“B Pride of Long Island Brand Tomato Catsup,” may contain coal-tar based dye
I fell down a rabbit hole while I was downloading photos from the expedition camera. It started as a brief quest to date a surface find, the complete (!) ketchup bottle in the photo. Society for Historical Archaeology hosts Lindsey, Lockhart and co.’s fabulous Bottle Identification site here. Unfortunately, the maker’s mark on the bottle base is not very clear, but it is clearly embossed: “B// Pride of Long Island//Brand// Tomato Catsup.” Yep, ‘catsup,’ not ‘ketchup.’
Catsup was a thing in the 19th and early 20th century. Tomato catsup, mushroom catsup, walnut catsup: ads and recipes for these products are all over period newspapers. But so are stories about adulterated foods. In 1901, the State of Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station tested this brand of tomato sauce and found a 16 fl oz. bottle costing 15 cents contained the dye Eosin and the preservative Salicylic acid .
Here’s what Connecticut had to say about it (emphasis added):
“Among the colors used are eosin, ponceau, tropeolin, magenta and others of coal-tar origin. They impart to the sauces a brilliant red color which those who are unaware that the uncolored products have a dull red or brown color, believe is the natural color of the fruit. The objections to their use are: ﬁrst, they deceive the purchasers while they in no way improve the quality of the sauce; second, they may serve to hide inferior material used in their manufacture; third, they are possibly injurious to health; and fourth, they put genuine uncolored goods to a disadvantage in the market.”
This problem of icky stuff in tomato-based condiments persists through at least 1917 when the Eastern District Court of New York wins a case against the manufacturer of this brand for trying to sell 270 cases of adulterated catsup. Pennsylvania, New York and other states conducted testing similar to CT’s and found similar results over more 15 years. Chemicals they found in other processed foods and milk are equally icky.
As for the bottle itself, it probably dates between the 19-teens and 1930s. Its mix of characteristics- round body instead of paneled typical of early 20th century ketchup bottles, embossed brand name but not bottle capacity, it does NOT have screw cap, the maker’s mark on the base is mushed- and the fact that I haven’t figured out when the company stopped making catsup (they started in 1893) make a more precise date hard to say. If you’ve got any info or ideas, let me know! I’ll just be over here eating my french fries. 🙂
1902 Twenty-Fifth Annual Report of the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station for the Year Ending October 31 1901. State of Connecticut Public Document No. 24. Tuttle, Morehouse and Taylor Co, New Haven, CT. https://play.google.com/books/reader?id=4a07AQAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&output=reader&hl=en&pg=GBS.PR1 (accessed 21 May 2016)
1996 Smith, Andrew S. Pure Ketchup: A history of America’s national condiment, with recipes. University of South Carolina Press, Charleson, SC.