Lamar Terrace Archaelogical Project

Research Themes

Chronology Evidence that the Lamar Terrace site was most heavily utilized as a dump between 1880 and 1920 is overwhelming. Chronological data from essentially all of the artifact groups present at the site supports this fact. By examining any of these groups individually, a repetitive trend demonstrating the site's late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century depositional origin becomes readily apparent. The chronological placement of the site based on the recovered artifact assemblage is summarized in the paragraphs below.

The predominance of glass in early-twentieth century site assemblages is a reflection of the impact that the 1880-1920 revolution in glass container production had on consumers. Part of this consumer impact was the increasing demand for clear glass containers throughout much of the late-nineteenth century and 'became readily apparent by 1880.' In the Lamar Terrace assemblage, clear bottle glass is by far the most frequent color recovered.

Whole bottles, which were recovered in high numbers at Lamar Terrace, parrot the chronological implications of the fragmented bottle glass assemblage. The majority of whole bottles at the site were manufactured by automatic bottling machines. The first automatic bottling machine was patented by Owens in 1903, and the technology was licensed to other companies in 1905 (Miller and Sullivan 1981). This suggests that the much of the deposition at the site post-dates ca. 1904.

Low frequencies of beer bottles are typical of pre-Prohibition assemblages, and at Lamar terrace beer and ale bottles comprise only 1.4 percent of the whole bottle assemblage. Additionally, all recovered beer or ale bottles exhibit crown finishes, indicating they were manufactured after 1892. Of the 142 liquor bottles recovered, none are embossed with the phrase 'Federal Law Prohibits Sale or Reuse of This Bottle.' This is significant because it means the assemblage pre-dates the Prohibition era (dated 1919-1933 nationally, 1909-1933 in Tennessee, and ca. 1915-1933 in Memphis). The latter statement was required on liquor bottles in 1933 when the Prohibition Act was repealed to prevent tax evasion and misbranding.

Kitchen Group ceramics support the chronological implications of the glass category. Decorative motifs on the recovered whiteware and ironstone specimens were typically observed to be compound (i.e. exhibited two or more decorative treatments on an individual specimen), and gilded ceramics which became popular in the late Victorna era were common. One 'Indian Girl' calendar plate was even recovered that was produced in 1912.

Maker's marks on recovered whiteware and ironstone specimens offer even further evidence of the late nature of the Kitchen Group ceramic assemblage from Lamar Terrace. Over 40 percent of the identified back marked specimens in the assemblage were produced in the East Liverpool Pottery District of Ohio and West Virginia. The production of whitewares became paramount in the District in 1880, and the local producers enjoyed increasing growth and prosperity through 1930. During this same interval, other domestic producers, including those located in Trenton, New Jersey, arose and increased domestic production of refined ceramic wares. Four back marked specimens from Trenton potteries were identified in the assemblage.

Imported ceramics were also common in the marked assemblage. Twenty-three specimens were tied to English manufacturers. Approximately 70 percent of all of the identified English potteries began production of their wares after 1875; and a full third began after 1880. Other European manufacturers recognized in the assemblage exhibited similar production ranges.

Although it may surprise the reader, another artifact category in the Architectural Group, toilets, also has significant chronological implications. The premise is simple. Following the yellow fever epidemics of the 1870s, public health issues came to the forefront and included provisions for improving sanitary conditions in the city of Memphis. As part of this effort, the installation of public water and sewer systems began around 1880; thus, most vitreous toilet fragments in Memphis can be assumed to post-date 1880, since prior to that time the infrastructure needed to support such fixtures was not in place. In accordance with this fact, two of the toilet fragments recovered at the Lamar Terrace site exhibited manufacturer's marks that indicated they were produced after 1892.

A variety of Personal Group items was deposited at the Lamar Terrace site. Amongst these items are an assortment of toys, which themselves offer valuable chronological data. For example, a suite of 93 porcelain doll parts was recovered. All but a few of these were bisque porcelain, which became popular during the waning nineteenth century and dominated the doll market by the beginning of the twentieth century. Three complete doll specimens were recovered; all are very small and are commonly referred to as 'penny dolls.' The latter doll type was popular during the late-nineteenth century through the 1930s.

Toothbrushes in the Personal Group assemblage also provided valuable chronological data. Of the 26 toothbrush specimens recovered, all but two appear to be mass-produced. Nineteen of the specimens appear to have been manufactured domestically. Mass production of toothbrushes did not occur in the U.S. until after 1885. Twenty percent of all toothbrushes were imported, and all specimens were embossed with their country of origin. The latter characteristic, a requirement of the McKinnley Tariff Act of 1890, indicates the imported specimens date to 1891 or later.

