Sublime weed, Lady Nicotine… the smoking vice!

‘Tobacco divine, rare, which goes far beyond all their panaceas, potable gold, a remedy to diseases…But, as it is commonly abused by most men, who take it as tinkers do ale, it’s a plague, a mischief, a violent purge of goods, lands, health, hellish, devilish, and damned tobacco, the ruin and overthrow of body and soul’ (Burton, 1948: 577).

Tobacco is a plant native to America, originally used in religious and medicinal practices by Native Americans. When Christopher Columbus arrived in America in 1492, the locals gave him dried tobacco leaves and then…consumption of tobacco took off among Europeans (Dayton University 2017).

This amazing French moulded clay pipe shows a Native American figure crouching at the front of the bowl, with a smoking pipe in his hand and tobacco leaves decorating the bowl on either side. We don’t yet know who the figure is, but it is the coolest artefact I’ve ever seen so far and also, it fits perfectly with our topic today, doesn’t it? Image: J. Garland.

Tobacco was likely first dried or toasted and chewed, or powdered for inhalation through the nose in what is known as ‘snuffing’. More recently, men and women started using pipes and the predecessors to modern cigarettes to smoke tobacco as a daily narcotic.

A slightly more modern container for ‘dried tobacco’. The label on this tin, found underneath the floors of a farmhouse on the outskirts of Christchurch, indicates that it originally contained cut cake tobacco, possibly originating in Antwerp. Cut cake tobacco was advertised for sale in tins in the late 19th and early 20th centuries (Mt Ida Chronicle 19/4/1888: 2): the most commonly referenced types appear to be Empire Cut Cake, from Dobie and Sons, and Four-Square Cut Cake (Auckland Star 29/6/1936: 14, Marlborough Express 8/8/1877: 3). Image: J. Garland.

The popularity of tobacco grew quickly in Europe due to its hypothetical curative properties, which were particularly encouraged by Jean Nicot, from whom the genus Nicotiana took the name (Rogers 2010). Over the years scientists began to investigate the chemicals in tobacco and came to understand the dangerous effects that smoking produces. As early as 1826, the pure form of nicotine was discovered and the conclusion drawn that it constituted a harmful poison (Rodgman and Perfetti 2013).

Left: Manawatu Times 18/04/1925: 3. Right top: Auckland Star 24/03/1931: 13. Right bottom: Northern Advocate 11/03/1932: 8.

While the English developed a predilection for the pipe, the Spanish preferred the cigar and The French took a liking to snuff. It was in Spain that the tobacco manufacturing industry produced the small and cheaper versions of the cigar, famously hand-rolled by women workers in Seville. That image captured the imaginations in France, and cigarritos became cigarettes, one of the most commonly used words in the world (Random History 2007-2017).

Snuff! Not just appreciated by the French, if this English bottle is anything to go by. Taddy & Co. snuff jar from London. Taddy and Co. were tobacconists and snuff merchants with a long history – this particular jar dates to their 19th century operations at 45 Minories, London. The company was established in 1740 in London as sellers of tobacco, snuff and tea (Matlach 2013). They became one of the most important tobacco companies in Britain and were well known for their cigarette cards showing famous actors, actresses, footballers or cricketers. The first of its kind that we’ve seen! Image: J. Garland.

‘Morris Cigarettes’ box. In 1847, the famous Philip Morris was established, selling hand rolled Turkish cigarettes. Cigarettes became popular around this time when soldiers brought them back to England from the Russian and Turkish soldiers. Philip Morris was a British tobacconist and cigarette importer, who first manufactured Morris cigarettes, known as ‘Philip Morris English ovals’, in 1854. The name was later used for ‘Philip Morris Inc. Ltd’, established in New York in 1902 (Wikipedia 2017), when he set up a New York headquarters to market its cigarettes, including a now famous Malboro brand. In 1924 Morris began to market its cigarettes to women and gained 38% of the market. ‘Morris Cigarettes’ were first advertised in New Zealand newspapers in 1910 (Temuka Leader 4/01/1910: 1). Image: M. Lillo Bernabeu.

Smoking for pleasure received its greatest endorsement from Sir Walter Raleigh in the 16th century (Latham 2017), and even today, smoking remains prevalent in many cultures, despite its increasing reputation as a bad habit.

A saucer, decorated with a Chinese scene in which a long pipe is smoked. How cool is that? CHANG is the pattern name. This Chinoiserie design featured two figures, dressed in oriental clothing, in a garden or house and the saucer. was made by Holland and Green, in production between 1853 and 1882 (Godden 1991: 331). Image: J. Garland.

Tobacco smoking arrived in New Zealand with the earliest European settlers and tobacco consumption increased quickly during the mid and late 19th century. It wasn’t just an elitist habit, but was also widely spread among the middle and lower classes, especially among working men. Tobacco was fairly accessible at all levels of society and, increasingly, the paraphernalia of smoking – such as clay tobacco pipes – were cheap and disposable.

One of our favourite artefact types, as you well know. In the second half of the 19th century the production of decorated clay pipes increased. These commemorated events, carried slogans and advertisements, animals, fruits or flowers, and they were categorised as fancy clays or fancies (Ayto 1994: 7). We’ve talked about them a few times in older posts either on the blog or Facebook because they are pretty, and we love them! A perfect example of these ‘fancies’ is this smoking pipe featuring the royal bust of Queen Victoria on one side and the words ROYAL JUBILEE PIPE on the other side. This pipe was made for commemorating 60 years of Victoria’s reign in 1897. Also, the name of DUNEDIN is impressed on the one side of the stem, while M[C]PHEE is impressed on the other, referring to George McPhee. He was a tobacco pipe maker in Glasgow from 1861 onwards with his wife, who was a tobacco pipe trimmer (White 2016: 16). George McPhee arrived in New Zealand in 1880. George’s son, John McPhee, started pipe making experiments with a concerted effort to re-launch the business in Dunedin around 1890 and he was making clay tobacco pipes until 1908 (White 2016: 27). The McPhees were at the front of a brand-new industry for New Zealand and they appeared to be the first New Zealand clay pipe makers (White 2016: 27-28). Image: M. Lillo Bernabeu.

