Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Department of Sociology and Anthropology: Archaeology

First Advisor

Kathryn Sampeck


This thesis examines consumption patterns of Victorian-Era health products once contained in embossed-glass bottles to elucidate trends among different socioeconomic groups during the mid-nineteenth century through the first decade of the twentieth century. The consumption patterns of 20 types of health products from nine different archaeological sites across the United States were analyzed among Victorian-Era brothel residents and the non-brothel population, by socioeconomic class, and then by both socioeconomic status and affiliation with the sex industry. This process was repeated using the ingredients contained within the health products examined above.

Analysis revealed that soda water was exceptionally popular as a health product during the Victorian Period, especially among the working class and prostitutes. Within the prostitute and non-prostitute comparison, the data revealed the most common products used by the prostitutes were grooming aids and Vaseline while products to treat general debility were more popular among the non-prostitutes. Consumption of products with a high alcohol content was much greater among the non-prostitutes than the prostitutes. Comparisons between socioeconomic class displayed trends indicating a preference for soda water by all three classes. Class analysis also indicated that the middle-class assemblage was more similar to that of the upper class than the working class. Finally, in brothel class comparisons, the results of this study suggest the upper-class prostitutes consumed more products related to beauty and grooming regimens while the working-class prostitutes preferred products intended to relieve discomfort. The upper-class prostitutes were also more likely to demonstrate brand loyalty, possibly an expression of greater purchasing power.

The results of this study indicate that analysis of embossed-glass health products bottles from archaeological sites can be used in conjunction with documentary records and alternate assemblages to not only verify the presence of Victorian-Era brothel sites but determine the type of brothel as well. Furthermore, analysis of embossed glass bottles can provide insights into the lives, health, quality of life, well-being, cultural values, and consumption patterns of Americans during the Victorian Period.


Imported from ProQuest Randolph_ilstu_0092N_11391.pdf


Page Count