Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Rare Early American Pottery an Embarrassment to Israel Seymour, and Henry Churchill of Gloversville

A significant piece of American history found and acquired on eBay.

A veteran dumpdigger and all around wheeler dealer friend of ours wrote us a funny and informative holiday message telling us about early American pottery, and the treasures that sometimes appear on eBay. According to my pal, its possible to scour online auctions and acquire museum quality pottery, sculpture and fine art without paying anything close to a dealer’s prices or even what it’s worth – for a variety of reasons.

Knowledge, which comes from taking the time to do the research is key to prosperity in this line of work. By simply knowing a little more than the average buyer, my friend was able to score a really wonderful piece of early American pottery, and what’s even better – it’s a rare mistake.

This salt-glazed stoneware jug was made by Israel Seymour in Troy, New York who made pottery between 1824 and 1850 in that area. It features a floral and feather design, the maker’s stamp is above an incised bird perched on a leaf with a small bird on its back. Like designs on many stoneware vessels made in New York in the early 19th century, the bird motif is done in cobalt, a metal oxide that does not lose its color in the heat of the kiln. This is a form of decoration long used in Central Europe.

The New York potters used cobalt imported from Europe, which was expensive, but only a little was needed to produce the characteristic strong blue colour. The motifs inscribed or painted on the surface have their origins in the European stoneware tradition, but American potters developed their own repertoire of designs that referred to their New World context; highly prized are patriotic subjects of the American eagle with the flag and arrows, and naval scenes depicting the War of 1812. Common subjects are birds, including recognizable species like pigeons, doves, peahens, sandpipers, and chickens, as well as others that are entirely fanciful.

I. Seymour of Troy NY made a mistake when he was stamping this ovid jug. He wrote Cloversville NY which was wrong – there never was a Cloversville, but there was certainly a Churchill &Co from Gloversville. That man, and his dry goods firm, was a pillar in the community, and we found a lot of great information on him. So Mr. Seymour also misspelled his client's name. This potter had no attention to detail.

Churchill & Co Gloversville 2 Gallon Stoneware Jug was made by Israel Seymour of Troy New York in about 1829.  This jug was a special order from Henry Churchill for possibly celebrating the opening of the Post Office or for the naming of the village of Gloversville Ny. in 1929.  Henry Churchill must have been very disappointed when he received the Stoneware jugs that he purchased from Israel Seymour. Not only is his name misspelled, the jugs read "Churchell & Co - Clovers ville ". Many potters in North America could not read or spell. There are many examples of misspelled stoneware jugs and crocks found to date, and this one is a beauty.

Henry Churchill, son of Jesse and Catherine (Smith) Churchill, was born in Middletown, Connecticut, February 17, 1807, died September 3, 1868. Early in life he came with his parents to Broadalbin, Fulton county, New York. He was educated in the public schools. and at an early age was thrown upon his own resources, developing into a strong, self-reliant man. From his twelfth to his twentieth year he was engaged in mechanical employment and mercantile life. For several years he was clerk in a store in Albany, where he acquired a thorough knowledge of merchandising methods and principles. He then relocated to Gloversville, New York, where he opened a store and prospered. For several years Churchill's store was the only one in Gloversville; he was the first postmaster of Gloversville. In the year of financial disaster, 1840, by the unexpected and heavy failures of those to whom he had entrusted his means, he lost everything he had accumulated in his years of prosperity. He had, however, the confidence of his fellow townsmen and large advances were made to him which enabled him to again start in business. In a short time he had paid off all his indebtedness and was firmly established in a large and prosperous business. From this point his career was one of unbroken success. He bought a large tract of land then near but later in the very heart of Gloversville and almost entirely covered with buildings. It extended from what is now Pine street to the "Fork in the road," and in 1851 this was all planted in corn. When he had completed the plans for such a residence as he desired, he sent men into the woods, who cut the lumber required. In the middle of his growing cornfield (now South Main street, and the center of Gloversville) he began his foundations, proceeded with the erection of his house, into which he moved in 1860. The first meeting preliminary to the organization of the Fulton County Bank was held in this house and was attended by the McLarens, Judsons, Messrs. McNab, Wells, Carson and others, well-known citizens. When the organization was completed, Henry Churchill was elected its first president. He was also president of the board of trustees of Gloversville Seminary, and an efficient promoter of the interests of his village

Here's the 1827 price list that Henry Churchill might have perused before ordering the stoneware jugs.