The stem of this pipe, collected from a Christchurch site, is longer than 120 mm, indicating that it belonged to a long pipe like a churchwarden. This type of pipe was easily broken, and it was said that Charles Dickens invented that name or at least he was the responsible for perpetuating the name (Ayto 1994: 6). Churchwarden pipes were mentioned in New Zealand newspapers from at least 1872 onwards (West Coast Times 16/10/1872). The stem had a W. SOUTHORN & CO / BROSELEY maker’s mark, referring to William Southorn, a tobacco pipe manufacturer based in Broseley, Shropshire, England. He established his pipeworks as early as 1823 and they were making tobacco pipes until the 1950s (Science Museum 2017). Image: M. Lillo Bernabeu.

It wasn’t until 1900 when cigarritos became the most common tobacco product on the market. Along with modern advertising, a key innovation took place at the end of the 19th century century: Virginian James Bonsack patented a machine in 1881 that produced 200 cigarettes per minute, as many in a day as forty human employees rolling by hand! Cigarette smoking increased during the World Wars, during which they were given free to soldiers. An easy way for the companies to create loyal customers! Evidence of this universally widespread habit is recorded archaeologically – we’ve found a variety of American and British brands under the floors of Christchurch houses.

W.D. and H.O. Wills maker’s mark on the top of the lid. This company was founded in 1786 and went by various names before 1830 when it became W.D. and H.O. Wills. Tobaccos and cigarettes made by W.D. and H.O. Wills were very popular with New Zealand smokers. The company began manufacturing tobacco products in New Zealand in 1919 at its factory in Petone, Wellington (British American Tobacco New Zealand 2017). Tobacco was processed and sold under several brand names, some of which were still used by Imperial Tobacco until the second half of the 20th century. The company pioneered the use of cigarette cards within their packaging. Image: C. Dickson.

Top: Cardboard cigarette boxes. CHESS SPECIALLY SELECTED VIRGINIA LEAF/ HIGNETT Bros & Co / ENGLAND CIGARETTES. Bottom: THE ‘GREYS’ SILK CUT VIRGINIA TOBACCO. This second one was reused as a shopping list, headed with the words: ‘Supply Stores’. A range of items can be read: ‘butter, sugar, eggs, […], biscuits, soda, […], cornflour, cookies, jellies, […] fruit, […], dried fruit. What a splendid example of reusing and recycling! Image: M. Lillo Bernabeu.

Top and bottom view of a matchbox. Matchboxes are a relatively uncommon find on Christchurch archaeological sites. They are made of tin, which often remained heavily rusted but still identifiable by the shape. It is believed that Richard Bell from Wandsworth, London, was the earliest exclusive manufacturer of matches (as we know them now), from 1832 onwards (Anson, 1983). Unluckily, this example lacks embossing and we don’t have any information about manufacturer and/or brand, which is a shame. It is a good one though! Image: M. Lillo Bernabeu.

Luckily, we also have a tiny piece of an embossed matchbox! Bell and Black were a match making partnership operating during the mid- 19th century, although exact dates are unclear. Richard Bell began a match business in London in the 1830s and was joined at some point by Black (Anson 1983). Bell and Black matchboxes have been found on sites throughout New Zealand and Australia dating to the mid-late 19th century and accounted for 13% of all matches imported into New Zealand between 1870-1894 (Tasker 1993). The New Zealand market was as good as gold for Bell and Black and in 1895, they decided to open a factory in Wellington. In 1910 the two-successful match producing factories in New Zealand became one: Bryant and May, Bell and Company (Tasker 1993). The new firm consolidated its position and still produces most of the matches used in New Zealand. Left: M. Lillo Bernabeu. Right: Grey River Argus 21/07/1894: 4.

Tobacco also played a significant role in the construction of identity and gender, the notions of masculinity and femininity from the 19th century onwards, both here in New Zealand and across the world. According to the principles of liberalism, men were all self-controlled and rational, while women were biologically incapable of both values (Hilton 2000). The image of respectable male smoker was constructed in the public sphere, into which women could not enter without putting their reputation into risk. And of course, a respectable female didn’t smoke.

How to resist to the charms of cigarettes? Advice for women! Due to their maternal role as the caretakers of children, they shouldn’t smoke? Fair enough, says Dr Roberston Wallace…Gender does matter, and smoking was supposed to be – and probably, actually was – a man thing . Press 27/05/1905: 9.

Observer 7/05/1898: 13. Mrs Cunnington was member of Women’s Social and Politic League, and highly influential in cultural and social life in Christchurch in the late 19th and early 20th century. Of course, you know what I’m thinking…she was colleague of another politically active woman: Fanny Cole. Instead of an image of the popular Sir Walter Raleigh encouraging the smokers, I chose Mrs Cunnington, because she was a woman also endorsing smoking as a good thing, at a time when smoking was a practice typically associated with men. We love (well, I love) transgressor women (in the positive meaning of the word): women who broke the established rules to achieve equality rights. And Mrs Cunnington was one of those, as was Mrs Cole, in their different ways.

As the Temperance Union brawled to reduce alcohol consumption, women also starred in the struggle against the vice of smoking. Observer 1/10/1901: 12.

The male smoker was not just a consumer, but instead a true friend and a passionate follower of the goddess nicotine. The pleasure of smoking could be enjoyed along with other entertainments like dancing, drinking or gambling, a kind of freedom only stopped apparently, by getting married (see below).

Observer 1/02/1908: 17.

Lastly, let’s say that smoking as male habit turns around well into the 20th century, when women began to smoke, in part to liberate themselves symbolically from political and social oppression. Smoking as an expression of maturity, sexiness and sophistication linked to the liberal notions of independence and individuality, eventually lessened the male monopoly on tobacco.

