personal hygiene

And when I get that feeling...

In the lyrics to his hit 1982 song, Sexual Healing, Marvin Gaye cries out (in smooth and sultry tones, really) for a remedy that will relieve his mind, restore his emotional stability, stop the "blue teardrops" falling and calm the sea “stormin’ inside of me.” It may surprise you to discover that, amazingly and with only a tiny bit of artistic license (well, sort of), this song works rather well as an allegory for Victorian attitudes to sex. Yep, you heard me. Particularly if you listen to them the day after reading an 1840s-1860s treatise on sexual health, impotence and general quackery (do not recommend for the squeamish…). It’s the last lines, usually faded out past the point of hearing in recorded versions, that really clinch it: “please don’t procrastinate,” he sings softly, “it’s not good to masturbate.” Bet you didn’t know about that line did you.

I realise that this foray into 1980s R & B and/or the (surprisingly very graphic) world of Victorian sexual health is somewhat out of character for this blog, but do bear with us, dear reader. Let us take you on a journey down the rabbit hole to a side of 19th century life not often talked about, and definitely not often found archaeologically.

It all began a few weeks ago, with the discovery of a relatively unassuming pharmaceutical bottle in an assemblage from the 1870s-1880s. Plain in form and resembling the many tinctures of cough medicine, pain killers, oils and blood purifiers we commonly find on Victorian sites, the bottle was also embossed with an unusual product name: Perry’s Cordial Balm of Syriacum. The name references Syria, which at the time had both exotic and biblical connotations that were exploited by medical entrepreneurs, as well as an earlier well-known remedy called Solomon’s Balm of Gilead (which itself references biblical healing…; Helfand 1989). The product, as it turns out, was a patent medicine primarily advertised as a remedy for three things: syphilis, gonorrhea and sexual impotence. Specifically:

THE CORDIAL BALM OF SYRIACUM is a gentle stimulant and renovator of the impaired functions of life, and is exclusively directed to the cure of such complaints as arise from the disorganization of the Generative System, whether constitutional or acquired, loss of sexual power, and debility arising from syphilis; and is calculated to afford decided relief to those who by early indulgence in solitary habits have weakened the powers of their system, and fallen into a state of chronic debility, by which the constitution is left in a deplorable state…The consequences arising from this dangerous practice are not confined to its pure physical result, but branch to moral ones; leading the excited, deviating mind into a fertile field of seductive error – into a gradual and total degradation of manhood…How many at eighteen receive the impression of the seeds of syphilitic disease itself? The consequences of which travel out of the ordinary tract of bodily ailment, covering the frame with disgusting evidences of its ruthless nature, and impregnating the wholesome stream of life with mortal poison; conveying into families the seeds of disunion and unhappiness; undermining domestic harmony; and striking at the very soul of human intercourse.”

-The Cambrian, 9/09/1843, p. 1

Yikes. Various advertisements for the balm in the 1850s and 1860s claimed that it was a “never-failing remedy for Spermatorrhoea”, “loss of manly power”, “obstinate gleet[1]”, “tic-dolereaux” and “the prostration and languor produced by sojourning in the colonies or hot climates” (New Zealander 17/08/1861: 6). It, apparently, also “favoured the reproduction of the semen and strengthened at the same time the secretory vessels and the resevoirs” and “removed radically all the affections of the genital parts in both sexes; substituting vigour for impotence, and fecundity in place of barrenness” (Perry and Perry 1841). All of which is a lot for one little remedy to do. Although it was apparently “adapted for both sexes”, it is worth noting that most of the advertisements targeted men. When female complaints were discussed, the most attention was paid to the illnesses and dangers of menopause (or, as described at the time, “the turn of life”) and the “safe conduct” promised by the use of the Balm of Syriacum (Perry and Perry 1841: 62).

The actual contents of the balm are unknown, although it may have contained origanum syriacum, which was believed to have blood purifying abilities (Watson 2013: 90). Other similar products, such as the Balm of Gilead, are believed to have contained nothing more than “a few spices and herbs dissolved in a substantial percentage of fine old French brandy” (Helfand 1989: 155). As such, while they may have made the patient feel better for a little while – or  as one person puts it, mistake “the frenzy of inebriation for the natural glow of renovated health” – they are unlikely to have achieved any of the lofty goals outlined in their advertisements (Wilson 2008).

The balm was made and sold by R. & L. Perry, London ‘surgeons’ who made quite a name for themselves as specialists in sexual health, specifically the treatment of impotence and the clap. They were self-described consulting surgeons and medical men who “feel that we are not exceeding the limits of truth, or transgressing the bounds of professional etiquette, in asserting that our mode of practice…has been productive of the happiest and most successful results in the treatment of sexual debility in both sexes” (Perry and Perry 1841: vi). In this statement, they were supported by a multitude of (somewhat similar) testimonials from patients who listed, in sometimes excruciating detail, the symptoms and maladies of which they had been cured. In truth, however, they were quacks.

A good part of what we know about the Perrys and their medical beliefs comes from their book The Silent Friend[2], a treatise on onanism (masturbation) and its consequences, such as impotence, as well as venereal and syphilitic diseases. The Silent Friend contained in its many pages of flowery language, a 65 page long diatribe against “solitary indulgence”, constant advertisements for the Balm of Syriacum and other medicines, numerous descriptions of the symptoms and manifestations of gonorrhea and syphilis, and several disturbing recommendations for the treatment of said venereal diseases. I think my favourite might be the injection of a mixture of lead sulphate (toxic), zinc sulphate, rose water (inexplicably) and opium into sensitive areas. Kids, do not try this at home…

Although the graphic detail of both disease and treatment is morbidly fascinating, it’s the fixation of the authors on the dangers of onanism that I find particularly curious.The Perrys were of the opinion that masturbation not only destroyed the health and mind of the individual, it was a danger to “the welfare of the empire” due to the ways it destroyed man’s emotional, moral and procreative abilities and passed those same debilities on to any children such a sufferer might manage to have. Interestingly, this was a fear that was shared among many in Victorian society: it had become more and more widespread in the 18th century and by the mid-19th century, quack doctors like R. & L. Perry were perpetuating and exploiting the fear and shame associated with masturbation, including the notion that it was responsible for impotence. The list of things caused by such self-indulgence is long and contains a wide range of physical, mental and moral symptoms, to the point where almost any failing of a man or his character could be blamed on his own weakness (oddly enough, no reference is made by the Perrys to women suffering from this particular problem...)

Sufferers of this terrible malady reported, among other things too graphic to include, that (and do keep in mind those Marvin Gaye lyrics...):

  • “the powers of the mind were much weakened, my judgment had lost its solidity, my head was confused and subject to frequent swimmings”
  • “he often shed tears involuntarily, and a quantity of corrosive pus continually issued from the corners of his eyes”
  • “my spirits greatly depressed, so that at times I could scarcely refrain from sighing and involuntary weeping”
  • “a disordered stomach, dry consumptive cough, weakness in the voice, hoarseness, shortness of breath on the least exercise”

In general, the various treatments for onanism, as well as the ubiquitously suggested Balm of Syriacum, of course, are just as horrifying as those suggested for venereal diseases. Potential cures ranged from cauterizations and blisterings of the penis (yikes, again) to the application of camphor to the genitals, the use of a ‘curative belt’ which sent shocks of electricity through one’s groin, and that old favourite, arsenic (McLaren 2007: 134). Also, specifically in the case of onanism and impotence, matrimony was recommended. The Perrys were strong advocates, surprisingly given our usual impression of Victorians, for a healthy sex life, but only within the confines of marriage. Marriage, and procreation, were after all, the purpose of human existence.

There’s something of a curious juxtaposition here, I think, between the repressed sexuality and morals of Victorian society and the quackery that very much played on the fears and habits exacerbated by social silence on the subject of sex. It's visible in the lack of discussion around such matters in daily life and the utter relish with which books like The Silent Friend describe, in extraordinarily graphic terms, the consequences of 'bad' sexual habits. I started this post with Marvin Gaye and a tongue in cheek reading of a beloved song (sorry, everyone), but as I’ve written it, I’ve found myself thinking more and more about how much the social censorship, shame and plain old lack of information encouraged the spread of venereal disease and general ill health in the Victorian era (and our own, as it happens, don't think we're past this yet). Society created a vacuum into which so-called doctors like R. & L. Perry could step with alacrity and success, virtually unchallenged[3], to both exploit those unspoken fears and spread their own misinformation, in horrendous and alarming detail. Some things are better talked about, as it turns out, than hidden under the bed.

In the words of another (maybe less beloved song), let’s talk about sex, people. And always avoid treatments and doctors that recommend injecting lead sulphate into your genitals. If you’ve learned anything from this blog, let it be that.

Jessie Garland

[1] One anecdote recounted the curing of an obstinate gleet "by the injection of punch, a remedy suggested in a convivial moment; another time by green tea" (Perry and Perry 1841).

[2] The full title is, in fact, The Silent Friend: A Medical Work, On The Disorders Produced By The Dangerous Effects of Onanism, All It’s Dreadful Consequences Considered, Including Nervous and Sexual Debility, Impotency, &C., And On Venereal And Syphilitic Diseases, With Plain Directions For The Removal Of Secondary Symptoms, Gonorrhoea or Clap, Gleets, Strictures, Whites, And All Diseases Of The Urinary Passages, Without The Use of Mercury, Confinement, Or Hinderance from Business; Followed By General Instructions For The Perfect Restoration Of Those Who Are Incapacitated From Entering Into The Holy State Of Marriage; By The Evil Consequences Arising From Early Abuse, Or Syphilitic Infection. Which is really quite a mouthful. I definitely do not recommend looking up gleets, strictures or whites unless you’re sure you want to know. And gonorrhoea, for that matter.

[3] There were some who did challenge these ideas and practices, I just haven’t had a chance to really talk about them.

References

Helfand, W. H., 1989. President's Address: Samuel Solomon and The Cordial Balm of Gilead. In Pharmacy in History, Vol. 31(4), pp. 151-159.

