Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Gunshots and Arson - Matt Johannes, Eau Claire Wisconsin Part I.

Sometimes when researching a story it strays a bit, it going off in a direction you were not expecting.  The story of Mathias Johannes, pioneer soda bottler of Eau Claire Wisconsin, galloped off in an especially peculiar fashion.  Explosions.  Arson.  And some remarkably helpful details on the bottles used in the 19th century pop business.

A while back I briefly discussed Schofield, Garon and Hebert, first soda bottlers in Chippewa Falls.  When considering whether they would have gone to the expense of embossing their name onto the bottles, the issue of whether they had local competitors was raised.  I was aware of one, albeit in the next town over.  This would be the firm of Massolt and Johannes in Eau Claire Wisconsin.

Massolt and Johannes got at least a one year head start in the local market.  The following entry from the West Eau Claire Argus of May 1867 could be interpreted as being the start of the enterprise, or simply the start of the soda pop season with warmer weather.*  

"Pop! Pop! Massolt and Johonnas (sic) have their machine in good running order for the manufacture of pop beer, or mineral water.  They have already put up about a thousand bottles, which are rceiving a very rapid sale.  This mineral water is a very pleasant summer drink, and will meet with ready sale at all the restaurants in town, and costing but a trifle when purchased by the box, private families will find it a delightful beverage to keep in the cellar.  Massolt and Johonnas are the only firm in the Chippewa Valley that manufactures this article of drink, and will undoubtedly receive extensive patronage from the neighboring towns."

Ads from this time period describe their product as "CELEBRATED MINERAL WATER or POP BEER", and mention that it was for sale at saloons, restaurants, and groceries, also that it could be purchased "wholesale at Milwaukee prices".

The Massolt and Johannes partnership was dissolved in October of 1867, Massolt moved to Minneapolis and became the premier soda bottler in that town.  Johannes carried on the venture in Eau Claire.

He also ran a saloon.  This made sense as soda pop was a somewhat seasonal business, and in any event it was another outlet for selling his product.  The exact nature of the "Johannes Saloon" can be glimpsed in old newspapers.

He had a lawyer, H.L. Stiles, leasing an office upstairs.  Perhaps that came in handy, one news item from 1869 mentions casually that a young man refused to pay for his drinks and tried to high tail it out of the bar.  Johannes pursued, firing three shots at the cheapskate!  This attracted the attention of the constable who arrested not the barkeep with the pistol but the fleeing deadbeat.  If you tried this sort of thing in modern times the outcome would be otherwise.

Johannes was successful in the soda pop business.  His 1903 obituary mournfully describes the passing of a pioneer and claims that "..for 15 years or more he made all the pop used at Eau Claire, Chippewa Falls and perhaps several other places, and made a good deal of money in the business."  This seems to be approximately correct if one discounts minor players such as his brief Chippewa Falls competitor.

But what kind of person was Mathias Johannes?  What was the soda business like in the mid to late 1800s?

I think it is fair to say that he was not a vigilant "helicopter parent".  A hair raising tale from the local paper in 1875:

"Johanne's boy came near getting drowned in the Chippewa near the bridge this morning.  He tried riding a log, which rolled over, upsetting him, and nearly reversing his position, so that only his feet were visible, sticking up on one side, while the log floated over him...."   Fortunately a bystander noticed and "...pulled him out not at all too soon for safety, as very little more would have settled his terrestrial hash".

One thinks of the soda pop business as being a simple and happy one.  Or maybe not, its not as if Coke and Pepsi get along.  But Matt Johannes had enough bad luck that some began to murmur a bit....

In March of 1885 it was noted that Johannes had taken delivery of a car load of bottles from a manufacturer in Jersey City.  Johannes had built a new bottling plant on Madison street and now purchased no fewer than 144,000 "self sealing bottles".  Quite a few of these were stored elsewhere, and in November of the same year a fire at his warehouse destroyed "his entire stock of bottles for winter use".  There were suspicions of arson as the site was "..visited by fire about a year ago under much the same circumstances.  Someone surely must have a grudge against either Johannes or Moldenhaur and Damm"  The latter were the wagon manufacturers who shared the space.

