Archeology in the backyard woodlot

Woodlot surface has small ridges and mounds covered by natural stick and leaf mulch

The woodlot has uneven, lumpy terrain compared to the rest of our site.

Jar discovered buried in the backyard woodlot.

Jar unearthed in the woodlot

The very back of our property is a small woodlot. While most of our land is level or gently sloping, the woodlot’s terrain is uneven and lumpy, as if the trees and vegetation grew on top of piles of trash. As it turns out, this may be exactly what has happened. Spending just a few hours digging into a 2′ x 2′ section of the soil has already uncovered at least 50 pounds of glass from broken bottles and jars. Some are still fully intact, like the one picturted to the right.

The bottom of this unbroken jar has raised characters saying, “DESIGN PATENT No 107801″ as shown in the closeup image below.

As defined by Wikipedia, a design patent “is a patent granted on the ornamental design of a functional item.” In hopes of learning more about when the glass might have been buried in our backyard, I searched the Google patent archive.

When searching for a typical patent in the Google archive, you just enter the numeric patent (e.g. “54321″) to find records of that invention. When searching for a design patent, however, you need to prefix the patent number with the letter “D”. So, searching for “D107801″ returned the following “Design for a Packer Jar” patent record filed on November 11, 1937, and accepted on January 4, 1938.

D107801 US design patent

Design patent 107801

The three ridges broken by a zig zag diagonal ridge at the bottom of the patent design drawing match the actual ornamentation of the jar from our woodlot — it’s a match!

This design patent was filed by George Smith, Jr., “residing at Olean, in the county of Cattaraugus and State of New York, U. S. A.” in his capacity as “assignor to Olean Glass Company” a corporation also based  in Olean, NY.

This suggests that my jar is no younger than 1938, and, since the term of the patent is 7 years, it was probably bought by former inhabitants of our property at some point during the early 1940′s. Could there be a connection between dumping used jars in the backyard and World War II?

About Jonathan

Jonathan is a geospatial systems integrator, cross-country runner, husband and father. For as long as he can remember, he has been fascinated by systems. This blog explores the integration of building systems and surrounding site systems such as vegetation, hydrology and wildlife.
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