Monday, March 9, 2009

Seeds in the Ceiling

In the process of cleaning loose plaster from 97 Orchard's ceilings (a safety hazard for visitors), we've discovered remnants of food eaten by tenants: seeds, nuts, and chicken and beef bones, which we think were carried off by mice and stored in nests in the ceilings' wooden slats.

One of the chicken bones found in 97 Orchard. Gnaw marks on both ends support our mice theory.

Artifacts like those in the bucket above will join a number of food-related items in our permanent collection. Besides the remains of meat and produce, we've found a bunch of cans, bottles, and wrappers - some with brand names still popular today, like Domino's Sugar, Heinz Ketchup, and Wrigley Chewing Gum. This might indicate that immigrant families on the LES were quick to accept "American" food products, perhaps in an effort to assimilate, or maybe because these brands were cheap and easy to obtain. However, some foods, like Wycoff Macaroni and other macaroni brands, were marketed specifically to immigrants. We found several coupons for the product - which would have been very familiar to Italian families - written in both Italian and English.

Wrigley's spearmint gum wrapper

A can of Durkee's Curry Powder. Curry powder became popular in New York around the turn of the century, and 97 Orchard's residents clearly jumped on the bandwagon. Cans were sold at grocerys stores, specialty shops, and even Macy's. Recipes calling for the spice's use appeared in the New York Times.

Fanta Orange Soda can

Bag of Eight O'Clock Coffee


  1. fanta having been a german product invented there during WWII, and only coming to america after the war, and then most likely in bottles for a long while, i'm wondering if this fanta can is really within your usual timeframe...?

  2. Thank you for your comment! Yes, Fanta was developed after 1935 (the year 97 Orchard Street was closed for use as a residential building), so this can may have been introduced into the building by someone who worked in 97 Orchard Street, or since we found it inside a fireplace, it may have been dropped down the chimney by someone on the roof. This one is a mystery to us!


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