Mystery Items in the Cabinet

Some of the objects found in Carmelo’s cabinet are easily recognizable such as buckles, buttons, or rusty nails. Others present more of a challenge to identify. Text inscribed on these objects sometimes helps, such as a patent date or number that can be looked up on the internet. The process of sorting through a collection and identifying these kinds of objects can rely heavily on the internet as a resource. Some of the objects in this collection took quite a bit of time and collaboration to figure out what they might be. An example coems from this object:


DSC_7951 DSC_7952

This mystery object had us stumped for nearly a year. Suggestions were thrown about as to what it was, including a part of a light fixture or lantern, some kind of whistle or other perfumebottles-graphicsfairy002cmusical instrument part, a decorative element from a curtain rod, etc. It was not until an interested fellow graduate student suggested it was some kind of stopper based upon the porcelain base that we got on the right path. This path led us to the conclusion that it is a “perfume atomizer” (see the picture to the left). This interpretation explains the three odd holes in the brass portion, one for the nozzle end, one for the pump end and a third on top for a decorative element. The porcelain base is shaped like a tube to absorb the contents of the bottle.

While most of the objects from Carmelo’s cabinet have been successfully identified, there are still a few mystery objects. It is at this point that we turn to the community for help. Below are photos of five different mystery objects that we have not been able to identify. Any help would be appreciated! Does it remind you of something? Have you seen it before? Let us know in the comments or send us an email (


Mystery Object #1


Mystery Object #1, second view


Mystery Object #2


Mystery Object #2, second view


Mystery Object #3


Mystery Object #3, second view


Mystery Object #4


Mystery Object #4, second view


Mystery Object #5


Mystery Object #5, second view

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Carmelo’s Cabinet


Objects contained in the first drawer of a chest brought to the anthracite region from Italy in 1901.

This post is from Judy Joklik, a student at the University of Maryland who is beginning work on a new project for the Lattimer Archaeology Project. We are examining the contents of a chest of drawers brought to the anthracite region from Italy in 1901. Through the objects in the chest, we are asking questions about what sorts of things an immigrant to the region might have brought with them on the long voyage over. How did the contents of the chest change as life evolved throughout subsequent decades in the region? We must thank Angela Fierro and the Fierro family for lending us this amazing collection of objects which will provide us with a rich story about the transformations of everyday life in the region throughout the 20th century.  Carmelo Fierro, an Italian immigrant from Mandia, Italy, came to America in 1901 with his wife, Lonsa. Leaving Naples on May 5th on the ship “Harzulurne”, Carmelo arrived in New York City on May 16th before travelling to his final destination in the coal patch towns around Hazleton, Pennsylvania. He started out as a miner before later opening his own shop off of what is now Route 309 just outside of Pardeesville. Our employee record card collection shows that Carmelo started work at the Lattimer Coal Company on June 10, 1901, a little under a month after arriving on North American soil:


Employee record card for Carmelo Fierro.

On his passage, he brought with him a small cabinet with three drawers in which he collected various items from his life. Here is an image of the chest:


Chest of drawers brought by Carmelo to Hazleton, Pennsylvania in 1901 containing a variety of objects.

Much of what is in the cabinet could be described as “knick-knacks”. Many of them are representative of Carmelo’s experiences. They can also be connected to the history and everyday life of the region. Immigration, industry, ingenuity, hard work and survival are all represented in the objects found here. There are objects that he brought over from Italy, including a pharmaceutical vial that used to contain quinine. Items from Carmelo’s mining days include the caps to a miner’s oil lamp and a miner’s check tag. As for Carmelo’s grocer days, there are objects such as cheese and wine seals or extract bottles. (see photos below) In a later post, we will post images of some of the mystery items from the chest. Maybe you can help us identify some of these objects?


Oil lamp caps used in coal mining


Annisette extract bottles


Cheese seal from Rome, Italy.

As for me, my name is Judy Joklik and I am an anthropology student at the University of Maryland. I have been working in the archaeology lab for the past few months analyzing the artifacts found from the archaeological excavations from the past field seasons. This semester, I am focusing on the cataloging and analyzing of Carmelo’s cabinet. I am only one drawer in, and that one drawer itself has yielded almost three hundred objects The photo at the top of the page shows all the objects from drawer one laid out on a desk.. I find this project very compelling because it can be connected to an individual and his life and also used as a comparative collection to the artifacts found archaeologically. Digging through the chest felt like a kind of archaeology to me as I found items buried under layers of dust in the bottom of the drawer. Now that the first drawer is sorted and cataloged, all that is left is to photograph each individual item before starting on the next two drawers. Stay tuned for future posts about the items in the drawer!