Johannes clearly went through a lot of bottles.  Not only did some fall victim to arson, it seems they occasionally just blew up.  But that is a story for next time.

* Massolt had been in Eau Claire since 1864, and Johannes since 1860.  Their business could have been in operation for several years in the mid 1860s. 

Monday, January 29, 2018

FIRST Robotics 2018 - Report Four

The week featured more delays and distractions due to weather, finals, illness and a contingent away doing Science Olympiad.  But we kept forging ahead.

Turning parts on the lathe.  This is actually a plastic called Delrin that is being made into pulleys.

Continuing our team tradition of building ludicrously over engineered components, our lifting mechanism takes shape.  Folks, that ain't no wimpy aluminum.

With a bit of lag time before other elements are ready, the build team is making parts for the competition robot frame.  Quality work, no kludge allowed.  And we label them so that they don't get used for other projectes.

Software has a practice course laid out in blue tape.  Naturally they are running into a few gremlins but better now than later.  We hope to have both the competition robot and its sparring partner running at the same time in a week or two.

Approaching the dreaded mid point of build season the team kicked into high gear.  Major mechanisms came together.  Parts arrived.  And the work force grew.  On a team with an official roster of 28 it is amazing to have 20 turn up to work...including another new recruit.  Keeping everyone busy on projects that are coordinated to all come together at the proper moment is a real challenge.  But a good problem to have.  Interestingly we are victims of our own success with regards to team growth. One of our biggest expenses is hotel and food costs at out of town tournaments.  This is a factor in deciding whether we can actually do two events - and finish the season dead broke - or scale back to one and keep some start up money for the off season/early season next year.

After a productive weekend we find our selves at a point where if necessary, three or four days of frantic, caffeine powered work would get us a kludgy but functional robot. With three weeks to go that's not a bad place to be although much work is needed to get anything really reliable.  

Here is the final version of the "Bear Claw" box handler.  When it grabs a box the box is not going anywhere until we let go of it.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Leaf Pile

Obviously a picture from last fall.  Warmer days.

And you never know when an Uncle will jump out of the leaf pile and try to scare you!

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Bottling Beer in Chippewa Falls

This is a minor follow up to a recent post called "The Lost Brewery of Chippewa Falls". In it I described the struggles of an 1870's brewery that had a parade of different owners.  You'd think after that venture failed that all concerned would have had enough of the beer business.

But as it happens, no.

One of the early proprietors of the failed Union Brewery was a certain John P. Mitchell.  A brief article in the Chippewa Falls Herald of August 27, 1880 describes his career a few years later:

After describing other improvements in the area of the Star Flouring Mill it relates that:

"A short distance across from this structure is a two story building with a good stone foundation where Mr. John P. Mitchell will soon open up with a good stock of groceries.  This will be handy for the large number of people who live in that vicinity....."
"In the rear of the store, an establishment for bottling beer is being built.  This will be under the management of Mr. Mitchell, and will be of considerable benefit and convenience to the city, as heretofore all bottled beer had to be imported from Milwaukee, Lacrosse or St. Paul...."

This was adjacent to Leinenkugel and Miller's Spring Brewery, and it was their beer that Mitchell would be bottling.  

A follow up article in December of 1880 mentions that the bottling works was in "good running order" and had been filling many orders.  Beer could be ordered by the case for home delivery.  A case was either 2 dozen quarts at $2.50 or 3 dozen pints for $2.00.

This helps explain what I had considered a curious entry on the Chippewa Falls Sanborn Fire Map of 1884.

Leinenkugels was just off to the right.  The bottling works is as described in the news article.  Previously I had wondered about the "Gro." which clearly indicates the associated grocery.  Note the Ice House out back.  Presumably this was to keep kegs of beer ready for bottling at a nice cold temperature.

This photo probably shows it.  You are looking at the front of the building, which is the short end to the left.

Several additional thoughts.

Because of Federal tax laws it was not legal to bottle beer on the brewery premises.  It had to be taken across the street (or sometimes via tunnel, under the street) to a different building.  In transit the kegs were marked with tax stamps.  In the winter view above you can actually see a plank covered pathway running from the brewery to the bottling facility.  I wonder where the guy with the tax stamps stood?

