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ASHA NEWS

 

 
Author: Nadia Bajzelj,Christine Williamson Heritage Consultants

In 2019, GML Heritage Pty Ltd (GML) were engaged by ISPT Pty Ltd (ISPT) to undertake an historical archaeological investigation of 364-378 Little Lonsdale Street, Melbourne. This location encompasses two sites listed on the Victorian Heritage Inventory (H7822-1024 and H7822-1025). The sites were used as domestic residences (1864-1918) before the construction of a Women’s VD Clinic (1918) and a Tuberculosis Bureau (1928) (GML 2019). The recovered artefact collection, comprising approximately 40,000 artefact fragments, was catalogued and analysed by Christine Williamson Heritage Consultants.

364-378 Little Lonsdale Street, Melbourne toilet wares

Photo 1: toilet wares from 364-378 Little Lonsdale Street (photograph by Grace Stephenson-Gordon, Christine Williamson Heritage Consultants)

The items pictured are ceramic artefacts relating to 19th-century hygiene practises. The majority of these items are chamber pots, but a chamber pot lid, wash basin and a brush box and lid were also identified. All are made from earthenware and decorated with transfer printed designs in black, blue, green and purple. These artefacts are from high significance contexts associated with the single-storey cottages of 366, 368 and 370 Little Lonsdale Street.

Concepts of hygiene during the 19th-century were evolving and changing dramatically from those of previous centuries. In earlier eras a link had been made between bathing and the spread of disease, but the people of the 19th-century began to see the relationship between cleanliness and disease prevention, with cleanliness becoming closely tied with a person’s respectability (Davidoff and Hall 2002: 382; Everleigh 2002: 65; Grigg 2008; Halliday 1999: 17). 'Cleanliness, like good manners became an indicator of respectability while dirt and squalor were seen as threats to moral as well as physical health' (Everleigh 2002: 65). Having a full toilet service was therefore highly desirable for 19th-century homes, and would have included items such as the chamber pot (possibly with a cover), large and small wash basins and ewers, a covered soap box with drainer, a covered sponge bowl, a covered toothbrush box or toothbrush vase, a foot bath and many additional extras (Copeland 2000: 24).

The chamber pots excavated from 364-378 Little Lonsdale Street represent the most common hygiene items recovered from 19th-century domestic sites. Chamber pots were stored under the bed or in a nightstand. When looking at the alternative toilet solution of the 19th-century – the water closet – which was located outside the house, the usefulness of the chamber pot is obvious. The chamber pot was a convenient option when needing to use the toilet in the middle of the night as it did not necessitate trudging outside in the cold and dark. In the morning, the pot would be emptied and cleaned and the waste disposed of. But wouldn’t this smell be rather overwhelming when you went back to bed? Yes, strangely enough human waste was no better then, than it is now. In order to minimise odours, chamber pots were usually (but not always) covered with pieces of cloth, newspapers, or a chamber pot lid (as pictured).

364-378 Little Lonsdale Street, Melbourne toilet wares

Photo 2: chamber pot with lid from 364-378 Little Lonsdale Street (photograph by Grace Stephenson-Gordon, Christine Williamson Heritage Consultants)

REFERENCES
COPELAND, R. 2000: Ceramic Bygones and other unusual domestic pottery. A Shire Book. Great Britain.
DAVIDOFF, L. and C. HALL 2002: "'My own fireside': the creation of the middle-class home." Family Fortunes: Men and Women of the English Middle Class 1780-1850. Revised Edition. London and New York: Routledge, pp. 357-396.
EVELEIGH, D.J. 2002: Bogs, Baths and Basins: The Story of Domestic Sanitation. Stroud, England: Sutton.
GML 2019: 364-378 Little Lonsdale Street, Melbourne, Historical Archaeological Research Design. Report to Case Meallin Pty Ltd & ISPT Pty Ltd.
GRIGG, T. 2008: Health & Hygiene in Nineteenth Century England in Museums Victoria Collections https://collections.museumvictoria.com.au/articles/1615, accessed 02 May 2019.
HALLIDAY, S. 1999: The Great Stink of London: Sir Joseph Bazalgette and the Cleansing of the Victorian Capital. Sutton Publishing Ltd, England.