See, definitely entangled with gender issues! Free Lance 18/07/1914: 8.

Evening Post 3/12/1927: 15. Hope you allow me the ironies today. I absolutely agree, it seems a comfy suit. But I don’t understand why in particular for the smokers. Ha! Gotcha! To put the smoking stuff in your pockets! There is no doubt, clever design!

Unfortunately, we haven’t found much sure evidence of women smoking (or specifically of men, to be fair) in the archaeological record. Women feature as decoration on clay pipes, and we’ve found a few examples decorated in styles usually associated with ‘the feminine’, but – as we’ve discussed before on the blog – attributing gender to objects in archaeology is not always as easy as we would like.

Feminine pipes? Who knows! Anyway, on top, two colourful pipes decorated with flowers and at the bottom, a fancy pipe with a female figure ridding side-saddle along the stem. Certainly, an elegant lady! Image: J. Garland.

At this point, only left an essential question…is smoking a vice?

What a witty man… Observer 1/12/1906: 16.

Maria Lillo Bernabeu

References

Anson, D., 1983. Typology and Seriation of Wax Vesta Tin Matchboxes from Central Otago: A New Method of Dating Historic Sites in New Zealand. [online] Available at http://nzarchaeology.org/cms/NZJA/Vol%205%201983/NZJA5.115-138Anson.pdf [Accessed November 2017]

Ayto, E. G., 1994. Clay Tobacco Pipes. Shire Publications.

British American Tobacco New Zealand, 2017. [online] Available at: http://www.batnz.com/group/sites/BAT_9VNKQW.nsf/vwPagesWebLive/DO9T5K5C [Accessed November 2017}

Burton, R., 1948. The Anatomy of Melancholy. Tudor Publishing. New York.

Dayton University, 2017. The History of Tobacco, [online] Available at: http://academic.udayton.edu/health/syllabi/tobacco/history.htm [Accessed November 2017]

Godden, G., 1991. Encyclopaedia of British Pottery and Porcelain Marks. Crown Publishers, New York.

Hilton, M., 2000. Smoking in British popular culture 1800-2000. Perfect Pleasures. Manchester University Press. Manchester and New York.

Latham, A.M.C., 2017. Sir Walter Raleigh. [online] Available at: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Walter-Raleigh-English-explorer [Accessed November 2017]

Paper Past. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz. [Accessed November 2017]

The Long Tobacco Road. A History of Smoking from Ritual to Cigarette, 2009. [online] Available at: http://www.randomhistory.com/2009/01/31_tobacco.html [Accessed November 2017]

Rodgman, A. and Perfetti, A., 2013. The Chemical Components of Tobacco and Tobacco Smoking. CRC Press. Taylor & Francis Group. Boca Raton. London. New York.

Tasker, J., 1993. NZ Matches and Matchboxes. Ohinemuri Regional History Journal, Vol. 37. [online] Available at http://www.ohinemuri.org.nz/journals/65-journal-37-september-1993/1370-nz-matches-and-matchboxes [Accessed November 2017].

White, S., 2016. The McPhees: New Zealand’s first clay pipemakers. Archaeology in New Zealand, v. 59, pp.10-28.

 

Class, wealth & power

The challenge for this week’s blog was to consider class and buildings – more specifically: houses. When I decided to write this post, I thought it’d be relatively straightforward – I have a really interesting house to tell you about, and it definitely has something to say about social stratification. But I’ve started writing this about four times now, and each time it’s beaten me, because I’m struggling to understand and outline what this house says about class. As Jessie outlined in our last post, class is tricky. And the more you look at it, the harder it seems to get. To echo our last post further, we just don’t understand class in 19th century Christchurch well enough yet to begin to try and interpret very real objects in relation to this slippery, ephemeral concept.

 North elevation, cottage. Image: L. Tremlett and M. Hennessey.


North elevation, cottage. Image: L. Tremlett and M. Hennessey.

Let’s start with the basics. I think we can all agree that social stratification is readily apparent in houses today. It was no different in 19th century Christchurch. But what sort of social stratification are we actually seeing? Class is only one means by which society is stratified. The two other primary means are power and wealth, both of which are easier to define than class – and can clearly be related to class, and/or each other. Power can be social power, or economic, political, financial or even the power of celebrity. At its most simplistic level, wealth relates to how much money you have, and can also include the value of your assets. I’m sure economists and accountants have much finer, more nuanced ways of defining this concept, but we’ll stick with the obvious for now.

Of these three concepts, it seems to me that wealth is easiest to examine through tangible objects (whether the china you buy or the house you live in). It’s still not that simple, though: you might not choose to spend your money on material goods, preferring instead to travel, or to invest for the future, or to donate to charity. Or you could live on credit, living beyond your means to maintain a facade of wealth (possibly for status-related reasons). Different things, after all, are important to different people.

When it comes to houses and interpreting the wealth of the occupant, there are some other factors that need to be considered. Did the occupant build this house for themselves? Or did they buy a house that someone else built? Or are they a tenant? And if this last is the case, is it an indication of a relative lack of wealth, of an inability to generate sufficient income to pay a deposit? New Zealand society today places a high value on owning your own house, but was this always the case? I don’t know too much about the housing market in 19th century Christchurch, in terms of what sort of deposit was required and/or what the mortgage rates were – this isn’t to say this research hasn’t been carried out, just that there hasn’t been time to look into this for this post.

The house I’m going to tell you about today was built as a rental property, but would eventually be occupied by someone who owned it. The house was in the northeast corner of the area bounded by the four avenues, and was built in the early-mid 1880s. It was a rather lovely little house. It was a single-storey bay villa, with a decorative barge board and a finial on the gable end (as an aside, we don’t often see these things on the 19th century villas we record, possibly because they get removed during the 20th century), and a verandah next to this. The bay had a decorative bay window with a pair of sash windows in it and the front door had both fan and sidelights, and there was another pair of sash windows next to this. In keeping with the fashion of the times, this facade was clad in rusticated weatherboards.

