Intro and Teaching Materials Recovered

Slate boards in Unit B.

Pen nibs and pencil pieces mostly found in Units A and C.
Ink bottles
In-desk and desk-top ink wells.
Graphs showing Units A and C contained most slate boards and ink bottles.
Lined slate board with remnant writing.

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   These categories correspond to the activities reported in historical documents relating to the school.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Medical:  Historical documents indicate that a women’s infirmary existed within the convent.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.

Teaching Items

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 administration.

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 Chapel building.

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 pieces.

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.