Author: Alison Frappell

Education and Interpretation Officer, Sydney Harbour YHA and the Big Dig Archaeology Education Centre

Celebrating 25 Years since The Big Dig excavations in 1994, a new documentary titled ‘Archaeology at The Big Dig’ explores how an archaeological site can give special insights into understanding the history of The Rocks and Sydney.

The documentary ‘stars’ many people who are familiar to ASHA members, including Professors Richard Mackay and Grace Karskens, Dr Wayne Johnson and Committee members Helen Nicholson and Alison Frappell.

The documentary will be shown on Monday 27th April 2020 at 4.00pm on SBS One as part of their special public holiday programming. What better way to spend half an hour on a public holiday afternoon under the COVID-19 shutdown?


Following the first broadcast, the documentary will be viewable on the SBS On Demand platform, just in case you miss it first time around.

The documentary was funded through contributions made by guests staying at Sydney Harbor YHA, and created with the film making expertise and collaborative approach of the Art of Multimedia team.

ASHA events
Daniel J. Leahy, University of New England, Armidale, NSW

In late February 2020, two service trenches were dug across Curtis Park, which is located along the Dumaresq Creek in central Armidale, NSW. The trenches are believed to be works associated with the initial developments of a current million-dollar project which will see a section of the park converted into a regional playground (Green 2019). In the process of digging these trenches, numerous historical artefacts – including broken glass, broken ceramics, and iron nails – were removed from their context and strewn across the publicly accessible surface of Curtis Park. This situation mobilised members of the University of New England (UNE) Archaeology Society to volunteer their time to conduct field-walking surveys in early March in an effort to identify and record these artefacts. During this process the risk these artefacts posed to the public (jagged metal/glass/ceramic etc), as well as the risk to the artefacts themselves through surface exposure or trampling, was highlighted and the decision taken to systematically recover the artefacts from the surface of the park.

IMAGE 1 – Front view of Lea & Perrins’ glass bottle stopper that was located on the surface of Curtis Park, Armidale, NSW, March 2020 (M. Zarb).IMAGE 1 – Front view of Lea & Perrins’ glass bottle stopper that was located on the surface of Curtis Park, Armidale, NSW, March 2020 (M. Zarb).

IMAGE  2 – Side view of Lea & Perrins’ glass bottle stopper that was located on the surface of Curtis Park, Armidale, NSW, March 2020 (M. Zarb).IMAGE 2 – Side view of Lea & Perrins’ glass bottle stopper that was located on the surface of Curtis Park, Armidale, NSW, March 2020 (M. Zarb).

European use of the site dates back to about 1846 when John Trim, a former convict , built a store along the North Road near the ford crossing the creek (Gibbs 2019:3). In 1927 the site was named ‘Curtis Park’ after one of Armidale’s prior mayors, William Curtis (1858-1934) (The Armidale Express 13 Dec. 1927:6; Armidale Regional Council 2017). The area was prone to flooding, with damaging floods reported to have occurred in 1863, 1893, and during the early 1950s (The Armidale Express 4 Apr. 1863:2, 14 Mar. 1893:4, 9 Oct. 1950:6), and required subsequent levelling through the import of landfill. In October 2019, a ground-penetrating radar (GPR) survey of the park was conducted by Professor Martin Gibbs and volunteers from UNE, in collaboration with the Armidale Regional Council, as a student training exercise (Gibbs 2019:2). This survey located a buried compressed surface which, when aligned with historical maps, was interpreted as being the historic North Road, which ran roughly northeast through the park (Gibbs 2019:11-14). Due to these results, and the fact that a number of artefacts were found on the surface of the park during the GPR survey, it was recommended that ‘the area still contains significant archaeological deposits that should be preserved and interpreted’ (Gibbs 2019:14). However, to the best of the author’s knowledge at the time of writing, no formal archaeological consultancy or additional archaeological investigation has been conducted at the site.

