The outhouse materials could be separated into six general functional categories.
These categories correspond to the activities reported in historical documents
relating to the school.
Teaching: As a school, teaching materials were expected to be found as part of the
everyday refuse. These materials included writing implements, slate boards and ink
bottles. The main school building was located directly south of the privy vault.
Eating: As a boarding school and convent, dietary and kitchen related materials were
expected. These included dietary bone, shell, and organic materials, cooking, serving
and eating ceramics and utensils. The kitchen and dining hall were located southeast
of the privy vault.
Personal Living: As both a boarding school and convent, daily
personal items were expected. These included clothing, grooming,
personal adornment, and keepsake items. The convent rooms were
located in the “Chapel” building, southwest of the privy vault. The
student dormitory rooms were located on the upper floors of the
main school building directly south of the vault.
Medical: Historical documents indicate that a women’s infirmary
existed within the convent. Medical related items were expected
and included medicinal bottles, eyedroppers, and thermometers.
The infirmary room was located in the “Chapel” building, southwest
of the privy vault.
Religious: As a convent and Catholic School, religious items were
expected. These included rosary beads, crucifix, religious medallions,
holy water bottles, statues, and nun habits. Although nun’s habits
would have been stored primarily in the “Chapel” building (southwest
of the privy vault), it is likely that other religious items were in use
throughout the facility.
Recreation: Whenever children gather, there will be toys. These included porcelain
dolls, marbles, harmonicas, toy dishes, and more. Toys were probably used
everywhere at the facility.
Learning to write is a critical part of schooling. With writing
implements at a premium, it becomes cost-effective to make use of
slate boards as well as reusable quill pens and ink for most writing
assignments. Quill pen nibs were found in Units A and C of the
privy vault. Most pen nibs were of steel and often difficult to
identify due to heavy rusting. However, a few were of brass and two
were actually gold. One of the gold nibs was stamped “Mabie Todd
& Co. New York” (C-254).
Mabie Todd & Co. was formed in New York in 1860 and introduced
their first fountain pen in 1878. They manufactured ornate writing
instruments that were of jewelry quality (Mamoulides 2002).
Also recovered was a “Pearce & Hoagland” stamped nib (B-67:) and a
pencil end stamped “Eagle Pencil Co., New York” (C-250). The Eagle
Pencil Co. began operation in 1856. By 1861 they were expanding
and in 1864 opened a London office. They manufactured the first
eraser-tipped pencil in 1872 (Picard 2006).
All pencils recovered showed sharpening all the way to the bitter
end. Most pencils were of the standard crimped-on eraser style (C-
249), however two replaceable eraser holders were recovered and
one pencil had a fancy jeweled end (C-255). Most ink appears to
have been distributed to the students in ink bottles or wells that
presumably fit into holes in the top of classroom desks. Ink was
purchased in bulk in large glass and ceramic ink bottles. These
were used to refill the wells at the desks. Occasional fancy ink
wells were recovered indicating the difference between the writing
implements used by the students and those used by the school
For the younger students, learning to write involved even more
reusable and cost-effective hardware; the slate board and slate
writer. Both lined and unlined slate board fragments were
recovered. Boards were found in Unit A (closest to the dining
hall). On close examination, scratched in letters and characters
could still be observed on many of the broken slate board pieces.
Most teaching materials were recovered from Units A and C. Using
the concept of “least cost” (Earle 1980, Green 1980), if the privy
was open and it was just as easy to access any portion of the
facility, one would expect teaching refuse to be disposed of in the
most efficient manner; closest to the room it was used in.
Unit A was closest to the Dining Hall and Unit C was closest to the
The main school building was located directly south of the privy. If
the privy were in an open area, all three units would have been
equally accessible to anyone walking from the main school building.
Although it was a direct line to walk to the
privy from the Chapel building (closest to Unit
C) and from the kitchen/dining hall (Closest to
Unit A), historical photos indicate that a
wooden lattice arbor created a courtyard that
cut off straight-line access to the privy from
the main school building. This arbor may have
forced students and teachers to walk around
the ends of the arbor on their way to the
facility. This means that the center section of
the privy (Unit B) would have required the
additional effort of a few more steps. Thus
most classroom refuse would be expected to be
found in the Unit A and C portions of the
privy. The graphs of slate boards, pencils,
pens, ink and mucilage bottles appear to bear
out this hypothesis.
Many of the recovered slate board fragments contained shallow
scratches left by students writing assignments. Often these were
undetectable until the slate board was dampened and held
diagonally to the light. As these light scratches are easily
obliterated, care should be taken while handling the broken slate
Other teaching materials included desk bells, scissors, thumbtacks,
eyeglasses, etc. All provide a sense of what life was like in the
Immaculate Heart Academy classroom.
Site maintained as a public service by Archaeological Research, PO Box 1353, Lucerne, CA 95458.
|Intro and Teaching Materials Recovered
|History and Prehistory of Lake County