Other temporally sensitive Personal Group artifacts recovered included a souvenir mirror from the Falls Building in downtown Memphis which dates to the twentieth century, as the building was constructed ca. 1910.

The artifact assemblage recovered from the Lamar Terrace site also included a suite of porcelain electrical parts. Porcelain electrical components were popularized around 1895, and were commonly installed in structures until ca. 1930. Domestic electrical systems were not installed in significant numbers in Memphis until after the electrical streetcar system became operational in 1891. Several types of glass insulators were recovered and included within the Electric Group assemblage. Although one of these specimens was patented in the 1870s, most of the other recovered specimens were produced after 1880. Two complete light bulbs were also recovered, dating to 1912 and 1915, respectively.

Consumer Behavior Memphis was historically a major economic center in the Lower Mississippi Valley, and today it is a significant distribution center in the global economy. The rise of Memphis' status as an economic focal point can be traced back to the mid-nineteenth century, when the city developed into an important Mississippi River port and became a hub for the railroad industry. As a result of the city's location on major transportation arteries, by the turn-of-the-century, Memphis residents had access to goods and services from regional, national, and international production sources. The artifacts from Lamar Terrace site reveal the availability of these goods, and can be used to measure consumer behavior.

Analysis of the back marks found on Kitchen Group ceramics reveals some clear trends in local consumer behavior. First, imported ceramics (48 percent) are better represented than U.S. ceramics (34 percent). Over 70 percent of the imported ceramics are from Europe, with English potteries being the best represented (n=29), followed by German (n=16), French (n=15), Austrian (n=7), Scottish (n=2), and Holland (n=1). Among the domestic ceramics, various potteries from the East Liverpool District account for over 85 percent of the domestic ceramics. The dominance of the East Liverpool District on the American market after 1880 is well documented in the archaeological literature and it is surprising to see foreign potteries better represented than domestic ones here at Lamar Terrace.

The embossing associated with the large whole bottle assemblage at the site also yielded data regarding consumer behavior at the site. Four regional breweries are represented in the beer bottle assemblage: A. Busch (St. Louis, MO), Fehr (Louisville, KY), Hack and Simon (Vincennes, IN), and Wiedemann (Newport, KY). One stout bottle exhibits the 1875-1913 manufacturing mark of Cannington, Shaw & Co., of St. Helens, Lancs., England, thus it was shipped overseas.

There are 99 types of cosmetics/toiletry bottles, and 230 specimens. In terms of content, the most popular products are cold cream and petroleum jelly; these two products form over 69 percent of the bottles from this group. Perfume and toilet water bottles rank a distant second. Other products include mouthwash, lotion, face powder, hair tonic, honey & almond cream, hair gloss, dandruff shampoo, massage cream, nail polish, and liquid soap. Thirty-eight product, brand, or company names were identified within this bottle group. Of these, two represent Memphis businesses, Goldsmith's Dept. Store and the Robinson Apothecary. The majority represents U.S. companies outside of Memphis. Two are foreign, Ed Pinaud and Kerkoff, perfume dealers from Paris, France.

The 253 household (non-food) bottles were sorted into 104 types. Shoe polish bottles dominate, and ink bottles rank second. The minority product types include glue, a number of cleaners and polishes, and a dye. Twenty product, brand, or company names were identified within the household (non-food) bottle group. All are American, but none are from Memphis.

The 142 liquor and spirits bottles were sorted into 42 types. By content, the most common type of liquor was whiskey/bourbon, at over 85 percent. The vast majority of the liquor bottles are half-pint bottles that are embossed HALF PINT or FULL 1/2 PINT, and were likely for personal consumption. Of the eight brand or distributor names that were identified, three are from Kentucky, two are from New York, one is from St. Louis, one is local (Memphis), and one is British.

The 102 soda and mineral water bottles that were recovered from 40SY695 were sorted into 51 distinct bottle types. The emergence of the soft drink industry can be traced among the soda bottles at Lamar Terrace, as 31 regional bottlers or brands can be found on the 78 soda and mineral water bottles that are embossed with such data. The most popular brand by far is Coca-Cola (>28 percent), followed by Pluto Mineral Water (>10 percent). Significant minority brands or bottlers include Bluff City, Home, Crescent Cola, J.J. Heinrich, Chero-Cola, and Pepsi Cola (at 3-5 percent apiece).

Examining the soda bottle data by location reveals that the eight Memphis bottlers account for 53.8 percent of the assemblage. No other bottle group revealed such a high degree of local production (i.e., bottling) as the soda/mineral water group. St. Louis ranks second, with nine bottles and 11.54 percent of the specimens, but each of these bottlers is represented by only one specimen. Two additional bottlers from East St. Louis are represented at one bottle each, raising the St. Louis metro area percentage to 14.1 percent. French Lick Springs, Indiana is well represented (10.26 percent) due to high frequency of Pluto Mineral Water. Other locations, including Chicago IL, Freemont NB, Kankakel, IL, and Wittenburg, WS are represented by only one or two specimens each. Interestingly, there are no soda or mineral water bottles are from cities downstream of Memphis on the Mississippi River.