One of the artefacts recovered during the March 2020 survey was a - small glass bottle stopper measuring approximately 31mm long and 25mm at its maximum diameter, with the brand name ‘LEA & PERRINS’ embossed on its top. Lea & Perrins was formed in Worcester, England, in 1837 when John Wheeley Lea and William Henry Perrins began selling their newly created Worcestershire Sauce and, by the 1850s, the condiment was being exported to all parts of the British Empire (Lea & Perrins n.d.). Plain corks were initially used to seal the sauce bottles, but by about the 1840s Lea & Perrins adopted a glass stopper with a cork-wrapped shank, which continued to be used until it was replaced by a patented polyethelene pour plug and plastic screw-type closure in the late 1950s (Lunn 1981:3). Today, the sauce continues to be exported to over 130 countries (Lea & Perrins n.d.).

IMAGE 3 – Two styles of Lea & Perrins’ glass stoppers have been located in archaeological contexts at Fort Walsh, Saskatchewan, Canada (reproduced from Lunn 1981:4). The stopper located in Curtis Park is most similar to the style depicted on the right.

IMAGE 3 – Two styles of Lea & Perrins’ glass stoppers have been located in archaeological contexts at Fort Walsh, Saskatchewan, Canada (reproduced from Lunn 1981:4). The stopper located in Curtis Park is most similar to the style depicted on the right.

While a number of other artefacts have been located during the recent field-walking surveys, the Lea & Perrins’ bottle stopper has so far proven to be the most iconic. Once the brand name was read aloud while on site, all those taking part in the exercise immediately understood its connection to the condiment still sold at local supermarkets. The artefact has been robbed of its context through the digging of the service trench, and therefore it is impossible to say whether it is directly related to events which took place at the site in the nineteenth or early twentieth centuries, or whether it was redeposited in landfill when the park was levelled at some point during the mid-late twentieth century. It has, however, given a handful of archaeology students and volunteers a brief glimpse into the past lives of those in Armidale region, while remaining as a tangible connection to the present.

IMAGE 4 – Lea & Perrins’ Worcestershire Sauce available to purchase in an Armidale supermarket, March 2020 (D.J. Leahy).

IMAGE 4 – Lea & Perrins’ Worcestershire Sauce available to purchase in an Armidale supermarket, March 2020 (D.J. Leahy).

Thanks to Dr Mark Moore, Dr James Roberts, Julie Harm, Peter O’Donohue, and Meaghan ‘May’ Zarb for taking part in various aspects of this exercise. Thanks also to Professor Martin Gibbs, Jeanne Harris, and Emma Watt for sharing their expertise and knowledge. It is hoped that a more complete paper documenting the historical artefacts located at Curtis Park will be published in a future volume of Australasian Historical Archaeology.

REFERENCES

THE ARMIDALE EXPRESS

ARMIDALE REGIONAL COUNCIL 2017, ‘William Curtis’, https://www.armidaleregional.nsw.gov.au/our-region/history-and-heritage/mayors-of-the-region/armidale-city-council/william-curtis, accessed 12 March 2020.

GIBBS, M. 2019, Ground Penetrating Radar Survey, Curtis Park, Trim’s Store Site, Armidale. Unpublished report prepared for the Armidale Regional Council, October 2019.

GREEN, S. 2019, ‘Armidale’s Curtis Park super playground a year with little to show’, The Armidale Express, 17 September 2019, https://www.armidaleexpress.com.au/story/6389851/million-dollar-super-playground-hard-to-get-off-the-ground/, accessed 11 March 2020.

LEA & PERRINS n.d., ‘Our story’, Lea & Perrins UK, https://www.leaandperrins.co.uk/our-story, accessed 11 March 2020.

LUNN, K. 1981, ‘Identification and dating of Lea and Perrins’ Worcestershire Sauce bottles on Canadian historic sites: Interpretations past and present’, Canadian Journal of Archaeology 5:1-17.

