Dating evaporated milk cans

(Those who arrived in the 1850s planned to stay longer; they were searching for gold.) At first, prospecting supplies and canned foods were shipped by sea or carried north by steamboats and packed on mule trains for the final trip to the northern California gold fields.By the end of the 1800s, the tinned goods that were a staple of life in the rapidly growing mining, ranching, and logging towns arrived in even greater quantities by railroad.As Jim Rock traveled around the country in the 1980s and 90s, he carried a shiny black suitcase and a stack of 40 notecards.Inside the suitcase were artifacts of a not-long-past era of American industry: metal cans, often dented and rusted, each wrapped carefully in a white wool sock.Cans came into commercial production in England in the early 1800s, but it was in the United States, a vast land with an increasingly mobile population, that the “tin” can—made first of tinplate, but in later years, often containing no tin at all—became a part of the cultural fabric.“The humble tin can,” Rock wrote in , “formed one important link between the developing western frontier of the United States and the industrialized East.” Rock spent most of his career as an archeologist at Klamath National Forest, near the California-Oregon border.Someone had pried this can open with a knife in the first years of the twentieth century.

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Each can told a story of life in nineteenth- and twentieth-century America, which some called the “Tin Can Civilization.” The technology to preserve food and other perishable products such as tobacco in tinplate containers likely was first developed in the late 1700s.On each of the typewritten and meticulously illustrated notecards was a distillation of years of research on can production methods, a topic most of his fellow archeologists considered to be, well, rubbish.What historical value was there in a 25-cent cylinder that once contained KC Baking Powder, or in an Acme Beer empty, or in a misshapen can found at a circa-1900 homestead, so weathered that its use was no longer recognizable?Scattered through the White Bear mine, which in the 1890s occupied Callahan’s Gulch, they found more evaporated milk and vegetable cans.In the can dump alongside the Weed Lumber Company camp, which stood near Grass Lake from 1908 to 1911, they dug up thousands more, and Rock collected many from later decades.

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