19th century newspaper articles were pounded out at a brisk pace, not always checking for strict accuracy.  In fact this was almost certainly not the first beer bottled in town.  Three years earlier in June of 1877 it was noted that: "Both the breweries in this city are bottling beer for family use, which enables all to have fresh beer."

The reference to "both" of course reflected the presence of the Schmidmeyer brewery at that point in time.  From this point onward I am going to engage in a little speculation.

Bottling beer or soda was not a highly profitable venture unless you had a good system for getting your bottles back.  These were specialized containers with seals to keep in carbonation and thick walls to reduce breakage.  By 1880 these were almost all glass bottles, and the absolute absence of any embossed Leinenkugel's bottles prior to the late 1890's suggests that it was paper label only when Mitchell started bottling their beer on a large scale.  But prior to that it was a different story.

There were two breweries in town.  (OK, three for a while).  If you used generic bottles the worst case scenario was not that your bottle did not come home to was that it would be used by your rival!  So marked bottles made sense.  The only one from the area that dates from this era is actually from Eau Claire, the marvelous E.R. Hantzsch pottery beer bottle.  We've met E.R. before, he used a cave that was featured in several of my early Forgotten Brewery Cave posts.

So, given that bottling of beer by Schmidmeyer and by Leinenkugels was a very small scale, literally kitchen sink operation, is it possible that somewhere out there are similar pottery bottles with FXS or L&M debossed on them?  I'd like to think so.

Monday, January 22, 2018

FIRST Robotics 2018 - Report Three

I've been mostly working with the crew building the box intake system.  It has been frustrating at times.  We experimented with all sorts of different kinds of wheel material.  We have a graveyard of failed intake wheels.

It seems so simple.  You just get that fabric covered box lined up with the spinning wheels and pull it right in.  But the box actually has one short dimension, so some times the cross section you are trying to grab is smaller.  Also, the fabric covering gets saggy with use, so the one open side of the box is a loose tent.

These wheels looked great but were made out of material that was too squishy.  We have to be able to lift this box "in the grip" up to a target six feet in the air.

Finally we did get to where we had all the variables dialed in.  The wheels pulled the box in.  They spit it back out on cue.  You could pick the lift mechanism up, actually it is easier to pick up the whole robot, and shake it.  It held.  Great, yes?

Well it looks good.  We got it mounted on a drive frame and with a mock up of the elevator "mast" that will be in about that position.  But, in real world testing a real world problem appeared.  When you make a tight turn, or spin around...the spring tension on the intake arms is not sufficient to keep the box from flying out.  And since you cannot drive sedately in tournament play this is a serious, no, a fatal design flaw.

Oh, we tried to make it work.  Belts, pulleys, different sized wheels, different wheel material.  But the basic problem remained.....too much weight out front on flexible arms.  You could of course have a pneumatic cylinder pull the arms together once the box was in the grip.

But at that point the wheeled intake becomes rather irrelevant.....just use pneumatics to grab the box.

And so, two weeks into the six week build.....The Claw returns.

Some actual engineering going on now with things being drafted on paper and/or on computer, gear ratios for winches being calculated, metal being milled for elevator parts, software continues to program away.

Its frustrating, all the more so because we will likely lose another day to weather tomorrow.  But it moves forward.....

Friday, January 19, 2018

A Chubby Champ is Crowned

The chub fishing community has been stunned in recent days by the possible emergence of a new state record creek chub.  I am not at liberty to say exactly where it was caught, but clearly it was an accidental catch by an ice fisherman.  

At 11.8 inches and approximately 12 ounces this is a gigantic fish.  By way of comparison the prize winner at our second annual Chub Fest last summer was a puny 4.8 ounces.

I've seen a picture of the fish and the man who caught it.  He, the angler more so than the fish, appears a bit puzzled.  He may not have known what the heck he had caught.

Well even though it was not caught in the traditional Chub Fest way - fishing in culverts and drainage ditches - we do feel a certain obligation to reach out to the lucky fisherman.

We would after all like to express the official congratulations of the Northern Chub Anglers Alliance (NCAA) and invite him to be Grand Marshal of the 2018 Chub Fest.