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Other Dimensions of Patchtown Life, Part 4: The Textile Industry

duplanaerial1On this blog we started a series of posts focusing on some of the different roles and experiences of families living in patch towns of the Anthracite region. In previous posts we discussed the effects of the First and Second World Wars on the towns of Pardeesville and Lattimer. This post, however, focuses on textile mills during these periods which were accompanied by immense cultural transition.

From our conversations with members of the communities in Pardeesville and Lattimer, we learned that many of the residents of the patch towns worked in the textile mills. Our employee record card project affirms this fact. There is documentary evidence that folks shuttled back and forth between the coal and the textile industries. The textile industry in Hazleton endured until sometime around the late 1980s, long after the peak employment for the coal mining industry in the area. Though anthracite coal initially established the economy of the region, driving the large migration to the area and, for much of the country, defining its social identity, we suggest that the patch towns can be connected to the heritage of textile workers as much as that of the coal industry. When we look at the roles the industry played in national history, in industrialization and in important battles for labor reform and in vital contributions to the war effort, we can see that the industry played no small part in BIG history. And in the many ways that it affected the everyday lives of residents, bringing young women and men out of the towns and into the city, working together (even resulting in some marriages!), and adding to strapped family incomes, it drove Hazleton’s social and economic life in directions that the coal industry cannot account for alone.

In many ways, some of the changes Americans experienced between the end of the 19th century and World War II can be seen through the Northeastern Pennsylvania textile mills. Driven to achieve labor equality and social progress in the anthracite region, such famous reformers as Mary Harris, also known as Mother Jones, descended into the area during the Coal Strike of 1902. Because of the low wages men made as coal miners, often entire families were forced to work to make up enough income for families to survive. Labor rights activists, and the Anthracite Strike Commissioners alike, were shocked by reports of girls as young as 6 years working 12 hour shifts in textile mills. The strike gained worldwide attention as textile girls took the stand before the Anthracite Strike Commission to detail their experiences and advocate for child labor protection laws. These protective laws were not passed until 1916. The miner’s lawyer, Clarence Darrow, a life-long child labor law advocate, won the case. Darrow would later achieve national fame for defending John Scopes in the Scopes Monkey Trial.

“We are working for democracy, for humanity, for the future, for the day will come too late for us to see it or know it or receive its benefits, but which will come, and will remember our struggles, our triumphs, our defeats, and the words which we spake.”

- Excerpt from Darrow’s 1902 Closing Argument

After 163 days, the Coal Strike of 1902 came to an end, with the Commission meeting the demands of the workers and the owners in the middle. Factory girls, through their efforts, helped change the way American Industry treated their employees and did business. Through their sacrifice, Northeastern Pennsylvania textile workers helped make the industry safer and more equitable for workers everywhere.

WWI propaganda posterPennsylvania textile mills made national news in other ways, too. Textile mills were vital for supporting the war effort for both World War I and World War II. At the height of production during World War II, U.S. textile mills sold approximately one billion yards of cloth in one week to supply the U.S. and Allied markets. Abandoned mills in New England were reopened, and mills across the U.S. began running two to three shifts to keep up with demand. Textile and garment workers made silk and nylon, used for airplane cloth, parachutes, and tire cord; workers stitched and manufactured soldiers uniforms and boots; and they made canvas for boots, bags, and pouches. 

As workers rushed to fill war time orders, companies took out ads and had stories published in trade journals and local newspapers about their worker’s contributions to

duplangirlsclubthe war effort. Companies such as Duplan, which maintained its textile mill in Hazleton starting about 1896, took these opportunities to showcase their employee welfare programs. In 1914, Susquehanna Silk Company and Duplan Silk Company were recognized in Pennsylvania’s Annual Report by the Commissioner of Labor for their employee welfare programs. Susquehanna boasted a baseball diamond, lunch rooms, and first aid for workers, while Duplan outlined their future plans, including parks, playgrounds, and a girl’s club house. 


As World War I ended, however, new union labor struggles for fair wages and an 8 hour work day reemerged. One union member, angered by the welfare works companies had instituted instead of negotiating with worker’s unions, took to song to express his feelings. (see below)


The first half of the 20th century proved to be a time of rapid industrial change across the country and Pennsylvania’s textile mills were at the forefront of this new era of work. The mills supplied needed materials for two World Wars, but also provided the tragic backdrop to call for national child labor laws. Understanding, preserving, and celebrating this history of workers is vital to ensure that future generations of Pennsylvanians know the hardships their ancestors faced, as well as the changes they’ve made to the course of U.S. history.

Understanding this historical context will change the kinds of questions we ask when investigating the Anthracite Region through archaeology.

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Other Dimensions of Patchtown Life, Part 3: the Second World War

In our last blogpost we talked about the way the Second World War affected the communities of Pardeesville and Lattimer. The war was a busy time for the region’s industries, working at full capacity to supply the war effort with energy, labor and manufactured goods.  As mentioned before, government media asserted the work of coal miners as an equivalent effort to the soldiers fighting overseas. And for younger generations, some of whom were the first or second generations born on this soil, serving the country served as a chance to demonstrate their patriotism. It may have also meant a way out of the coal mines, if not a chance to visit other places and meet other people before returning.

