Gary Sullivan's Antique Clocks and Furniture Blog


Antique Clocks and Furniture

Unearthing artifacts from a revolting repository
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As a 12 year old interested in all things historic, I devoted a great deal of time to searching for the objects of my passion, antique bottles. I would scour antiques and junk shops and occasionally buy the interesting ones that I could afford. Those being under about two dollars. Being on a limited budget as I was, I preferred the free ones. Free because I would dig them at dump sites. Not the nasty land-fill kind of dump sites we have today, but abandoned 19th and early 20th century trash piles. They were a lot easier to find in the late 1960s than they are today, but they’re still out there.

In times past, people often disposed of their trash on their own land. The rear corner of an old property, where two stone walls converge was an out of the way location that often became a dump site. Spending portions of my summers in Maine, I found several old dump sites by following stone walls through the woods in rural areas. The tell-tale shards of broken glass and rusting iron usually tip off the location. A metal detector can aid in the search and I logged a lot of hours on mine.

Although most of whatever would have been placed in a trash pile 100 years ago has now returned to the soil, the glass bottles have not, and those that survive unbroken can be fascinating. Just a few years ago, while hiking in the woods with my kids near my home, I spotted a corner where two stone walls come together behind a Victorian era estate. Curiosity getting the better of me, I starting kicking around in the dirt and quickly unearthed a couple of circa 1900 bottles. We left them there, but the kids were pretty impressed!

Before curb-service provided by diesel powered, hydraulic, trash compacting mega-trucks, popular repositories for trash were often abandoned wells and privies. Generally located fairly close to the house, the artifacts locked up in these abandoned columns of debris, particularly the bottles, can be pretty interesting. Emotionally, one does have to get past the fact that one is digging in what was once the outhouse, but a century later, it’s all just dirt and really isn’t so bad.

“Dug” bottles tend to have a different look than those that have not been exposed to the elements for generations. Their surfaces are often permanently etched from the exposure and require special techniques to clean them up. Due to their properties, some bottles that were once clear in color take on a highly desirable amethyst color after years of exposure to the sun.

The reason for all this reminiscing is that I just found this article about some interesting finds that came out of an abandoned privy in Pennsylvania. Before I get to that, I am burying a message in this post for my friend Mark. He claims to read every one of my blog posts and even tells me that he read the entire blog on hoarders, which is no small accomplishment. Lets see if I hear from him! Here is the story from Antique Trader

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