Guest Post – Archeologists Find Early Budweiser Bottle and Learn More about The German roots of Houston’s First Neighborhood
This week’s blog details a 19th century glass artifact – an early incarnation of a Budweiser beer bottle – discovered by archeologists in what is known as one of downtown Houston’s first neighborhoods, Frost Town. The details presented here by TxDOT provide additional insight into Frost Town and the early days of Budweiser’s original brew master. The institute’s upcoming “Brewing Up Texas” exhibit includes the Frost Town bottle and offers interactive content highlighting the state’s earliest breweries, the impact of prohibition, Texas beer memorabilia, home brewing, and today’s rich tapestry of modern craft breweries.
The modern landscape of Houston, the fourth largest city in the United States, is one of constant change. During the replacement of a bridge in downtown, archeologists from the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) realized they were working on top of one of Houston’s original neighborhoods, Frost Town. It began as a community of predominantly German immigrants in the 1830s, and it later became home to many African American families following emancipation, then a vibrant Hispanic neighborhood during the early decades of the 20th century. While much is known about Houston’s founders and wealthy class, the archeologists were hoping to tell a new story of how Houston’s working class lived and worked.
During excavations they came upon an interesting feature: rows of upturned glass bottles buried in the ground outside of house foundations. Before (and even after) recycling programs existed, Germans would often use glass bottles as ornamental features in their yards. Archeologists date the style of one particular bottle to at least 1878-1882, giving an approximate date to when the bottle was placed in the ground. Given that both Frost Town was predominately German and Budweiser was brewed and named to appeal to German immigrants, it is no surprise that TxDOT recovered this artifact from the Frost Town site. It featured two logos; one reads “Original Budweiser” on one side and “CCC” on the base. It seemed the bottle had a deeper story to tell.
Message in a Bottle: Early Days of Anheuser-Busch
Budweiser’s early days started with a young German immigrant named Carl Conrad. He travelled to Belgium to become a brew master before bringing back a recipe to St. Louis, declaring that it was “the best he ever tasted.”
He built his company, Carl Conrad & Co., importing wine and liquor. Conrad marketed Budweiser beer, named after the Bavarian town Budweis, where he found the inspiration for his recipe. He contracted with several companies for bottles and his friend, Adolphus Busch brewed Conrad’s recipe through his company; the Anheuser-Busch Brewing Association. Despite Conrad’s swift national success, he declared bankruptcy on January 15th, 1883 and Anheuser-Busch assumed the rights to brew, bottle, and sell Budweiser. Conrad then worked for the company for many years.
More about Frost Town
In 19th century Houston, the Buffalo Bayou river was an important transportation route. Along a horseshoe bend of the Bayou sat Frost Town. Instead of large farms that defined the time and location, Frost Town had houses and plots like the neighborhoods we see today. Years of development, first by railroad and then by roads, covered this historic site, which is just minutes from Minute Maid Park under the Elysian Street Bridge.
German laborers were among the earliest residents of the Frost Town community, and they would continue to dominate demographic of the neighborhood for many decades. Germans immigrants settled in virtually every area of Houston, but the Second Ward became an unofficial hub of German-American culture and social life during the 1800s.
Archeologists at TxDOT are building oral histories and interpretations of the archeology in order to share this unique story: Frost town’s rich ethnic diversity embodies the City of Houston today is revealed as not new, but a fundamental part of the city’s heritage. [Lee F. Reissig, TxDOT Environmental Affairs Division]
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This object is an ox yoke made out of wood. A yoke is a wooden beam used to help carry or pull heavy objects by distributing the weight evenly on both shoulders and can be used by humans and animals a like. There are three main types of yokes and it depends on what it is being used by. The first type of yoke is used by humans. A yoke used by humans would be a single beam of wood that sits on their shoulders where the back meets with the neck. The other two are for animals, one for a single animal and the other for two. If a single animal were to use a yoke then it would be made similar to that of the ones used by humans, but a with loop hold it in place around their neck. The two animal yoke, which is referred to as a team yoke, would be a longer beam of wood and have two loops, one for each animal.