McLaren, A., 2007. Impotence: A Cultural History. University of Chicago Press, Chicago.

Perry, R. and Perry, L., 1841. The Silent Friend: A Medical Work, On The Disorders Produced By The Dangerous Effects of Onanism, All It’s Dreadful Consequences Considered, Including Nervous and Sexual Debility, Impotency, &C., And On Venereal And Syphilitic Diseases, With Plain Directions For The Removal Of Secondary Symptoms, Gonorrhoea or Clap, Gleets, Strictures, Whites, And All Diseases Of The Urinary Passages, Without The Use of Mercury, Confinement, Or Hinderance from Business; Followed By General Instructions For The Perfect Restoration Of Those Who Are Incapacitated From Entering Into The Holy State Of Marriage; By The Evil Consequences Arising From Early Abuse, Or Syphilitic Infection. Self published. [online] Available at: https://books.google.co.nz/books?id=i1t1p2YRahcC&dq=the+silent+friend&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Ritz, D., 2010. Divided Soul: The Life of Marvin Gaye. Omnibus Press, London.

Watson, L., 2013. Tom Tiddler's Ground: Irregular Medical Practitioners and Male Sexual Problems in New Zealand, 1858-1908. In Medical History, Vol. 57(4), p. 537-558. [online] Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3865952/#fnr16 

Wilson, B., 2008. Decency and Disorder: the Age of Cant 1789-1837. Faber and Faber.

Good beard, bad beard, red beard, blue beard: facial hair in Victorian Christchurch

Part the First

Movember is upon us once again, and to celebrate Undershaved Overgrown Archaeology brings to you a brief history of facial hair in Aotearoa. Movember is all about men’s health, and we’ve previously covered health in the blog before, both mental health and otherwise, so this week it’s all beards and moustaches. Gird your goatees for a hirsute history of facial hair in the nation, followed by a review of classic beards of old Canterbury.

Important Māori who wore tā moko necessarily removed their facial hair in order to show it off, and trimmed their tui tufts by plucking with mussel shell. They may also have shaved with razor sharp tūhua/obsidian, as it was otherwise used for cutting hair (McLintock, 1966; Robley, 1896). However, some of the earliest Pākehā imagery we have of Māori - drawings done by Sydney Parkinson, the Scottish botanical illustrator on Cook’s first voyage – show a range of facial hair and top knots. It is not clear if within 3-4 years the top knots would all be replaced with the same vague haircut of shaved back and sides, and a floofy combover on top – you Millennials know who you are.

This painting was evidently done before Pākehā got the hang of drawing moko. The guy in the upper middle is so fed up with this man-bun business. Image: Parkinson, Sydney, 1745?-1771. Parkinson, Sydney, 1745-1771 :The heads of six men natives of New Zealand, ornamented according to the mode of that country. S. Parkinson del. T Chambers sculp. London, 1784. Plate XXIII.. Parkinson, Sydney, 1745-1771 :A journal of a voyage to the South Seas, in his Majesty's ship, 'The Endeavour'. Faithfully transcribed from the papers of the late Sydney Parkinson. London; Printed for Charles Dilly, in the Poultry, and James Phillips, in the George-Yard, 1784.. Ref: PUBL-0037-23. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23044298

During Pākehā settlement of Aotearoa, the beard was a fairly recent phenomenon, growing in popularity during the Victorian period along with changing ideals of masculinity, at a rate roughly equivalent to Queen Vicki’s bloomers. Like the modern hipster beard, the Victorian beard craze coincided with conflict in the Crimea. During the Crimean War (1854-1856), the British army relaxed their long-standing ban on beards – due to the freezing winters and difficulty in obtaining shaving soap – and servicemen were russian to grow them. Beards soon became a mark of those who had served, and the fashion subsequently spread across the British Empire. Beards could be seen on the patriotically named Mount Victoria in Auckland and Wellington, the proud imperial city of Victoria in British Columbia, the humble Victoria harbour in Hong Kong, and probably even on Lake Victoria. It is no surprise then, that on the rugged outskirts of Wikitoria’s empire, the beard held particular sway.

God Save the Queen

The beard was also considered healthy, and recommended by doctors. The face tangle was believed to filter out impurities in the air, and prevent sore throats.

A Lyttelton Times article relating a ‘stache survey provides insight into just why men of the 1860s chose the old dental duster as an accessory (Lyttelton Times, 27/4/1861: 5). Helpfully for you dear reader, I’ve put it into a table! (please send your thanks and appreciation monies to T. Wadsworth C/- Underground Overground).

Reasons for wearing a moustache, 1861.

Given reason No.
To avoid shaving 69
To avoid catching cold 32
To hide their teeth 5
To take away from a prominent nose 5
To avoid being taken as an Englishman abroad 7
Because they are in the army 6
Because they are Rifle Volunteers 221
Because Prince Albert does it 2
Because it is artistic 29
Because you are a singer 3
Because you travel a deal 17
Because you have lived long on the continent 1
Because the wife likes it 8
Because it acts as a respirator 29
Because you have weak lungs 5
Because it is healthy 77
Because the young ladies admire it 471
Because it is considered "the thing" 10
Because he chooses 1

The most common reason to wear a moustache was to impress the ladies, but there are also reasons of vanity (“to hide their teeth, to take away from a prominent nose”), and again, the perceived health benefits (“because it is healthy, because it acts as a respirator, because you have weak lungs, to avoid catching cold”). The association of moustache and military is also clear, with “because they are Rifle Volunteers” the second most common reason given for the old Magnum P.I. It is not clear if the two who responded “because Prince Albert does it” had further ornamentation for similar reasons.

Prince Albert of ‘Stache-Moburg and Goatee.

When the Victorians kept a stiff upper lip, they need to make sure it looked good. Moustaches were tinted and combed, and fashions changed. In 1883, a local purveyor of cosmetics said that “a year ago the fashion was to have the end stick out in a fluffy fashion, but now they want me to make it drop at the corners of the mouth” (Star, 29/8/1883: 4). There were of course products to keep it looking fresh. The below bottle of Rowland’s Macassar oil – found on several sites in Christchurch – is  described as “unsurpassed as a brillantine for the beard and moustaches, to which it imparts a soft and silky appearance” (Press, 16/10/1897: 11). We’ve also found bottles of “bay rum”, which formed part of a recipe to darken grey hair and beards (Otago Daily Times, 9/3/1915: 8).

Rowland’s Macassar Oil. Like most 19th century products, this is essentially snake oil, but without the fun of being made from actual snakes. Image: J. Garland.

Bay Rum. Don’t drink it, just rub it on your face and head. Image: J. Garland.

But how to keep one’s soup strainer from acting in its name? On a site in Christchurch, we found a fragment of a cup with a “moustache protector”. This “yankee notion” kept one's lip toupee clean of coffee by way of a protrusion within the cup, as modelled here by our own beard-having Hennessey (Star, 15/2/1878: 2).

In the midnight hour, he cried mo, mo, mo.

Part the Second

In which we focus on the facial hair of the founding fathers of our fair city. We revisit some of the figures from Christchurch and the blog’s past and Tristan provides a highly subjective fever dream review of their moustaches and beards.

James Jamieson

The man:

James Jamieson carried on the proud Victorian tradition of Firstname Firstname-son and together with his brother William ran one of the leading construction companies in Christchurch, including the Roman Catholic Cathedral and the Government buildings in Cathedral Square. We’ve talked on the blog before about Jamieson’s love of spreadable cheese long before Koromiko was a thing.

The moustache:

Jamieson grew the classic ‘walrus‘ moustache, and chose to draw maximum attention to it by banishing all other hair from his countenance. His care and attention in maintaining the structural integrity of his weighty moustache - enough to cause any lesser man to topple forwards - informed his construction style, and it is said[1]  that his own chrome-y dome inspired those of the basilica.

9/10

Draw your own conclusions. Confirmed Illuminati. Image: Photograph of Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament by Greg O’Beirne.

Charles Obins Torlesse

The man:

Nephew to New Zealand company agent Arthur Wakefield, Torlesse became a surveyor working under Captain Thomas, chief surveyor for the Canterbury Association. Torlesse made the very first sketch map of Canterbury in 1849, illustrating the vast plains and resources that would draw Pākehā settlers to the area (Montgomery and McCarthy, 2004). He is said to have made the first ascent of a Southern Alps peak – now Mount Torlesse – by a Pākehā. He was a pretty cool bloke, more (t) or less (e).

Sketch map of the country intended for the settlement of Canterbury. Charles Obin Torlesse, 1849. Image: Wikimedia Commons. (Attentive readers will note the originally intended location of Christchurch at the head of Lyttelton Harbour. Inattentive readers GET NOTHING).

The moustache:

Torlesse sported what is known as ‘friendly’ mutton chops, as popularised by Lemmy from Motorhead, and the general Burnside, for whom sideburns are named (seriously). These are not the distinctly un-friendly sideburns worn by Hugh Jackman/Wolverine, Elvis, and every jerk from the 70s. Ever the surveyor, Torlesse surveyed himself 75% facial hair, leaving the lower lip and jaw free for you to swipe right on Chinder.

8/10

charles_torlesse

John George Ruddenklau

The man:

John George Ruddenklau, his name is my name too. Ruddenklau was one of Christchurch’s early success stories, being a self-made man who worked his way up from an hotelier in 1864 to a retired hotelier in 1869, and from Mayor of Christchurch in 1881 to a retired former Mayor of Christchurch in the late 1880s. Ruddenklau’s City Hotel was successful enough that it had its own brand of dinnerware, which we have found on other hotel sites in Christchurch.

Fragments of a saucer, teacup and mask jug (with beard!), decorated with the City Hotel pattern and the initials J. G. R. Image: J. Garland.

The beard:

Old J.G. had the kind of dense ruggedy beard typical of big deal businessmen in the 19th century, modern hipsters, and, er, delicious mussels. This particular photo of sad Ruddenklau shows just how he kept it so lush: it was well watered by his mayoral tears. Poor, sad-looking Ruddenklau.