Between 1820 - 1850 many pottery shops sprang up along the Hudson River and along the New York State canal system making vessels of various shapes and sizes for the ships and shipping. During kiln firing, salt was applied to vessels that combined with clay silica to create a smooth, lustrous finish. Chocolate brown Albany Slip, named for where the clay was mined, was used to coat the insides of vessels. To identify or decorate the vessel, a painter applied a metallic oxide clay slip that turned a rich blue when fired. Sometimes manganese that turned purplish-brown was used. Simple identification included the makers’ mark and the vessel’s capacity. The New York History blog posted Dec 22 detailed donations to their State Museum from Adam Weitsman, along with photos including this piece showing a canal barge.  

Salt glazed stoneware was vitally important to the development of New York State and its central role in western expansion of the country via the Hudson River, the Erie Canal and its network of feeder canals, and through the Great Lakes to the western river systems. Stoneware vessels were in high demand for storage and preservation of drinking water, milk, butter, eggs, beer, ale, whisky, pickles and salted meat. Clay deposits ideal for making stoneware were found in what is now South Amboy, New Jersey, lower Manhattan and eastern Long Island. As a result, New York State became a large stoneware producer.

Back in around 1829 the nearest pottery co. to Gloversville was in Troy NY. and that was about 50 miles away. After checking the potters of Troy NY, we found that I. Seymour's pottery number ( 2 ) stamp on his jugs was the same on all the 2 gallon jugs he produced. All potters had their own pottery stamp made with their name on it. It was basically a wood block with a handle and metal type face attached to the block. This was perhaps a rare attempt at making advertising for someone else on an order of stoneware jugs. And it went horribly wrong. This certainly could not have been a great transaction between Henry Churchill and Israel Seymour. It must have been an embarrassment to both great men.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Digging Long Forgotten Outhouse Privies in Manhattan NYC

As keeper of the Dumpdiggers Blog I get a lot of wonderful emails, photos and cries for help from readers. People ask me to appraise the things, give proper names of things, and contact info, or they write long accounts of historic digs but fail to send any pictures. I will publish anything, but there has to be pictures... 

One such writer, a veteran Dumpdigger living in New York City named Daniel McGee always sends great pictures and text, and is a regular contributor. He writes about his own adventures with his gang as they research and dig up pioneer privies on abandon or otherwise transitional properties in Manhattan. Its fascinating stuff. Dan has style too - he usually leads with a wide shot of the area, and this time, its a picture of Manhattan! Here's the new World Trade Center being erected in the center of town.
Dan McGee and his crew specialize in finding broken buildings and exploring their backyards. They dig test pits and only sink shafts when they strike bottles. They liberate history from holes in the ground just days before the backhoes and bulldozers appear to demolish structures and excavate the earth, and take everything away. 

Dan writes (his words until END),

El Monstro De Gotham

C. 1840. DSMcGee

'El Monstro De Gotham' is Spanish for 'The Monster Of Gotham'.  The privy-well is among the largest ever encountered here in NYC, i.e., Gotham (however it wasn't exactly deep at only 7-8 feet but I may have covered that in the other notes). 

The property we were digging on will soon be redeveloped...which is the main reason we were able to go in and salvage what we could, before they remove the old well and its contents.  The point is, nearly all the digs we undertake are unpaid 'salvage operations', in the sense that the areas have/or will-soon-be totally altered/ destroyed by necessary developments.  As such, we consider our 20+ years of volunteer digging and investigating activities, including documentation via photography, article writing, bottle and artifact retrieval and processing, etc., to be an integral part of the Historical Digging record nationwide; and perhaps even further afield in some cases.

The site is part of a row of old buildings, circa 1840.  The privy-well (the old outhouse vault, chamber, etc.) was uncharacteristically made of freestanding redbrick; they're usually constructed of freestanding field-stone in the New York Metropolitan region; in that sense it was somewhat similar to a rainwater cistern when awe first opened it up at had a look.