 Decorative features on the street-facing facade: finial (top left), bay window (right) and bargeboard (lower left). Image: L. Tremlett.


Decorative features on the street-facing facade: finial (top left), bay window (right) and bargeboard (lower left). Image: L. Tremlett.

Already, these components would have told the visitor to the house something about its occupants. The key things were the fashionable rusticated weatherboards; the double – rather than triple – sash windows; the decorative features; and the narrowness of the facade, indicating a relatively small building (this was no quarter-acre section). Based on what we’ve seen elsewhere in Christchurch, I think that these would’ve told the visitor that someone ‘respectable’ lived here, someone who could afford the niceties of life, but who also lived modestly, whether through choice or circumstance – and I cannot stress strongly enough that these are suppositions, untested hypotheses, and should not be taken as truths.

When the visitor opened the front door, they would have seen a ‘properly’ laid out Victorian home (regrettably, we know nothing about the furnishings, furniture or bric-a-brac the occupants used to decorate this house – another problem when examining status via a house). Straight ahead was an arch (with lovely plaster consoles) that separated the public and private spaces. Between the front door and the arch, there was a door to the master bedroom, where you could stow your coat while visiting and, to the left, the parlour or front room, where the visitor would have been entertained.

 Looking down the hallway from just inside the front door, with the door to the master bedroom at right. Image: L. Tremlett.


Looking down the hallway from just inside the front door, with the door to the master bedroom at right. Image: L. Tremlett.

Most visitors probably never went into the ‘private’ part, and thus never knew what was in there. So they wouldn’t have known that, while there were ceiling roses in the parlour and master bedroom, there were none in the rooms in the rear of the house. In addition, the height of the skirting boards reduced behind that arch and so did the thickness of the doors. And there were plinth blocks in front of the arch, but none to the rear. Plinth blocks aren’t even something we find in homes that we think belong to the moderately or the comfortably well-off – I think of plinth blocks as being restricted to the homes of the truly wealthy. We don’t see them often. There might have been other differences, too, but these were the ones that were still evident in 2013. Of course, the visitor could well have suspected these differences, given the image presented by the house’s facade, and because these differences between public and private spaces were not uncommon in Victorian villas. But the reality is that, in houses of this size (and in a house with ‘only’ pairs of sash windows on its street-facing facade), I wouldn’t have expected these differences, because we don’t often see them in small houses – which could be a problem of survival.

 Top: the ceiling rose in the parlour. Bottom: the plinth block in the parlour. Image: L. Tremlett.


Top: the ceiling rose in the parlour. Bottom: a plinth block at the base of the door between the parlour and the hall. Image: L. Tremlett.

The first occupant of this house was a Mrs Sarah Gault, a dressmaker who lived there from 1886 until 1889. Mrs Gault was Irish. She arrived in New Zealand in 1883, with her father Davis Black, other members of her paternal family and an Alexander Gault (Press 23/4/1883: 2, 9/6/1890: 4) – husband, brother-in-law, son? It’s not been possible to work out so far. Mrs Gault set up her dress-making business in Fitzgerald Avenue, operating from her home, a common practice for dressmakers in the 19th century (Malthus 1992, Star 21/4/1884: 4). A year later she moved into the house in question here, and continued to operate her business from home (Star 3/11/1885: 4). In the Wises Post Office directories (sort of like the White Pages, listing who lived at what address), she was listed as the only occupant of the house in question – this doesn’t mean that she was the only occupant, but it does mean that she was the chief breadwinner, and possibly that there wasn’t a man living at the house (as the male of the house was typically listed in the directories). In 1889, Sarah Gault moved elsewhere in the city, and continued to run her business from home (Star 10/9/1889: 2).

Mrs Gault’s trade meant that she would have received her clients at home, measuring and fitting them in her parlour (Malthus 1992). In her line of work, image may have been very important, depending on the type of clientele she wished to attract. The ceiling roses and plinth blocks, and the barge boards and finial, may have conveyed to her clients that, although she lived in a small house, she understood how one was ‘supposed’ to live and even – this could be quite a stretch – that she was ‘respectable’, often held to be a terribly middle class characteristic. (But to me those plinth blocks suggest something more than middle class.) These features may also indicate the type of client she wished to attract.

So maybe you can tell something about class by looking at a building? While this building doesn’t say much to me about power (at least, not in a simple, immediately obvious way – it might be possible to extract some more subtle readings of power), it may say something about the relative wealth of its occupants: it suggests to me that Mrs Gault was doing reasonably well, business-wise, as this is unlikely to have been cheapest rental around – but maybe it was a financial stretch for her, and she chose it because of the image it conveyed to her clients? It’d be interesting to know about the house she moved to next, and why she moved there. Certainly, there’s nothing in the newspapers to suggest that she was in financial difficulties. What I’ve outlined is a theory only, though, it’s an untested hypothesis, and the next houses we record may prove all of this completely wrong. But I guess that’s the joy of doing research: you develop a theory, you test it, you see what you learn. And slowly, slowly, you maybe begin to understand.

Katharine Watson, Luke Tremlett & Rosie Geary Nichol

References

Malthus, J., 1992. Dressmakers in nineteenth century New Zealand. In Brookes, B., Macdonald, C. and Tennant, M. (eds). Women in History 2: Essays on women in New Zealand. Bridget Williams Books, Wellington.

Press. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz.

Star. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz.

Stay classy, Christchurch

Class is a complicated concept, historically and in the present day. It’s difficult to define, somewhat ephemeral, and yet so clearly there in our societies and our cultures. For better or for worse, social stratification has been part of human life for a really long time now and it shows, in our material culture, in our buildings and in our landscapes.

