NPR: Digging Up The Roots Of Modern Waste In Victorian-Era Rubbish

I wanted to share this great article from NPR that covers many of the same topics of interest as this blog.

victorian bottles

“In the landfill, the food waste has long disintegrated. What’s left is Victorian-era packaging.

“What we find in the 1880s and 1890s is that more and more packaged products are coming onto the market,” Licence explains to his volunteers. “People have got more money in their pockets to spend, and rather than making things at home, they’re buying it in small containers, bottles and tins, and those things really can’t be reused, they can’t be kept.”

With more and more disposable, packaged goods, the average household’s volume of garbage skyrocketed.”

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Pond’s Extract Company, New York City, NY

Endorsed by queens and celebrities, Pond’s Cold Cream and Vanishing Cream were  revolutionary products that were aggressively marketed, which contributed to the foundation of the modern cosmetics industry, making proper skin care a vital priority for women of all ages at the turn of the century.

Jar embossed "PONDS"

Jar embossed “POND’S”

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Carter’s Ink Company, Boston, MA

According to Ed & Lucy Faulkner, the Carter’s Ink Company was a manufacturer of ink and related products, in Boston and later Cambridge, Massachusetts. It was once the largest ink manufacturer in the world.

Carter's Ink bottle

Carter’s Ink bottle

bottle embossed "Carter's"

bottle embossed “Carter’s”

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Rubifoam for the Teeth, E. W. Hoyt & Co., Lowell, MA

According to Cliff & Linda Hoyt “Rubifoam for the Teeth was sold by E. W. Hoyt & Co. (The name is pronounced like Ruby Foam due to the brilliant red color of the product.) It was introduced in 1887, the same year that E.W. Hoyt died at the age of 49.  In addition to trade cards the company also published a number of pamphlets for Rubifoam. The pamphlets typically were providing information on taking care of your teeth.”  The E. W. Hoyt & Co. was also well known for producing Hoyt’s German Cologne, which the firm widely advertised with Rubifoam in many decorative and often colorful trade cards, pamphlets and magazines ads.


Bottle embossed “Rubifoam FOR THE TEETH PUT UP BY E. W. HOYT & Co LOWELL, MASS”

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Warner’s Safe Cure, Rochester, NY

Warner’s Safe Cure was a very successful patent medicine, aggressively marketed by Hulbert Harrington Warner. According to Joe Nickell “Warner (1842–1923) was a Rochester, New York, patent-medicine mogul. Having become wealthy in a previous business specializing in fire- and burglar-proof safes, he purchased a medicinal formula from a Rochester physician, Dr. Charles Craig. Warner would subsequently claim that Craig’s vegetable concoction had cured his Bright’s disease (a vague, obsolete designation for kidney disease) when he was near death. He introduced his Warner’s Safe Kidney & Liver Cure in 1879. Before long, the admired name of Craig was dropped from Warner’s advertisements—perhaps about the time Warner sued Craig for attempting to market a virtually identical ‘cure’.”

Wikipedia states that “In addition to his Kidney & Liver Cure, Warner also introduced a Safe Nervine, Safe Diabetes Cure, Safe Tonic, Safe Tonic Bitters, Safe Bitters, Safe Rheumatic Cure, Safe Pills, and later his Tippecanoe Bitters. The Warner’s patent medicine products, with the exception of the Safe Pills and Tippecanoe, appeared in a unique bottle, which featured an embossed safe on the front. This drew upon his earlier business and implied to his potential customers that his product posed no risk.”

Bottle embossed

Bottle embossed “Warner’s Safe Kidney & Liver Cure, Rochester, NY”

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Chapman & Smith Co. Chicago, IL

Founded in 1878 by John Henry Chapman, Chapman & Smith Co. were wholesale dealers of supplies for bakers, confectioners and ice cream makers, according to The Book of Chicagoans: A Biographical Dictionary of Leading Living Men of the City of Chicago, 1905.  Because Chapman & Smith sold direct to bakers and other food producers, the company didn’t print lovely advertisements in magazines or create endearing Victorian trade cards the way contemporary manufacturing companies did.  Primary sources suggest the Chapman & Smith Co. moved locations 3 times and lasted until at least 1959.

The company is notable to the Old Main assemblage because Chapman & Smith Co. extract bottles were the most numerous identifiable brand in the food category, owing to their use of glass embossing rather than paper labels, which deteriorate over time.

Bottle embossed

Bottle embossed “Chapman & Smith Co. Trade Mark Chicago, U.S.A.”

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Red Raven Co., Harmerville, PA

Although the Red Raven Splits bottle is similar in size and shape to beer or soda, Marianne Dow, states “Not an alcoholic beverage, it was sold as a hang-over cure, so it was sold in bars as well as restaurants, hotels, and stores.  Not a sweet soft drink, it was an aperient water, somewhat bitter, sold in a small bottle.”  Red Raven might be one of the rare cases in which the advertising was as successful as the product itself, if not more. Marianne Dow, states “Billy Baxter was the alter ego, if you will, of William J. Kountz, Jr., the man who started the Red Raven Corp. and the Duquesne Distributing Co of Harmerville, Alleghany County, PA. It’s difficult to tell which came first: the concept of selling Red Raven Splits or Kountz’s writings about Billy Baxter’s wild revelries. It appears that Kountz wrote a humorous booklet called One Night In New York Society, which was well received in gentleman’s clubs, bars, etc. with patrons reading the stories out loud, and clamoring for more.  Kountz quickly penned several more booklets, and now they included advertising for his product, Red Raven Splits. Orders started coming in for more books, and, ‘oh, what the heck, some of the bottled water too’.”

Bottle embossed


Bottle embossed “RED RAVEN”

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