Shellmound Park

Shellmound Park Historic Deposit
During the archaeological investigation of the Emeryville shellmound, an historic trash dump containing a large number of bottles, drinking glasses, drinking mugs, and rifle cartridge casings was encountered in the excavation units along the western edge of the site. Clearly, items of this sort were not associated with the Native Americans known to have occupied the site so many centuries ago.

These bottles, mugs and cartridge casings were the discards of Shell Mound Park. the Emeryville "pleasure resort" or "picnic grounds" first established in 1876 as a 200-yard rifle range. In the period from 1876 to the park's closing in 1924, numerous rifle ranges, a pistol range, shooting gallery, dance pavilions, amusement facilities, and related restaurants and bars were added to the park.

The vast majority of bottles recovered from the site contained beverages. The amber-brown whiskey bottle was common. Other common bottles included the equally classic aqua soda bottle.some of which were identified by embossing to have contained ginger ale. Whether the examples described in the following paragraphs represent goods purchased at the park or brought by visitors has not been determined. Given the number of bars and restaurants at the park they are assumed to represent disposable packaging of goods sold at the park.

Local Distributors & Agents
Among the whiskey and rye bottles a number of examples were embossed with the names of local distributors and agents, such as
  • "Siebe Bros. & Plagemann. S.F. Rosedale OK Whiskey Sole Agents ," manufactured in San Francisco between 1891 and 1907
  • "Peerless Bourbon/Wolf, Wreden and Co. Sole Agents San Francisco ," a partnership between 1891 and 1898
  • "Old Campe Rye," a product of Henry Campe & Co., manufactured between 1906 and 1915.
Even more specific as to origin, and clearly indicating use of the park by San Francisco residents, are whiskey flasks with embossing such as
  • "B.F. Jellison Wines and Liquors 10 -3rd Street next to the Call Building S.F. ," (ca. 1896 - 1900)
  • "N. Ahrens Market and Steuart Sts Goods as Represented"
N. Ahrens is listed at 2 Market in the 1903 to 1906 Directory of Liquors compiled by Eric McQuire. A similar bottle places Nicolaus Ahrens at 19 Market, corner of Steuart Street between 1890 and 1892.

A single bottle is embossed "J. H. Cutter Old Bourbon". This was bottled and distributed by A.P Hotaling of San Francisco, and represents the local distribution of bourbon manufactured in Louisville, Kentucky, the proverbial "Kentucky Bourbon."

A bottle embossed with an eagle surrounded by the words "RASPILLER BREWING CO. WEST BERKELEY provides an example of locally brewed beer. Joseph Raspiller, a emigre from France, established the Raspiller Brewery in Berkeley in 1881. In 1900 the brewery's name was changed to the American Brewing Co.; thus it appears that the bottle dates between 1881 and 1900. Additional local breweries represented by examples of embossed bottles include the "ENTERPRISE BREWING CO. - S.F. CAL" and the "AHRENS BOTTLING CO OAKLAND CA." The single example of a bottle thought to contain brandy is embossed "EAGLE VINEYARD WM. GOLDMAN PROP. S.F.", probably manufactured between 1910 and 1918.

Manufacturers & Dates of Non-Alcoholic Beverages
By far the greatest number of bottles encountered in the excavations contained non-alcoholic beverages, particularly soda water. San Francisco and the Bay Area are well represented among the bottlers and manufacturers of soda water, a popular late nineteenth century beverage. A list of the manufacturers and dates of manufacture of bottles found at the site reads like a late nineteenth century business directory:
  • "American Soda Works S.F."
  • "Bay City Soda Water Co. San Francisco " (1871-1880)
  • "Breig & Schafer, S.F. " (1879-1890)
  • "C.A. Reiners & Co. 723 Turk St S.F. " (1875-1882)
  • "Eureka Soda Works "
  • "Jackson's Napa Soda Springs Natural Mineral Water " (1873-1885)
  • "Liberty Soda Works DMV S.F. "
  • "Oakland Pioneer Soda Water Co."
  • "Pioneer Soda Works S.F. " (1877-1896).
Ginger Ale Bottles
The ginger ale bottles found at the park, are embossed "Belfast  Ginger Ale Co. S.F." and were manufactured between 1878 and 1915. The range of dates represented by the manufacture of these bottles is consistent with the late 19th early 20th century operation of the park, that is, the 1870's through the first two decades of the 1900's.