John George Ruddenklau, blinging it up. Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Dr Alfred Charles Barker

The man:

Dr A.C. Barker was one of Christchurch’s earliest amateur photographers, and is responsible for many of the earliest photographs of our city. Here at Underlit Overexposed, we’ve used Barker’s photography to illustrate how useful even the most mundane details of these images are in terms of historical information. So feel free to continue to capture your messy room in the background of your selfies, or even better, just go take photos of street kerbs! For anyone that’s interested in either selfies or photographs as a historical resource in little old New Zealand, you can go here to listen to oral historian Rosemary Baird discuss that very thing.

The beard:

Speaking of selfies, Barker took a few himself.

Dr. A.C. Barker. Blurry. Photographic. Evidence. Image: Canterbury Photography.

Here, Barker poses nonchalantly with his camera equipment, while showing off some serious mutton chops. If Bigfoot photographic evidence was this clear, he would have his own talk show by now. But nobody would watch it because podcasts fill that place in society these days. Get with the future Bigfoot!

dr_a-_c-_barker

This photo shows Bigfoot later in life, with a big old beard. Or Barker, probably. By this stage, Barker’s beard is perfectly complimented by a faux-Shakespeare haircut, which you don’t see enough these days. “There’s many a man has more hair than wit” the bard said, but considering Barker’s beard, I’m not sure what that says.

Sir John Cracroft Wilson

The man:

Wilson was a pioneering figure in Christchurch, being a former British army officer in India, who brought a number of his Indian servants with him when he settled in Christchurch. Cashmere is named for Kashmir in India/Pakistan, where Wilson served, and the adjacent suburb of Cracroft is named for...something. I forget. We’ve talked about Wilson’s home, now gone, before, but Wilson’s stone servant’s quarters still stands, and small portion of a mighty drain built by WIlson’s Indian servants remains nearby. This is a rare example of a drain lined with dressed stone, because, well, the dude liked stone. And who can blame him.

Cracroft's stone-line drain. Image: K. Webb.

The beard:

Wilson lived into his blankety blanks, and had the rare opportunity to grow a solid white beard. But as can be seen in the photo, Wilson’s facia hair went beyond the simple Santa beard and itself slipped into the snowy fey realm from which that fatherly character came, becoming an almost imperceptible, ethereal beard-shaped hole between realities. Wilson’s ghostly beard and eerie floating face were perfectly suited to snow-bound late 19th century Christchurch. Wilson would prowl the snows, camouflaged by his beard, shielding his nose with his hand to sneak up on unknowing foxes and seals. Or I might be thinking of polar bears. It is now impossible to tell.

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cracroft

 

Show your support for Movember, by visiting its website. Show your support for moustaches in general by doing the finger guns to the next person you see with one. Pew-pew-pew!

References

Acland, L.G.D., 1975. The Early Canterbury Runs. Fourth ed. Christchurch, N.Z.: Whitcoulls Ltd.

McLintock, A.H., 1966. Stone Tools. In: An Encyclopedia of New Zealand. [online] Te Ara, The Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Available at: <http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/1966/maori-material-culture/page-8>.

Montgomery, R., and McCarthy, K., 2004. The map that made Canterbury - or, how a little-known sketch map by Charles Obins Torlesse was transformed into Canterbury Association advertising in London. Records of the Canterbury Museum, 18, pp.51–65.

Robley, H.G., 1896. Moko; or Maori Tattooing. London: Chapman and Hall Ltd.

 

[1] By me, just now, completely unfounded.

So, hair's the thing...

As one 19th century advertisement begins, "in every civilised country throughout the world the human hair is always found to be a subject of peculiar attention." For centuries, millenia even, we have tugged and twisted our hair into unnatural and often physically improbable shapes, sought luxury and lustre through the addition of all manner of substances and continually attempted to find a tried and true way of stopping the damn stuff from falling out. The resulting works of art, be they hirsute, sleek or more reminiscent of a desert than a forest, have then been viewed through the discerning and often judgemental eyes of society. Your hair can mark your status, your wealth, your nationality, your personality traits, your identity, whether you want it to or not. It's no wonder, really, that the care and maintenance of hair elicits such effort from us, is it?

With this in mind, the following images showcase some of the evidence we've found - archaeologically and historically - for hair care in the 19th century. Some of it is weird and wonderful, some of it was probably a bit uncomfortable, and some of it we still use today.

Just to set the scene. Note the flattering description of red-heads and the character assassination of brunettes. Image:

Rowland's Macassar oil, culprit of oily hair and even oilier upholstery everywhere. Macassar oil was a hair restorative and beautifier, first introduced during the late 19th century by a barber named Alexander Rowland. It's the reason for the term 'antimacassar', which refers to the piece of fabric thrown over the top or back of arm chairs to deal with the oily residue hair-conscious people were leaving on furniture all over the place. The advertisement mentions scurf, which is another word for dandruff (I did not know this prior to this post), as well as the restoration of "whiskers, mustachios and eyebrows". How versatile! Image: J. Garland.

May I direct your attention to the highlighted section, in which the application of electricity to the scalp is recommended as a cure for baldness.

Bear's grease

The Toilet

Dr Frampton's Pomatum, by Price & Co., Her Majesty's Perfumers. For those with unruly hair, unhealthy hair or hair that just won't stay on the head at all. Pomatum was a common hair product during the 19th century and well into the 20th century (also known as pomade). It was usually made of a scented grease or lard and used to smooth down the hair (or moustache, presumably). Articles towards the end of the century, when the use of pomatum had become slightly less widespread, speak disparagingly of resulting "locks saturated with strongly-scented grease" (Nelson Evening Mail 19/10/1882: 4). Image: J. Garland.

Erm.

Bay rum

potato dye

DSC_0285ed1

One thing that was notably different to general hair care now was the recommended frequency of washing.

Alexander Barry's Tricopherous is probably the most common hair related artefact that we find on 19th century archaeological sites. Composes largely of alcohol and oil, it promised all manner of miracles when it came to the beauty and restoration of the hair, including the cure of baldness. It was, however, also used in place of pomatum as a far less greasy tool with which to style the hair. Image: G. Jackson.

less coffee more hair

Jessie Garland 

Feminine, masculine, grounds for divorce: the social effects of wearing perfume in the 19th century

When it comes to personal fragrance (continuing on from our post a couple of weeks ago), exactly which perfumes and deodorants we choose to wear can reveal a lot about us, as individuals and as a society. How we define ‘smelling nice’, for example, can vary depending on factors like the identity of the individuals present, their gender, the strength of the perfume or the context in which it is worn. A strong perfume in an enclosed space (on a plane, perhaps, with no chance of escape) can be the opposite of nice, for example, and it’s no secret that there are noticeable differences in the smells deemed attractive for men and women. In truth, many perfumes can be said to reinforce gender distinctions, through socially acceptable or traditional notions of ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ scents. There’s a certain level of subjectivity – we do, after all, wear scents that we like personally – but perfumes are, unquestionably, involved in a wider social discourse in which the way we choose  to smell says something about who we are, whether we want it to or not.  Really, we only have to look at modern advertisements for perfumes and deodorants to see how much the way we smell is entangled with popular notions of, say, femininity or masculinity (and other aspects of social identity – wealth, status, elegance, refinement, desirability, etc). Whether those advertisements do this by choosing to challenge those stereotypes (Chanel, I’m looking at you) or reinforcing them (Old Spice, without a doubt), they’re still very much working from the basis that our personal fragrance is not just a fragrance.

Old Spice advertisement. The manliest of fragrances, apparently. Image:
Old Spice advertisement. The manliest of fragrances, apparently. Image:

People have been wearing perfume for a very long time, and it’s always been a marker of personal identity. In older societies, for example, perfume would have said something about the wealth of the wearer and their ability to afford frivolities like artificial scent. It still does, to a degree, just not for all perfumes: wearing an easily recognisable and expensive perfume today immediately implies that the wearer has a certain level of disposable income (or is willing to skimp on other things to afford it). Many perfumes today play to this, using images of wealth and luxury to see their fragrances (Dior, looking at you this time).

In the 19th century, perfume became inextricably entangled with gender. Some studies have suggested that the gender distinction in the perfume industry emerged out of early 19th century changes in society and social structure. With the growing prominence of the ‘bourgeoisie capitalists’ came a new set of social values, which included new perspectives on masculinity and femininity. In particular, one researcher suggests that “it was absolutely not done for men to spend their money on such ‘wasteful frivolities’. To put it bluntly, the modern (male) capitalist had better things to do, and with the exception of a small group of male artists and dandys [and there’s a stereotype all in itself], perfume became the exclusive domain of women” (Aspria 2005).

By the latter half of the 19th century, a brief scan of contemporary writing indicates that perfume was becoming more and more gendered, especially towards women. Although men did wear artificial fragrance (something that became increasingly acceptable in the early 20th century), perfume seems to have been a large part of the Victorian ideal of the proper, feminine woman (and, it follows, the absence of floral scents with an ideal of masculinity). It’s not so much that every perfume wearer was a proper lady, but rather that every proper lady wore perfume – of the correct strength and correct fragrance, of course. Lord help anyone who wore musk.

More than just a fragrance, the wrong perfume (musk, again, no surprises there) could even be blamed for the breakdown of a marriage, the transformation of “affection into aversion”, the “unwillllingness to marry which is one of those difficult questions which modern Governments at census times periodically have to consider .”
More than just a fragrance, the wrong perfume (musk, again, no surprises there) could even be blamed for the breakdown of a marriage, the transformation of “affection into aversion”, the “unwillllingness to marry which is one of those difficult questions which modern Governments at census times periodically have to consider .”

There were numerous articles and advertisements in which various scents were discussed in correlation with certain feminine ideals, some even going so far as to describe the character traits found in women wearing particular scents. Significantly, all of these descriptions used terminology like ‘dainty’, ‘warm-hearted’, ‘unassuming’, ‘quiet temperament’ and ‘lovable if not very strong nature’ (ouch). One article described how “the suggestion of an ethereal atmosphere in which a slight and delicate fragrance has a part” immediately spoke of the wearer’s refinement, charm and a ‘gracious personality’.  Another writes that  “delicate odours, such as violet, heliotrope or orris root, are always permissible…a moderate use of a faint, suggestive odour, such as wood violet, for instance, is all in the way of a perfume that is allowable by a really refined woman.”

