For all of Ybor City's oral history, Jeff Moates wondered: Why aren't there more artifacts? Where are the details of everyday life in the late 1800s and early 1900s? How did the early settlers from Cuba, Spain, Italy and Germany dress? What kind of toys did their kids play with?
"So much is known about the built environment of Ybor — the historic buildings and everything," Moates said. "But we have an opportunity to add to that knowledge about the people who made this immigrant community great."
Moates, the West Central Region director of the state-funded Florida Public Archaeology Network, began working with the Ybor City State Museum on a few small archaeological digs at the tiny park to see what might lie beneath the urban landscape. Founded in 1885, the entertainment district had once been "Cigar City," a thriving, culturally diverse town built on the manufacturing of cigars.
Along with other members of the archaeology network and curious volunteers, Moates, based at the University of South Florida, began digging in the museum's courtyard and over the past two summers began to uncover more and more details of early life in Ybor, as well as the time before American Indians explored the area.
With interpretations from Moates and Rebecca O'Sullivan, a program assistant and researcher with the archaeology network, here's a closer look at some of the thousands of artifacts the group found. Each is being identified and catalogued to better bring about a contextual story of everyday life in Ybor City.
Made of mother of pearl with a brass or bronze base, the cuff link could have belonged to almost anyone. Cuff links adorn the sleeves of today's businessmen or politicians, but they were common accouterments in Ybor's early days. Even cigar rollers wore them to work in the factories, as it was a job with much esteem. The cuff link could date back to the late 19th century.
Made of porcelain, its style seems to trace back to the late 19th century and is evidence of a population historians often forget existed in Ybor: Children. In the late 1800s, mothers would often buy doll arms and legs and then sew together a body and dress on their own.
Its amber color and craftsmanship point to this child's toy being made by a machine and not by hand, possibly in the 1920s or '30s.
Made of Bakelite, an early plastic developed by Belgian-born chemist Leo Baekeland in New York in 1907, this plug was ubiquitous in the early 20th century and could have been attached to a lamp.
Research was able to fill in the missing letters and words that were printed on this bottle: "Para la tos creosotado jara be de Leonardi." Translated it means Leonardi brand cough syrup, which was made in Tampa, according to a location stamp embossed on these bottles. The elixir of unknown ingredients was produced by a company that labeled the bottles in Spanish and English. The clear glass indicates the bottle was probably made in the 1910s. (Lavender or aqua-colored glass would indicate other time periods.)
Oxidized and rusted, this nail was probably a "cut nail" made of iron sometime in the late 1800s. These nails were cut from one sheet of metal and looked more like tiny pegs with smushed heads than today's long, slim round nails.
Made of shell, this button with two pinholes could have been made between 1880 and 1910. It's not certain if it belonged to a man's shirt or woman's blouse.
Most likely a common saucer that could have belonged in a home or hotel. This piece of china was stamped as being made in the "U.S.A." and looks to be about mid 20th century.
Showing cuts indicating that it was butchered, this fragile bone was someone's beef dinner a long, long time ago.