Bottles Containing Foodstuffs
That only a few bottles that contained foodstuffs were recovered appears consistent with turn of the century bottling practices. The food prepared at the restaurants of the park generally would have been obtained in bulk rather than in individual containers. Other foods commonly were sold fresh or dried in bulk, in barrels, kegs, or sacks. A large portion of the foodstuffs packaged commercially at the turn of the century consisted of condiments and pickled goods. Representing those types of goods were a bottle embossed "PACIFIC COAST SYRUP CO. S.F. CAL," and a portion of another with remnants of the embossing that read "VESTEY'S JAMS AND JELLIES ARE PURE." Zumwalt notes that the Pacific Coast Syrup Co. registered a trademark for grapes in 1890, and was known to have offices at Hathway's Wharf in 1891. Zumwalt indicates that the Vestey's container may have been an import.

Bar Glassware
In addition to the bottles, also of interest is the associated bar glassware recovered from the same deposit. Apparently the Shell Mound Park bars served the liquors from the bottles described above in a variety of shot glasses. However, the presence of a variety of mugs, including many with the etching "Stolen from Shellmound Park" and the relative scarCity of beer bottles, strongly suggests that beer was obtained in barrels from local breweries and served on tap.

At the turn of the century, as today, bars and saloons, commonly served beer on tap rather than in individual bottles. By 1890, the major breweries began to bottle their own beer, but until that time beer "bottlers" obtained concessions to package beer from several breweries. The beer bottles described above are examples of that practice and may have been brought to the park rather than purchased there.

Cartridge Casings
Also found in the trash dump among the bottles and glassware were thousands of 22 caliber cartridge casings (neck diameter .224", case length .420"). These commonly are referred to as the 22 CB Cap, or "Conical Bullet Cap." Barnes describes this cartridge as
"...a more powerful version of the BB Cap. Earliest catalog reference appears about 1888, although it probably originated prior to this. American companies loaded it up to 1942, but it has been discontinued since the end of World War II " (1969:273).

The BB Cap, or rimfire bulleted breech cap, originated in 1845 for the Flobert indoor target rifle. The Flobert, known as a saloon or parlor rifle, was quite popular through the turn of the century. The headstamps (manufacturer's identifying markings on the base of the cartridge casing) of the examples recovered from the Shell Mound Park deposit were either "U" of the Union Metallic Cartridge Company, or "US" of the United States Cartridge Company. These markings confirm the cartridges as American products, but are not useful in refining the dates of manufacture or periods of use. However, it is almost certain that these were used in the park's shooting galleries in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Trash Accumulation
The location of the trash accumulation found in 1999 has been added in red to a portion of a 1903 Sanborn Fire Insurance which depicts the Park's built environment in the vicinity of the dump. The trash deposit was located approximately 60 feet northwest of the mapped location of a bar at the west end of a dance pavilion and stage, and 35 feet to the rear of a structure labeled "SHOOTING GALLERY." This area, inside the fence line along the western boundary of the park, was immediately adjacent to the mud flat of the bay shore and would have been easily accessible for periodic trash dumping during the operation of the park.

While the accumulation of discarded bottles, broken glassware, and spent cartridges are not informative as to specific dates or events that might have taken place at Shell Mound Park, it provides by implication an image of recreation and amusement at the turn of the century. A detailed historic account of the Park is provided in Sandra Sher's informative article, "Shell Mound Park."