Look What They Found In Old Wild West
More than two years ago, archaeologists made an astounding find when they were digging in the dirt about 20 miles southeast of Reno, Nevada: The remnants of an Old West saloon that was open for business from 1864 to 1875. But this wasn't just any old saloon. It was the Boston Saloon of Virginia City, and it was owned by William A. G. Brown, a free black man from Massachusetts who catered to the community's small population of African-Americans, as well as the white people in the town. This is the first known excavation of a black-owned saloon of the 19th-century American West, reports The Associated Press.
The Boston Saloon was likely one of the nicest taverns in the Old West, where its customers dined in elegance by the light of newly-patented gas lamps. They played dominoes. They ate the finest cuts of meat, including leg of lamb. "The Boston Saloon appears to have had a great deal of ambience and atmosphere. It was a lively, well-lit place with music," State Historic Preservation Officer Ron James told the Reno Gazette-Journal.
Some 40,000 artifacts have been found, and quite a few of them have reshaped the traditional views of our nation's frontier. Maybe the wild west wasn't so wild! Oh sure, they found pistols and poker chips, but they also found crystal-stemmed goblets, remnants of expensive lighting, and a mouthpiece from a trombone.
A small cache of perforated and disfigured coins was found beneath the floorboards; the people of this mining frontier town likely believed those coins could be transformed into objects of supernatural control. They found bottles that once held champagne, wine, ale, Italian bitters, and "Gordon's Gin," as well as bottles that contained mineral water from Germany and soda water from Ireland.
One of the most remarkable discoveries was a 130-year-old bottle of Tabasco. Reconstructed from 31 shards of glass, it is now officially the oldest style of Tabasco bottle known to exist. Historians speculate that the Boston Saloon was among the first eateries to introduce Tabasco. "The Tabasco bottle is particularly intriguing because of what it implies about African-American cuisine and the development of the West," Kelly Dixon, administrator of the Comstock Archaeology Center who supervised the dig, told AP. "This was an exotic product, and Comstock African-Americans were apparently the ones breaking this new ground." Tabasco was created by a New Orleans banker name Edmund McIlhenny, who blended aged red peppers, salt, and vinegar to create the Tabasco brand pepper sauce in 1868 on Avery Island, Louisiana. He first used discarded cologne bottles, but then made his own. "This discovery helps us fill the earliest chapter of our company's history," said Shane K. Bernard, a Tabasco sauce historian and curator of the company archives.
But the greatest find of all isn't as tangible as these artifacts. James told the Reno Journal-Gazette that said the discovery of the tavern is significant because it helps break down stereotypes of an ethnic group that has been targeted throughout history with prejudice and racism. "We learned that in Virginia City during the second half of the 19th century where there were hundreds of saloons, African-Americans had a place to go to that was respected and dignified," James said.