To make a long story short, the way in which I became aware of the potential dig was this: After getting off the subway with my gear and swiftly heading to a particular spot on a construction site where I knew the owner would probably allow me to probe and test dig that afternoon...A faint voice (or instinctual urge, intuition or whatever) goaded me to walk down a certain street a couple blocks away, so I did.  Several blocks later I forgot all about the 'voice', and, that's when two women began shouting 'Hey, Hey'.  It was cold and they had their hoods up so I didn't recognize them as I briefly turned back to see who it was.  I naturally assumed they were mistaking me for someone else.  Then, from about a 100 feet away down a side-street I heard my first name called odd the guy they were looking for had same name as me (I still didn't recognize them due to the distance between us).  Then, something to the effect of 'we'd recognize that probe anywhere...!'

After all it is fairly unique in appearance, particularly when being taken up and down the streets and avenues, not too mention the often overcrowded and bustling subways of New York.  Again, long story short, some good friends of theirs had been holding up their property renovation until the back corner spot could be investigated; they'd had us in mind all along but the actual connection wasn't made until right at that moment.

On this historical dig, the massive 'double privy' (privy well, privy chamber, or privy vault), turned out to be the largest we've encountered so far here in the New York Metropolitan area.  Measuring over 10 feet wide (!) and 7 feet across, thankfully it was only between 7-8 feet deep.

For the record, had it been the customary 10-15 feet deep, the logistical problems we encountered would not have allowed many of the bottles and assorted artifacts to be safely salvaged, or for the operation to be completed entirely.

For instance, on the second day our skeleton crew had to bail many gallons of water which were continuously seeping into the active layer and rendering successful extractions of bottles and artifacts nearly impossible the entire time; not too mention doubling the workload for the duration of the excavation. 

*There is no doubt that this very large vault was used by two adjoining townhouses, which were built around 1840 or so.  In fact it's outer circumference extended 6 feet into what would have been the neighbors yard back in the mid 19th century.

Also, like most others we've investigated on historical digs over the last 2 decades, the privy-well had been dipped (thoroughly cleaned out, or prohibitively disturbed as the 'ARKO's' are fond of saying) to about only a foot or so from base level, most likely right around the time modern plumbing was installed at the residence. Despite this very common scenario, i.e., the stark reality that the first 6 feet or so of dirt we bucketed out was merely sterile back-fill material, essentially devoid of bottles and artifacts, we made many interesting antique bottle discoveries down near the floor of the vault.

Here are two umbrella style inkwells, emerald green and aqua, circa 1850-1855.


We found a few rare early Patent Medicines including,
"Hastings Compound Syrup of Naptha" circa 1855-1860. This aromatic substance was invented in London in 1848 by Dr. Hastings who promoted his formula as 'The great Remedy for Consumption, Asthma, Spitting of Blood, Night Sweats, Husky Throat, Wasting of the Flesh, Coughs, Colds and all Diseases of the Chest and Lungs. Contemporary newspapers ads claimed that Hastings’ compound was being used in the hospitals and among the best physicians."

Cobalt blue, eight paneled teakettle ink, circa 1875. This is gorgeous and in great condition.
There were four of us involved with the historical dig at various times throughout the three days of investigation, myself, Mya, JJ Galione, and "Celtic Willy" from Sligo town.

As is nearly always the case we were incredibly busy during the entire salvage excavation...we never had a chance to get decent pics of the last 2 helpers or to take many good dig shots for that matter.  In fact the best examples are the ones you see here and on the Facebook Page.

BRANT'S INDIAN BALSAM, circa 1855. The second pic to the left shows bottom, displays its pontiled base.

To the right are an assortment of bone and ivory toothbrush handles, circa 1850s-1870s.

In summary, there were many smooth base examples ranging from 1885-1865, there were over 30 pontiled examples, a half dozen tobacco pipes, an equal number of bone or ivory toothbrushes, and a bunch of ceramic and pottery fragments. The latter, along with a bunch of earlier bottles and so on, were trampled upon, decimated that is, as is almost always the case on these historical digs, while the dippers went about their lowly, odoriferous task of cleaning out the reeking night soil deposits back in the late 19th century.

Despite their heavy footwork and vigorous shoveling as they went about the grimy process of acquiring waste-generated fertilizer, over 75 intact bottles, some manufactured as early as the 1840s, were reclaimed from the shadowy environs down below. 