Article on the various character traits associated with the use of certain perfumes. Image:
Article on the various character traits associated with the use of certain perfumes. Image:

This positive ideal to which women were encouraged to aspire is reinforced again by descriptions of the negative image: the "superabundant use of the cheap stuff" is discussed in terms of "artificiality, vulgar and unredeemed [women]" (New Zealand Herald19/09/1913:10). The claim that “a woman who saturates her belongings with strong perfumes…is likely to be mean-spirited, over-ambitious, strong-willed, but uncertain in temper” becomes an automatic judgement and dismissal of a person’s character, derived entirely from the way she smells. It simultaneously defines the identity of that person and reinforces the social ideal that is her contrast: the refined, demure, calm and content woman who only ever wears the appropriate level of perfume. It’s also, in a Victorian context, tied into the widely held belief in the importance of moderation and the physically, morally and socially debilitating effects of excess in any aspect of life.

Of course, it doesn’t necessarily follow that the reality of life accurately reflected these social ideals as they were discussed in the written record (or vice versa), even if they were seemingly widespread. No matter what we read in historical accounts, we don’t know that people actually believed that perfume could develop character, that someone meeting a new acquaintance would smell roses and think “she must be imaginative and warm-hearted”, or that the 'ideal of femininity' discussed so often in writing was as prevalent or as valued in day to day life.

The archaeological record is important here, as another data set against which we can compare written information. The contrast allows us to tease out the similarities and differences between the ways in which people present themselves (and others) in writing and the ways they do so in the physical world. Even more importantly, we can examine why those differences exist: the disconnect between written and physical history can be as important in understanding human behaviour in past societies as the actual records themselves.

For example, despite the increasing popularity of perfumes in the written record towards the end of the 19th century, especially for women (the number of perfume advertisements increases exponentially in the 1880s and 1890s), we don’t find that many perfume bottles on archaeological sites here in Christchurch. And we have to wonder why. Is it because of something specific to Christchurch? Were people here less into perfumes than elsewhere in the world? Is it the result of other social behaviours: i.e. rubbish disposal practices, reuse of perfume bottles or other ways of obtaining perfumes?

We do know that it was possible to make your own perfumes. There were several recipes and detailed instructions available for the self-sufficient Victorian woman (they’re always directed at women) who wished to make her own fragrance. Perhaps this was happening in Christchurch? I don’t know. As an aside, there’s another ‘ideal’ perpetuated through these do-it-your own perfume instructions for women: as well as constructing and reinforcing a concept of femininity, they also touch on the ‘industrious woman’, part of the ideal of domesticity that was so prevalent in the 19th century.

Instructions on how to make your own perfumes.
Instructions on how to make your own perfumes.

In another example, one might be inclined, given the large quantity of literature relating perfumes to femininity, to see perfume bottles on archaeological sites as an indication of the presence of women. Yet, many of the perfume bottles we’ve come across (and I’m only talking about the small proportion that can be identified to brand, here) are brands or fragrances that were used by men as much, if not more than, women. Eau de Cologne, in particular, is increasingly associated with the ‘masculine toilette’ in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, although it’s certainly also used by women (Star 16/7/1904: 3West Coast Times2/5/1907: 2) . Both Florida Water and the 4711 fragrance also appear to have been used by men as well as women.

Bottle of Mulhens 4711 cologne (left) and the Farina Eau de Cologne (right) found in Christchurch. Image: J. Garland.
Bottle of Mulhens 4711 cologne (left) and the Farina Eau de Cologne (right) found in Christchurch. Image: J. Garland.

What does this mean? Is it just a result of our sample? Maybe all the unlabelled, unbranded perfume bottles contained stereotypical feminine floral scents and we just don’t know. Or does it follow that notions of femininity and the ‘proper woman’ were different in Christchurch? That notions of masculinity were different? Are we seeing an example of a division between a social commentary largely derived from life and society in Britain and the distant reality of life in New Zealand? Am I speculating too much? Possibly. In truth (and we don’t have enough information to figure it out yet), the answer is probably more complex than any one of these possibilities. It usually is.

All the same, questions like these are an excellent reminder of how much the tangible things we use in our daily lives – like perfume – are connected to the intangible social constructs we navigate through every day, be they gender, personal identity or moral values. This material culture that we’re recovering from these sites, these pieces of broken glass, broken ceramic, broken rubbish – they’re more than just physical objects. They were part of a socio-cultural discourse – active agents in the construction, maintenance and transformation of human behaviour, of our social ideals and perceptions, especially regarding the perception of certain social stereotypes – in this case, the ‘ideal’ Victorian woman.

Basically, things aren’t ever really just things: they’re (in every sense of the word) artefacts of our lives, past and present, intrinsically entangled with who we are and, often, who we want to be.

Jessie Garland

References

Aspria, M., 2005. Sociologist Marcello Aspria: interview about perfume and gender. [online] Available at: www.boisdejasmin.com/2005/10/perfume_and_gen.html.

Aspria, M., 2005-2009. Scented pages. [online] Available at: www.scentedpages.com/default.html. 

Lindqvist, A., 2012. Preference and gender associations of perfumes applied on human skin. In Journal of Sensory Studies 27(6): 490-497.

New Zealand Herald. [online] Available at: www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz.

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

West Coast Times. [online] Available at: www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz.

Everything's coming up roses (and lilies and jasmine and violets)

Farina-and-4711.jpg

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a man or woman in possession of natural body odour is most definitely in want of something to cover it up. At least, in today's society, it certainly seems to be considered unacceptable to smell like unadulterated human in polite company (except in sporting situations or extreme, unavoidable situations – running from Godzilla comes to mind). In day to day life, we are expected to smell nice, or at least neutral, necessitating the application of a lot of perfume and deodorant in a never-ending crusade against the social iniquity of body odour. It should come as no surprise to realise that this is not a new phenomenon, even if the use and popularity of perfume and deodorant has grown significantly in the past century. In the 19th century, certainly, the fragrance industry was a flourishing one. One (English) set of statistics from 1881, for example, claimed that Europe and British India consumed approximately 150,000 gallons of handkerchief perfume yearly (for something usually measured in drops, that is a LOT). Furthermore, English revenue from Eau de Cologne cashed in at around £8000 annually and the total English revenue from other imported perfumes at £40,000 per year, a fairly significant amount by the standards of the time (New Zealand Herald27/08/1881: 7).

Perfume illustration and rhyme. Image:
Perfume illustration and rhyme. Image:

The wonderfully named ‘scent farms’ on which the floral foundations of these perfumes were grown offer similarly substantial statistics on the provision of hundreds of thousands of pounds of flowers and blossoms to perfume distilleries throughout the world. One single distillery in France used approximately 100,000 pounds of acacia flowers, 140,000 pounds of rare flower leaves, 32,000 pounds of jasmine blossoms and 20,000 of tuberose blossoms in one year (Wairarapa Daily Times26/03/1884: 2). I know, rationally, that these quantities must have been delivered and used over the course of the whole year, but I really can’t help imagining what that many flowers would look like delivered on the doorstep all at once (utterly delightful and horribly, traumatically allergy inducing, I think).

All of this perfume was eagerly and, in some cases, insanely, devoured by the bromidrophobic Victorian public (apparently, bromidrophobia is the fear of body odour – the things you learn in archaeology!). Contemporary accounts range from the faintly disparaging description of “the ballroom where the frou-frou of smart femininity exhales a violet fragrance” to tales of insane fads like the injection of artificial fragrance beneath the skin. To take it even further, one report on the "perfumes which ruin lives" recounts the stories of several people who inhaled or consumed perfume to the point of addiction, ill-health and death (Otago Witness4/02/1897: 49).

Article on the popular fad of injecting perfumes subcutaneously. Image:
Article on the popular fad of injecting perfumes subcutaneously. Image:

People didn’t just use artificial fragrance on themselves, however. Perfume was used to improve the smell of all manner of things, from clothing and handkerchiefs to notepaper and, memorably, butter. There were even perfume pills, made to be carried around in handbags and pockets as a neat and tidy repository of pleasant aromas. We’ve talked about the smells of life in the Victorian era here before on the blog, both inside and outside the house: in the perfumed accoutrements of daily life, there’s another smell to be considered (perhaps a response to some of the more unsavoury aromas people suffered through in the past).

Description of perfumed butter from 1894.
Description of perfumed butter from 1894.

It’s interesting, then, considering the obvious popularity of fragrances amongst the Victorian population, to learn that we find comparatively few perfume bottles on archaeological sites here in Christchurch. They’re not rare, but they’re not common either. Those that we do find tend to be predominantly the products of European or English manufacturers, such as J. M. Farina, Eugene Rimmel and Piesse & Lubin. The one exception seems to be Murray & Lanman’s Florida Water, made in America.

Piesse & Lubin perfume bottle found in Christchurch.
Piesse & Lubin perfume bottle found in Christchurch.

Eugene Rimmel and Jean Maria Farina were both titans of the perfume (and cosmetics, in Rimmel’s case) industry during the 19th century. Rimmel was the son of a French perfumer, who moved to London in 1820 to manage a perfumery on Bond Street, before opening his own establishment in 1834 with his son (aged 14 at the time). The company became hugely successful, expanding from perfumes to sell a range of cosmetics, hair products and personal hygiene items: they’re still one of the biggest cosmetic manufacturers in Britain today (Rimmel 2015). As far as perfumes went, Rimmel sold a range of fragrances and related products, from perfume vaporisers and fountains to lavender water and “toilet vinegar”, advertised as a “tonic and refreshing adjunct to the Toilet or Bath, a reviving perfume and a powerful disinfectant” (Nelson Evening Mail28/02/1884: 1). He secured a royal warrant for his efforts, being named as the official perfumer to both Queen Victoria and the Princess of Wales (Wellington Independent10/04/1866: 3).