Animal yokes allow animals to pull farming equipment, like a plow, along with wagons and carriages. The animals most commonly used to pull farm equipment, wagons, and carriages are horses, donkeys, mules, and oxen. The reasons these types of animals are used are due to their strength. Each of these types of animals all has their own merits and faults. Some of the benefits of theses animals are that they can help with a variety of crops, by lowering costs on gas and repairs for tractors, and by creating manure that works as fertilizer.
Historically, by growing the grains and oats that each animal ate decreased the amount of money spent on buying food and increased the the potential profitability of farming. Additionally, with the animals came a natural source of manure that can be used as fertilizer. With these things in mind a farmer had almost everything needed to run a successful farm with healthy soil, a way to plow and plant, and a way to fertilize the soil in a single purchase of a horse, donkey, mule or oxen. However, as farm tractors and machinery developed the number of farms decreased while the size of the average field grew. It wasn’t long before animal based farming became too slow and time consuming to keep up with the increasing production needs of a modern farm.
Horses that are used in farm work are called draft horses, which are bred to do work like plowing and other farm work. Draft horses are large breeds of horses like the Clydesdales, Percherons, Belgians, Shires. Draft horse breeds were developed all over the world, but the ones mentioned above come from Western Europe, Clydesdales originate in Scotland, Percherons from France, Belgians from Belgium, and Shires from England.
Donkeys are members of the horse family that have adapted to desert areas. The donkey’s ancestors are from Africa and the first domestic donkeys can be traced back to around 4000 B.C. and 3000 B.C. in Lower Egypt. Donkeys are considered by many to be a stubborn animal due to their stronger sense of self-preservation. Donkeys unlike the horse, who would be willing to work itself to death, will stop when it feels that it is in danger. Also, unlike the horse and the ox, donkeys tend to be used only for pulling carts, or to carry things on their backs and are prized for their ability to handle steep and rocky terrain. Mules are a produced from the breeding of male donkeys and female horses, but the breeding of a female donkey with a male horse produces a hinny. Mules tend to be larger than donkeys are are better able to pull heavy loads.
Oxen are bulls that have been castrated and are usually easier to handle than intact bulls. Oxen are used in pairs to pull carts and farm equipment. When using animals to pull farm equipment Oxen tend to be the better of the choices. This is due to their ability to pull heavier things and to work longer than the horse or the donkey, but it will take longer for them to work, because they are slower. Oxen can also help with more than just pulling equipment they can also help with threshing by walking over the grain and they can help power machines for grinding grain. However, they don’t make good choices for riding, areas where the horse, mule and donkey excel. [Illa Bennett, edited by Kathryn McCloud]
19th – 20th century
Materials: Iron and wood
The scythe has been around for centuries. Scythes are used as a tool for harvesting crops, such as wheat, or cutting away unwanted weeds, or tall grass. The scythe has a curved razor-sharp iron blade attached to the end of a wooden staff that has three handholds for easier control. This tool was widely used throughout Europe since before the Middle Ages, to the present, in countries like India, Nepal and the Americas. It is believed that the sickle was replaced by the scythe because of the scythe’s ability to quickly cut crops during the harvest season, which cuts the chances of losing valued crops due to the time it took to retrieve them with the sickle.
It was not uncommon for a woman to use this tool starting in the colonial period, however, back in the 1600s it was typically a “mans job” to cut the crop and bind the cut stalks together. The women would have followed close by collecting the banded work, therefore known as gatherers. Today you can find scythe competitions, with events testing who can cut an area of grass the fastest using a scythe. There are also events that test if a person with a scythe can be faster than modern-day machines, which often ends in favor of the scythe. These competitions are found primarily in southern states.