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Premier Antique Show, Metro Toronto Convention Centre, Oct 28-30, 2011

The Premier Antique Show Metro Toronto Convention Center, 255 Front St West on Oct 28th, 29th and 30th 2011 is well stocked with furniture, fine art paintings, fancy dishes, antique tools, sporting goods, coins, candy dispensers, musical, medical, military instruments all laid out on beautiful wooden tables or locked away in wood and glass cabinets, or under lights in glass and steel display cases. Each dealer has invested in professional hangers, lighting fixtures and has suitable furniture for showcasing their wares. Most have illuminated display cases on top of which rests a stack of freshly printed business cards. They’re at this show to sell stuff, and also to network and make connections with pickers, dealers, art directors, props buyers, interior decorators and designers. Read Shopping for Treasures in Toronto Thrift Stores on Squarespace.

Antiques Shows Are Like Museums on Acid

Have you ever been to a really high-end antiques show? It’s kind of overwhelming. There are so many beautiful objects of art, and history from all over the planet all collected together without any context or any attempt at sorting out their individual stories, and so to a logical mind, it’s like a museum on acid. Pick up any one object and somebody will scurry over and shed their knowledge and you can eat it up and keep eating and getting more and more knowledge from every dealer until finally, you’re full. And then you just want out. You have to get away as fast as possible before you throw it all up over somebody.

The advertisement boasts, ‘Decorative arts, Canadiana, vintage designs and accessories, fine jewelry, and objects of art.‘ And that’s accurate. It’s the best stuff on the pro tour; the Premier shows are like the PGA of Antiques. Someday in the near future the miracle of cyber computing will make available an advanced inventory management software that will be able to sort everything out and tell user where to find all the bits and pieces of a particular period, niche or genre of collecting, no matter how small.

Each object is a piece of many stories, and today the premier antique show is a kaleidoscope of high end history and culture that ignores shoes, ships and sealing wax to focus on cabbages and Kings. There are cameo broaches by the bushel, bronze statues, Bakelite telephones, long steel swords, authentic military medals and mint condition model airplanes. The elephants are called pachyderms here. There are fine art paintings and art deco signage and lots of great pottery.. But there are NO antique glass bottles or insulators anywhere - there are however some stoneware jugs and crocks but these are hidden away under the cabinets and chests of drawers, and made visible only to the person who's looking for them, and wants to find them.

Antique Dealers Don’t Like Canadian Pickers TV Show

At one point I had an interesting exchange with some very articulate and knowledgeable people with some interesting insights into the cable TV show craze sweeping North America. The rise of such mercantile concepts as Pawn Stars, and other antiques pickers has TV companies scrambling for new concepts in this niche and many of these folks have had phone calls or emails from one television company or another. And to my surprise I discovered that this crowd likes American Pickers TV show, but does not care much for the Canadian version. They noted how Canadian Pickers only seems to shop at well known antique dealers' houses and shops wherein of course they cannot possible find a bargain in the true spirit of being a picker. And more. These snippets of text I scribbled on my pad,
“Its just a TV show and you can't be a real picker on TV. “
“They don’t rip people off - they get ripped off. They pay too much !“
“And the stuff they buy is what’s hot, not quality. They buy art deco signs and TV antiques, old gas pumps and reconditioned juke boxes. Show pieces. I’d like to see one episode on Georgian furniture and then we’ll see how much they really know.”
The TV Pickers like to buy show what the young people today call ‘vintage’
Standex Electronics reed switch is a magnet thingy inside a small vacuum tube.