Heh. That should make him less puzzled for sure.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Forgotten Brewery Caves - Mayville Wisconsin

Mayville is a nice little town in south east Wisconsin.  Remarkably it had at least three breweries.  On a trip there two years ago I had a chance to quickly take a look at two of them that are still standing.  Clearly more research is needed.

Here is a nice old stone brewery down by the river.  It has been converted into a garage and an apartment building.

The back side, built right into the hill.  Odds of a cave being under there are nearly 100%.  Ah, the Impossible Dream....a fabulous garage/work space with a brewery cave out the back.  

The other extant brewery building in town does not look like much.  But parts of it are quite old.  It is now a wholesale food company of some sort.  Likely the evolution was brewery-creamery-more diversified business.  Cold storage was the key link.

As is true with humans, so also with buildings.  You can try to hide your true age but for those who look closely.....

And off the back side another interesting little abutment to the hill.  Odds of a brewery cave?  Oh, count on it.

I've had these pictures sitting around for far too long hoping to get back and get some inside pix.  When that happens I'll of course update.

My preliminary look at the breweries of Mayville shows it to be a complicated story. This LINK to lists 7 different breweries in town, although of course some may have simply been changes in ownership and variant names.

An 1885 map of Mayville indicates that the first brewery shown above was John Steger and Company.  The second was M. Ziegler, Mayville Brewery.

Monday, January 15, 2018

FIRST Robotics 2018 - Report Two

As in our previous two seasons, we lost a bit of time due to weather.  The policy is that if school is cancelled or early released due to weather, then no robotics session that evening.  Of course other area teams have the same challenge.  I'd get up on my soap box and claim that this gives a slight edge to teams from southern climes but of course down there they would cancel not just school but all functions of society if they get a dusting of snow that we just wipe off the windshield with our mittens and carry on.

The team changes every year.  We are up about 20% in numbers and also seem to have a higher percentage of hard workers.  In a stage of the campaign where software has a smaller list of things to do it has been interesting to see the kids from that group wander up stairs to work with the builders.  It's good to get grease on their hands, hope they clean up before getting back to their keyboards.

A summary of current work.

1. Drive bases.  

Anticipating a somewhat top heavy design with a big heavy mast in the center we decided to build this on the sturdy side.  Our initial design has a cut out in the front for "cube" intake.  Our electronics team has gone through and made sure that each and every motor and speed controller in inventory has the proper connectors.

2. Intake device.

Most teams are going with claw grabbers.  That seemed a bit boring.  We are going to use spinning wheels made out of dense foam to grab and hold the box.  Our initial trials were difficult....wheels big enough to grab securely did not fit inside the robot frame at the beginning of the match, and the rules do require this.  Solution? Turn the grab mechanism 90 degrees upward.  At the beginning of the match fire a solenoid to drop it forward.  Or heck, just go forward a ways and tap the brakes!

Here's version 3.0 in the "down" position.  Little foam grabby wheels to pull the box in and hug it tight. It works reasonably well but there is a lot of tinkering needed before we finalize the design.  For instance....lets try some bigger grabby wheels.

As an aside the first foam we used was actually some stuff left over from my middle school class.  It was odd stuff, very tough and spongy.  I don't really know what it is, when you buy stuff at the surplus store it is usually unmarked.  But one of our other coaches knows a "foam guy".  Everyone should know a foam guy I suppose.

3. Lift
Way beyond my skill level.  But we have a sponsor with lots of useful parts, and some guide rails that are surplus from a CNC machine have been carefully polished up and will be a three stage lift device.  I am assured that this will work.....

Here at least we are going beyond our manic "junkbot" tendencies and CAD designing before the sparks fly.   

4. And everything else.  
We don't really have quite enough funding to pull off a two tournament, two robot program this year.  So our PR team continues to reach out to sponsors old, new and potential.  Also to just invite interested parties to stop in and watch high school students actually work hard in an entirely optional setting.  

Stay tuned, next week's update should have many more moving parts.

Friday, January 12, 2018

I'm sorry Dave, you must care about Oprah.....

The shortcomings of Facebook are not exactly breaking news.  It has basically become social media for the grand parent demographic (of which I am of course a proud member), but it has also become more intrusive, sneakier.  And at the same time it is showing me a lot fewer actual posts from people I know.