 

Queen Street umbrella components picture 1 
Queen Street umbrella components picture 2
Author: Bronwyn Woff

Christine Williamson Heritage Consultants

A group of umbrella/parasol fragments were recovered from the site of 1-5 Queen Street, Melbourne (H7822-1871) during excavations undertaken by Extent Heritage in 2018.

The site’s European history (Clark et al. 2019) starts in 1837, beginning with Pitman’s Store (a small building from which Frederick Pittman, a key trader of early Melbourne, ran a store) and a residence set back from the street. This was followed by a candle and soap works factory (Rae, Dickson & Co), which occupied the site from the 1840s to 1872. This factory then demolished, and a new building housing a range of shipping-related businesses was constructed in 1872. In 1911, the building was purchased by the Mercantile Mutual Insurance Company and was used as their Victorian headquarters until the 1950s. In 1955, the building was purchased by Fletcher Jones & Co for a retail store and was used for this purpose until 2011 (Clark et al, 2019).

The artefact collection was catalogued by Christine Williamson Heritage Consultants, and included a total of 6674 artefact fragments. Of particular interest were a group of artefacts excavated from what was interpreted by the excavators as a filtering tank, possibly for lye leeching, which is part of the candle making process. The artefacts recovered from the tank represent a one-off fill event, which most likely occurred at the time of the closing and abandonment of the candle and soap factory and before the new structures were constructed in 1872. The artefacts were probably deposited in the late 1860s or early 1870s, as none of the artefact manufacturing start dates are later than 1870 (Woff, Williamson & Biagi, 2019).

Queen Street umbrella components picture 3

Photo 1: Umbrella/parasol fragments from 1-5 Queen Street, Melbourne (Image supplied: Christine Williamson Heritage Consultants)

The tank context contained an interesting group of artefacts, which included nine fragments of composite umbrella/parasol stretchers (representing eight complete umbrella/parasol stretchers, enough for one complete umbrella/parasol) and three fragments of organic/wooden umbrella ribs, which were round in profile. The context also contained a large quantity (n=278) of textile fragments, which have at least three different weave styles, some of which may be associated with the umbrella/parasol (Woff, Williamson & Biagi, 2019).  

Parts of an umbrella

Photo 2: Parts of an umbrella (Image from: https://www.goinginstyle.com/blogs/news/parts-of-an-umbrella )

Umbrellas are multi-part objects, and a simple umbrella/parasol can include up to 112 different parts (Hooper 2016: 30-31). These parts can be made from a range of materials including, but not limited to: wood, textiles, metals, baleen and ivory (Hooper 2016: 1). Our fragments are comprised of a range of materials. The stretchers are composite, made from iron alloy, copper alloy and a wood-like organic material. The ribs are made from the same wood-like organic material, which may be cane or a similar material. Hooper suggests that baleen “was the primary material used for ribs until 1852” when steel ribs were invented that were much lighter and stronger (2016: 8), however, both materials were shaped to be flat or rectangular in section (Hooper 2016: 8), whereas our fragments are round. The textiles recovered from this context were not obviously related to an umbrella or parasol by style or construction, but some may be associated with the umbrella fragments recovered.

fashion plate

Photo 3: Fashion plate showing umbrella (Image from: https://vintagedancer.com/victorian/lace-victorian-parasol-and-umbrellas-for-sale/ )

The terms umbrella and parasol were used interchangeably in 19th century advertising (Hooper 2016: 24 – 30). These items were seen as “primarily public objects, used to shield their bearers from the elements encountered when venturing outside. These objects function in images as fashionable and practical tools, mediating the relationship between individuals and their rural or urban surroundings” (Hooper 2016: 166). Although the reason for the discard of this object is unknown, this group of artefacts links to ideas of fashion and domestic life, and provides a glimpse in to the fashions of early urban Melbourne in the 1860s.