How To Find the Antique Show in the Metro Convention Center

Heritage Antique Shows

Premier Antique Show, LIST OF DEALERS

Andrew Zegers, Oshawa, ON
Antique Diamond, Toronto ON
Antique Clocks and More, Toronto, ON
Antiquing with Helen, Toronto ON
Artophile, Port Perry , ON
Barry Ezine, Moffat, ON
Bayshore, Kingston, ON
Bernardi’s Antiques, Toronto, ON
Carmen Berdan, Toronto, ON
Cherry Hill Antique, (CADA), Grafton, ON
Christel Art, Montreal, PQ C.R.
Cornish, Exeter, ON
Cynthia Findlay Antiques, Toronto, ON
Decart Inc, Longueuil, PQ
Daniel Tsang, Montreal, PQ
Farirholme Antiques, Toronto, ON
Fred Louckes, St Catherines, ON
Gallery de Louve, Montreal, PQ
Gary Dawson, Aurora ON
George Brown, Toronto, ON
Glenn Manor Galleries, Shakespeare, ON
Great Britain, Toronto, ON
I Miss You Vintage, Toronto, ON
Inquisitive Antiques, Toronto, ON
J. Taylor Antiques (CADA) Hamilton, ON
Jane Vining, Toronto, ON
Jonny’s Antiques (CADA), Shakespeare, ON
Manley & Sheppard, Toronto, ON
Michael Rowan (CADA) Green River, ON
Paul Murray Fine & Decorative Arts (CADA)
Kitchener, ON Patricia’s Antiques, Cobourg, ON
Paul Braybrook, Sarnia, ON
Peter E. Baker Antiquaire (CADA) Elgin, PQ
Peter Vernon, Toronto, ON
Poirer Schweitzer, Montreal, PQ
Polikers, Greenwood, ON
Richard Fienstead Holder, Toronto, ON
Richard Fulton, Toronto, ON
Royal Antique Rugs, Toronto, ON
T. Donald (Perovic) Antiques, Toronto, ON
Times Past Antiques, Ottawa, ON
Turner Chapel Antiques, Oakville ON

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Antique Glass Bottles Found Under Southcore Financial Centre & Delta Hotel Toronto, The Story of Rees' Wharf

I was standing on the north side of Bremner Ave, halfway between York St and Simcoe St surveying the future site of the Southcore Financial Centre & Delta Hotel Toronto towers, on a hot Weds Aug 9th 2011 afternoon, just after 5pm. It was quitting time, and I was there at the gate, waiting for these guys to knock off for the day. Once again my contacts had put me onto another downtown Toronto excavation site run by people who will let me shoot their bottles and tell their stories, alongside the history of the property. But on that day the massive hydraulic backhoes were still down there jack hammering the shale fifty feet below the sidewalks at a quarter after five. They hadn't quit yet.
There was no sign of my merchant historian friend either, but I could see the excavation workers were also expecting him. They were milling about two pick-up trucks about hundred meters away, inside the fence. To my delight I could see one fellow setting up some antique glass bottles in the tailgate exhibition.

I waved at the crew and rather trepidatiously walked into the yard, expecting someone to evict me. I held up my camera and announced that I was party to this show and sale – I was a friend of so and so, and so was expected?

Harry, the youngest member of the excavation crew, had just taken off his green fluorescent reflective vest, and was kicking the sand out of his work boots as I approached. He smiled and shook my hand and then gestured to the array of ready glass that was waiting to be perused and photographed – his display would be documented on Dumpdiggers for the rest of time. I told him who I was and he said 'yeah, I like your site'. So I knew he knew what he was getting into by standing in front of my lens beside historic Canadian glass.

The bottles actually belonged to the backhoe operator, but most had been retrieved by Harry, this young lad who manages the gate; his job is to document each and every truck that comes through the gate. He's the camp secretary. When the excavator shakes his bucket a certain way, it’s a signal to Harry to come over and pick up the bottle that’s visible underneath the behemoth’s jaws. There is minimal disruption to the work, according to Harry who was rather proud of the assembled artifacts.

This patch of land on modern day Bremner Ave wasn't a big city dump, like other sites nearby, but rather it was another stretch of the Toronto lake shore that was filled in with debris, and anything handy in the 1870s and 1880s as the railroad grew and people wanted a better port facility at the bottom of the city. In the 1840's, before the railroad came to Toronto, this was Rees' Pier.

So if we were to go back in time right on this spot we'd all be underwater or standing on the water opposite Rees Pier or what became known as the Rees' Wharf. This location is very historic. It was on these wooden docks and facilities through which the mass exodus of Irish immigrants entered the 1840's era New World of opportunities. Rees' wharf was an important conduit in the city, and life in Canada.

Dr William Rees and the Rees' Wharf in Toronto

REES, WILLIAM, physician and surgeon; b. c.1800, son of Evans Rees of Bristol, Eng.; d. unmarried 4 Feb. 1874 in Toronto, Ont.