Rimmel bottle base found in Christchurch. Image: G. Jackson.
Rimmel bottle base found in Christchurch. Image: G. Jackson.

J. M. Farina, on the other hand, was famous as the name behind the ubiquitous Eau de Cologne, the fragrance that took its name from Cologne, Germany, the town in which the Farina family had been based since the early 18th century (Farina 2015). As it happens, one of the Farina bottles found in Christchurch, despite being associated with the family name, was in fact produced and named after the establishment of another Cologne based perfumery run by the Mulhens family. The famous 4711 eau de cologne was first made by Wilhelm Mulhens at the end of the 18th century and named for the building in which it was produced. However, before the 4711 brand was adopted in the 1880s, Mulhens marketed his fragrance under the Farina name, leading to some confusion and a lengthy battle with the Farina family (Newton 2013).

Bottle of Mulhens 4711 cologne (left) and the Farina Eau de Cologne (right) found in Christchurch. Image: J. Garland.
Bottle of Mulhens 4711 cologne (left) and the Farina Eau de Cologne (right) found in Christchurch. Image: J. Garland.

Interestingly, both the 4711 and the Farina Eau de Cologne seem to have had slightly more masculine overtones, with advertisements making note that – in contrast to Rimmel’s products – “the Prince of Wales has appointed, under Royal Warrant, Johann Maria Farina… to be manufacturer of Eau de Cologne for the Prince of Wales and his Royal Highness’s household” (Wellington Independent19/11/1873: 3). The notion of perfume and fragrances as ‘gendered’ is a particularly interesting one, and something that I’ll talk about in more detail in next week’s post.

Contemporary descriptions of Eau de Cologne suggest that it had a strong citrus and bergamot fragrance, with one account listing the ingredients as “twelve drops each of essential oils neroli, citron, bergamot, orange and rosemary, along with one drachm of Malabar cardamoms and a gallon of rectified spirit” (Press23/12/1887: 5). It seems likely that the 4711 had a similar fragrance, although the only description I could find just emphasised the particularly alcoholic base with which the cologne was made (Auckland Star14/06/1890: 1).

Unfortunately, as far as the other perfumes go, unless the name of the fragrance is embossed on the bottle, we don’t know which ‘flavours’ of perfume were contained within them. Contemporary sources indicate that floral scents were popular, as they are today, with many manufacturers advertising fragrances like jasmine, rose, heliotrope, lily, etc. Others seem to have been specific to the 19th century, with one French company advertising a fragrance with the scent of ‘freshly mown hay.’ There’s even an advertisement for a ‘Geisha’ perfume.

A recipe for the 'celebrated lily of the valley perfume', one of the popular scents of the 19th century. Image:
A recipe for the 'celebrated lily of the valley perfume', one of the popular scents of the 19th century. Image:

Certain scents were frowned upon: musk was not well liked, with one 1891 article going so far as to suggest that “the King of Holland got a divorce from his wife because she used musk as a perfume. There are many people who think this sufficient cause…” (Oamaru Mail1/08/1891: 3). And, amusing as that anecdote is, it’s symptomatic of a broader trend in contemporary (and modern) writing on the subject of perfume and the people who wear it. Several of the commentators that I came across talked of individual perfumes as an indication of a person’s character, particularly when it came to women. Even more than a sign of good or bad taste, a person’s perfume seems to have been seen (or sniffed, I suppose) as a manifestation of that person’s personality and place in life.

There’s something really interesting to be untangled here, in terms of how we – now and in the past – use personal fragrance as a way to define, maintain and reinforce individual and collective identity. Just think about how much your perfume says about you (or others): is it feminine, masculine, modern, old fashioned, cheap, expensive, designer, celebrity, professional, flirty, playful, down to earth, clean or any one of the other identity markers we use to describe the way we smell? It’s a really fascinating aspect of social behaviour but, for the sake of space and our attention spans, one that we'll save for next week's post.

Jessie Garland

References

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

Farina, 2015. Farina: the birthplace of Eau de Cologne. [online] Available at www.farina1709.de.

Nelson Evening Mail. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz.

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

Newton, D., 2013. Trademarked: A History of Well-Known Brands, from Airtex to Wrights Coal Tar. The History Press, Gloucestershire.

Oamaru Mail. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz.

Otago Witness. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz.

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

Rimmel, 2015. About Rimmel. [online] Available at www.us.rimmellondon.com.

Wairarapa Daily Times. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz.

Wellington Independent. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz.

No poo in the sewers, please…

In previousblog posts we've touched upon the smells of 19th century Christchurch and how, in the absence of an organised sewerage and rubbish disposal system, early Christchurch was, at the best of times, a dirty old town. Inadequate drainage was a persistent problem, accosting the senses of citizens on a daily basis. Following the formation of the Christchurch Drainage Board in 1875, and the development of an engineering solution, a sewerage system was eventually constructed in the city. Once this became fully operational in September 1882, it could be considered by the standards of the day to be one of the finest in the world. During the course of SCIRT infrastructure projects out and about in the central city, we’ve been able to get up close and personal with 19th century Christchurch’s drainage system. We’ve learnt a great deal: about how the system was built, how it functioned, and how this system expanded and changed over time. It’s also got us thinking about path dependency as we have been able to observe it in the archaeological record. The way that our city’s drainage infrastructure was designed and built more than 130 years ago is having a direct impact on the how we are able to go about repairing it in the present day.

Waiting at a bus stop last week, I got into a conversation with a fellow commuter about what I do for a living and what I’ve been finding looking at the city’s old sewers. “Found any old poo?” “No old poo, mate”, I replied. “What about Ninja Turtles?” “Only crocodiles, sorry.” “Any idea about who flushed the first Christchurch poo?” I told him that I haven’t yet found any historical documents about that kind of thing. As I boarded the bus, I got to thinking about the subterranean city: about the hidden horizontal infrastructure that, in an abstract kind of way, can be seen as an extension of our bodies (our digestive systems at least!), and about 19th century discard behaviours of the most private and personal kind. Which begs the question, how did Christchurch get its first flush toilets, and what did this mean in the transformation of early Christchurch?

afg
afg

The poo, the water closet, and the big “Drainage Question”

We have learnt from historical records that the citizens of 19th century Christchurch were scared about putting poo down the sewers.

The Drainage Board’s first consulting engineer was John Carruthers, who presented the first design for sewerage system to the city council in January 1877 (Wilson 1989:17). He advocated construction of a combined sewer system, which would see wastewater and stormwater conveyed eastwards out of town to an estuary outfall (Star29/1/1877:2). Carruthers strongly recommended allowing water closets to be connected to the sewers, but noted that:

I do not go so far as to recommend their compulsory use at present, as I have little doubt they will, if allowed, very soon be generally used for the sake of their healthfulness, decency, and cleanlinessthe primary object of sewers is not to carry water closet dejecta, but to remove household water after it has been used and fouled. It is obviously a matter of the first importance to get rid of this filthy water, and underground sewers form the basic vehicle for carrying it away...”  - Star 29/1/1877:2

The Board accepted Carruthers’ scheme, though without any public consultation and without an official stance as to whether water closets would or should be adopted, whether sewers were the right place for ‘closet dejecta’ or whether their installation should be made compulsory once the system had been completed. Frenzied public meetings were held wherein ratepayers, engineers, and medical men debated “The Drainage Question” in filthy detail (Press16/2/1877:2, 3/3/1877:1).

Of chief concern was sewage contamination at the estuary outfall, sewer blockages that would generate poisonous gases, and inadequacies in the local water supply for flushing. Backyard artesian wells across the district that were looked to for flushing purposes were already beginning to dry up (Press 3/3/1877:1). Unhappy with Carruthers’ plan, at the ratepayer’s suggestion William Clark was made the Drainage Board’s new consulting engineer, and by April 1878 had revised the original plans, presenting the board with a comprehensive report, Drainage Scheme for Christchurch and the Suburbs.

The key point of Clark’s scheme, which was approved in May 1878, was that wastewater flows were to be admitted into the sewers, but were to be kept separate from stormwater at all costs. A pumping station was to be built on land the Board owned on Mathesons Road, which would pump the city’s sewerage eastwards out of town, where a sewage farm was to be established on the sandhills. Here the sewage would be irrigated over the paddocks, fertilising the soil (Clark 1878:6-12). Construction of the sewage tank underneath the pumping station progressed slowly, on account of the unstable, quicksand-like subsoil, and the many baby eels “about the thickness of a man’s finger” that continually clogged the fans of the groundwater pumping apparatus (Star 16/7/1879:3).

ekjalf
ekjalf

Available historical records do not specify where or when the first water closet was installed and the first filth flushed, but it must have been by late 1882, once the last of the earthenware pipe sewers to receive the private house connections had been laid (Star10/1/1882:3). The completion of the system, however, did not result in properties becoming connected straight away. Landowners had to pay for a private connection to be made to the sewer, as well as satisfy the board that these private drains were properly laid, the water closet was of an approved type, was properly located and ventilated, and had a sufficient water supply for flushing purposes (Press21/10/1882:2). Because of installation costs, many households may have initially only made a house connection to the sewer for the removal of kitchen 'slop water', and would have continued to use their chamber pots, backyard long drops, dry earth closets, and the regular nocturnal services of the ‘night soil’ man. Clark thought that his estimated 2 pounds 10 shillings cost for constructing a 'water privie' of his own design would be affordable for households over the long term, considering that the night soil man was already costing them 7 pennies a week (Clark 1878:14).

In 1884 Christchurch had 293 water closets, by 1901 this number had jumped to 1915 (Wilson 1989:29).

