propagated only to protect their own outdated establishment, and nothing else. True diggers hold a higher moral code which binds them to use the internet and share as much as possible about their quest and their activities. They strive to educate the public by whatever means necessary in order to communicate the subtle excitement of excavating history...

So I was honored to receive these pictures of Dan, Tim & Mya, the Manhattan Well Diggers doing their thing at the bottom of some deep holes in the middle of their great city. Thanks to Joe who sent along some text too, and I love the cryptic tone that hearkens back to the days of adventure on the high seas, when X marked the spot.

Here's what Joe wrote, transcribed, in that cryptic email,

We’ll take the A Train…to The Village that is.

On the way to twenty-one feet of exceptionally fertile night soil
with the Manhattan Well Diggers.

"Rolling swiftly down the tracks in a dark tube, situated under a sizable metropolis, on the way to dig a privy is a fairly unique endeavor by most standards...."

..."Lining up a dig in the heart of New York today is significant. Abandoned buildings, those constructed without plumbing in the mid nineteenth century or earlier, which once dotted the streets of certain key neighborhoods, and the numerous easily accessible open lots containing great digging potential, are basically long gone..."

"...a week ago we had the pleasure of excavating a hundred intact bottles and miscellaneous pieces from 1845-1870. These were unearthed in the privy right next door from today’s adventures. Remarkably, during day two of that project the broken remains of a small photograph, showing a seated gentlemen and believed to be a daguerreotype, were uncovered in the privy. The gold plate which surrounds the glass picture indicates it was most likely taken at KIMBALL 347 BROADWAY N-Y. An 1856 listing was confirmed for that address in New York. The third and final day of that excavation was spent sifting and assembling various shard-piles for the local history professor who owns the property..."

by Daniel McGee

Do you have anything you want to share with the world? My email address is rob AT dumpdiggers DOT com and I'll publish your stories and link to your site and help you share your knowledge and ambitions.

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