William Rees studied medicine in England under Sir Astley Cooper and came to Canada in 1819. He was an assistant health officer at the port of Quebec in 1822. In 1829 he moved to York (Toronto) and, after examination by the Medical Board of Upper Canada in January 1830, he purchased the practice of John Porter Daly. With the exception of a brief sojourn in Cobourg in 1832 Rees lived the rest of his life in Toronto. He ran unsuccessfully in the first riding of York for election to the Legislative Assembly in 1834, but distinguished himself during the Upper Canada Rebellion when he was appointed surgeon to the guard-ship at Toronto, and assistant surgeon to the regiment of Queen’s Rangers.

From what this author can determine, Dr William Rees had the long wooden dock and support buildings erected in 1837 as a disembarkation point for emigrants to Toronto. Rees advocated throughout his career numerous measures for social reform and the development of public service. When he began his practice in the city he advertised that he would vaccinate the poor people and give them medical advice free of charge. In 1837 he constructed a wharf which had no formal name, but became known as Rees' Wharf and he is also said to have built public baths on the waterfront at Toronto for the use of immigrants in the same year. He lived there, or nearby in a cottage beside a small hill for many years.

This square patch of the Toronto harbour became very important in the 1840s when Irish potato crops had caught a blight that caused widespread crop failure that resulted in the 'Irish Potato Famine' and one of the largest European mass emigrations in modern history. Those who pressed on to Toronto were required to disembark at Rees' Wharf, where they were processed at a make shift shed by Edward McElderry, the local Emigration Agent and representative of the Government of the Province of Canada (the union of what is now Quebec and Ontario) and Constable John B Townsend, who was the Clerk of the Toronto Board of Health.

In 1847, over 100,000 Irish immigrants migrated to Canada. Nearly 40,000 of these people passed through Toronto, which at the time had a population of just under 20,000. Most had come through Grosse Ile, which was a special station set up to aid the refugees of the worst famine in the history of the British Isles. In the summer of that year, 863 Irish people died in the fever sheds that were erected at King Street West and John Street. In total 1,100 people lost their lives during this tragic time.

Look at this 1862 Map of Toronto. Rees' Wharf is situated just south of the Provincial Parliament Buildings. East of this map insert, there are some unfamiliar street names, like Graves St for example (became Pearl St) and Market Street. Dr Rees was already a very well respected physician in this 'garrison town' turn provincial capital. He helped found the Provincial Insane Asylum. At the height of his accomplishments he was struck by a mental patient in the asylum and it was a blow from which he never quite recovered. This incident marks the beginning of a slow decline of his professional career and social prospects. When he died in 1874 he was a poor man.

The shoreline is open and lush and green as was the fashion in the 1800s. Civilized men would take the air at night and ambulate about the grounds - this was a place of recreation near the Ontario General Assembly buildings. Whenever I look at the early pictures of Toronto I’m struck by the gardens and open landscape of the lake shore.

Look at this vision of the 1840 Toronto with a horse track and 'gardens' for the civilized people of Upper Canada's largest settlement. The place grew in prominence because it was a Garrison Town and home to Fort York and the seat of a shared government with Montreal - Upper and Lower Canada.
The Upper Canadian parliament buildings, designed by Thomas Rogers and constructed between 1829 and 1832, stood at Front and Simcoe streets. The surrounding area was largely a mixed institutional and affluent suburban district that had emerged after the War of 1812. However, less prestigious structures, such as immigrant sheds and taverns, stood nearby, as sharp neighbourhood distinctions did not exist in Georgian Toronto.

Here's what this patch of land is forecast to look like in 2013,
Southcore Financial Centre is a major mixed-use office tower development built in Toronto's downtown core. Designed to exceed the expectations of today's globally connected tenants and urban travelers, this three-phase project will include two office towers totaling 1.4 million sq.ft. and the Delta Toronto – a next generation, premium 4-star hotel. Connected to the urban forest, this fully integrated complex will provide an enclosed pedestrian access to Union Station, the Metro Toronto Convention Centre and the PATH network.
Located on 3.25 acres at the centre of Toronto's expanding financial core and entertainment district, SFC occupies a full block from York to Lower Simcoe Streets along Bremner Ave. The fully integrated complex will be connected to Union Station and all of downtown Toronto via the already extensive PATH network.