As a consequence, class, much like gender, is visible in the archaeological record, although not without a whole lot of complications (as is always the way, really). If there’s anything I’ve learned while I’ve been researching this (other than how idiotically ambitious it was to try and write about class in a short blog post), it’s that class is one of those concepts that depends.

To start with, it depends on how we’re interpreting it, and on what kind of ideas and experiences we’re using to make sense of it. It’s very easy, when interpreting and talking about concepts like class, to project our own present day ideas back onto past societies, because they’re the frame of reference we’re working from. I know that our discussions about class here in the office over the past week have constantly touched on class as we understand it now, especially as we tried to untangle our thoughts about what it is and how it’s represented in our material culture.

It also depends on how we’re defining it: are we talking about a part of society which shares similar socio-economic characteristics – i.e. income, social values, social behaviour, consumer choices – or are we talking about a part of society explicitly defined by the way it contrasts with other parts of society. After all, the ‘lower classes’ are only so-called because of how they differ from the ‘middle classes’ and the ‘upper classes’, aren’t they?

A 'definition' of middle class from 1896. Image: Star

A ‘definition’ of middle class from 1896. Image: Star 18/07/1896: 3

Typically, from a characteristics perspective in Western society (and I’m being really general here), upper class denotes inherited family prestige and/or great wealth; middle class tends to refer to a combination of ‘white collar’ professions, comfortable incomes, a certain level of education and/or social manners; and lower or working class to blue collar jobs, lower end incomes, lower levels of education, etc. We’re certainly used to hearing these kinds of class definitions for Victorian society, if not for our own.  Even as I’m writing this, though, I find myself disagreeing, thinking of exceptions, of variations within these definitions. How accurate, how universal are these distinctions? I end up with more questions than answers (and more than a little brain melting).

It depends on how we’re looking at it. From an archaeological perspective, we interpret individual and group behaviour and activities through the physical remnants of people’s lives. This includes intangible concepts like class, which are represented in the things people buy and use and the differences in those things between separate social groups. These differences could be stylistic, they could be cost or value based, they could be functional. If we’re using ceramics, we could look at the differences in decorative techniques and patterns between households, the differences in the types and forms of teawares and tablewares that people owned, or the relative cost of those different objects.

 Ceramics from Violet Cottage. Clockwise from top left: a tureen, a Fibre-decorated side plate, the base of a serving dish and a colander. Image: C. Dickson.


Ceramics from Violet Cottage. Clockwise from top left: a tureen, a Fibre-decorated side plate, the base of a serving dish and a colander. Ceramics like these can offer insights on the social status of their owners, through the variety of forms present, the decorative techniques and patterns used and the relative value of the vessels. Image: C. Dickson.

For example, archaeological studies elsewhere in the world have associated plain or minimally decorated tea and dinner sets with middle class Victorian households, for whom they’re not just aesthetically pleasing, but associated with ideals of gentility, domesticity and a kind of conformity with the fashions and ideals of their neighbours (Fitts 1991). Other studies have looked at the different types of ceramic vessels people owned: the more variety of types – i.e. the more elaborate and specialised the dinner set – the better off the household might be (Brooks 2002). Even more studies have looked at the relative cost of certain types of ceramic, to see if they might correspond to differences in the social status of households (Miller 1991). There’s always a danger here, though, of making broad, uncritical assumptions about social status or beliefs from artefacts (i.e. we have plain ceramics, therefore we have a middle class household). It definitely helps to have a good historical record for the site or assemblage:  the more historical context we have, the more we can use material culture to explore how people navigated and dealt with social classes, rather than just using it to identify a certain class.

A bone china jug from Christchurch, with sprigged decoration. Bone china, particularly plain or minimally decorated examples, have been considered characteristic of the middle classes elsewhere in the world (Fitts). Unfortunately, we don't yet know how this applies to a Christchurch context. Image: C. Dickson.

A bone china jug from Christchurch, with sprigged decoration. Bone china, particularly plain or minimally decorated examples, have been considered characteristic of the middle classes elsewhere in the world (Fitts 1991), and a reflection of certain middle class values, like domesticity, virtue and modesty. Unfortunately, we don’t yet know how this applies to a Christchurch context. Image: C. Dickson.

Context is hugely important when it comes to questions like this. More than anything else, I think, our understanding of social class depends on where and when we’re looking at it. Class is quite a fluid concept and reflects the various social, economic and cultural processes of different times and places. The characteristics of the different social classes in Christchurch, for example, are not the same as the characteristics of those classes in London, or even America, although they may be influenced by them. They’re not even the same as other cities in New Zealand. We’re operating in a very different social and historical context here: different background, different population demographic, different physical, social and economic environment. It’s been said that Christchurch’s upper class, or ‘elite’, was smaller and far more fluid than its British counterpart: here, the upper classes included professionals (lawyers, business owners, etc) who would elsewhere have been considered middle class (McAloon 2000: 193-221). It’s also likely that the so-called middle class of the city was larger than elsewhere and, again, more varied. Although, really, it’s hard to say.

You have to ask then, how did the idiosyncrasies (economic, political, cultural) of Christchurch society affect the definitions of classes in the city? Did it make the differences between what would elsewhere be considered the lower class and the middle classes less pronounced? Was there more mobility between the social classes here than elsewhere? Did people back then actively consider themselves to be middle or upper or lower class or are we just giving them our own labels? Were distinctions in the material culture of different social classes more or less obvious than in, say, England? And most of all, can we see this in the archaeological record?

The answer to the last one is yes, probably, but it’s going to take a while. At this stage, we haven’t excavated enough sites with known class contexts to make any meaningful interpretations of social status in 19th century Christchurch. Before we can start to explore how people in different social groups were using material culture we need to look a bit more at what those different social groups were and how we might be able to associate them with certain types of artefacts. And that requires lots of archaeological sites with good historical records, and the time to compare them all. It’s difficult, but not impossible, and certainly something we’re working on.