The scythe is often depicted as the tool of the Grim Reaper, also known as death, as seen in many artistic works depicting the plague. The plague has existed for centuries. Today, it can be treated with medicine, which did not exist back then. Two of the most well-known plagues were the Plague of Justinian of 542 C.E and the Black Death of 1348, both are credited with killing millions of people. There have been other outbreaks of illnesses throughout the world. For instance, malaria, yellow fever, and cholera struck North America hard in the 1800’s. People who were infected would sometimes flee to Texas, where the climate was hotter and more humid, in hopes of escaping the illness or to heal from it. Although the climate of Texas helped with some forms of sickness, it certainly was not without its epidemics. Migrants would spread the sickness that they were trying to escape to others of their new community. Therefore, malaria, yellow fever, and cholera were still very much a problem in Texas. However, tuberculosis was one of the most dangerous diseases in Texas during the 1800s and early 1900s, killing many.
The Grim Reaper, as we know him today in popular culture is often depicted standing close by his chosen victim until he chooses to take the person’s life, or he acts as a guide to lost souls and show them the way to heaven or hell. In video games, Death normally acts as one of the many adversaries a gamer needs to defeat to move onto the next level. Death is also associated with biker gangs and military unit mascots. In the past Death would even find its way to be immortalized as statues in cathedrals. Death has always held a special place in man’s mind because of fear and respect of mortality; the inevitable end. [Arland Schnacker, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]
This object is a coffee grinder that was manufactured in 1873 in Philadelphia by the Enterprise Manufacturing Company. The coffee beans would be placed in the top compartment, and the wheels on the side would be turned. This would cause the beans to be ground into a fine powder, which would be deposited into the compartment on the bottom that could be removed to collect the powdered coffee grounds.
Coffee drinking has become a part of everyday life for people all over the world. The consumption of coffee is believed to have its origin in the ancient land of Abyssinia, which is now called Ethiopia. Their legend holds that the first to discover the energizing properties of coffee were goats – and soon after, their herder.
According to the legend, a man named Kaldi was following behind his flock of goats in the mountains as they roamed for food. When it was time for them to go home, Kaldi played his flute to draw the goats back to him, but they did not come. He finally found them frolicking in a clearing – running, dancing on their hind legs, and butting each other playfully. Kaldi could not figure out what was making his goats act that way. He initially thought someone had bewitched them until he spotted the goats eating bright red berries off a nearby tree. Fearing the berries might be poisonous, Kaldi kept a close eye on the goats for hours until they finally settled down enough to be led home. The next day, the goats ran directly to the same clearing, ate more of the berries, and began their frolicking all over.
This time, Kaldi decided he would try the berries as well, at first spitting out the seed, which was black and bean-looking, then later eating that too. After eating some of the seeds, Kaldi began feeling a slow tingle and an overwhelming burst of energy. He took some of the berries home and shared them with others, rapidly spreading the knowledge of the miraculous energy-giving bean.
Another version of the ending is Kaldi taking the berries to a monk, who disdainfully threw them in the fire. Upon smelling the rich aroma of the roasted beans, he promptly scraped the beans out the fire and ground them, pouring water over the grounds making the drink we know of as coffee. This energy giving drink rapidly spread through the land.
Coffee trees eventually were spread and traded all over the world, making coffee one of the most popular drinks in the world. By the 15th century, coffee was growing in Arabia and the drink became so popular they began opening coffee houses called qahveh khaneh. It spread to Europe by the 1600s and coffee houses sprang up there as well, as social centers. By the middle of the 17th century, coffee had come to America. Its popularity was slow going until the time of the Boston Tea Party, when the people revolted against taxes and dumped British tea into the Boston Harbor. With tea being out of fashion, Americans discovered a love of coffee that continues to this day. [Caitlin Bernstein, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]
Pankhurst, Rita. “The Coffee Ceremony and the History of Coffee Consumption in Ethiopia.” Ethiopia in Broader Perspective: Papers of the Xiiith International Conference of Ethiopian Studies, Kyoto, 12-17 December 1997. (1997): 516-539.
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Bottlers Specialty Mfg Co.