Lately, and without any changes made by yours truly, the news feed has switched from Most Recent to Top Stories.  There does not appear to be any obvious way to change it back.  You can toggle it over to the preferred option each time you go look at Facebook but even that action gives the New Wizards of Menlo Park information. They know for instance when I am on the internet and via all their other info tentacles also know where I am. has been putting up a peculiar notice.  After I look at the Most Popular items it decides to force feed me - all too often celeb fluff and/or political nonsense - it puts this up:

Do you want to see more posts?

Find Friends
The more friends you add, the more posts, photos and videos you'll see in News Feed.

The button takes you to "People you Might Know", encouraging me to add them to the web of data that Facebook is spinning around me.

It was easier when I posted as Badger Trowelsworthy, and with demographic information that read like the absurdist post modern fiction that it was intended to be.

We'll see what happens.  Facebook has a lot of hidden stuff going on "under the hood" and sometimes these glitches vanish with as little logic as they appear.  For some reason I got a whole bunch of "Friend Requests" a while back, all of which appeared to be from confused Spambots that thought they were lonely college aged ladies from Brazil.

But my patience has limits.  No, Facebook I am not going to go on a Friend Request binge to try and get my Facebook feed back to showing only recent posts, and keeping them around for more than 24 hours.  Don't make me bring back Lord Trowelsworthy. 

He's more than a bit of a rascal and he drags me into much mischief even though he is fictitious.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

FIRST Robotics 2018 - Report One

(Note: an extra robotics post.  Because there is a lot going on.  Also I felt like it.)

How does one go about designing and building what is in effect a high speed, precise robotic forklift for moving boxes around?

Scenes from Week One of FIRST Build Season.

Inventory parts.

Ponder and discuss.

Sketch.  Lots of white boards in use...

And maybe just because we have one handy, fire up the real forklift and use it to heft a 3 pound box!  Version 1.0 of our competition machine?  Some serious weight trimming needed to get down to 120 pounds!

Building a robot has so many little tasks associated with it.  The week to date has been mostly focused on hashing out a design, and by end of session Monday the Great Bear Claw versus Belts debate was finally settled.  But there are also the straightforward, slightly boring things that have to be done.

With new gearboxes you are supposed to assemble them, then run them for a half hour without load and also without lubrication.  It smooths off any minor irregularities in the gear teeth.  It is really noisy.  Somebody really should sit there and watch, just to make sure that nothing over heats and that the power connection does not vibrate loose.

Here we have one of our rookie members patiently watching the screaming gearboxes. He has his headphones on and is listening to music.  I'd like to think the band he has on is also called The Screaming Gearboxes and sounds about the same!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Forgotten Brewery Caves - The Robber's Cave, Lincoln Nebraska

I've mentioned that my policy on describing Forgotten Brewery Caves from a long distance perspective is that they must be safe, well documented, and worth the while of a visitor.  This narrows the field quite a lot.  But occasionally a site comes through famously, providing one with history, legend, and in the case of The Robber's Cave in Lincoln Nebraska, an excellent glass of beer at the end of your visit.

Like other Western states Nebraska's development was slowed by the Civil War.  In the case of Lincoln, the fact that it was not on the Missouri River - the major transportation artery - also hindered its growth.  In fact until it was declared the state capital in 1867 it was not much of a community.

After that of course things changed.  And among many other things a brewery was needed.  Legislating is a thirsty business after all.

The Pioneer Brewery was established in 1869.  The principals were Michael Ulmer and Andrew Lindner.  Both have made fleeting appearances in Forgotten Brewery Caves before.  Ulmer had a brewery in Pepin Wisconsin, then in Hastings Minnesota.  When the latter burned in 1867 - forcing him to leap from a second story window - Ullmer went west.  Lindner was said to be from Waukesha Wisconsin. Interestingly  there was also an Andrew Lindner who was a 20th century proprietor of the Cassville Brewery, although whether this was his a son or a man staying in the business for an unusually long time is unclear.

The Pioneer Brewery took advantage of a pre-existing cave.  One in fact that had some evidence of use by Native American tribes.  They hired a man to extend the cave system and built their brewery such that they could take kegs straight in from the basement.