References:

Clark, C, Douglas, P, Petkov, B & Rubio Perez, R 2019. 1–5 Queen Street, Melbourne (H7822-1871) Historical Archaeological Excavation Report HV #4930. Prepared by Extent Heritage for Hutchinson Builders.

Hooper, R 2016. Out of the shade: uncovering the manufacture and use of umbrellas and parasols, 1830 -1840. Masters Thesis submitted for the University of Delaware.

Woff, B, Williamson, C & Biagi, C 2019, Artefact Report 1 – 5 Queen Street, Melbourne (H7822-1871). Prepared for Extent Heritage

Going in Style 2017, Parts of an umbrella, image, Going In Style, viewed 12 Februaru 2020 < https://www.goinginstyle.com/blogs/news/parts-of-an-umbrella >

Buck, A, 1961, Fashion plate showing umbrella, image, Vintage Dancer, viewd 13 February 2020 < https://vintagedancer.com/victorian/lace-victorian-parasol-and-umbrellas-for-sale/ >

 

Written by Catherine Tucker and Bronwyn Woff

In August and September ASHA hosted two workshops in Melbourne that were a great success!

The workshops were a beginners guide to historic artefact identification, and conservation basics for archaeologists.

Both events were fully booked with 40 attendees, and waiting lists for extra places.

Dr Christine Williamson, Bronwyn Woff and Holly Jones-Amin presented respectively on ceramic artefacts, glass bottle basics and in-field conservation first aid.

We would like to thank Heritage Victoria and their staff for the use of the Artefact Centre and the archaeological collections as well as their assistance in helping with the events.

If you would like to suggest or help organise ASHA events in your region, contact events@asha.org.au


ASHA events
ASHA Events short
Compiled by Blog Editor

On 26 September 2018, ASHA held a workshop on Artefact Identification and Analysis as part of the 2018 ASHA/AIMA Conference in Parramatta.

There was a good turnout of members, students and non-members with 25 attending each session.

Specialists talked on the artefact categories that are often, if not always, found during excavations. These categories also have the dubious reputation of being the hardest to catalogue because of their huge range of functions, fabrics, decor, manufacturing techniques etc.

This workshop also provided an ideal opportunity to showcase one of Australia’s earliest potters, Thomas Ball, so we can recognise, and therefore verify the presence of Ball’s work on sites in and around Sydney.

All presenters arrived laden with interesting artefacts that helped demonstrate the identification technique with a hands-on approach.

Jeanne Harris held two sessions and talked on the topics of ceramics and glass.

Robyn Stocks talked about two categories close to her heart, miscellaneous and building materials.

Mary Casey and Bernadette McCall prepared and presented a session on identifying Thomas Ball pottery.

Each presenter has provided ASHA with their guides on their chosen topics and these resources are now available to ASHA members.

The guides can be found at 

https://asha-2015.worldsecuresystems.com/secure_zone/workshop-resources

The workshop was extremely interesting and enjoyable and there are plans for more workshops heading your way. Watch this space.

Compiled by Blog Editor

Members may be interested in a range of archaeology-related blogs available to access, that can be found no the following link: http://pastthinking.com/links/

Compiled by Blog Editor

There have been no submissions for Artefact of the Month recieved this month (email blog@asha.org.au if you would like to submit for the June edition!) however I've come across a great blog from our North American friends: The American Artifacts Blog!

This blog "is a media outlet featuring artifact-related digital content from U.S. and Canadian archaeologists. [You can use] the blog to search, explore and learn about North American history through material culture." The artefacts featured include both historic and pre-historic time periods, and are provided by archaeologists across the region.

For more see: https://americanartifactsblog.com/

Written by John Prickard

Regarding fencing wire:

About the most wires can usually tell you is that it is post-1788. And you knew that anyway! The earliest Australian record for wire in rural fences I now know of is 1840. A few years earlier than what I published several years ago. (Yes, even I engage in the "my site is older than yours" race.) Galvanised wire was advertised in mid-1850s. Barbed wire may give a more precise date, depending on the type. In general, barbed wire is post mid-1870s, but specific types were patented later, and may help you put brackets on a date of occupation.

