Some of the best advertisements are ones of memorable imagery or catchy slogans, a method still utilized in today’s marketing. With a boxing scene and a tagline of “A Knockout for Thirst” the Phillips Brothers Champion Bottling Works certainly developed these marketing methods while in production from 1893 through the mid-1930s (The Re-ly-On Bottler). Based in Baltimore, Maryland the Phillips’ Brothers Company bottled “non-alcoholic maltless beverages” and were best known for their ginger-ale (The Official Gazette 1945: 539).
The Phillips Brothers consisted of the Henry Lake, John D., Levin W. and Howard S. Phillips. The company was first started by Levin and Howards Phillips, being later joined by Henry Lake, who over time became the senior member of the brothers’ enterprise. The company was a central member of the Maryland bottling business community and an active member of the American Bottler’s Protective associations (American Bottler 1920).
The center of the Phillips Brothers company was a state-of-the-art factory, operated by top-of-the-line machinery for the time. One of the main innovative machines on their line was the Shields six-head rotary filling machine (Fig. C). With two of the Shields filling machines operating on the production line, the company went from turning out a few dozen bottles daily to 6,000 dozen bottles of soda each day.
The glass bottles would only interact with machinery through the entire process. First starting with a three-compartment soaking machine, bottles were soaked in three different baths of a caustic soda solution to sanitize the bottles. After being submerged in the super-heated baths at 110, 120 and 130 degrees, they were rinsed out via automatic washing machines that cycled between brushing and rinsing (The Re-ly-on Bottler). Freshly cleaned out, the bottles were then filled with the various carbonated beverages of the Phillips’ Brothers line of products. Most known for their ginger ale, the company also produced sarsaparilla and lemon, orange, and chocolate soda, as well as cola.
The bottles were then sealed using the innovative lightning closure first patented by Charles De Quillfeldt on January 5th, 1875 before Karl Hutter took over the patent and popularized the design in 1877. This stopper design revolutionized the bottling industry as the seal created by leveraging a rubber disk into the lip of the bottle proved a reliable sealing system (von Mechow 2018).
American Bottler. 1920. Volume 30. Web accessed March 24, 2020.
Champion Beverages Well Named; Efficient Baltimore Company Has Catchy Slogan. The Re-ly-on Bottler: A Magazine of Idea and Ideals for the Bottling Trade. 1922. The International Cork Co. Volumes 3-6. Web accessed March 5, 2020.
The Official Gazette of the United States Patent Office. 1945. Volume 581.
Von Mechow, Tod. 2018. Bottle Attributes – Beer Bottle Closures. Soda & Beer Bottles of North America. Website accessed March 23, 2020.
In 1983, during excavations conducted in advance of the construction of the Baltimore Savings and Loan Association Building, archaeologists discovered a brick-lined privy that had been filled early in the fourth quarter of the 19th century. The soil filling the privy contained multiple fragments of a blue glass advertising sign for Vanity Fair Cigarettes (Figure 1).
Tobacco has a long history in Maryland; it formed the backbone of the colony’s agricultural production beginning soon after English settlement in the 17th century. Tobacco hasn’t been called the state’s “money crop” for no reason; in 2010, tobacco revenues brought 546.5 million dollars into the Maryland economy (CDC 2012).
In addition to growing tobacco, Maryland’s citizens have enjoyed using it in a variety of forms over the centuries—“sipping” it through clay pipes in the 17th and 18th centuries, inhaling powdered snuff, puffing on cigars and chewing plugs of dried tobacco. Some users rolled cigarettes by hand, a practice that seems to have first appeared in the 17th century when Spanish street urchins rolled tobacco in newspaper (Cross and Proctor 2014:63). The smoking of these “smallish cigars” increased during the 19th century, particularly after English soldiers developed a taste for Turkish cigarettes during the Crimean War (Elliott 2009). Cigarette factories began to open in the United States after the Civil War.
William S. Kimball’s Peerless Tobacco Works of Rochester, New York manufactured several brands of cigarettes, including theVanity Fair (Figure 3) brand sold at Baltimore’s Federal Site (18BC33) (Elliott 2009, Shilling 2012:168). The company opened in 1867 and merged with the American Tobacco Company in 1890. New York City, Richmond, and Baltimore joined Rochester as production centers for cigarettes after the Civil War (Elliott 2009). In Baltimore, the Marburg Tobacco Company and F. W. Felgner and Son were two of the “big six” U. S. cigarette firms that controlled 75% of national sales by the 1870s (Elliott 2009).
