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Selected Artifacts from the Fugitive Slave Chapel Site

Fugitive Slave Chapel Artifacts

Objects found at an archaeological site tell us a lot about the people who lived there. After all, archaeology is the study of material evidence left behind by humans in order to understand their behaviour.

We cannot yet tell you a lot about life at the Fugitive Slave Chapel because analysis of the artifacts has only just begun. The artifacts were excavated in May to July 2013 and were washed and processed in January 2014. The research that has been found was collected thanks to volunteer efforts. The Museum of Ontario Archaeology is lucky to have the chance to display these artifacts to the public before they are analysed and researched by the archaeological team, Timmins Martelle Heritage Consultants.

Out of 41 excavated units, a total of 8 potential cultural features were identified on the site. One may have been a grey water pit and others were likely small refuse pits which explains the wide assortment of ceramics, glassware, and buttons.

 Selected artifacts from the Fugitive Slave Chapel Site

Buttons found on this site range from bone, shell, white glass, coloured glass and metal.

Bone Buttons Fugitive Slave Chapel Site
  • Bone buttons are the oldest known fastener to mankind but they fell out of popularity by the 1850s.They ranged from one-holed to four holed.
  • Shell buttons are much more fragile than bone. They were less costly to produce and were popular as shirt buttons from the 1820s to mid 19th century.
  • Glass buttons are rare items. They were first produced in the 1830s.
  • Metal buttons present the most variations, with images, stamps, logos and designs . They began to be commercially manufactured in the 18th century.  They were quite common and used on many different items.
  • French Button from Fugitive Slave Chapel Site

One particular metal button has caught our attention: It is from the mailman’s uniform of the postal service in France, Postes et Telegraphes. It still remains a mystery of how it ended up in London, ON.

Hoyt's Bottle Fugitive Slave Chapel Site

Hoyt’s German Cologne

This cologne was invented by Eli Waite Hoyt of Lowell, Massachusetts in the 1870s. Eli began as an apprentice in an apothecary shop in 1850 and took over the business in 1863. A smart businessman, he sold his cologne for $1 and distributed free samples to increase the demand of his product. His tagline: “the most fragrant and lasting of all perfumes” has been supported by people today who have come across sample cards in old scrapbooks. By 1877, demand was so high that he had to devote all his time to this cologne. The company produced cologne until the early 1950s.

Interesting fact: “German” was added to the title to be catchy. It actually had nothing to do with Germany.

Vaseline Jar Fugitive Slave Chapel Site

Vaseline jar

Vaseline was discovered by Robert Augustus Chesebrough, an oil chemist who discovered that rod wax had healing properties. After experimenting with it, he finally came up with petroleum jelly.  By 1870, it was being marketed as Vaseline (the mix of the German word for water and Greek word for oil).


Fletcher’s Castoria/ Pitchers Castoria bottle

These bottles are commonly found as early as 1870s. They were marketed as an alternative to castor oil, to be used as a laxative. Dr. Samuel Pitcher patented his product in 1868 and sold as Pitcher’s Castoria. In 1871, the Centaur Company (owned by Charles Fletcher) took over and re-named the product Fletcher’s Castoria. It is still produced today.

kingofblood Fugitive Slave Chapel Site

King of the Blood bottle

King of the Blood was a ‘cure-all’ product by D. Ransom Son & Co in the 1870s. Advertisements stated that it “cures all humours, from a common eruption to the worst scrofula” by purifying the blood and displacing any and all diseases.

Click here for a link to their advertisement:

Northrop & Lyman bottle

Northrop bottles are common archaeological finds on 19th century Canadian sites. The company began as a retail drug store in Newcastle, Ontario (Canada West) in 1854 as Tuttle, Moses and Northrop. At its peak in the early 19th century, Northrop & Lyman products were selling throughout Canada, in the West Indies, South America and Australia.

Turk's Head: Fugitive Slave Chapel Site

Human effigy fragment: Turks Head

American effigy pipes (called Turks heads or Caesar pipes) are common discoveries on 19th century sites. The Turks theme has been used in association with tobacco around the world for centuries. These pipes were created from molds dividing the pipe in half, through the center of the face. Smoking tobacco from cigarettes did not become popular until WWI.

Decorative China Piece Fugitive Slave Chapel Site

“Toronto Normal School” ceramic

Wallis Gimson & Co. created a multi-scene pattern in 1884 titled “The World”. It was based on photographs of Canada, England, and America. The company went out of business in 1890 but their wares were still being sold. This piece was found fully intact and features an image of the Normal School in Toronto and Grand Battery in Quebec.


About Us: History- The Discovery. Vaseline. N.d. Web. 5 March 2014.

Collard, Elizabeth. The Potter’s View of Canada: Canadian Scenes on Nineteenth-century Earthenware. McGill-Queen’s University Press: Toronto, 1983. Book.

Sullivan, Catherine. “The Bottles of Northrop & Lyman, A Canadian Drug Firm.” Material Culture Review / Revue de la culture matérielle [Online], 18 (1983): n. pag. Web. 5 March 2014.

Venovcevs, Anatolijs. “Dress for Life and Death: The Archaeology of Common Nineteenth-Century Buttons “. Archaeological Services Inc., Toronto.  Forward into the Past Conference, Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, ON. 6 April 2013. Web. 5 March 2014.

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