Gleason Park Artifacts Gallery

Most artifacts that archaeologists find are common items you may recognize and use everyday in your own life.  Hair combs, food containers, and nails are just as important as a gold mask on an Egyptian mummy, and may even tell us more about the people associated with them.  The artifacts presented here are objects you might see in any house and are clues to understanding health and hygiene, consumerism, and socioeconomic identity in the Victorian Era.


Health and Hygiene



Ceramic ToothbrushThe toothbrush shape as you know it started being made around 1800.  This toothbrush is made from ivory and would have held natural animal hair bristles.  Those bristles have degraded and fallen out over time.  The nylon bristles used today were not invented until 1938.


False TeethWe even found a set of false teeth!  It is a metal frame that fits against the roof of the mouth, similar to a retainer you or your friends wear after braces.  Fake teeth are attached to the ends that fit between existing real teeth.


Holden Drug bottle"The Holden Drug Co." "Cor Main & El Dorado Streets/Stockton, CA"  Bottle base has a date "[AT] Jan 3 189[2]"  "Cor" is an abbreviation for "corner", so the location of this drug company was at the corner of Main St and El Dorado St., approximately 10 blocks from the excavation site.


Apothercary Bottle"WM J. BRAYAN/APOTHECARY/SAN FRANCISCO"  Did the person who used and threw away this bottle come from San Francisco?  Did he or she trust that apothecary (pharmacist) more than those in Stockton?  The bottle does not say what was in it, but the bottle likely contained medicine.


With the Victorian Era came a new, intense focus on health-related issues.  Urban life was expanding and diseases spread quickly if the city had bad sanitation.  A glance at old advertisements in the newspapers shows how drug, perfume, and cosmetic companies took advantage of this interest in personal health, hygiene, and appearance.  We have three pieces of evidence of dental care.  Patent medicine bottles are evidence of individuals trying to self-medicate a health ailment.  Many different drug companies created "medicine" and claimed their product was the best to cure fevers, or coughs, or baldness.


Consumer Behavior and Socioeconomic Class

What people choose to buy can tell us about their ethnicity, gender, social class, or what they want to present as their identity.   Do you choose Nike or Adidas?  Pepsi or Coca-Cola?  Why?  Variations between the archaeological deposits associated with different houses may indicate differences in cultural identity and socioeconomic class.  At the same time, the presence of similar artifacts may say something about the availability of the same mass-produced goods.  The Sears & Roebuck mail-order catalog sold everything from toothbrushes, to clothes, to houses.  Most of the goods that people purchased, like plates, drinking glasses, medicine bottles and food containers were mass-produced, especially if from mail-order or local stores.


PlateJohn Edwards (& Co.) mark on the base, "Porcelain de Terre".  This dish was made sometime between 1880-1900.  It could have been used for many years after that if it did not break.  The bowl is decorated on the inside and outside with blue, pink and gold flowers.  Designs and patterns like these flowers can help archaeologists date a ceramic artifact if they know that design was only made for a specific period of time.  Food does not preserve, but the storage containers and serving items do. The type of dish can help you interpret the foods people ate.


TeapotThis teapot has gold over-glaze edging around the rim and the base.  The spout and handle were at one point completely covered in this gold over-glaze.  Possibly manufactured by Hammersley & Co., based on impressed initials on the base of the pot [H&Co].  This company manufactured china between 1887-1932.


TeacupThis thin white teacup has no decorative pattern or maker's mark.  Archaeologists can use markings on the base of ceramics of the manufacturer's logo to estimate a date.  Most ceramics came from England, because American pottery and ceramics were seen as inferior to English manufacturers. Even Sears only stocked English ceramics in the late 1800s, because they only stocked "the best."


Teapot 2This teapot is very different in appearance than the white teapot.  There is no maker's mark.  Remnants of wires wrapped around the loop on the back side of the lid were part of the handle.  The brown-grey color of the clay suggests "stoneware" or "unfinished earthenware", which were both used for utilitarian items.  This teapot's design was more about function than appearance.  Notice the nodule at the base (below the textured glaze in the picture)?  There are three of these and all have fingerprint impressions. This was handmade.  Was it made in California or elsewhere and imported?  Did an immigrant bring this with them?  This teapot was thrown on a pottery wheel.


It was important to create a domestic setting that embodied the social values of the Victorian period.  Formal social visits, complete with afternoon tea, were a part of the Victorian behavior patterns.  Entertaining was done in the parlor of a house.  The parlor was where people displayed their material culture, as one way of showing their social status.  The two teapots are very different. Were they both used for afternoon tea parties?  Were they used by women of different social classes or ethnic identities?  Did the teacup belong to a set, or was it the only one someone owned?  What do you think?


Riding cropA riding crop is a type of whip for horse riding.  This one is engraved, possibly with a name, but the corrosion makes it too difficult to read.  This is made from a cupreous metal 0, meaning it has some copper in it; copper turns green when it rusts.  You can see hints of the elaborate 3D details and design.  It could indicate its user had a horse, or because we are in an urban setting, perhaps it was simply an accessory to appear high status.  The middle class was growing during the late 1800s and early 1900s.  They used objects as symbols of status and economic achievement to appear closer to the elite upper class.


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This City of Stockton web page last reviewed on --- 5/12/2015