Today, six trillion cigarettes are smoked annually—enough to circumnavigate the globe 15,000 times (Cross and Proctor 2014:61). It took the invention of the automated rolling machine for cigarettes to achieve the popularity they hold today. A skilled worker could hand roll three to four cigarettes a minute (Anchor 2020). With the invention of the Bonsack rolling machine in 1880 (Figure 2), that rate increased to 210 cigarettes a minute, or 120,000 in ten hours (Edwards 2015). The device rolled tobacco into a continuous strip of paper that was pasted and then cut into appropriate lengths with a rotary knife. James Albert Bonsack’s impetus for inventing the first reliable rolling machine was a $75,000 prize offered by the Allen & Ginter Company of Richmond, Virginia (Cross and Proctor 2014:71). The American Tobacco Company quickly adopted the machine and the availability and popularity of cigarettes began to take off. The use of automation standardized the size of cigarettes and allowed them to be more easily packaged for sale.
With the increasing popularity of cigarettes, the number of purveyors of tobacco-related products in Baltimore began to soar. The Baltimore Sun reported at the turn of the century that there were 2,000 tobacco stores in Baltimore (Rasmussen 1996).
At the turn of the 20th century, machine-manufactured cigarettes only made up four to five percent of tobacco productions consumed in the United States (Cross and Proctor 2014:69). Cigarette smoking became fashionable among wealthy men during the early years of the 20th century and free cigarettes were provided to service members during World War I, causing smoking to become more prevalent. Interestingly, the link between lung cancer and smoking was made as early as 1911 (CA-A n.d.:294), but the idea did not gain traction amongst the medical community until mid-century. Today, smoking is believed to be responsible for the deaths of 480,000 persons in the United States annually, making cigarettes the deadliest of consumer products.
As I perused social media and news feeds early in January, I kept coming across stories about the benefits of a dry January. An alcohol-free month was not in my cards, however, because an early January archaeological conference meant lots of social beers with colleagues.
One hundred years ago this month, in January of 1920, citizens of the United States began to experience a long, dry period as Prohibition got underway. Congress passed the 18th Amendment in October of 1919, following it on January 16, 1920 with the passage of the Volstead Act, designed to enforce Prohibition. The amendment made it illegal to produce, transport and sell alcohol in the United States. With the exception of Maryland, every U.S. state passed state-level versions of the Volstead Act (Walsh 2017).
Resistance to Prohibition was strong in Maryland, which had elected “wet” governor Albert Ritchie in 1920 (Ciammachilli 2019). This resistance even earned Maryland its nickname of the “Free State” in 1922 (Walsh 2017). Lawmakers in Baltimore especially opposed Prohibition. Despite opposition within the city, however, the effects of the ban on alcohol were almost immediate, with the closing of bars, saloons and breweries (Levy 2016). Of Baltimore, the American newspaper wrote that “gloom fell over the wet trade” (cited in Walsh 2017).
Baltimore has always been a city of breweries. The city’s first breweries were established in the first half of the 18th century and produced British-style ales. The bird’s eye view of the city shown on the 1869 Sasche Map illustrates at least 15 breweries, some of them with beer gardens. This preponderance of breweries can be traced back to the increasing German immigration, beginning in the 1840s. Germans brought with them a love of lighter lager beers, whose production began to predominate in the city’s beer manufacturing.
Beer bottles are a common find at archaeological sites, beginning in the second half of the 19th century. The Monumental Brewing Company bottle shown in Figure 1 was found in a privy sealed around 1910 at the Federal Reserve Site (18BC27) in the Otterbein neighborhood of Baltimore. The Monumental Brewing Company opened in 1900, but went out of business in 1920, at the start of Prohibition.
Baltimore’s breweries reacted in one of two ways during Prohibition. Some manufacturers, including the National Brewing Company and the American Brewery, went out of business (Levy 2016). Others, like Gunther and Globe, managed to keep their doors open by manufacturing “near” beers—beverages that contained less than one half of one percent of alcohol by volume (Levy 2016).
