Unusual Finds Along Chesapeake Bay

By Sharon Brubaker

Long, long ago, when dinosaurs roamed the earth and the skies were pierced with cries of enormous birds, something was happening geologically just below the water. Unusual formations in the silt and mud began to take shape that would, millions of years later, reveal themselves and wash up on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay. These “formations,” resembling hollow rock balls, tubes, ocarinas, and more avant-garde shapes, are created from sand, clay, and iron oxide.DSC_0555.jpgWhen my family and I first moved to the shores of the upper Chesapeake and roamed the beaches in search of beach glass, we also began to find peculiar, round, metal-like objects.  We felt certain they were a type of ammunition for guns used during the Revolutionary War because George Washington had munitions created in the Principio Iron Works just a heron’s flight across the bay, near the port of Charlestown.

Being new to the area and excited to show our finds to our neighbors, our newly found friends chuckled and told us that the strange formations were called ‘pop rocks,” small hollow stones of which our neighbors would toss into beach fires and watch them explode. Another neighbor told us that the formations (are) derived from ‘Indian paint pots” and that Native American tribes used the iron oxide inside the stones to paint their faces. But it was not until we met another neighbor, and now long-time friend, Alice Lundgren, that the mystery was solved. The formations, in all their various shapes, are known as “concretions.”

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Alice has a collection of well over a thousand concretions ranging in size from a quarter of an inch to about twelve inches, all of which she has gathered from the bay. Alice was a true inspiration to my family and me, and we soon joined forces to not only hunt for sea glass, but to eagerly search for concretions. These unusual rock formations date back to the late Cretaceous and Eocene eras.  Even more fascinating than the “pop rocks” are tubular rocks. The tubular concretions are iron oxide formations that reflect a pipe-like structure.

When we go exploring along our nearby beach, Alice, a seasoned concretion seeker, has the ability to spot the stone tubes instantly, yet the rest of us are not so fortunate, as the finds appear camouflaged to the untrained eye. Some of the concretions boast unique shapes, such as small cups, snowmen, and acorns while the tubular concretions often resemble coral, branches, and even small musical pipes (although they do not carry a tune))! Similar to sea glass, each concretion seems to carry its own story and personality.

Having been formed millions of years ago from sedimentary rock, concretions have been significant and mystical to many cultures. Some cultures believe them to be holy stones while other cultures believe the stones bring luck, or perhaps represent the divine feminine. However, theories of modern science suggest the concretions are fossils or meteorites.

As beachcombers, we are treasure-hunters.  We are always seeking the next great find. The Shard of the Year Contest, which is one of the highlights of the North American Sea Glass Association’s annual Festival, would be ideal opportunity to view both natural and manmade treasures (this year’s North American Sea Glass Festival will be held in Wildwood, New Jersey on October 27 – 28).

*Many thanks to Alice Lundgren for sharing her collection of concretions, and to Meredith Keating and Brandon Boas for their photography.

 

 

Beer and sea glass bottles in Wilmington, Delaware

The 12th Annual North American Sea Glass Festival will be held on Saturday, September 23, 2017  and Sunday, September 24, 2017 at the Chase Center on the Riverfront in Wilmington, Delaware along the revitalized Christana River waterfront.     Wilmington is a city in Delaware on the Christina and Delaware rivers. Downtown’s early-20th-century DuPont Building is part of the local DuPont family legacy, which is also evidenced at the Hagley Museum. Those grounds include the 1802 DuPont gunpowder works and the family’s Georgian-style home. The Old Swedes Church, between the Christina River and Brandywine Creek, is from 1698.  European settlement had begun with the arrival of the Swedes and Dutch in the 1630’s and were the first European settlers in the Delaware Valley.

This year the North American Sea Glass Festival is excited to take place in one of the first locations in the United States to brew and bottle beer.  Why is this fun fact relevant to our festival?   Because as all sea glass collectors know, beer bottles and their colors, clear (white), amber and green are still plentiful to find and still makes sea glass collectors happy to find, even if they are considered sea glass common colors.

Here’s some interesting information and excerpts from Delaware Beer History about the history of beer (and bottling!!) in Wilmington, Delaware.