300 mm diameter earthenware pipe sewer junction on Oxford Terrace, which was installed in early 1882. The 100 mm diameter inlet is stopped up, evidence of a private house drain or water closet connection that was never made
300 mm diameter earthenware pipe sewer junction on Oxford Terrace, which was installed in early 1882. The 100 mm diameter inlet is stopped up, evidence of a private house drain or water closet connection that was never made

We have found out by looking at some 19th century private connections into the 1882 St Asaph Street sewer that there was great variation in how these 100mm diameter earthenware pipe drains were installed. Some were fully haunched in concrete as a protective measure, others were simply laid down into the natural sandy clay subsoil and then backfilled with the same. Individual pipes were mostly bonded with rigid cement mortar joints,but we did find evidence for a more 'flexible' bonding agent on one drain: this was a sticky, sulphurous, coal tar. From impressed manufacturers marks on these pipes we have learned that these were all manufactured locally. The larger diameter sewer mains on the other hand were all imported, these were made in Scotland at James Binnie's Gartcosh Fireclay Works.

Tar joint
Tar joint

Pumping and flushing By late 1882 the Drainage Board had exhausted most of their funds on pipe laying; what was left in the budget was to be spent on pumping and flushing.

The pumping station on the corner of Mathesons Road and Tuam Street ceased pumping the city’s sewage in 1957, by which time the drainage system had greatly expanded in size and a new pumping station on Pages Road had taken over. The original pump-house building still stands, (albeit without its fine brick chimney) as one of the few visible above ground components of the city’s 19th century sewerage system, and is a Cat 2 registered historic place. Currently a recycled building materials yard, it’s also a good place to go if you are looking to buy a second hand toilet or wash basin…

The Christchurch Drainage Board's first wastewater pumping station as it stands today.
The Christchurch Drainage Board's first wastewater pumping station as it stands today.

As well as pumping, the Drainage Board was also involved heavily in the business of flushing. Brick ‘flushing tanks’ were built at various points along the sewer lines, and the regular flushing of the sewers ensured that no ‘closet dejecta’ or foreign solids was given any chance to settle: sewerage was to be kept moving through the sewers at all costs. These tanks were supplied with water from the board’s own wells, which were sunk all over the place. When Christchurch finally got a high pressure water supply turned on in 1909, these tanks were connected up to this new supply, thus preventing any 'back flow' from the sewers potentially contaminating the groundwater aquifers (Wilson 1989:26).

A 1882 flushing tank, as exposed on the corner of Madras and St Asaph Streets, during wastewater renewal works, June 2014. It had an arched roof, the 'H' bricks used were made by local brickmaker William Holmes.
A 1882 flushing tank, as exposed on the corner of Madras and St Asaph Streets, during wastewater renewal works, June 2014. It had an arched roof, the 'H' bricks used were made by local brickmaker William Holmes.

Past and future sewers

Although a number of Christchurch’s 19th century sewer lines were damaged in the earthquakes, and have since been dug up and replaced, some have been decommissioned and remain in situ deep underground, to perhaps to one day be investigated by archaeologists in the distant future. Other sewers, which may have cracked a little but have not been vertically displaced, have been relined. This non-invasive rehabilitation technique should ensure that these ancestral central city sewers can remain operational for perhaps another 130 years or more.

Relined barrel on Moorhouse Ave. Image: H. Williams.
Relined barrel on Moorhouse Ave. Image: H. Williams.

There can be no doubt that the sewerage system transformed 19th century Christchurch in so many ways, though for different reasons the system would have benefited some more than others. It reduced the mortality rate by removing problematic disease causing ‘dejecta’, and in doing so made the urban environment a safer, cleaner and we suspect, a much better smelling place. Parallel with changes to the physical environment, the sewerage system also brought about changes in peoples behaviour. The people of Christchurch could now flush, provided they were lucky enough to have a water closet, which makes us think again about archaeology and status. In today's modern world we all take flush toilets for granted, but when they first appeared in 19th century Christchurch I'm sure that they must have been a real novelty! For first time users, would the water closet experience have been scary, or exciting? Pondering this question, I couldn't help but think it perhaps best summed up by Tom Lehrer:

"Life is like a sewer: what you get out of it depends on what you put into it." 

And whatever you do, don’t forget to wash your hands.

Hamish Williams

References

Clark, W. 1878. Drainage Scheme for Christchurch and the Suburbs. Christchurch: The Times.

Press. [online] Available at: http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz.

Star. [online] Available at: http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz.

Wilson, J., 1989. Christchurch: swamp to city. A short history of the Christchurch Drainage Board. Christchurch: Christchurch Drainage Board.

In which the emanation of effluvia is offensive to one's senses

Continuing on from last week’s blog, today’s post takes a look (or a sniff, if you will) at the aromas of everyday life inside a Victorian house. Smell is such an intrinsic part of human life, yet so fleeting that it can only be experienced directly in the present moment. The smells of the past, as Hamish mentioned last week, are only available to us indirectly, through written descriptions and the power of our imagination (itself based upon our own past olfactory experiences). As far as the 19th century is concerned, many of the everyday scents and aromas experienced by people in Christchurch would still be familiar to us, even now. Others, however, have faded from daily life during the intervening decades as household products and technologies have gradually been replaced by modern, odourless, alternatives.

A lovely brass candlestick (used by Colonel mustard in the library, perhaps...). We think that the pieces of fabric stuck to the metal are just the remnants of the wrapping it was thrown out in, rather than a functional or decorative part of the candlestick itself. There's even a candle stub still visible inside the holder, near the base. Image: J. Garland
A lovely brass candlestick (used by Colonel mustard in the library, perhaps...). We think that the pieces of fabric stuck to the metal are just the remnants of the wrapping it was thrown out in, rather than a functional or decorative part of the candlestick itself. There's even a candle stub still visible inside the holder, near the base. Image: J. Garland

The smell of lighting, for example, is something that wouldn’t even register as a household smell now. Yet, in the 19th century, everything that produced light (with the exception of the sun, of course) – candles, kerosene lamps, gas lamps, wood or coal fires – would also have produced a smell.  Some of these have featured on the blog before, in the form of candle sticks and fireplaces found on Christchurch sites, but we’ve not really considered them in the context of their smell before.

Many of the fireplaces we’ve come across would not have ‘drawn’ well, meaning there would often have been coal or wood smoke in the room while they were lit. Kerosene lamps were notorious for their smell, to the point that advertisers made an effort to emphasise the less ‘distasteful’ smell of their own products (Wairarapa Daily Times7/2/1913: 7). Candles were made from a variety of materials, from cheap tallow to spermaceti (a wax found in sperm whales) and paraffin wax, some of which gave off distinctive smells and some of which did not. Even ‘odourless’ candles, though, such as ‘sperm candles’, would still have contributed to the scents of the household through the smell of the wick as it was extinguished, or matches as it was lit.

Advertisements for household lighting and heat
Advertisements for household lighting and heat
Article on the creation of an allegedly odourless 'super-cabbage'. Image:
Article on the creation of an allegedly odourless 'super-cabbage'. Image:

On the other hand, the smell of cooking – and food, in general – is one that we’re used to today, although perhaps not to the same extremes as in the 19th and early 20th centuries.  As well as the smell of coal ranges or cooking fires, people during the period seem to have been particularly concerned with the aromas of cooked vegetables and meat permeating through the house (Ashburton Guardian 31/3/1900: 4). Newspapers from the time are full of advice on how to prevent the smell of cooking from spreading, with noticeable emphasis on the smell of cooking cabbage, onion and other boiled green vegetables (North Otago Times 20/12/1906: 1New Zealand Herald5/07/1930:7). Of course, some of the cooking smells of the time must have been more palatable than others: the aroma of fresh bread or baking, for example, is unlikely to have provoked such negativity.

Advice on how to prevent cooking smells from permeating through the house. Images:
Advice on how to prevent cooking smells from permeating through the house. Images:

However, food smells wouldn’t have been limited to cooking. Without the refrigeration that we have today, even the storage of food in a house would have generated a variety of smells – some good (spices, perhaps) and some bad. We talked about a few of the foodstuffs that we’ve found on sites in Christchurch a little while ago. Some of these – the anchovy paste, for example – probably smelled quite pungent to start with, let alone after they’d been sitting in unrefrigerated storage for any length of time. In fact, many of the food-related artefacts we find, from vinegar bottles to Bovril to jars of ground cheese, would have had fairly distinctive aromas that we tend to forget about when we’re looking at them.

An Anchovy Paste jar found in Christchurch and accompanying recipe from 1904. Image: J. Garland, Otago Witness 17/08/1904: 67.
An Anchovy Paste jar found in Christchurch and accompanying recipe from 1904. Image: J. Garland, Otago Witness 17/08/1904: 67.

Perhaps the most obvious difference between the household smells of then and now is, as it was with the smells of the outside world, related to the management of human waste, sanitation and personal hygiene. Last week, Hamish mentioned one site with a crudely made drain, which might have contributed to the smell of the sewer travelling up the pipe and into a house. We don’t know how common an occurrence this might have been in 19th century Christchurch, but we do know that the smell of human waste would have been a strong presence in houses anyway, thanks to the use of chamber pots – a multitude of which have been found on sites in the city.

Part of a chamberpot decorated with the May Morn pattern. Image: J. Garland.
Part of a chamberpot decorated with the May Morn pattern. Image: J. Garland.

For many 19th century households, the toilet (or privy) would have been located outside, separate from the main house or attached to the rear of the dwelling (Butcher & Smith 2010). While this set-up would have been fine for use during the day, chamber pots were common household items for use during the night, when it was too cold or too dark to stumble outside to the privy. Even when emptied frequently, the smell must have been fairly pervasive and less than pleasant.

An 1870s article describing the use of coffee as a disinfectant and de-odouriser. Image:
An 1870s article describing the use of coffee as a disinfectant and de-odouriser. Image:

However, there were a number of methods and products available in the 19th century to combat the more unpleasant household smells, products that would have themselves contributed to the overall aromatic signature of the Victorian Christchurch home. Examples of 19th and early 20th century cleaning products from Christchurch sites have featured here on the blog before. All of these would have provided a fairly strong assault on the nostrils, particularly the disinfectants like Kerol, Lysol and Jeyes Fluid (New Zealand Herald22/1/1912: 8). Other methods of preventing ‘noxious odours’ in the home included the cooking tips mentioned above, the careful placement of flowers or floral scented sachets (lavender or rose, usually; New Zealand Herald26/10/1912: 6), or the use of coffee as a “powerful means…of rendering animal and vegetable effluvia innocuous” (Southland Times3/6/1870: 3).

