Revisiting the JMM 1996 Expansion Part 2: More Bottles

Posted on October 16th, 2013 by

While going through the boxes of artifacts collected from the 1996 expansions, Carlyn and I have gone through a huge variety of glass and ceramic fragments. Some are very small and plain and it seems like there is not much to be said about them, or some fragments only contain small parts of words or designs that we are unable to decode even if we dig through all the resources available to us on the internet. However, when we find bottles or fragments that can provide a lot of interesting information, it’s very exciting!

Cheesebrough Manufacturing Company, Vaseline jar

Cheesebrough Manufacturing Company, Vaseline jar

One of the types of artifacts that I think are the most interesting is nineteenth century apothecary and medicine bottles. Because at this time it was common to have names of products or other propriety information embossed on the glass bottles themselves (as opposed to using paper labels), the designs and words on the glass bottles often contain a lot of information that can allow us to date the bottles very accurately. A small glass jar embossed with “Cheesebrough Mfc Co” and “Vaseline,” for example, obviously contained Vaseline, but we were able compare the exact design that the words are in and the style of the jar (which would have had a cork closure) to databases of other antique Vaseline jars that have been accurately dated, and we found that this exact jar was probably from the late 1880s.

E. W. Hoyt & Co.’s Rubifoam, "teeth cologne"

E. W. Hoyt & Co.’s Rubifoam, “teeth cologne”

Another interesting apothecary bottle we found in our collection was a small flat bottle that would have held E. W. Hoyt & Co.’s Rubifoam (pronounced “ruby-foam;” it was a bright red liquid) for the teeth. This was a “cologne” for the teeth, first introduced in 1887.

My favorite apothecary bottle in the collection is one from the pharmacy of Howard C. Silver, which was just down the street from JMM at the corner of Central Ave. and Fayette St. This bottle was initially difficult to research, since I could not find much information about the pharmacy, but once I tried researching Howard himself, I was able to find loads of information about him and his career in Baltimore. Howard C. Silver was an alumni (class of 1888) of the University of Maryland School of Medicine, and apparently operated a pharmacy at N. Central Ave. and E. Fayette St. He is referenced multiple times in “hospital bulletins” from the UMD School of Medicine, which include lists of alumni. He was born in 1861, possibly in West Virginia, and was living in Baltimore by 1910. His wife was Mary M. Silver. He died Oct 22, 1933 of coronary thrombosis at the age of 72. Several memorial funds, fellowships, and scholarships at the School of Medicine exist in his memory or from his donations to the school, including the “Dr. Howard C. Silver Loan Fund” and the “Dr. Howard C. Silver Memorial Student Fellowship in Family Medicine.” It is amazing that a few pieces of a glass bottle found during some construction allow us to find out so much about one man’s life.

bottle fragments from Howard Silver's pharmacy.

bottle fragments from Howard Silver’s pharmacy.

close up of upper fragment

close up of upper fragment

close up of lower right fragment

close up of lower right fragment

A blog post from Collections Intern Molly Greenhouse. To read more posts from JMM interns, click here.

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Glass Like Water: Fact or Fiction in Antique Windows

Posted on June 12th, 2012 by

A blog post by Karen Bishop, Archaeology Intern

One of the first things I noticed walking into the main floor of the Lloyd Street Synagogue were the windows. Not the colorful, glowing, starburst-patterned stained glass windows above the ark, but the rippled square windows on the side walls. Whenever I see antique glass I always think, “wow, this building is really old,” and I feel like a lot of other people have that thought, too. The appearance of old windows has always fascinated me: the variance in transparency and wavy patterns look like a suspended liquid. In fact, I was always of the belief that glass actually was a liquid. That’s why the bottom of stained glass in medieval cathedrals is thicker than the top, and why centuries old homes have river-like patterns running down the windows. When I went to research the liquid properties of glass to explain the appearance of the LSS windows, however, I found out that glass is in fact not a liquid, this is just a myth. 

The truth is that if you were to examine the thickness of cathedral glass or appearance of home windows when they were installed hundreds of years ago, you would make the same observations. The variances observed today are simply a result of the methods used to make glass ‘back in the day’. Glassmakers used hand-blown techniques that made it impossible to achieve a perfectly smooth, even texture. Glass is noticeably thicker at the bottom likely because it was easier to install it that way. However, there is some truth to the thought of glass being a slow moving liquid. Glass is an amorphous solid: when molten glass cools, the molecules retain the random patterns of the liquid state, but the bonds formed are strong, like that of a solid. The nature of glass still baffles scientists, though, so it’s no surprise this myth is so widespread.

If you would like to know more about the nature of glass and the exciting debate about it within the realm of scientific research (because I know you all do!), you can read the New York Times article The Nature of Glass Remains Anything but Clear.

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