In our work, we find a great deal of different sorts of objects. Some of them can seem quite unconnected to the everyday life of workers, wives, and children in an obvious way. The bricks, nails, glass and stone they built their houses with are much like any other objects we find doing archaeology. It is their arrangement in the soil and relative amounts that make them interesting and unique to the site and the landscape.

DSC_8389We also find objects that are a little more personal: toys, tobacco pipes, drinking glasses, combs, etc. They tell us a bit more about

the objects these families engaged with in their daily and intimate lives.  To the left is a toy truck we excavated from Church Street in Pardeesville. It dates to sometime after the Second World War. (click on image to expand it)

To the right are fragments of a Blue Willow pattern plate, for which we have most of  the pieces. On the base of this plate, is the inscription, “Made in Japan”.  


Again, these are artifacts found on many  sites all over the country at a  similar time period. These items suggest that the folks on Canal Street took an active role in shopping, furnishing their homes, and letting their children play to the best of their financial abilities as much of the country did in the period of relative wealth and stability during and following the World War.

It is the special combinations and arrangements of these objects that tell us about how people lived their everyday lives. It is also the inclusion of items that don’t always fit that demonstrate something more about the material lives of archaeological sites.

Sometimes we find a singular object marked by the life of a single individual. In one of our excavations in Pardeesville we found a curious item discarded in a pit in the rear of the lot. World War II dog tags belonging to Anthony Simone were found among other items that appeared to have been cleaned out of the house before it was renovated or demolished and deposited into an open pit in the rear.  Here are a couple images of the tags:



After cleaning up the tags in the lab we were able to discern a few bits of text on the tags.

Name: “Simone, Anthony F.”

Serial Number: “…..43 646”

It shows that he received his tetanus shot in 1942 (“T42”) and his blood type is (“O”).

Folks growing up in the neighborhood remember the Simones’ living in this house, though no one we have spoken with remembers an Anthony living there. A quick search of the records revealed the that Mr. Simone enlisted in February of 1942 at Fort Meade in Maryland. A veteran’s gravesite report indicates that he fought in Battalion D of the 639th Anti-Aircraft Cannon Battalion of the Army between February 21, 1942 to December 18, 1942. At some point after this time, he returned stateside and lived in Hazleton until his passing in 1996.

We don’t really know how the tags ended up in the backyard pit, but it appears that the demolition of a portion of the house sometime in the 1960s resulted in the discard of materials from previous occupants, followed by architectural rubble.

It can be a surprise to find something so personal buried deep beneath the ground, especially an item that must have traveled so far and was so closely tied with their identity. For us as researchers it underscores the deep and penetrating role global historical events had on the communities, families and individuals, of Lattimer and Pardeesville. What we cannot know is how the tags ended up here. Were they accidentally lost, perhaps slipping between floorboards of a house addition and discarded when it was demolished? Or were they discarded by Mr. Simone, connected to an experience or an identity that no longer held interest after so many years? These answers we may never know.

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Other Dimensions of Patchtown Life, Part 2: the Second World War

This is the second post in a series about different roles and dimensions of life in anthracite patch towns. 

In our last post we looked at the legacy of the First World War on the communities of Lattimer and Pardeesville. Twenty five years later, the Second World War also had a big effect on the communities.  It not only affected those sent overseas to fight, but also those that stayed to work in the patch town.

When the military draft hit the region, many young men were called to service overseas. Leaving small town Pennsylvania must have been a big deal. The following newspaper article, from an unknown date during the war, describes a surprise meeting in France between friends from Pardeesville, described here as “Lattimer North Side”, Edward Dailey and George Goodman. You can imagine their excitement at seeing their friends so far from home:

north side boys meet in France

As in our example from the First World War, the support of American labor and industry was essential to the war effort. Anthracite and bituminous coal was needed in great amounts to generate the energy to fuel and produce the military effort. Posters, brochures, films and events distributed by the government and business encouraged support for the war effort.

On 23 August 1942, a community flag-raising ceremony was held in Lattimer. Rather than a performance strictly by the children, this time the entire audience was invited to sing the National Anthem and repeat the Pledge of Allegiance. Perhaps some of those who attended this ceremony remembered their participation 25 years before?



In this amazing document, the names of all the “boys” of Lattimer (perhaps only Lattimer No. 1?) serving overseas are listed in the program. Among them is a future actor by the name of “Walter Polanski”, the future Jack Palance!

