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Cans came into commercial production in England in the early 1800s, but it was in the United States, a vast land with an increasingly mobile population, that the “tin” can—made first of tinplate, but in later years, often containing no tin at all—became a part of the cultural fabric.“The humble tin can,” Rock wrote in , “formed one important link between the developing western frontier of the United States and the industrialized East.” Rock spent most of his career as an archeologist at Klamath National Forest, near the California-Oregon border.Through careful research on the food companies behind each can, Rock could trace the use of baking powder, a mid-ninteenth-century advancement in baking that provided quick, reliable leavening.The KC brand in his collection was first introduced in 1890, though his particular can dated from the 1940s, when baking powder was a well-established part of the American pantry.
In the can dump alongside the Weed Lumber Company camp, which stood near Grass Lake from 1908 to 1911, they dug up thousands more, and Rock collected many from later decades.(Those who arrived in the 1850s planned to stay longer; they were searching for gold.) At first, prospecting supplies and canned foods were shipped by sea or carried north by steamboats and packed on mule trains for the final trip to the northern California gold fields.