“Brewing began in Delaware with the arrival of the first sizeable European settlement.  Shortly after establishing a trading fort, Fort Christina, at present day Wilmington in late March 1638, Swedish and Finnish settlers immediately began making preparations to grow barley and locate hops for brewing beer.  Beer was a staple of the European diet in the 17th century, as it was recognized as the healthful alternative to drinking water.  Back in their native homelands, water supplies were often polluted and unsafe for drinking.  Of course, they had not yet discovered that boiling  during the brewing process killed bacteria.  Ale was consumed throughout the day by men, women and children, though the latter two groups tended to be served drink with a lower alcohol content.”

Bavarian-Luxburger label (John Medkeff collection)

Skip ahead a few hundred years and prohibition stopped beer operations in America.  However, one of Delaware’s beer pioneers, Carl H. Eisenmenger maintained ownership of Wilmington’s Bavarian Brewery at 5th & DuPont Streets.   “Eisenmenger, who understood that Prohibition would likely soon be a reality, had began brewing a ‘near beer’ cereal beverage as early as 1918.  In 1919, the Bavarian Brewing Company officially changed its name to the Peninsula Products Company, Inc.  The company continued with its Quex ‘near beer’ product and added a line of soft drinks.  After an initial surge in business, the venture ultimately failed and, in 1925, Peninsula closed its doors for good.   Eisenmenger, who maintained ownership of the 5th & DuPont property, rented the complex to other soft drink companies and businesses.  He temporarily withdrew from the beverage industry but would return again to revive brewing operations after repeal of the 18th Amendment.

When Repeal came in April 1933, Eisenmenger immediately formed a stock company and began working on plans to revive the brewing business.   Delaware granted Bavarian-Luxburger the state’s first post-Prohibition brewery license on September 1933.  After securing a Federal brewing license a few weeks later,  the company began production.  On November 27, the first cases of bottled Bavarian Beer finally left the plant.”

Read more Delaware Beer History here>

After the North American Sea Glass Festival, meander along the Christina waterfront to find modern day craft brewers to quench your thirst, such as Iron Hill Brewery, located a short walk from the Chase Center on the Riverfront.

View a map of the Wilmington Riverfront here>

Hartmann and Fehrenbach Brewery, had its origins with the “Father of Lager Beer in Delaware”.  The year 1890 also saw the Hartmann & Fehrenbach Brewing Company expand their operations into bottling,  which were beautifully embossed with the company’s logo, the mythical winged stallion, Pegasus.

While other regions in America have been better known historically as centers of beer production, few have been brewing as long as Delaware brewers.  For nearly four centuries, First State brewers have been producing high quality, award-winning ales and lagers.  Explore the state’s fascinating and, until now, largely unknown brewing history on this site and in the pages of the book Brewing in Delaware by John Medkeff, Jr.

More fun facts about beer history and how to date bottles:

“Until the late 1800s, most beer was sold in kegs since bottled beer had to be consumed quickly or it would spoil. But the advent of pasteurization in 1876 made it safe to bottle fermented products, and along with America’s growing rail system, the bottled-beer industry boomed.

In the early 1890s, Congress passed taxes on bottled beer, along with legislation allowing companies to bottle their brews onsite and bypass an archaic process of barreling, transporting, and packaging their drinks into bottles elsewhere. Prior to this action, beer bottles often featured a bottling credit on them in addition to the name of the brewer, which is one way to date a beer bottle. While early beer bottles came in a variety of glass colors, including brown, blue, green, and clear, the first American bottles were made from ceramic stoneware. This style was often used for dark beers like porters and stouts or non-alcoholic drinks like root beer or ginger ale.

Since bottling was costly, many early containers were embossed with a company’s name to help ensure their safe return, although this didn’t deter bootleggers from reusing them. At the time, many would-be brewers made their products out of their homes and used their bottles for multiple beverages, so some of these embossed bottles never even included the word “beer” on them (the brewer’s company and city names were all a customer needed to know). As these fledgling enterprises grew into mature companies, though, phrases like “Brewing Co.” were added. Less common embossing features included a company’s phone number and graphic icons like animal mascots. William Painter’s invention of the single-use “crown cap” in 1892 sealed the deal for mass-produced beer bottles. The innovative design, with its crimped edge and cork lining, overtook some 1,500 different styles of bottle stoppers used prior to 1892. The crown cap also led to more uniform, machine-made bottles.” – Collectors Weekly

Have you found old bottles, beer, soda, liquor, medicines?   The body of a bottle has an assortment of characteristics or diagnostic features that can assist a person trying to date or at least tell a more complete story of a given bottle.  Learn how to date your bottles on the Society for Historical Archaeology website here>

Happy hunting!