Kerol bottle found in Christchurch, along with 1920s poem singing the praises of the disinfectant. Images:  Colonist 24/02/1920; J. Garland.
Kerol bottle found in Christchurch, along with 1920s poem singing the praises of the disinfectant. Images: Colonist 24/02/1920; J. Garland.

Sadly, due to the constraints of space, in this post I’ve really only touched on the plethora of smells that would have defined a household in the 19th century. I’ve not mentioned the smell of the building itself (wallpapers, particular types of timber, the damp; Bruce Herald23/10/1872: 9) or the smell of household animals or pets or many of the other scented household products (for better or for worse) that would have been in use (Evening Post20/2/1930: 7). Not to mention the personal smells created by people themselves, from the smell of their clothing (washed and unwashed), the smell of leather shoes, individual perfumes or lack thereof, the smell of a person’s hair (which may have been washed with beetle juices!) or the soap that they used.

There are so many individual scents that make up the olfactory experience of our daily lives that it can be difficult to imagine that experience as a whole in the past, to combine all of the smells we’ve mentioned, this week and last, into an idea of what it was like to breathe in deeply in 19th century Christchurch. It can also be difficult to separate out the various smells that contribute to our own experience, especially the ones we’re so used to that we barely notice them anymore. You have to wonder if perhaps it was a bit like that for people in the 19th century as well: perhaps, so many of these smells were so common that they hardly registered in day to day life. For us, though, even imagining such smells has the power to make that daily life - those past scenes and experiences - more real, in a way that few other senses do.

Jessie Garland

References

Ashburton Guardian. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz

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

Butcher, M. & Smith, I., 2010. Talking trash: classifying rubbish-bearing deposits from colonial New Zealand sites. Journal of Pacific Archaeology 1(1): 43-61.

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

Evening Post. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz

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

North Otago Times. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz

Otago Witness. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz

Southland Times. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz

Public faces and private spaces: domestic pride and hygiene in the 19th century

Today’s post continues the theme of the last one (a little), in terms of exploring the relationship between products and industries in the past and their connection with our lives today. It's easy to scoff at some of the things we learn about the 19th century - like how backward the ideas were - but there are certain aspects of history that remind us how some human traits transcend time and generations. One such aspect of human behaviour that’s come to my attention recently, thanks to some artefacts we've found in Christchurch, is to do with cleaning the house, of all things. Specifically, how we can see delineations between public and private spaces in the products used by a 19th century household as much as we can see it in the actual physical structure of the house itself.

The object that triggered this train of thought was found recently, on a site in the Christchurch CBD. It’s a small ceramic pot, similar to others that we've come across before, that has the useful distinction of still having its label attached. This label identifies the original contents of the pot as Joseph Pickering & Sons' "celebrated polishing paste", for "cleaning and beautifying" a range of metal objects. The significant word here, I think, is 'beautifying'. Products like this polishing paste had a very specific purpose, and that purpose had everything to do with appearance. After all, something is polished so that it can be seen, is it not? Shiny harness ornaments, gleaming silver and brass, burnished copper – they're there to look good, and to make the people associated with them look good in the eyes of others. The virtue of keeping a clean house, and the reflection of that virtue on a person's character, is not a new concept to any of us (even if we don't always follow through as much as we should). Pickering's polishing paste is a product that has everything to do with this concept, with that public face of a household or business and the social construct of domestic pride.

This pot of Pickering & Son's polishing paste was found on a site in Christchurch's CBD. The label reads:
This pot of Pickering & Son's polishing paste was found on a site in Christchurch's CBD. The label reads:

It got me thinking about the other household products we find in archaeological sites and how they fit within this notion of public and private space in the home. With the exception of polishing paste, almost all of the other cleaning products we find are disinfectants. Products like Kerol, Jeyes Fluid & Lysol were all advertised primarily as disinfectants for the home (and on the farm, in some cases), although they also claimed medicinal properties among their applications. Kerol was advertised as a remedy for infantile paralysis (polio), due to its germ-killing properties (Wanganui Chronicle 24/03/1916: 6), while Lysol had some interesting (and disturbing) alternative uses (Evening Post 4/10/1930: 27). In the early 20th century, along with causing a number of deaths, it was marketed and used as a form of birth control and feminine hygiene product (Sanger 1917). Unfortunately for women, the extremely caustic and highly toxic disinfectant, which was applied by douching, created all manner of disastrous and highly painful health problems rather than solving them (Palmer & Greenberg 1936:142-146).

These astoundingly sexist advertisements for Lysol claim "in easily understood language", that good feminine hygiene can protect a woman's youth & vigor and save her marriage. Clockwise
These astoundingly sexist advertisements for Lysol claim "in easily understood language", that good feminine hygiene can protect a woman's youth & vigor and save her marriage. Clockwise

All of these disinfectants are associated with the gradual acceptance of germ theory during the late 19th century, along with the new understanding that personal and household hygiene formed an important aspect of individual health. For that very reason, as cleaning products, they form something of a contrast to Pickering's polishing paste as products that sit firmly within the private sphere of household cleaning. Their ability to kill germs notwithstanding, disinfectants like these would have little to contribute when it came to presenting the public spaces of the household to guests and visitors. In fact, horrifying feminine hygiene aside, their use in the home hasn't really changed during the past 100 years.

Kerol bottle found in Christchurch, along with 1920s poem singing the praises of the disinfectant. Images:  Colonist 24/02/1920; J. Garland.
Kerol bottle found in Christchurch, along with 1920s poem singing the praises of the disinfectant. Images: Colonist 24/02/1920; J. Garland.

This is what I'm getting at, really. The products themselves may have uses that seem barbaric (douching with disinfectant, ouch), or ingredients that we wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole, but the driving force behind their use hasn't changed so much. The average household today might not have a lot of silver and saddlery to polish (to be fair the average household then probably didn't either) but a bottle of furniture polish wouldn't be unusual in most cleaning cupboards. Nor would glass cleaner, starch, or shoe polish, all of which are used more for the presentation of a clean house (or footwear) than for hygienic reasons. At the same time, although many solely 'private' products, like bleach or disinfectant, are common in modern households, so too are products that combine the appearance-based cleaning with the hygienic side of things. Anti-bacterial Spray & Wipe is an excellent case in point.

Perhaps that's the real difference between then and now. There's still the same drive to have a clean house, the same kind of domestic pride and same wish to be free from illness or disease: it's just easier to fulfil now. More convenient. The people haven't changed, not so much, but we've changed the world around us, one product at a time.

Jessie Garland

References

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

Evening Post. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz.

Museum of Menstruation and Women's Health, 2014. [online] Available at http://www.mum.org/

Palmer, R. L. & Greenberg, Sarah K., 1936. Facts and Frauds in Women's Hygiene: A Medical Guide Against Misleading Claims and Dangerous Products. Vanguard Press. 

Sanger, M., 1917. Family Limitation. [online] Available at http://archive.lib.msu.edu.

Wanganui Chronicle. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz.

Let me tell you a story...

Historical archaeology has many facets, it includes recording buildings and features, artefact analysis, names and dates, but if you take a moment, collaborate all that data, you have a powerful tool for telling someone's story. Some call this type of analysis 'interpretative archaeology' or 'storytelling' and both of these are right in a way. In its most simplest form, it is an attempt tell the story of those ordinary moments lost in time. When an assemblage containing a large number of children's toys came through our doors we believed we had a topic to blog about. If we could, through the analysis of both the archaeological remains and the historical documents, identify the children who had played with these toys, how interesting would that be, what stories could be told. I'll be the first to admit it, this proved more difficult than I initially anticipated.

Selection of children's items from Moorhouse Ave. Image Gwen Jackson.
Selection of children's items from Moorhouse Ave. Image Gwen Jackson.

These artefacts were part of an assemblage from Moorhouse Avenue, where over 600 artefacts were recovered, many of them domestic in form. Preliminary historical research showed that there was a house on the section in 1877; however, the vague nature of land transaction records and land occupation records mean that we can’t definitively pin down who lived in this house. This was complicated further by a range of other factors: the owner of a section was not always its occupant in 19th and early 20th century Christchurch; the next map or plan that shows the area in question wasn’t published until 1915 (LINZ 1915); and, worst of all, the street numbers in central Christchurch changed completely in 1911 – the streets were numbered from a different end, and the odd and even numbers switched sides. One can only describe this as a researcher's nightmare.

Street Adress Numbers 2
Street Adress Numbers 2

In spite of these complications, we know that the section was the site of domestic occupation until the mid 1910s (when ownership was taken over by the Tai Tapu Dairy Company), and we have at least two potential candidates: Jason and Maggie Isbester, who may have lived on the site from 1905-1908; and Frederick Hammond, who may have lived on the section from 1908 to at least 1913. But both proved elusive in the historical records, so we had no way to confirm our hypotheses.

Aynsley tea cup. Moorhouse Ave. Image: Jaden Harris.
Aynsley tea cup. Moorhouse Ave. Image: Jaden Harris.

So in absence of definitive historical records we turn to artefacts: what do the artefacts tell us, what story do they unravel to both the trained and untrained eye? A number of artefacts can be identified as 'early' due to their functional nature. The presence of candlesticks, gas lanterns and chamber pots suggest occupation of this house predated the advent of utilities such as sewerage and electricity. Moorhouse Avenue was connected to Christchurch’s sewerage system by 1882 (Wilson 1989) and electricity was available in the early 1900s. These artefacts represent Christchurch prior to the installation of modern services.

Tea pot, Moorhouse Ave. Image: Jaden Harris.
Tea pot, Moorhouse Ave. Image: Jaden Harris.