This object is a beer bottler from the Peter Bros. Brewery, which was in business from 1905 to 1910 in San Antonio, Texas. The brothers, John, Augustus “Gus”, and Edward bought a small house on East Commerce street in 1903 and began their brewing business in 1905. During prohibition the brewery no longer made beer, but operated as a soft-drink stand instead. In 1933, after the repeal of prohibition, the brothers open a lunchroom and sold local beers instead of producing their own.
The tradition of brewing in Texas began as early as the 1840s, when a large influx of German immigrants moved to Texas. For Germans, beer-drinking was an integral part of everyday life. When they began moving to Texas, it became important for them to have beer available to them, so people started brewing businesses.
One of the first known breweries in Texas was Julius Rennert’s, which he licensed in 1849 in the town of New Braunfels. The beer he made supplied many surrounding town’s saloons, including those of San Antonio. He stayed in business until the added competition of William Menger ‘s Western Brewery, or Menger Brewery, and the Lone Star Brewery caused him to close his brewing company in the 1880s and his son became a distributor for Lone Star.
Rennert was only one of the many people to start up brewing companies in San Antonio and the surrounding areas. Most stayed small and were only in business for a few years, with exceptions like Menger’s Western Brewery, Anheuser-Busch of Lone Star, Pearl Brewery, and the still operational Blue Star. Large commercialization of these companies, as well as prohibition in 1919 caused most of the small brewing companies to go out of business fairly quickly. The Peter Brothers’ Brewery was one of those short-lived businesses, but it seemed to enjoy a great deal of popularity in its time.
Be sure to visit the Institute of Texan cultures this fall to learn more about the history of beer in Texas in our upcoming exhibit Brewing Up Texas, scheduled to open on October 14th, 2017. [Caitlin Bernstein, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]
This object is a wood and metal icebox that was popular in homes before electricity was widely available. It is currently being exhibited in the sharecropper’s cabin in the museum. Iceboxes were developed and used before modern day refrigerators, and were designed to preserve foods.
Basic iceboxes were made of wooden frames, and had a gap on the inside, with a smaller metal lining. The iceboxes had separate drawers and shelves to store different types of foods. Ice would be packed in the space between the wood and metal, and then insulated with straw, sawdust, seaweed, or cork. Cheaper versions would just have a drip pan underneath to catch the melting ice, but fancier models would have a container that caught the water, and a faucet to drain it.
Every year when the weather turned warm, ice was delivered daily to homes by the iceman. The iceman would drive from home to home, on a wagon lined with straw and full of ice blocks. For each home, he would chip off pieces of ice for the icebox, and for an additional fee, he would insert the ice into the icebox for the homeowners. During the summer months, kids would hitch a ride on the wagon of ice, or chip off small pieces of ice as a treat. Icemen worked for ice houses, which stored ice year round. Every winter, ice was harvested from frozen lakes and stored in ice houses. Ice harvesting and storage became a huge trade for states in New England, with many people becoming rich from shipping ice to the Southern states and the Caribbean.
However, ice houses were around long before the dawn of the icebox. Records dating back to 1780 BC talk about construction of an icehouse in Mesopotamia. Starting as dug out pits lined with straw, ice houses evolved around the world over the years, into everything from brick buildings to underground tunnels. By 1930, electric refrigerators like we use now began replacing the old iceboxes. As the need for ice delivery declined, so did the business of ice houses. By 1960, ice houses no longer served a purpose, and most were closed. In Texas however, ice houses were more innovative and started selling groceries and beer. They became gathering spots for people to get together and relax. The national convenience store 7-Eleven developed from ice houses that were operated by Southland Ice Company in Dallas and San Antonio in the 1930s.
Though it’s easy to take ice for granted today, many things around us are reminders of our modern innovations. Modern refrigerators still contain many elements of original iceboxes, such as shelving and drawers; and every time we pass a convenience store- it sits as a reminder of a bygone era, when ice houses served an exclusive purpose, still present in the bags of ice sold there. [Carrie Klein, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]