Iron and steel fence posts, and steel droppers may also help because most (but certainly not all) were patented. But you must be aware of later re-use of older scavenged components.

Send me some images of your wire / post / dropper, and I may be able to help you. (This sort of advice and help is really expensive: a coffee when I next see you.)

BTW: all of my fence-related papers including my 2010 PhD are on Dropbox as freebies. Help yourselves:  HERE

Copies of the diagrams, images, etc. are available from me, please don't just screen-dump them.

Fencing wire references:

I guess that most of you are aware of Internet Archive (https://archive.org/details/texts), but if you aren't, then you should be.

Internet Archive is a treasure trove of FREE downloadable scanned books on everything from A to Z and beyond. These include hundreds of early mechanical, technological and agricultural encyclopaedias and books that will certainly help you better understand how things were done in 19th and early 20th centuries. If you want to know about just about any form of technology, this is the place to start. Any historical archaeologist worth her salt should have at least some of the zillion books from Internet Archive in her digital bookshelf. However, be warned: Internet Archive can be seriously addictive!

There are also hundreds of early Australian books, and if you are looking for some historical account that is only held in the Rare Books section of some library, then you should always start with Internet Archive. It is truly surprising what you will find.

Many of the titles were scanned by Google, and some appear to require payment to download them. If it looks like this is going to happen, you can bypass it by clicking on the "All files HTTPS" or similar button. This will get you to a page with options of downloading in a range of formats including PDF.

The search function is a bit clunky, and the way the items are described is painful to say the least. You can't distinguish between the same item from different libraries.

Here is one my favourite sources, Holtzapffel. A series of five volumes from mid-19th C. with extensive discussion of materials, and how things were done. The titles are not truly indicative of the encyclopaedic contents, there is considerably more than you might think from the titles. The URLs are to the PDFs (mostly 40 - 70 MB), there are other formats available. Other historical archaeologists will have their own lists of useful titles.

Holtzapffel, C. (1852). Turning and mechanical manipulation. Volume I. Materials; their differences, choice, and preparation; various modes of working them, generally without cutting tools. London, Holtzapffel & Co.

http://www.archive.org/details/turningmechanica01holtuoft  

Holtzapffel, C. (1856). Turning and mechanical manipulation. Intended as a work of general reference and practical instruction on the lathe, and the various mechanical pursuits followed by amateurs. Volume II: The principles of construction, action, and application, of cutting tools used by hand; and also of machines derived from the hand tools. London, Holtzapffel & Co.

http://www.archive.org/details/turningmechanica02holtuoft         

Holtzapffel, C. (1850). Turning and mechanical manipulation. Intended as a work of general reference and practical instruction on the lathe, and the various mechanical pursuits followed by amateurs. Volume III: Abrasive and miscellaneous processes, which cannot be accomplished with cutting tools. London, Holtzapffel & Co.

http://www.archive.org/details/turningmechanica03holtuoft         

Holtzapffel, C. (1881). Turning and mechanical manipulation. Intended as a work of general reference and practical instruction on the lathe, and the various mechanical pursuits followed by amateurs. Volume IV: The principles and practice of hand or simple turning. London, Holtzapffel & Co.

http://www.archive.org/details/turningmechanica04holtuoft

Holtzapffel, J. J. (1884). Turning and mechanical manipulation. Intended as a work of general reference and practical instruction on the lathe, and the various mechanical pursuits followed by amateurs. Volume V: The principles and practice of ornamental or complex turning. London, Holtzapffel & Co.

https://archive.org/details/HoltzapffelVol5_1884
(Unfortunately this is the only version available and it is a really poor scan, and the PDF is 1.2 GB. Yes, GB, not MB)

Please contact: blog@asha.org.au for John's email address

Written by Dr Christine Williamson, Christine Williamson Heritage Consultants

In 2016 Extent Heritage were engaged by the Department of Parliamentary Services, Parliament of Victoria to undertaken excavations within the grounds of Victoria’s Parliament House. This location includes the site of the former St Peter’s Diocesan Grammar School (H7822-2339), which was constructed in 1849. The excavations yielded a collection of 10122 artefacts, among which were 18 pieces of at least two glass target balls. Unfortunately, these pieces were recovered from unstratified contexts that include materials deposited with nightsoil that was dumped across much of inner Melbourne in the late 19th century and therefore cannot be definitively tied to on-site activities. However, in and of themselves, they are interesting objects.