General opinion holds that Prohibition was a failure (Buck 2013). Alcohol consumption was only moderately reduced by the legal restrictions, while organized crime centered on the illegal production and sale of alcohol soared. Opposed to the 18th Amendment, Baltimore writer H. L. Mencken famously wrote, “there is not less drunkenness in the Republic, but more”. The U.S. ban against the production, transportation and sale of alcohol was ultimately to last for 13 years. In 1933, the 21st Amendment ended Prohibition, making the 18th Amendment the only constitutional amendment ever repealed in our country. Baltimore’s breweries rebounded and are still successful today.
This flat piece of cast iron (Figure 1) was once part of a coin bank produced around 1872 by J. & E. Stevens of Cromwell, Connecticut. Known as a still bank (to distinguish them from mechanical banks, which had moving parts), this little repository was a bank shaped like a bank building (Figure 2). To make matters even more interesting, this artifact was recovered from an archaeological excavation in Baltimore at the future site of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, on Sharp Street.
This archaeological artifact thus seems like a good entry into an exploration of our nation’s early central banking history. Today’s Federal Reserve Bank is the country’s third central banking system. The first—the First Bank of the United States—operated from 1791 to 1811 and was the brainchild of our nation’s first Treasury Secretary, Alexander Hamilton (Figure 3).
The newly-formed United States was left facing a sizable public debt at the end of the Revolutionary War. Hamilton’s voracious reading habits, coupled with his experience as a clerk for a Caribbean merchant, left him with a sound understanding of economic systems. Prior to proposing a national bank, he helped found the Bank of New York in 1784 (PBS 2019). He envisioned the formation of a central bank that would stimulate the economy and provide much-needed credit for building the new nation. Hamilton’s 1790 proposal to Congress for a national bank was passed into law in early 1791. Hamilton’s other fiscal achievements included establishment of the U. S. Mint, consolidating the states’ debts into a national debt handled by the US Treasury and creating taxes on domestic production to help fund the military (Federal Reserve 2019).
The First Bank of the United States, located in Philadelphia (Figure 4), was chartered for twenty years. The Federal Government held twenty percent ownership in its ten million dollars of capital. The bank fulfilled numerous financial/fiscal roles: tax collection, credit extension, issuing standard currency, making commercial loans, handling foreign exchange and serving as a depository for government funds. In addition to rapidly stabilizing the national economy, the bank helped position the United States on equal financial footing with European nations.
From its beginning, centralized banking met with opposition. The agrarian southern states, as represented by politicians like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, were against the bank, while the more industrialized northern states were in favor. The split eventually helped lead to the formation of our nation’s first two political parties – the pro-bank Federalist party and the anti-bank Democratic-Republicans. Opponents saw the central bank as an overreach of executive branch power—similar to the opposition by state-chartered banks, who felt central financial control was an insult to state’s rights and unwanted competition.
Republican control of the executive branch, beginning at the turn of the 19th century, led to the bank’s charter not being renewed at the end of its initial twenty-year term. Due to the dissolution of the First Central Bank in 1811, the United States was faced with economic difficulty during the War of 1812, when there was no central bank to fund the military (PBS 2019). James Madison, initially an opponent to centralized banking, supported the creation of the second centralized banking system in 1817. Andrew Jackson did not renew the charter for the Second Bank of the United States in 1836 and it was not until 1913 that the third iteration of central banking – the Federal Reserve—was created (Britannica 2019).
In 1849, Maryland citizens could purchase a newly-published book whose origins began in their own state. Entitled The Life of Josiah Henson, Formerly a Slave, Now an Inhabitant of Canada, as Narrated by Himself, this volume recounted Henson’s life, including his childhood as an enslaved individual in Charles County. In and of itself, the publication of slave narratives—personal accounts of life in bondage—was not an unusual occurrence during the antebellum period. What makes this volume stand out is that it served as the inspiration for Harriet Beecher Stowe’s 1852 anti-slavery novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The second most translated book ever published (after the Bible), Uncle Tom’s Cabin helped galvanize the abolitionist movement in the United States (Robbins 2019).
Even without the Stowe connection, Henson (Figure 1) was an interesting man in his own right. While Henson stated his birth date as 1789, he may have actually been born closer to 1798 on a plantation known as “La Grange”. Subjected as a child to multiple acts of cruelty and violence, Henson eventually ended up in present-day Rockville, Maryland, where he became an overseer for Isaac Riley. Escaping enslavement with his family in 1830, Henson relocated to Canada and helped to found the British American Institute of Science and Industry and the Dawn Settlement, a community for former slaves. Henson became active in the Underground Railroad, serving as a conductor, as well as speaking extensively about his experiences as a way to raise money for refugee slaves. He also became a Methodist minister. Before his death in 1883, Henson had visited Queen Victoria at Windsor Castle and been the guest of President Rutherford B. Hayes at the White House (Brock 2018).
