Clothing items included actual cloth remnants as well as fasteners, buttons,
and shoe parts.
Other fasteners were recovered from both Units A and C, with the
majority from Unit A (see graph). This was particularly true of hose
supporter clasps. Unit A was closest to the Kitchen/dining/laundry
building. This building housed a large kettle mounted on a brick
firebox that would have been used to heat water for cooking and
Knowing that the kitchen/dining building also contained the laundry
facility, and assuming that undergarments would have been washed
more frequently than outerwear, it stands to reason that a higher rate
of breakage of these items would take place at the laundry facility.
Thus discards containing more clasps, hose supporters, and strap
adjusters would likely end up in that portion of the privy vault
closest to the laundry room (Unit A).
At least 8 different styles of hose supporters were recovered. The
photo shows a sample of all those that were stamped or embossed
with a name and/or patent date. Most were chromed brass, some were
plain brass. The Velvet Grip clasp ends were rubber clad, but most
were plain metal.
At the turn-of-the-century, long stockings and knee pants were worn
by both boys and girls. Stocking supporters were needed to keep
these up and the George Frost Company (Boston) manufactured the
“Velvet Grip” hose supporters for this purpose (Historical Boys’
At least 6 styles of strap adjusters were also recovered. Many of
these had names and patent dates. The Ferris Brothers Company (341
Broadway, New York) manufactured under-waists and corsets for girls
and women at least as early as 1880. Under-waists were worn by both
boys and girls to support additional underwear and outer-garments.
They were often of elastic material and came equipped with
reinforcement straps, waist buttons, and garter tabs for attaching
hose supporters. Under-waist popularity declined in the 1930’s
(Historical Boys’ Clothing 2004).
Site maintained as a public service by Archaeological Research, PO Box 1353, Lucerne, CA 95458.
|History and Prehistory of Lake County
Buttons were sorted and cataloged by material and size based on
Osborn’s Button Button (1993). Button size is measured using the
French system known as “lignes” (lines). Buttons recovered from
the privy vault were made of bone, shell, metal, celluloid, cloth,
vulcanized rubber, Jet, glass, and ceramic (prosser). The majority
of buttons recovered were of the prosser type (often called “China”
buttons). Prosser buttons were manufactured from the late 1840’s
on in France, England and New York. Celluloid was invented in
1870 and solid buttons of celluloid began to appear in 1890. Bone,
shell, and metal buttons have been manufactured for hundreds of
The importance of buttons in historic archaeology centers around
the fact that they are durable (usually outlasting other clothing
items) and varied in their cost. Expensive clothing would often
have expensive buttons. Everyday work clothes usually had less
expensive, utilitarian buttons. This allows the archaeologist to
use buttons as a way of piecing together the economic status of the
people being studied.
Analysis of the recovered buttons indicated that they were just as
likely to be disposed of in Unit A (near the laundry) as Unit C (near
the nun’s quarters). There didn’t appear to be much difference in
the location based on button material. When button size was
graphed by button material, it was found that most small buttons
(16 lines and smaller) were of shell. Most medium size buttons (20-
28 line) were prosser. Metal buttons were found in all size ranges
but bone buttons were found in only a few size categories (22 and
The utilitarian buttons were of shell or prosser manufacture. It
appeared that more expensive buttons were made of rubber, glass,
jet, metal, and possibly bone. Although buttons had no writing,
several snaps were stamped with the maker’s name and at least one
had a patent date (1889).
A few studs were found made mostly of celluloid and shell.
Shoe parts and shoe polish bottles were discovered in all parts of the
vault. Shoe parts included cloth and leather uppers, leather and
rubber soles, shoe eyelets, bootlace holders, and bone handles for
shoe button hooks. Although many more shoes were probably
represented by the material recovered, at least 13 leather heals/soles
were recovered and 2 rubber soles.
Seven types of shoe polish/leather dressing bottles were recovered.
The graph lists the makers and number of bottles recovered. Also
recovered were bone handles with rusted metal pieces embedded in
the ends. It is likely that these represent fancy shoe button hooks.
Button-down shoes were popular during the turn-of-the-century.
The majority of clothing items recovered were clearly female related. Most were
fragments of black cloth that made up nun habits. In addition to the cloth, steel
stays with brass clasps were recovered. These likely represent the fasteners sewn
into robes. Some of the clasps had “WB”, “PN”, and “PAT Jan 18 1881” stamped on
As expected, the majority of these items were recovered from Unit C (that portion of
the vault closest to the Chapel/convent building).