The venture was not a success.  It went out of business in 1873.  The building was later used for shady a dance hall and house of at least dubious repute.  Eventually it burned down.

It was after the brewery went under the history of the cave has its most intriguing, if unconfirmed event.  Supposedly Jessie James hid out there on his retreat from the failed 1876 Northfield Raid.  As his mother Zerelda was living in Nebraska at the time this would seem to be a bit more plausible than many of the other places he was rumored to have been.

Caves like this tended to remain locally known. It was a tourist attraction for a while, then was abandoned. Graffiti and the stories of those who visited as teenagers are both abundant.  In 2000 the entrance was bulldozed shut, inconveniencing but not quite barring visitors.  It contains at least one alarmingly deep well so it is fortunate that no tragedies are recorded.

In 2011 the Robber's Cave story resumed, when three guys from the Lincoln Police Department founded The Blue Blood Brewing Company.  They built a new 12,000 square foot brewery near the site of the Pioneer Brewery and incorporating the cave. In fact, the historic entrance to it has been nicely preserved.

This worthy undertaking has not been without a few rough spots.  During construction vandals broke into the cave and stole equipment.  An endangered bat species was encountered.  Local ghost hunters felt the place was haunted, although a medium who spent Halloween there does not seem to have been overly stimulated.

The Blue Blood Brewery still ages some of their product at the opening of the cave, this being similar to what the folks at the Schell's Brewery in New Ulm have done.

A few pictures of Robber's Cave.  If you find yourself in the area I do suggest a pilgrimage. It should be easy to is on Robber's Cave Road!

Note that much of this information is courtesy of Joel Green who is tour guide and official historian of Robber's Cave.  He has a book in the works on the subject so those looking for more information will find it later this spring with the publication of:

"Robber's Cave: Truths, Legends, and Reflections"

Monday, January 8, 2018

FIRST Robotics 2018 - Power Up!

OK, we've had the Big Reveal.  This year the FIRST team will have to build something really tricky.  Well, that's true every year.  The YouTube video of the game animation:

As of this writing we are at the stage where the video is being watched again and again. The rules book is being studied. Questions, some silly and some profound are being asked.  Sometimes the silly ones lead to the most profound observations.

The overall sense is that we are pretty much building a highly automated Amazon warehouse!  Moving boxes all over the place.

FIRST tries to teach skills that relate to the real world and this should be a good dose of same.  One of my first emails after getting the details was to a company that had expressed interest in the team.  And they make multi axis fork lifts!  Help!

In our third year we are obviously way behind the curve of real veteran teams with respect to having an accumulated pool of designs, experience, spare parts.  But we have been a pretty active team to date, and a number of the things we have done in the past are relevant to this undertaking.  Sometimes it is the previous failed projects that have the most potential to be dusted off and revisited.

I expect that for the next couple of months it will be Robot Mondays, History Wednesdays and Pot Luck Fridays here at Detritus of Empire.  Subject of course to whatever unexpected turns up.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Truth in Surplus Advertising

After a frustrating trip to The Big City, where assorted things did not go off as planned, I treated myself to Axman Surplus.

The Axman never disappoints, found some good "stuff".

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Forgotten Brewery Caves - A Kansas Ghost Town.

The brewery cave series usually features places I can conveniently visit from my home base in Wisconsin.  Among other reasons I always want to have a personal look see so as to not put people onto the trail of a potentially dangerous site.  One cannot rely on common sense in such matters.

But I do run across tales of brewery caves from other places and sometimes I have to pass them along.  Kansas seems to have some especially interesting ones.

In the golden age of brewery caves, say 1850 to 1870, Kansas was simply a more interesting place than Wisconsin.  It was on the front lines of the Fugitive Slave controversy that led up to the Civil War.  It was the site before and during the war of an ongoing guerrilla conflict.  And then post war it was a booming part of the Western Frontier. Cowboys, Indians etc

Quindaro Kansas pretty much has all of that.

It lies on the Missouri river, right across from the then slave state of the same name. While it no doubt had earlier inhabitants the first organized settlement came in 1843 when Wyandot indians from Ohio were forced to relocate there.  It was not exclusively a native community, one major land owner was Abelard Guthrie.  The town was named after his Wyandot wife, Quindaro.

In pre-Civil war Kansas much of the local government was in sympathy with slavery, or at least not willing to fight over it.  In the 1850's Quindaro developed as a "Free Port" where escaped slaves would find friends and hiding places.  

It developed along the lines of most Western Boom Towns....exuberant, impractical growth.  It had a newspaper, stores, a hotel...and a brewery.  This was a little unusual since the area was officially "dry" and saloons were not allowed to operate openly.  Perhaps the ferry across to Missouri took slaves one way and kegs the other.

Quindaro did not flourish for long.  A financial panic hit in 1857, drying up investment. The violence between pro and anti-slavery forces resulted in pitched battles and massacres.  The 1850's closed out with a two year drought.

And then came the Civil War.  Of course most of the young men enlisted. And the westward tide of new settlers slowed.  With the Emancipation Proclamation slavery was clearly done for, although some fugitives still made it to Quindaro during the war.

By this point there was a healthy African American community on the bluffs above the dying river town.  Some were former fugitives, others just came to be in a supportive place. Old Quindaro slowly decayed into ruin.

In the 1980s there was a proposal to make the site into a landfill.  Archaeological excavations in advance of this showed the significance of the site and the plans were scrapped.  Ironically this led to considerable rancor on the part of the owners of much of the site, an African Methodist Church founded by the runaway slaves.

You can still visit Quindaro.  It is on the river in the northeast suburbs of Kansas City. The site is said to be quite overgrown but at least sufficient stabilization of the ruins has been done to prevent immanent collapse.

This is the brewery site.  The steel beams support the stone walls and give the rough outline of the structure.  Of course you can see the classic arched brewery cave exiting from the back of the brew house.

The site was excavated by students from Washburn University.  Below is an image of them at seems the reconstruction was extensive.

For more information on the excavations at Quindaro, and the odyssey of the "orphan artifacts" found there, have a look at this edition of Kansas Preservation . The Quindaro section is pages 15 - 20.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Detritus of Empire - 2018

Much has changed since I started this three times a week project back in 2011.  I've retired.  Become a grandfather.  The kids have all gone off on their own.  I have near total command of my schedule.

Detritus of Empire evolved out of a daily email report I had previously sent out after each day of excavation back at Vindolanda.  Text only. The little rural pub had not only the Worst Quiz in England but the Slowest Internet connection.  I don't think posting pictures was even possible from there a decade ago.  Now you point a "device", tap a few keys and the whole world will see what you see.

Naturally with the Internet being the collective Wisdom of Humanity this makes for a  lot of cute cat pictures.

It looks as if 2018 will have no Roman archaeology trip.  Perhaps ten years scratching at the same spot is enough.  The reasons are various but among them is the realization that every time you go to an old familiar place you lose the chance to go somewhere new. After age 60 you don't know how many more years you can just shoulder a backpack and trek up and down hills.  Ten would be realistic.  In my former career I regularly saw exceptions to this scenario.

For the year ahead I think the "menu" here will not change that much.  Robotics, both FIRST and middle school projects has become a bigger feature in recent years, and that will probably continue.  The Americana category has always been substantial, and with overseas travel presently uncertain a longer summer road trip might be in order.

I don't much like the concept of a "bucket list".  Nobody does really, once they reach an age where you might on occasion look down and say..."huh, what is that galvanized metal water container doing so close to my left foot....?"  But there are places I would like to get to.  And a lengthening list of places that I am unlikely to see in person.

All the great Roman sites of North Africa and the Middle East.  I somehow doubt that the troubles of that region are going to settle down much in the next decade.  That round the world trip with a crossing of Russia on the Trans Siberian railway?  A ridiculous project that never got much beyond the basic research stage.

But I would like to see more of rural Italy.  Maybe Sicily and Sardinia.  I hear Croatia and Slovenia are nice and that all the left over land mines are well away from the main tourist sites.  Actually the Balkans in general would seem a good match for Detritus of is where empires have been colliding for thousands of years.

With so much of 2018 still a blank page I can't say just what I will have to say about roughly 180 installments.  So it will probably be as much a surprise to me as it will be to you.