Henson has sparked a great deal of intellectual curiosity over the years and recently this interest has taken an archaeological turn. In 2009, archaeologists working for the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, Montgomery Parks began archaeological exploration at the Josiah Henson Site (18MO653). One of the goals of the project was to discover archaeological traces that could be dated to the period that Henson and another twenty enslaved individuals lived at this site. This multi-year project was featured in 2014 on an episode of the archaeological reality show Time Team America. A museum dedicated to the community enslaved at Riley’s plantation will open in late 2020 at the Josiah Henson Park.
In 2016, a group of archaeologists from St. Mary’s College of Maryland did work at a property known today as La Grange (18CH928) near Port Tobacco, where Henson was born (Webster et al., 2017). It was during testing of a trash midden area between the house and the quarter that a small copper alloy artifact was discovered. It was originally part of a kitchen tool known as a pastry wheel or pie crimper, used for cutting and trimming pie dough (Figure 2). The small wheel would have originally been set in a handle that allowed it to rotate freely (Figure 3). Although dating to the same period as Henson’s life at La Grange, it is unlikely that he ever used or even saw this object. Cooking was considered women’s work and the plantation kitchen would have been located near the main house and in an area probably off-limits to children.
Stowe, Harriet Beecher. 1852. Uncle Tom’s Cabin; or, Life Among the Lowly. John J. Jewett & Co., Boston.
Acknowledgments: The author would like to thank Cassandra Michaud of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, Montgomery Parks for providing information about the excavations at the Josiah Henson Park.
During the Baltimore
Center for Urban Archaeology’s 1987 excavation of the Brown’s Wharf site
(18BC59), archaeologists uncovered an unusual find—a complete wooden barrel
whose staves were held together with split tree branch bands (Figures 1 and 2).
Barrels like this one, which dated to
the mid-nineteenth century, were used for storing virtually anything, including
grain, salted meat, cider, whale oil and dried and pickled fish. And indeed, removing the soil filling the
interior of this barrel, revealed – among other items like a metal funnel, a
shoe, rope and a broken champagne bottle—sixty menhaden (Figure 3), whose
bodies had been preserved in a tarry substance (Stevens 1989).
The Atlantic menhaden (Brevoortia tyrannus) is a native North
American schooling fish in the herring family, ranging from Nova Scotia to
Florida (Figure 4). Small and oily, menhaden
are not considered an appetizing meal for humans, but are prey for larger fish
like weakfish, striped bass and bluefish. Menhaden’s primary food source is phytoplankton.
Menhaden have had a
long and important history for the Chesapeake Bay region. Although long used by
Native Americans as fertilizer, perhaps the earliest written record of menhaden
was penned by Captain John Smith, who described them as “lying so thick with
their heads above the water, as for want of nets (our barge driving amongst
them) we attempted to catch them with a frying pan.” (Smith 1624). Although not favored as a human food,
menhaden have been used in paint, as a bait fish, for fertilizer, as animal
feed, in human dietary supplements and as lamp oil (Chesapeake Bay Foundation
2019). Large numbers of processing
plants sprang up along the Atlantic coast for converting menhaden into these
Almost four hundred years later, a time-traveling John Smith
would be disheartened at the menhaden population in the Chesapeake Bay. Once menhaden oil began to replace whale oil
for lighting and as an industrial lubricant in the late nineteenth century,
menhaden populations began to decline (Franklin 2008; Chesapeake Bay Foundation
2019). These numbers continued to plummet as overharvesting went on throughout
the twentieth century, with the menhaden fishery being the largest in the
Some conservationists refer to menhaden as “the most
important fish in the sea”, since they form a vital part of the marine food web
(Franklin 2008). With menhaden numbers
depleted, populations of phytoplankton, “a major cause of algae blooms and
brown tides” (Carini 2017), explode, to the detriment of the coastal waters. Studies by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries
Commission (ASMFC) have shown the striped bass population suffering
malnutrition because of the reduced menhaden population (Chesapeake Bay
In an attempt to curb population reduction, the ASMFC voted
in 2012 to cap the harvest of menhaden at 20 percent less than the previous
three year’s catch (Carini 2017). A
population study completed in 2017 showed that menhaden numbers are increasing,
but still not at levels considered healthy for the ecology of the Atlantic
coastal ecosystem (Chesapeake Bay Foundation 2019; Carini 2017). Since the Chesapeake
Bay is the source of almost 87% of the menhaden harvested in the Atlantic (with
Virginia fisherman allocated over 85% of the harvest), the population recovery
has not been as successful in the Bay (Dunn 2017). Although small in size, menhaden loom large
in the overall health of the Chesapeake Bay’s ecosystem and conservation
measures need to continue.
