Peter Jablonski - Table of Contents
Delving into Buffalo's Past
By Peter Jablonski
|Theodore Kleinschmidt's Malt House at 193 Pratt|
This was going to be the day we broke our losing streak. We had been out two days within the last couple of months and had only dug some common hutches, a Larkin soap bottle, tantalizing shards of pointed green and amber bases, and shards of a rare J. Kaminski blob beer.
We started at a circa 1860 vacant brick house on Best near Jefferson. We began probing the yard when my probe plunged. We immediately began digging when, only six inches down, I unearthed a common John Howell squat soda. That was a good sign; however, the substrate we were digging was not a good sign. It was clay with brick fill -- no glass or ash.
I left Dave to continue digging while I methodically -- perhaps more maniacally -- pushed my probe into the ground throughout the yard to no avail. What was most annoying was that someone had dumped a load of fill in the center of the yard. How dare they disrupt our "privial" pursuit. (There was a pattern developing here. When Dave and I go out, I probe, he digs. I wonder if he's catching on to my scheme.)
After filling the hole we moved on to a vacant lot off William St. Within 10 minutes the dirt was flying as we had a definite privy. Lots of ash and broken glass, too. The first whole bottle was a Larkin soap bottle. Dave and I worked side by side unearthing the privy, widening it till we found the wood walls.
As I looked out from the hole into the distance, I could see an old fading painted sign on a brick building: Kleinschmidt's Malt House. I knew that building on Pratt St. Later looking into my Buffalo directories, I saw that it opened in 1888 and was already closed by 1922. It made perfect sense for this locality, for about a block away on Pratt & Broadway was the Iroquois Brewery. In the air you could smell the sweet aroma of cereal coming from General Mills Plant at the foot of Michigan Street, yet another reminder of Buffalo as a grain terminus of the Great Lakes.
Dave handed me a bottle that I wasn't sure what to make of it, but he informed me it was an early milk bottle. Unfortunately, it was broken, but the name "Bennett Jersey and Dairy" were visible. A 1887 directory lists Seymour Bennett as a milk dealer on Abbott & Downing. Whether this bottle can be attributed to this dairy, I can't be certain.
The hole began to be a little too close for comfort, so I made a dash for my probe and continued to probe. I saw a depression, stuck my probe in and my tip came out wet. I could feel ash, too. I began digging this hole and a found lot of broken china, and a nice crude shard of a green flask. It wasn't long, however, that I hit bottom. I went to see how Dave was doing.
One small square shaped medicine embossed "Dr Sages Catarrh Remedy Dr Pierce Proprietor" piqued my interest and needed some further investigation. What exactly is "Catarrh"? (I've seen it on several old medicines and on labels.) Webster defines it as "inflammation of the mucus membrane, especially the nose or throat, causing an increased flow of mucus." Dr Pierce, I know, was famous and produced many medical bottles. He built the Invalids Hotel and the World Dispensary Factory, and he wrote a book called the Peoples Advisory. Of special interest was Pierce's Palace Hotel in Prospect Park. Notable people such as Presidents Grant and Garfield, as well as lesser lights such as senators and congressmen, were numbered among its guests.
Dave had unearthed several turn-of-the-century Buffalo, NY, pharmacies: Peterson Bros, Anthony's 384 Seneca, William Jaeger Pharmacist 181 William, Gibbs Drug Store Corner Washington & Eagle, as well as a broken crude pickle jar, three cruet bottles, an oil lamp reservoir with Patriotic shield and stars along its borders, a plain stoneware powder jar and lid, clay pipe bowl, and clay marble. These items are typical of what you find in a household privy.
Buffalo had an ordnance that the privies were to be cleaned out. In the dark of night, the "honey dipper" came with his wagon and pumped the contents out.
As we drove away, I pulled up to Theodore Kleinschmidt's Malt House at 193 Pratt and the old Iroquois Brewery, and I got out as the snow began to fall to take photos (see above) of two edifices of Buffalo's past as a city of over 30 breweries.
We did not succeed in breaking our losing streak as far as awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping, drool-dripping bottles go . We did, however, have the opportunity to delve into Buffalo's historic past.
Illustrations supplied by the author
Page by Chuck LaChiusa
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