As of now, we really only have a few very, very preliminary observations on social status in Christchurch. We’ve noticed that a lot of the residential sites we’re digging up here have very similar artefact assemblages: this might reflect a less pronounced class distinction in the city, the prevalence of one particular social class (the middle) here, or that the material culture of Victorian Christchurch is just too uniform to be a good indicator of class. Alternatively, it might just reflect the sample of sites we’ve excavated so far. We certainly haven’t noticed the kinds of patterns here that have been commented on elsewhere: there’s not been much of a prevalence of plain ceramics here, or contrasts between assemblages with a wide variety of forms and those with just a few types. We have noticed some interesting correlations between the styles of buildings and the social positions or professions of their occupants, especially when it comes to the contrast between the public and private spaces within houses (next week’s post!). It’ll be intriguing to see how these observations change as time goes on and we gather more data. No matter what, it should be interesting!

Jessie Garland

References

Brandon, J. C., 2009. A North American perspective on race and class in historical archaeology. In Majewsk, T. and Gaimster, D., eds. International Handbook of Historical Archaeology, pp. 3-16. Springer, New York.

Brooks, A., 2002. The cloud of unknowing: towards an international comparative analysis of eighteenth and nineteenth century ceramics. Australasian Historical Archaeology 20: 48-57.

Fitts, R., 1991. The archaeology of middle-class domesticity and gentility in Victorian Brooklyn. Historical Archaeology 33(1): 39-62

McAloon, J., 2000. The Christchurch elite. In Cookson, J. and Dunstall, G., eds). Southern Capital Christchurch: Towards a City Biography, 1850-2000., pp. 193-221. Canterbury University Press, Christchurch.

Miller, G.,1991. A revised set of CC index values for classification and economic scaling of English ceramics from 1787 to 1880. Historical Archaeology 25(l): l-25.

In which breakfast is discussed and many pictures of food are shown

Breakfast. In this day and age it can consist of anything from a cup of coffee or a piece of toast to a full fry up. We eat it on the run (guilty!), over the newspaper (or smartphone, increasingly), at the table, in a café, in front of the television or at work. Often, we don’t eat it at all. We are told that it’s the most important meal of the day, yet for those of us who do eat breakfast, it can sometimes feel more like a chore, a meal without much variety (how many of you eat the same thing every morning?) and undeserving of much time or effort (except in the weekends!). Modern living often means that we don’t have the time, money or energy to devote to elaborate meals in the morning. In this, as with so much of what and how we eat, our breakfasts are a product of our social, cultural and economic environment as much as they are an indication of our personal tastes.

The breakfast of archaeologists. A snapshot of the different breakfasts eaten by the office today, some at home, some in the car and some at work.

The breakfast of archaeologists. A snapshot of the different breakfasts eaten by the office today, some at home, some in the car and some at work.

It was no different in the past. The history of breakfast in the Victorian era is a study in contrasts between the recommended or encouraged bill of fare and the realities of individual or household wealth and time, much like today, really (White 1994: 4-16). Cookbooks like Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management (1861) and The Breakfast Book (1865) suggest a massive range of appropriate breakfast foods, ranging from elaborate dishes like game pies, curries and devilled bones (ew!) to more recognisable fare such as porridge, eggs, bacon, bread and marmalade. One 1884 book, Breakfast Dishes for Every Morning of Three Months, suggests a Sunday breakfast menu of: fried skate and shrimp sauce, curried pigs feet, breakfast cakes, potted anchovy (so much ew!), devilled hot meat, hot buttered toast and jam.

Pie for breakfast anyone? Image:

Pie for breakfast anyone? Image: Wikimedia Commons

Other records, however, indicate that most households stuck to simpler meals for their breakfast, often including a combination of bacon, sausages or mutton chops, eggs, bread, porridge, cocoa, coffee and tea. Some families ate rehashed leftovers from the day before, hot or cold (White 1994: 20). One historian writes that Victorian cookery authors objected to this simplicity and were constantly encouraging their readers to “choose more than bacon and eggs” (White 1994: 9). Which, frankly, makes me empathise more with the readers than the authors. Bacon and eggs is a perfectly acceptable choice.

Bacon! And eggs! Good choice Victorians. Images: Wikimedia Commons.

Bacon! And eggs! Good choice Victorians. Images: Wikimedia Commons.

Whatever the contrast between the suggested ingredients for a Victorian breakfast and the realities of the meal, there definitely seems to be a greater emphasis on savoury breakfast foods during the 19th century, and a greater quantity of food consumed in the morning than is eaten today. Contemporary accounts emphasise the importance of a good breakfast (although then, as now, people skipped it altogether; Timaru Herald 25/11/1876:3, Star 12/07/1871: 3, 23/11/1898: 1).  Many of the accounts of 19th century breakfasts include meat of some kind, from bacon to fish. Cakes are mentioned, as are spreads like marmalade, and fruits, but sweeter foods seem to be far less common than their savoury counterparts (Oxford Observer 19/04/1892:4, White 1994: 9-20).

Perhaps the most glaring difference between then and now is the absence of cereal which, in the form that we know it today, wasn’t invented until the late 19th and early 20th century. As a strange, yet interesting aside, Cornflakes, created by the Kellogg brothers in the 1890s, were used as an anti-libido food by John Harvey Kellogg, who believed firmly in sexual abstinence and spent a substantial part of his life trying to get people to stop wanting sex (Kellogg 1888). Something to think about next time you eat cornflakes, huh?