Stevens, Kristen L.
1989. An Investigation of the Archaeological Resources Associated with the
Brown’s Wharf Site (18BC59) on Thames Street, Baltimore, Maryland. Baltimore Center for Urban Archaeology
Research Series No. 28. On file at MHT.
Archaeologists working on domestic sites are almost sure to
find at least one example of that most humble of artifacts—the sewing thimble. Whether
manufactured from brass, iron, aluminum or silver, most of these thimbles are
the familiar closed-top variety. But a small percentage are open-topped thimble
Like a closed-top thimble, these sewing rings—as they were
also called—were used to help push a needle through fabric. Thimble rings, which
protected the side, rather than the top of the finger, were often used by
tailors or individuals sewing heavy cloth, like canvas sails or leather (Holmes
Thimble rings would
have been an everyday tool in 18th– and 19th-century Baltimore,
when the city was renowned as a center for shipbuilding. By 1809, there were nine shipyards in the
city, many of them located in the Fell’s Point neighborhood. Before the advent
of steam engines, ships relied on the wind and sails for power. And where shipbuilding flourished, so too did
the production of canvas sails. Eleven
sail makers worked in Baltimore in 1809; a number that had increased to 29 in
the 1822 city directory (Matchett 1822).
The size of sails made it expedient for sailmakers to work
in large, open floor plan workrooms known as lofts. Although the bolts of
canvas used for crafting sails were thirty-nine yards long, they were only two
feet wide, necessitating the piecing together of long strips of fabric (Allan
2018). Some of the largest sails could
weigh in at over a ton (Allen 2018). Standardized rules governed the profession
of sailmaking and numerous treatises were published in the 19th
century with guidelines for constructing different types of sails (O’Regan
2014). And sailmaking was not just a dry
land activity; all sailing vessels needed the services of a sailmaker on board
for at-sea repairs.
While flax linen imported from Europe had typically been used
for making sails, the introduction of new spinning and weaving technology in
the early 19th century brought about the transition to cotton
(O’Regan 2014). Cotton duck proved to be
a strong, tightly woven fabric perfect for creating sails. Cotton grown in the
American South was imported to cotton mills along Baltimore’s Jones Falls and
these mills found a ready market among sailmakers (Nettles 2019).
Within three decades of the 1843 development of
steam-powered ships, “virtually all merchant and military ships had converted
to metal hulls and steam power” (Nettles 2019). While it might seem that the
advent of steam-powered vessels would have been a death knell for sailmakers,
this was not the case. Mid-19th
century technological advancements in food canning and preservation brought
about a boom in the oyster industry, with an attendant need for sails to outfit
Chesapeake oyster boats (Brewington 1970). During the Civil War, sailmakers found
employment making tents for soldiers.
Today, the use of sailing vessels is more of a sport and
recreational activity, rather than economic or military necessity. Technological improvements in fabric
manufacture have advanced the art of sailmaking well beyond heavy canvas into a
range of lighter weight polyester blends. Although Baltimore was once a center
for shipbuilding and sailmaking, today that honor seems to have shifted south
to Annapolis, where a search of the yellow pages reveals a number of companies
specializing in sail design and production.
Brewington, Marion V. 1970 Chesapeake Sailmaking. Maryland Historical Magazine Volume 65, Issue 2.
Holmes, Edwin F. 1985 A History of Thimbles. Cornwall Books, New York.
Matchett, R. J. 1822 C. Keenan’s Baltimore directory for 1822 & ’23 : together with the eastern and western precincts, never before included : a correct account of removals, new firms, and other useful information. R. J. Matchett, Baltimore.