All the names are listed here (for ease of keyword searches):


Brochures from similar events in Humboldt and Milnesville can be seen here:

17-2 Milnesville community flag-raising

17-21 Humboldt Flag Raising 1940

From a military standpoint, working the mines was considered to be as important, in fact, as fighting on the front. Government and industry reinforced this idea with the following pamphlet. It was among many documents sent to the Lattimer Coal Co. offices by federal and corporate organizations for distribution among workers. Project researchers examined and cataloged the company archives during the summer of 2011. This archive, containing thousands of fascinating documents connected to this period, belongs to Joe Michel, a resident of Hazelton, who graciously shared it with us.

This brochure features a fascinating graphic of a mine worker with a drill echoing the image of a soldier firing a machine gun and the catchy phrase, “make it hot (as hot as hell) for Hitler!”.

17-54 work will win the war-2 copy

By the 1940s, immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe had slowed considerably. As a result, many of the younger generations of children and adults in Lattimer and Pardeesville were born and raised entirely in Pennsylvania. Unlike previous generations of immigrants, they grew up without the influence of constant new migration back and forth from the Old World, and in the company of Americans from many different backgrounds. Nonetheless, some of the lingering fears of unrest and foreignness remained in government and industry.

5-14-1 Anth Assoc responds to war effort sabotage wages etc.This newsletter from the Anthracite Operators Association from July 9, 1942 was distributed to the management of local collieries. In this document, operators were warned to watch their employees carefully and prepare for an unexpected event.

For different reasons, many folks would not come back from the war, having either fallen on the field of battle or because they found better opportunities elsewhere around the country. During the duration of the Second World War, the local economy thrived relative to the uncertainty of the previous two decades stemming from disagreements between workers and industry and the Great Depression. Nonetheless, world consumption of anthracite would fall after the war, driving some residents to find employment elsewhere. Even without the industry, patch town life goes on today, inspired by these stories of the past.

In the next post we will look briefly at some artifacts we found related to the post-war period (including something quite surprising!). We will then turn to other dimensions of work and life in the patch towns.

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Other Dimensions of Patchtown Life, Part 1: the First World War

FutureCitizensFor people outside of Northeastern Pennsylvania, the history of the patch town is often considered in regards to a few specific dimensions. Of course the work of the coal miners is understood to be the focus of these living and working places, occupying the energies of its communities and giving it a reason to exist. Secondarily, the isolation of the towns, their company -dominated character, is also considered as defining, historically, why a patch is what it is. This is the first post on the theme of looking at other dimensions of patch town life.

In our research we have found that while these very important narratives define these towns, there are also other stories to tell. There are other roles and historical relationships that stretch, challenge and diversify this narrative. First of all, the work in the mines involved many forms of labor other than the underground work. An army of ironworkers, carpenters, electricians, mechanics, equipment operators, supply managers, truck drivers and medical personnel were needed to keep things moving along. Aside from this, salaries from mine work were lean, and so families often had to find other ways to stay afloat. Factory work, particularly in local textile mills, was one way families could acquire extra cash. Men, women and children worked in these industries.

As opportunities in the mining industry began to diminish in the region, the children of miners had to look elsewhere for work or leave the region. This happened in the case of many instances where parents refused to allow their children to work in the mines, saving money carefully to educate their children.

There are other reasons folks left the towns. In the archives of the company, in newspaper sources and in the archaeological artifacts, we found evidence that the World Wars often took young folks away from the company town, introducing them to new roles, opportunities, places and experiences.  As these situations sometimes result, sometimes they did not come back.

In 1917 miners and their sons were called up to support the country in its first major overseas war.  On 6 April of this year the United States declared war on Germany, committing the American military, as well as the support of its domestic industries. Almost immediately, the Committee on Public Information was formed to convince the American people to support the effort. Labor and industry would be crucial to this effort, and with major unrest across the country in places of work, workers were courted with posters, films, and ceremonial events across the country to garner their support. In addition, the ethnic origin of much of American labor was considered a potential threat to the support of workers. Keep in mind that the Lattimer Massacre and its aftermath, in which recent immigrants from Eastern Europe and Italy were treated like “a dangerous foreign element”, was only twenty years before. At this time, their right to raise an American flag during the march was resisted by a posse of deputized locals, who removed a flag from their hands and tore it to pieces.

flag raising 5 9 1917At 4:00 PM on 17 May 1917, with the First World War raging overseas, a flag raising ceremony was held at the No. 5 Colliery in Lattimer. The “Star Spangled Banner” was sung by children, as was “My Country Tis of Thee”, and lest the attendants wanted to sing along and did not know the words, they were provided in the program. The Liberty Band from Hazleton played three selections on this occasion and a Reverend Moorehead and Skillington said a few words. This is a very significant event in the history of the immigrant experience in Lattimer/ Pardeesville. Remembering that changes in foreign governments and economies were what drove or pushed the migrants to this place to begin with, this global history once again came into town to change these lives yet again. [stay tuned for the next posts in this series!]

flag raising 5 9 1917 page 2

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