Wine (n=1) and champagne (n=2) bottles are poorly represented within the Lamar Terrace whole bottle assemblage, implying that these beverages were infrequently consumed.

Diet The best evidence for diet and food preferences is found in the faunal analysis and the whole bottle analysis, food group section. The faunal assemblage reveals a heavy reliance on butchered meat, in particular beef and pork, as these meat sources form over 72 percent of the assemblage. Beef forms over 20 percent of the sample of 1,886 bones, and over one-third of the beef specimens show evidence of butchery. Pork forms over 11 percent of the sample, and over 41 percent of the pork specimens show evidence of butchery. Another 41 percent of the assemblage is large mammal bones that are likely beef or pig, but could not be conclusively identified.

Lower frequencies of fish and domestic fowl were identified in the faunal assemblage, but these taxa may be under-represented in the assemblage due to preservation and sampling issues. The faunal assemblage reveals very limited reliance on wild games, as white-tailed deer forms only 1.2 percent of the collection.

Over 26 percent of the whole bottle assemblage consists of food containers. Summarizing the whole bottle data by food product reveals a number of clear dietary trends. The number one bottled food product selected is pickle, which forms nearly one-fifth of the food bottle group. Extract, sauce, and dressing are also relatively well represented, at over 12 percent each. Among these products several brands exhibit notable frequencies: Durkee's Dressing (n=49), Dr. Price's Extract (n=28), and Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce (n=10).

The condiments catsup, which was invented during the late nineteenth-century, and mustard also make strong showings. Overall, the food bottles show that a wide variety of products were purchased, but most are additives or condiments as opposed to staples.

Ethnicity Ethnicity is notoriously difficult to ascribe to archaeological assemblages, especially when dealing with a multiple point source midden such as the Lamar Terrace dump, where the artifacts are derived from several households. Despite this it can be reasonably argued that the since the neighborhood was 75-90 percent African American during its principal period of occupation, 1890s-1939 (see 'Historic Context' tab), the deposit is, in ethnic terms, generally reflective of African-American activity. However, since some of the artifacts in the dump were probably derived from the high-status Jones' household, a Caucasian household located at 1039 Carr immediately north of the deposit, the wholesale ascription of the deposit as African-American is overly simplistic.

Despite the above, within the assemblage there are certain artifacts categories that can be reasonably linked with certain ethnic groups. One of the most notable of these is the product Nadinola, manufactured by the National Toilet Company of Paris, Tennessee, beginning in 1899. Nadinola was a whitening cream used by African-Americans to bleach the skin. The 'pain' of being a dark-skinned female is a common theme in African-American literature: for example, in Wallace Thurman's 1929 book, The Blacker the Berry, the blue-black Emma Lou reflects on her skin color, as does former poet laureate Maya Angelou, in her poem I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. As Trice (2005) notes, throughout this disturbing history African-American women have demanded secret formulas and special techniques to keep them from looking 'too Negroid,' and cosmetic companies responded with skin lightening products such as Nadinola. As a result, manufacturers such as the Johnson Products Company and the National Toilet Company are occasionally accused of getting rich off of African-American women's insecurities.

The nine white glass Nadinola box lids and bases found at Lamar Terrace are considered ethnic marks for the site's African-American utilization. It is also possible that some of the other cosmetic products identified within the Lamar Terrace assemblage, such as 'Egyptian Cream,' also embody this heritage.

Land Use History The land use history of the Lamar Terrace site can be summarized as follows. Briefly, this subdivision was established in 1859, and the site occupied two unused lots (6 and 7). No structure was ever located within these lots, and they were used as an informal neighborhood dump beginning during or after the 1870s. The most intensive period of use was from 1890-1920. By the 1930s, the use of the lot had greatly attenuated, and in 1939 the deposit was sealed via the construction of MHA's Lamar Terrace housing project. The reason for the abatement in use of the lot in the 1930s as a dump site is tied to sanitary reasons associated with the 1919 construction of VA hospital #88 across the street from the site, as well as improvements in the city's waste disposal service.

With MHA's construction of the Lamar Terrace Housing Project in 1939, the dump and other ruble from the razing of the pre-1939 Ropers Alley neighbor became sealed under the projects. The older neighborhood faded from the collective memory, and was largely forgotten until the archaeological evidence for it was unearthed in 2005 during the Lamar Terrace Archaeological Project.