Cornflakes and John Harvey Kellogg, a man with, ahem, interesting ideas about breakfast food. Image: Wikimedia Commons

Cornflakes and John Harvey Kellogg, a man with, ahem, interesting ideas about breakfast food. Image: Wikimedia Commons

Archaeologically, evidence for the nature of breakfast foods and rituals is scarce. Many of the objects involved in the meal, such as teacups, saucers, plates and serving dishes, are not specifically breakfast related, but representative of food service and consumption in general. As we’ve discussed before, our evidence for food types in the past is limited by what survives in the archaeological record, specifically items like bones, shells and embossed or labelled food containers. Even then, if the historical accounts are anything to go by, much of what we do recover may not be attributable to a certain meal: mutton chops are a prime example. It’s interesting to think about this from a modern perspective, as well: how much of what we eat for breakfast is exclusively breakfast food? Would a future archaeologist be able to determine your breakfast ritual from the foods and objects you use?

That’s not to say that breakfast is invisible in the archaeological record. Occasionally, we do come across items that, if not exclusively breakfast related, do have a much, much higher probability of being used or eaten during the morning meal. Eggs, for example, seem to have been one of the absolute staples of the Victorian breakfast menu, whether poached, fried, boiled or scrambled (Star 12/07/1871:3). We’ve found several egg cups during excavations in Christchurch, some of them better made than others, which would have been used at the breakfast table to eat boiled eggs (sadly, evidence of fried, poached and scrambled eggs is slightly harder to come by…). According to contemporary sources, how a person took their boiled eggs ‘betrayed’ their nationality (Star 17/04/1897: 3): a quick survey of the office tells me that we’ve got people of French habits, English habits and the not mentioned method of “peeling the egg and just eating it.”

Eggcups found on an archaeological site in Christchurch. Image: J. Garland.

Egg cups found on an archaeological site in Christchurch. Image: J. Garland.

Another breakfast food that we’ve found evidence for is marmalade, which seems to have been both a slightly higher class of breakfast food in some places as well as a particularly Scottish one (Star 13/05/1899: 7, White 1994: 20). In a survey of breakfast fare amongst different classes of Victorian families in Britain, it was the servant-owning families (household incomes over 26 shillings a week) who included marmalade as part of their morning meal, although it’s unclear how this applied to New Zealand. Marmalade was also a Scottish product, (likely) originating in Dundee in the late 18th century, and eventually becoming a characteristic of the Scottish breakfast (Star 13/05/1899: 7). It was also, apparently, the cause of religious fights and a title of nobility in 1850s Haiti, along with other “dignities of the jam-pot.” Who knew.

Keiller & Sons marmalade jar. Image: J. Garland.

Keiller & Sons marmalade jar. The first commercially produced brand of marmalade was made by Keiller & Sons in the late 18th century. The story goes that James Keiller’s wife, Janet, experimented with an over-ripe cargo of Seville oranges that had arrived in Dundee Harbour, eventually turning them into marmalade. Image: J. Garland.

It’s a curious thing, food. So basic and yet, so complicated. One of the most interesting things to think about, I find, in regard to breakfast and how it has changed over the last century and a half is how those changes reflect transformations in our cultures and societies. Why do we eat what we do and how we do? What does it say about our lives, about the world around us? Food is never just sustenance, not really. The ritual (or non-ritual, as the case may be) of eating, the foods we eat, even the packaging of that food, is all tied into a much wider representation of who we are and how we behave, collectively and individually.

Jessie Garland

References

Kellogg, J. H., 1888. “Treatment for Self-Abuse and Its Effects.” In Plain Facts for Old and Young. Ayer Publishing. [online] Available at Project Gutenberg

Oxford Observer. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz

Star. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz

Timaru Herald. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz

White, E., 1994. First things first: the great British breakfast. In C. A. Wilson, ed. Luncheon, Nuncheon and Other Meals: Eating with the Victorians. Sutton Publishing Ltd.

Gender matters

Gender matters. And it’s complicated, which is why writing this blog post has been particularly difficult. Why is it so complicated, from an archaeological standpoint? Well, let me try and explain.

Historical archaeology developed as a discipline in the mid-20th century and, at that time, its practitioners made all sorts of sweeping generalisations about the position of women – and other minorities – in the past (as many archaeologists at the time did, regardless of their period of expertise, and as I’m doing now). For the so-called historic period, these assumptions revolved around women as mother and domestic helpmeet, with no roles outside this, little value placed on this role, little recognition that maybe women wanted more than this and little room for any agency on the part of women.

Times have changed, and society now sees gender – and gender roles – quite differently. Historical archaeologists are no exception to this change. We now see considerable value in the role of women in the 19th century and are able to make far more nuanced interpretations about their lives and experiences.

For all this, women are still frustratingly elusive in the archaeological record. There are some artefacts that definitely indicate the presence of a woman at a site, such as a woman’s shoes, clothing or jewellery. It might be possible to use a perfume bottle to definitely link a woman to a site, or perhaps some specific medicines. The presence of girls might be able to be identified through dolls, but boys could just as easily have played with dolls. And anyway, these artefacts do little more than reinforce those gender stereotypes we’ve moved away from. They tell us that there was a woman at the site, and maybe she wore perfume. Or maybe someone gave her some perfume that she didn’t like. Who knows?

But if you’ve got a site that you know was almost exclusively occupied by women for over 40 years, that’s a whole different matter. Especially when that site was occupied by the same family for that period, which is pretty unusual in central Christchurch, regardless of the genders involved.

The site in question was that of Violet Cottage. Even the name sounds feminine, right? Well, that’s how it was known when Dr Thomas Moore – and his family – were living there. The Moore family had bought land in Canterbury in 1850, and emigrated the following year (Greenaway 2007, Lundy 2014). They settled at Charteris Bay initially, before moving to Violet Cottage. Unfortunately for Dr Moore, he only lived at the cottage for two or three years before his untimely death in 1860 (Lyttelton Times 15/2/1860: 4). Following his death, members of his family remained at  the cottage until the 20th century (H Wise and Co 1911). This included Mrs Elizabeth Moore, and the children: Elizabeth, Alice, Thomas, Jane, Ellen, Annie and Emma (H Wise & Co 1878-1979, Lundy 2014). Elizabeth lived at Violet Cottage until her death in 1887 and two of her daughters – Annie and Emma – continued to live at the cottage until the 20th century. We’ve not been able to identify how the women supported themselves after Thomas senior’s death, but there is some evidence to suggest that they had income from property near Violet Cottage (Hughes et al. 2014: 4).