Whoever was living at the site in the late 19th and early 20th century appear to be reasonably affluent and may have been from the middle class. This assumption is based on the composition of the artefact assemblage, with a number of food serving dishes and the large number of children's toys and other personal items. A number of serving platters or deep square dishes, champagne bottles, vinegar bottles and food vessels suggest the occupants liked to entertain at dinner parties, as was common for the middle and upper classes in the 19th and early 20th century. To find such a concentration of children's toys in a single archaeological deposit is rare, as children are often surprisingly invisible in the archaeological record. Items of personal hygiene included everything from a toothbrush and accompanying toothpaste jar but also numerous perfume and cosmetic jars.

plate
plate
Entertaining ad for Kruschen. The Evening Post 16/01/1928: 19
Entertaining ad for Kruschen. The Evening Post 16/01/1928: 19

A variety of pharmaceuticals were found in the deposit, which suggests a reliance on selfmedication for ailments - this is a common feature in historic New Zealand sites and as common as finding a Panadol box in your rubbish. Some of those bottles found included Jeyes Fluid, which acted as a disinfectant and antiseptic, Wood's Great Peppermint Cure for coughs and colds and one called Kruschen salts which, well, let's say it dealt with the more unpleasant side of the digestive tract.

bottle1
bottle1

A number of paint supplies were also collected from the site, with one paint dish identified to Reeves and Son Ltd, a firm which started operation in 1891 (Grace's Guide 2007). It is assumed that the paint brushes found in the site were used at the same time as the paint dish, due to their functional association.

Ad for Reeves and Son Ltd. Grace's Guide: 1924
Ad for Reeves and Son Ltd. Grace's Guide: 1924

So what does it all mean really? I did say we tend to use numbers, dates and names.  But we also tell stories. Perhaps what we have is a story of a girl in the late 1890s who grew up in a somewhat affluent Christchurch home. As a daily chore she would exit the rear of her house and empty the chamber pots and as payment for her daily chores her father, the painter, rewarded her with toys (given New Zealand’s “servant problem”, there was probably no servant). As she sits with her figurine dolls and her tea set, her parents entertain with food served in large Willow patterned and Wild Rose vessels with candles glimmering in the night light. The cold air means the Wood's Great Peppermint Cure will be on hand tomorrow. Actually, her mother's bad cooking probably means Kruschen will be used as well. As the wine pours, the little 19th century girls heads to bed, she brushes her teeth and says her prayers, for tomorrow is another day of more chamber pots and the promise of new toys.

This is only one interpretation, and yes, it is a story but it's that one moment lost in time given life for a brief moment. Perhaps I could encourage you to offer us your interpretation?

Kimberley Bone

References

Evening Post. [online] Available at http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/cgi-bin/paperspast

Grace's Guide, 2007. Reeves and Sons. [online] Available at: http://www.gracesguide.co.uk/Reeves_and_Sons [Accessed on 14th June 2013].

 LINZ, 1915. DP 4334, Canterbury. Landonline.

National Portrait Gallery, 2013. British Artists' Suppliers, 1650-1950 -R. [online] Available at: http://www.npg.org.uk/research/programmes/directory-of-suppliers/r.php [Accessed on 14th June 2013].

Wilson, J., 1989. Christchurch Swamp to City: A short history of the Christchurch drainage board 1875-1989. Te Waihora Press: Lincoln, New Zealand.

Wise's New Zealand Post Office Directories. [microfiche] Held at Christchurch City Libraries.

Medicating the masses: a wholesale druggist in Edwardian Christchurch.

One of the artefact deposits exposed during our excavation of the H. F. Stevens site on Worcester Street. Image:
One of the artefact deposits exposed during our excavation of the H. F. Stevens site on Worcester Street. Image:

In our last post, Jeremy talked about the site of H. F. Stevens, wholesale druggist, on Worcester Street near Cathedral Square. We excavated the site in 2011 and found a number of artefacts, including the Udolpho Wolfe’s bottles featured last week. We also found a range of other pharmaceutical remedies, local and international in origin, and a few household artefacts. These artefacts let us catch a glimpse of what went on inside a successful wholesale pharmaceutical company in Edwardian Christchurch.

H. F. Stevens. Image: Jeremy Moyle.
H. F. Stevens. Image: Jeremy Moyle.

Henry Francis Stevens established himself as a wholesale druggist in 1887. It’s not clear whether he had any official medical or pharmaceutical training before he began his business , but his father, George, had been a dispensing apothecary in England. It's quite likely that Henry gained some experience with the distribution and retail of pharmaceutical products as a result of his father’s occupation and applied it to his fledgling business in Christchurch.

Initially, Stevens operated out of a building at 112 Manchester Street, but shifted to premises at 138 Cashel Street in the early 1890s.  Finally, in 1906, he moved again, this time to a large custom-built building in Worcester Street, a prime location in the heart of the Christchurch's central business district. The new building was designed by local architect Alfred Henry Hart, who died fairly soon after its construction, in 1908. Described as having an “elaborate Edwardian façade” (Christchurch City Libraries), the building was laid out with a warehouse and yard to the rear and offices and a service counter at the front of the building. Stevens employed a number of clerks and assistants in the business, who would have filled these offices and manned the counter every day.

Loasby's Mighty Cough Cure
Loasby's Mighty Cough Cure

Stevens was a successful businessman, something we can see in the numerous advertisements for his products in the newspapers of the time. These ads tell us that he sold and distributed all kinds of things, from culinary essences, scented oils and shampoo to cures for dyspepsia, coughs, headaches and various other ailments. Products like Golden Valley Ointment, Wilson’s Pepsin and Cascara, Hendy’s Celebrated Juleptia for the Hair and Loasby’s Mighty Cough Cure were all available 'wholesale from H. F. Stevens'.

Golden Valley Ointment
Golden Valley Ointment

During our archaeological investigation of the site, a range of domestic and commercial artefacts were found, including a toothpaste pot, food-related objects, animal bones and soda water and alcohol bottles, as well as a large number of pharmaceutical and cosmetic containers. This is typical of the range of artefacts found during the archaeological excavation of late 19th and early 20th century businesses in Christchurch.

Artefacts from the H. F. Stevens site
Artefacts from the H. F. Stevens site

The pharmaceutical bottles and cosmetic products found would have been stocked in the H. F. Stevens warehouse and sold, along with items like the toothpaste pot. A number of different ink brands were excavated, including Stephens Ink, Fields Ink and Antoine’s ‘Encre Japonaise’. These were almost certainly used by the clerks employed by Stevens, as they recorded incoming and outgoing goods and kept the accounts of his thriving business. It’s possible that the soda water bottles (sometimes known as aerated water) were also being sold on the premises, but it’s equally possible that they were being drunk by Stevens or his employees during their working day.

Jar of Anchovy Paste
Jar of Anchovy Paste

And what about the food-related artefacts found at the site? These included a platter, a tureen and an egg cup, as well as the bones from several meals, a jar of anchovy paste and salad oil and Worcestershire sauce bottles. While the last three products may have been sold by H. F. Stevens, the presence of the other meal debris suggests that meals may have been served at the building. Not enough is known about the company to know whether they may have served their employees meals, or whether they may have had functions for the directors on the premises.

Although we found numerous pharmaceutical bottles at the site, only a few were labelled with a product name. These included cosmetic and so-called medicinal products such as Bonnington’s Irish Moss, Eno’s Fruit Salts, Barry’s Pearl Cream and Resinol. Both Bonnington’s Irish Moss and Eno’s Fruit Salts may be a familiar names to many, as they’re still made today.

Advertisement for Eno's Fruit Salts from 1935. Image: Auckland Star, 1935.
Advertisement for Eno's Fruit Salts from 1935. Image: Auckland Star, 1935.

Bonnington’s was created by George Bonnington in Christchurch in the 1870s and sold throughout the following decades for the relief of coughs, colds and other respiratory illnesses, while Eno’s Fruit Salts were marketed as an antacid or remedy for gastrointestinal complaints. Resinol and Barry’s Pearl Cream, on the other hand, were both cosmetic products. Resinol ("for a fresh and velvety complexion!") was created in Baltimore, Maryland, by Dr Merville Hamilton Carter, while Barry’s Pearl Cream ("for an alabaster complexion!") was first made by an American named Alexander Barry, in New York.

Bonnington's
Bonnington's
Barry's Pearl Cream
Barry's Pearl Cream

One of the most interesting things about the pharmaceutical bottles from the site is that no advertisements were found in newspapers of the time connecting H. F. Stevens with these products. This is despite the many, many, advertisements found in contemporary newspapers for products sold by Stevens. This contrast between the archaeological and historical record highlights the power of archaeology to provide us with information about a site or a business that might be missing from the historical record.

Although we didn’t find many artefacts from this site, they did tell us some things about H. F. Stevens’s business that we weren’t aware of. From products we didn’t know he stocked to information about the daily activities of the people he employed, the archaeology revealed some of the little pieces of history that had been lost from our records and, in doing so, enriched our understanding of this site and its place in Edwardian Christchurch.

Jessie Garland

Bibliography

Ashburton Guardian. [online] Available at http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz.

Auckland Star. [online] Available at: http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz.

Carter, M. and Moyle, J., 2011. 148 Gloucester Street, 32 Cathedral Square, 103 & 105 Worcester Street, Christchurch: Report on archaeological monitoring. [online] Available at: https://quakestudies.canterbury.ac.nz/store/download/part/20449.

Christchurch City Libraries, Digital Collections. [online] Available at: http://christchurchcitylibraries.com/heritage/photos/disc6/IMG0061.asp

Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Canterbury Provincial District], 1903. [online] Available at: http://nzetc.victoria.ac.nz/tm/scholarly/tei-Cyc03Cycl-t1-body1-d3-d36-d7.html.

Hawera and Normanby Star. [online] Available at: http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz.

Lost Christchurch: Remembering our Lost Heritage. [online] Available at http://lostchristchurch.org.nz/bonningtons-chemist.

Moyle, J., 2012. An Exploration of the EAMC Database: The Assessment of a Potential Tool for Developing the Practice of Historical Archaeology within New Zealand. Unpublished BA Hons dissertation, University of Otago.

New Zealand Herald. [online] Available at http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz.

Press. [online] Available at: http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz.

Star. [online] Available at: http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz.