I am very lucky to have not just great property permissions to pursue my relic hunting passion, but amazing property owners who are advocates on my behalf. On one particular property that I frequent, the owners have told me of a trash pit/bottle dump that they excavated decades ago. While it was grueling work, it sparked in the same thirst for discovery that I have every time I go detecting. Bottles, tokens, clothing, toys – all were unearthed from this unintended time capsule. Remember – before we had the modern conveniences most of us take for granted, there was no such thing as garbage pick-up day, and certainly not recycling. So people did what they had to do – bury their trash in their yard!
One Saturday not too long ago I got a call from the homeowner. She told me she and her husband unboxed all the bottles they dug up all those decades ago and asked if I wanted to see them (with the hopes of putting some into a local museum). Of course I did! When I arrived I saw them all displayed across a few tables. All clean. All wonderful.
Upon inspecting the many glass artifacts, one in particular caught my interest: A&P EXTRACTS.
If you’ve lived your whole life in New Jersey, or even just within the past few years, chances are you have shopped for groceries at the A&P. It’s hard to imagine that those stores are now just a memory! The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company was the nation’s first actual grocery chain (something nowadays we have a plethora of). It dates back to the 1850s, but was under another name at the time (Gillman & Co.).
While I’m not much of a bottle digger, as it requires a special skill and different equipment, it amazes me how these items can come out of the ground so wonderfully preserved. Many did come out broken, or fragmented, but so many are in tact and a fantastic glimpse into the past.
Of the many bottles in the collection, this oldie from the Passaic Bottling Company once again sees the light:
As does this H.J. Widness bottle from Park Ridge, NJ:
Quality is a key reason that these bottles have survived. Thick glass, embossed lettering – strong! Not like the flimsy, environmentally-unfriendly plastic bottles that overflow our dumpsters and landfills.
One of the thrills of relic hunting is the element of surprise. And as such, whenever you’re digging holes looking for hidden treasure, you never know what you may find. Digger beware!
Grant Hansen is an avid relic hunter, and focuses most of his efforts in his home state of New Jersey. He and his detecting partner James run http://relic-hunters.com and work with local and national historical societies and museums to preserve lost history. Some of the best finds Grant has made is the people he’s met and befriended along the way. It’s the kindness and generosity of property owners that makes it possible for him to pursue his passion. These articles are dedicated to these special people.