Excerpts in this post from Collectorsweekly.com and DelawareBeerHistory.com 

Find out more about the 2017 North American Sea Glass Festival in Wilmington, Delaware here>

NASGA’s 10th Annual Sea Glass Festival 2015 Shard of the Year Winner, Earl Brown

The 10th Annual North American Sea Glass Festival held in Ocean City, Maryland this past August was an exciting time for attendees, particularly those that entered the coveted Shard of the Year contest.   The Shard of the Year contest gives private collectors an opportunity to show off some of their collections and win a cash prize.

The 2015 festival brought many unique finds,  so much so that the five judges had a hard time deciding the final grand prize winner.    After deliberation, the grand prize chosen was a stunning large aqua ridged piece.

earl brownThe judging closed and the time came to announce the winners.  The room was filled with anxious collectors, each hopeful that their piece would be the winning piece.   The Shard of the Year contest has ten other categories, and as each winner was called up to the podium, they were beaming with excitement.    Finally, the grand prize winner was announced by Richard LaMotte, former President and noted sea glass expert and author.    As Richard held up the large piece of aqua, the room was full of oohh’s and aahh’s, and Earl Brown’s name was announced as the Grand Prize winner.   Earl was in a bit of shock and quiet in his demeanor.    You will see from the photos and his answers below that he’s a no nonsense straight shooter.  Just as each piece of shard entered holds a story behind them, the photos after the contest tell a story.  The photos taken inside immediately following the announcement, Earl was stunned.   A few minutes later, in the photo taken outside with Kim Hannon below,  Earl is showing off his beautiful winning shard and the smile on his face is emerging.

earl brown and kim hannon nasga vice president
Earl showing off his winning shard with
Kim Hannon, NASGA Vice President

Earl entering the contest:

Earl explained after winning that he found  the piece a week prior to the festival and was talked into submitting it on Sunday, making his win even more exciting!  Earl had attended the festival on Saturday and showed one of the exhibitors who was amazed at his find and told him to enter the contest, however, Earl hadn’t planned on coming back on Sunday.   After thinking about it Saturday night, Earl decided to come back and enter his new find.

Earl explaining how he found it:

aqua brass lightEarl explained to Kim Hannon, that he was out sea glass hunting very early in the morning, while it was still not quite dawn, and as he walked along the beach, somewhere between Bethany Beach and Fenwick, he came up to the aqua piece which was embedded in the sand in a shoe print!  Can you imagine?    Earl believes that it may have been stepped on by night fishermen. Wow, they weren’t aware that they were stepping on such a gorgeous piece of history.

What the piece was in its first life:  The aqua lens more than likely came off a 20th century small vessel starboard light, similar to the antique brass lantern shown here.

Earl’s Q & A:

  1.  When did you start collecting sea glass and where did you get the “bug”?   Earl:  Five years ago.
  1.  Where did you find the gorgeous aqua piece?   Earl:  Between Fenwick & Bethany
  1. What do you think it was in it’s first life?   Earl:  Lather lens
  1.  What did you do when you found it?   Earl:  Yahoo loud enough, you should have heard it
  1.  What do you plan on doing with it?   Earl:  Too big for a necklace,  try to sell it or trade it
  1.  If you could travel anywhere to sea glass hunt, where would it be?   Earl:  Bermuda
  1.  Besides this beautiful find, do you have another favorite find you’d like to share?   Earl:  I have many nice pieces.

2015 Shard of the Year Contest Winners – North American Sea Glass Festival in Ocean City, Maryland.  List of winners and where they live.  To view Photos of all the 2015 Shard Winners, please visit our website’s 2015 Shard of the Year Winner Photo Gallery
Photos by Tommy Allen Photographs

Winners of the Shard of the Year Contest
Grand Prize – Overall Beauty – Earl Brown – Maryland
Winners for the other categories are as follows:
Runner Up to Grand Prize – Arlene Klaasen – Florida
Pottery/Ceramics – Stephanie Martucci – Delaware
Whimsical/Toys – Hailey Goddard – Maryland
Bottle Stopper – Kelsey Palma – Ohio
Most Unusual – Larry White – Ohio
Historical – Mike Yandle – Maryland
Art Glass – Virgil Hibbs – Virginia
Marbles – Gina Husta – New Jersey
Buttons – Cindy Williams – Maryland
Figural – Dave Wright – Virginia