 Violet Cottage, 1881. Image: Andersen 1949: 430.


Violet Cottage, 1881. Image: Andersen 1949: 430.

What we found at the site was perhaps surprising: there was nothing about the assemblage we recovered that suggested the artefacts were deposited by a predominantly female household. Or even that there were women living at the site: no women’s clothing, perfume bottles or shoes. Nothing specifically female at all. This is perhaps not surprising, given that we probably only recovered a fraction of the material culture discarded by the site’s occupants over the more than 40 years they lived there.

We found a fairly generic Victorian Christchurch domestic assemblage, with one exception. We only found three rubbish pits at the site, and one of these features contained almost nothing but alcohol bottles: 134 of the 146 artefacts we recovered from the feature probably contained alcohol (long-time followers of the blog will know that bottles were frequently re-used in 19th century New Zealand and may not have contained the contents suggested by their form). There was nothing about the rubbish pit that suggested the bottles had been deposited over a number of years, and the pit was probably filled over a relatively short period of time. So someone at the site may have been doing a lot of drinking – or it’s possible that the good doctor was using the alcohol for medical purposes.

 Just two of the many alcohol bottles recovered from a rubbish pit at Violet Cottage. Image: C. Dickson.


Just two of the many alcohol bottles recovered from a rubbish pit at Violet Cottage. Image: C. Dickson.

Most of the remainder of the artefacts recovered from the site were either ceramics or animal bones (i.e. food waste from the Moores’ meals). The ceramics included a range of serving wares that suggested a well-to-do middle class establishment. There was a tureen, a platter, a milk jug and dinner plates, as well as more utilitarian items, such as chamber pots, a colander and a rather fabulous wash basin. There was only one tea cup, one saucer and no teapots – while that may not seem that interesting, archaeologists have often identified the presence and role of women on 19th century archaeological sites through the ritual of afternoon tea, and the material remains of that ritual. There was some evidence, however, to suggest a matching set of sprigged ware – and this may have been a tea set, as the items from this set were a milk jug, a saucer and a side plate.

 Ceramics from Violet Cottage. Clockwise from top left: a tureen, a Fibre-decorated side plate, the base of a serving dish and a colander. Image: C. Dickson.


Ceramics from Violet Cottage. Clockwise from top left: a tureen, a Fibre-decorated side plate, the base of a serving dish and a colander. Image: C. Dickson.

 Fragments of sprigged porcelain recovered from Violet Cottage. Image: C. Dickson.


Fragments of sprigged porcelain recovered from Violet Cottage. Image: C. Dickson.

The animal bones tell us that the Moores were eating mutton and beef, with a preference for mutton, and a range of both cheap and expensive cuts present – beef cheek anyone? The cuts of mutton were from both the forequarter (or shoulder) and the leg, with the latter suggesting the consumption of roast mutton. In amongst all this evidence for food and its consumption, it is perhaps surprising that no condiment containers were recovered from the site – no vinegars, salad oils or pickles.

 A wash basin decorated with the Magnolia pattern, found at Violet Cottage. Image: C. Dickson.


A wash basin decorated with the Magnolia pattern, found at Violet Cottage. Image: C. Dickson.

The artefact from the site that I found most evocative was a porcelain platter, made by Spode, and decorated with a blue floral pattern. The interesting thing about this platter was that the maker’s mark indicated that it was made between c.1805 and 1830 (The Potteries 2008). That means that it was made before the Moores arrived in New Zealand, and that the Moores are very likely to have brought it with them from England, and kept it carefully and safely throughout their travels. For the family, this piece of china may have provided a direct and tangible link between the life they left behind in England and their new life here on the other side of the globe.

 A Spode platter, made between c.1805 and 1830 (The Potteries 2008). Image: C. Dickson.


A Spode platter, made between c.1805 and 1830 (The Potteries 2008). Image: C. Dickson.

We can’t relate this artefact to gender (at least, not without making a whole lot of assumptions that don’t sit comfortably), but it does tell us about the sort of items that new colonists – of a certain class – brought with them for their new lives, and their expectations of those lives: I don’t imagine that the holds of migrant ships were packed with Spode platters or ashets… This platter suggests that the Moore family expected to dine well, and possibly even to entertain, and to maintain certain standards in their new home.

Our experience at this site confirms that gender – and gender roles – can be difficult to explore archaeologically. But the question is an important one and needs to be considered carefully at any archaeological site, rather than simply making assumptions about the role of women in 19th century Christchurch.

Katharine Watson, Chelsea Dickson & Julia Hughes

References

Andersen, J. C., 1949. Old Christchurch in Picture and Story. Simpson and Williams Ltd, Christchurch.

Greenaway, R. L. N., 2007. Barbadoes Street Cemetery Tour. [online] Available at: http://christchurchcitylibraries.com/heritage/cemeteries/barbadoes/barbadoesstreetcemetery.pdf [Accessed June 2014].

H. Wise & Co., 1878-1979. Wises New Zealand Post Office Directories. Dunedin: H. Wise & Co.

Hughes, J., Dickson, C. and Geary Nichol, R., 2014. 89 Chester Street East, Christchurch: report on archaeological monitoring. Unpublished report for Hawkins Ltd.

Jacobson, H. C., 1914. Tales of Banks Peninsula. Akaroa: Akaroa Mail Office.

Lundy, D., 2014. Dr. Thomas Richard Moore. [online] Available at: <http://www.thepeerage.com/p44788.htm> [Accessed June 2014].

Lyttelton Times. [online] Available at: <www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz>. Accessed April 2014.

The Potteries, 2008. A-Z of Stoke-on-Trent Potters. [online] Available at: www.thepotteries.org.