PLATE 1: Some of the Parliament House target ball fragments (Supplied: Christine Williamson Heritage Consultants).

The target balls are made of cobalt-blue glass, are 65mm in diameter and have a grid pattern on the surface. The items are round, with the exception of a protruding opening (Plate 1 above). They have been created by blowing glass into a 2-piece mould with the rough lip on the opening formed when the glass was broken away from the blowpipe. The raised pattern on the surface of the balls was designed to prevent shot from ricocheting off the smooth ball (Kerr nd). Unlike the complete items illustrated in Plate 2 below, the Parliament House artefacts do not have a maker’s mark. The style of the Parliament House balls is the same as ‘an extremely rare ball’ that was made in Australia (targetballs.com, Plate 3 below). I have not been able to find any information on Australian glass target ball manufacturers, other than Frederick Bolton Hughes of the South Australian Glass Bottle Company. He made glass target balls between 1896 and 1913, but his items are embossed with his initials ( pssatrap.org).


PLATE 2: A collection of glass target balls (peachridgeglass.com).


PLATE 3: Australian-made glass target ball (targetballs.com).

Glass target balls, in a range of bright colours that would be easily visible as they were launched into the sky, were manufactured from about the 1860s until the end of the 19th century, with their main period of use between 1875 and 1885 (antiquebottles.com; glassbottle marks.com; peachridgeglass.com). At the height of their popularity, the Bohemian Glass Works in New York City produced 1.2 million glass target balls in a six-month period, each of which sold for just over a penny (Finch ndb).


PLATE 4: Target ball trap (peachridgeglass.com)


PLATE 5: Target ball trap (targetballs.com)

The ‘invention’ of glass target ball shooting is credited to Charles Portlock of Boston, who organised the first competitive glass target shoots in in 1867 (Kerr nd). The glass balls were hailed by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals as an invention that ‘supersedes the necessity of inflicting pain and suffering to pigeons hitherto used by marksmen as a medium for obtaining accuracy of aim’ (Henry Berg letter dated 7/8/1876 in Finch nda) and one patent trap was named ‘The Pigeon’s Friend’. The early traps were of limited popularity as they simply threw the ball straight up into the air. However, in 1877 a trap was patented that cast the balls in a 60-foot-long arc and other patents soon followed (Kerr nd, plates 4 and 5 above). By the late 19th century glass target balls were rapidly replaced with clay targets that were considered safer as they did not lead to large amounts of broken glass falling from the sky and scattering across the ground.

However, glass target balls remained popular in shooting competitions, exhibitions, circuses and Wild West shows. The ‘Ira Paines’ Filled Ball’, popularised by shooter Ira Paines, was filled with feathers and powder so that when the ball broke apart it resembled a bird being shot (Kerr nd). Annie Oakley is said to have filled her glass balls with streamers that burst from the item when it broke apart (Meyer 2012). The balls were also used as a solid, curved surface for darning socks on and for teething babies (Finch ndb) and were sometimes repurposed as Christmas decorations (glassbottlemarks.com).


Christine Williamson Heritage Consultants

Extent Heritage

References
Finch, R. nda Who’s on First? Portlock, Paine, Moreson? www.targetballs.com
Finch, R. ndb. What are Target Balls? www.targetballs.com
Kerr, A. nd. For Fun, Sure as Shooting – Target Balls Hit the Mark. www.traphof.org
Meyer, F. 2012. Target Glass, Glass Made to Be Broken www.peachridgeglass.com