While digging the foundation for this megalith, the backhoe operators encountered pockets of dump, either material that was household trash dumped there in the 1870s to fill in the lake or the natural bottles and pottery pieces that are thrown into the lake off the pier and came to rest in the mud of the lake bed for 150 years.

Buying Bottles on Excavation Sites

Not much of what happened next can I relate in any detail but suffice to say that there was a mercantile exchange and some people had to visit nearby ATM machines and get more cash.

Here is a photo montage, starting with the players involved in negotiating a fair price for these historic artifacts. The buyer and the seller and the banter was as colourful as the old bottles.

Here are some of the best bottles in their hands.

This is a Brain Bros Lager Beer bottle from Hornby Ontario that's quite rare. This bottle traveled some distance to end up in the Toronto lake shore.
I was able to get some more information on Hornby and I even found an 1877 image of the brewery. It was a large operation in a small town.  This tract was written in EHS Archives,

This 9th Line business was established in 1845. The beer became famous and the business expanded to employ ten men and 40 horses! Only the main house remains, although it has been extensively renovated. This sketch (below) is from the 1877 Halton Atlas"

And there was another great early Canadian beer bottle, very rare. The gem seen below is embossed,
Rob Davies / Lager Beer / Dominion Brewer / Toronto

Here's a Robertson tan ginger beer bottle that another operator proffered for sale but closer inspection revealed it has a crack and that makes it about worthless according to the visiting expert. That verdict was immediately rejected by the seller who announced that it would find a ready buyer in a flea market near his house. I reflected on that - it would indeed, as this is exactly the type of bottle you would think was incredibly rare and valuable and worth buying in any condition at any price. But it isn't - this is a common Toronto late 1800's ginger beer bottle, and not worth that much, especially when cracked.

An Earlier Stash Sold
The Merchant Historian who is my contact to this world had visited this site one or two days earlier, and he'd made deals with another one of the machine operators. He sent me these pictures so I can show them here, and thereby offer a more complete assessment of the artifacts found on site.

Here are the highlights. These two bottle are both rare and beautiful and date from mid to late 1800s. They were found intact with only slight damage not visible in this picture.
On the left is a light cobalt blue Pilgrim Soda bottle and beside it is a lovely ribbed ink bottle with spout top. This ink is embossed Commercial Ink Co London, and my merchant historian friend swears this is a product of London Ontario (which would make it worth than if was simply another lovely UK ink). The Pilgrim is worth about ?? (it has some damage) and the ink could be obtained for ? ? somebody email me, or leave in the comments more accurate price data. I will follow up if and when this piece goes to auction.

In the main ditch immediately inside the gate there's a pile of wood debris and metal pipes etc that was recovered by the excavators, and separated out of the loads being shipped north as 'clean fill' to some other part of Ontario that needs building up.
The metal pipes and castings are very interesting and no doubt all have stories, but the ship's anchor is the centerpiece. Here was an iron anchor that was lost back in the 1800s, perhaps by a sailboat, or a steamer that was docked at Rees' Wharf.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Alexander Ferguson MacLaren was the Grand Fromage of 1900s Canadian Political Cheesemakers

Alexander Ferguson MacLAREN, M. P. for North Perth, was born in Perth, County of Lanark, on February 3rd, 1854. He is the son of John MacLaren, his mother being Ellen Buchanan Ferguson. Some of what I know about this man and these antique stoneware cheese pots comes from History of the County of Perth, 1825-1902
William Johnston, 1903. pp.548 and 551-552.

Dumpdiggers knows that Alexander MacLaren was a cheese buyer for a major cheese importer in the 1870s who soon after became cheesemaker in the 1880s.

In 1892 this man introduced a new dairy product to the world, "MacLaren's Imperial Cheese." which may have been a more spreadable food product, as it was contained in the ceramic jar seen below (after KRAFT bought it?). For distributing this perishable food product, several offices were eventually set-up in Toronto, New York, London (England), Chicago, Detroit, Mexico, China, Japan and Africa.

This one food product made Alex Maclaren rather famous, also his skill as cheese critic and buyer and seller for example although still a young man, he was chosen as sole judge in the cheese department at the Chicago World's Fair. Canadians carried off many honours at the event.

