Milk Glass at the Kooskia Internment Camp

Hi, I’m Julia Altman, a second year master’s student at the University of Idaho.  My focus is rock art research, particularly of the northern Great Basin and the Columbia Plateau.  I am helping with the Kooskia collection in order to broaden my horizons and gain experience with historic archaeology.

I noticed a large amount of milk glass in the collection – fragments of small , 1 1/3 ounce jars (one fragment is marked with the size).  Milk glass, otherwise known as opal glass, is opaque white and milky in appearance. It was used for a variety of products over the years, from fine dinnerware in the early twentieth century to lower quality toiletry bottles in the 1930s and ‘40s.  Fluoride was used in its manufacture, which led to the detoriation of the molds. It was eventually discovered that the fluoride was leaching into streams and rivers, so that method has not been used since the 1960s (Milk Glass 2011).

Figure 1: Three fragments of a milk glass jar discovered at Kooskia

The presence of milk glass at Kooskia is interesting since the internees were all male, and small milk glass jars in the 1940s usually contained cold cream, most commonly Pond’s cold cream. Cold cream was marketed to women at that time, with a an advertising campaign of beautiful female celebrities. It was used by women to remove makeup and for soft, smooth skin.   It was also at times marketed as a “family” lotion (Spokesman Review, 19 October 1940: 27).  Why would these men have used a typically female product?

Figure 2: Fragments of milk glass jar. Top left fragment reads, "1 1/3 ounces, UTTEMOR."

Upon further examination of the artifacts, however, I noticed that one fragment reads, “Mentho[l].” This clue revealed that the men were likely using menthol ointment, for the treatment of skin inflammation, sore muscles, or nasal congestion. This ointment came in small, 1 – 3 ounce milk glass jars (as well as tins) with metal lids (Lindsey 2011). Although I am unaware of any lids in the Kooskia collection, I am curious to find out whether or not there may be some.  The internees were engaged in hard physical labor and may have also had low immune system resistance due to stress, resulting in colds.  Menthol ointment was a common remedy for such ailments in the 1940s.” While I have been unable to find a manufacturer name containing those letters, with further research I expect that the company name will become apparent.  The most well known manufacturer of menthol ointment at the time was J.R. Watkins, whose jars were very similar in appearance and size to the ones used at Kooskia (Seidler 2011).

Figure 3: Another fragment is imprinted with the fragment of a word, “UTTERMOR.”

References

Milk Glass

2011 Milk Glass. Electronic document, http://milkglass.org, accessed April 6, 2011

Lindsey, Bill

2011 Bottle/Glass Colors. Electronic document, www.sha.org/bottle/colors.htm#milk_glass,    accessed April 4, 2011

Seidler, Douglas and Alice Douglas

2011 Watkins Menthol Camphor Ointment Jar. Electronic document,                      http://www.goantiques.com/detail,watkins-menthol-camphor,1916695.html, accessed             April 8, 2011.

Spokesman Review [Spokane, WA]

1940 “Advertisement placed by Ponds Cold Cream.” 19 October: 27. Electronic document,               http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=wChWAAAAIBAJ&sjid=B-                  QDAAAAIBAJ&pg=5829,1275127&dq=ponds+cold+cream+history&hl=en, accessed April         6, 2011.

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