Alexander MacLaren was a busy man. He was president of the A. F. MacLaren Imperial Cheese Co., limited; president Imperial Veneer Co., Toronto and Sudbury; president Imperial Wood Fibre Plaster Co., of Toronto; director of Slate and Cement Co., Atlanta, Georgia, U.S. with capital holdings exceeding $2,000,000. He was also director of the Industrial Fair Board, Toronto, and chairman of Dairy Committee; he was also president of the Western Dairymen's Association from 1896 and 1897.

On April 29, 1885, Alex MacLaren married Miss Janet McLeod. Shortly after marriage MacLaren become active in politics. He was first elected to the Canadian House of Commons for the electoral district of Perth North at the general elections of 1896. A Conservative, he was re-elected in 1900 and 1904. He was defeated in 1908. MacLaren died in 1917 in Toronto from kidney problems. In 1920, MacLaren's cheese company was purchased by J. L. Kraft and Brothers Company.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Manhattan Well Diggers, June 2011 Bakery Dig

The Manhattan Well Diggers are at it again and DS McGee sent me some lovely pictures and text relating to their latest excavation, on the site of a US Civil War era bakery. Here's a link to their website The Manhatten Well Diggers and here's a link to the Bakery Excavation in Manhattan Well Diggers Facebook Page.

THE SECRET LOCATION: Behind the fence beside the red brick building is an empty lot. On this site, 130 years ago there was a bakery, which operated here between 1855-1865, and would have baked the bread that New Yorkers ate as they read news of Civil War battles. DS McGee writes, "Prior to the Civil War era salvage dig of this weekend, we investigated a shallow woodliner ( a latrine that had wood boards lining the interior of the shaft) which dated to about 1885-1915, and a long narrow 'trough' privy, 10 feet from end to end, 3 feet wide, and only 3 feet deep, which was constructed of stone and filled with mostly 1880s-1910s 'hutch' style beer and soda bottles." So readers come to understand that the dig team has been on this property before, and only just recently found the oldest 'well' as they call a privy (latrine).

Over time the team sunk many test pits which are small probative holes until they encountered something, anything especially a rich deposit of historic glass - on this day they found the top of a century old well. McGee writes of this picture, 'Here is one small section of the 'privy well' open for the first time in about 130 years.' This 'well' was made of heavy stone, its circumference nearly six feet across, once emptied, from the floor to the top of the yard measured 7 1/2 feet. Click the picture, it expands and you can see they have a small privy rod - a four foot spring steel rod on which there is usually a short piece of grid pipe welded for a handle.

The bottles came up in clutches, along other detritus. One of the first bottles discovered was this large green medicine bottle, seen here alongside a Civil War era soda or beer, a XXX Ginger Ale, and others. Manufacture date of the items ranges from about 1860-1875.

It was hot digging for two people but they had an early start. Their mission was to go on site and recover anything found in the ground before a professional excavation company goes to work digging up the ground for nearby building improvements. Both diggers are obligated to fill in the hole again before they leave - both are absolutely committed to savouring the day, and it was probably one of the longest days of their lives.

It took all morning and afternoon to get to the bottom of the oldest latrine hole on the property, but look what treasures they saved.
Perhaps most spectacular is this teal green "T&M" medicine bottle, heavily embossed on both side panels, and a very pronounced 'open pontil' scar on base, c.1855. This is a fairly rare find on any salvage dig and a nice addition to any New York druggist bottle collection. Now DS Mcgee has the task of determining just who or what was T&M? and what concoction was once sold in this container?
DR. PORTER / NEW YORK, c. 1865, seen here just as it appeared in the ground. And below are clay saloon pipes, manufactured between about 1855-1875. These are usually found without stems because the pipes were disposable in that the stem was seldom cleaned but rather broken off and shortened as it became clogged.
Here's the final stash or what most Dumpdigging teams will 'The Picks', because at the end of the dig everyone will pick from the pile (usually after flipping a coin to see who picks first). I would take that Civil War era umbrella ink seen in the front row. Click the picture - it expands!
In his closing remarks DS McGee writes, '...despite the intense heat and labor intensive conditions, we were able to salvage over 30 antique bottles before the backyard renovation was underway.' Good work McGee. Keep saving history and sending us the pictures.