Digging with Joe Butewicz

New! Photo album of a number of digs in New Jersey and Philadelphia. Lots of hard labor pays off in a few digs which yielded some great bottles





The following Power Point files represent the excavation of privies from different eras. The privies were dug by Joe Butewicz and the presentations were also created by Joe. There is no audio since these files were created as slide shows, with narration, for presentations given to various historical  societies and collecting clubs. Please feel free to enjoy the visual aspect of the presentations and if there are any questions as to any of the images or their content please contact Joe directly.

Digging with Jerry Pevahouse

Digging in an old cistern

View the photo album

Jerry Pevahouse has been collecting bottles for longer than I have. He's lived in Cranbury, NJ for as long as I've known him. Jerry was nice enough to send me enough photos, in March of 2021, of him, his brother Ron and their friends in Tennessee and New Jersey, to create this photo album.

Digging with Barry Kenner

Barry Kenner digging old bottles

View the two Barry photo albums:

Barry Kenner has been digging for and collecting antique bottles before I met him in 1972. Barry's parent's were avid diggers and his Dad Bob Kenner continues to help out on digs to this day. Barry is a tenacious digger, an earth moving machine. When Barry goes digging, he wants to get the shovel in the ground within 5 minutes after the car is parked. So have some fun and check out just some of the many items Barry has recovered since the early 1970s.

Digging in Philadelphia

Digging in Civil War Trash Pits & Soldier's Huts

Digging in Civil War winter camps in Stafford County Virginia

Several New Jersey collectors get lucky with getting permission - see what they found!

Spoiler alert: finds include a green cathedral peppersauce bottle...

Digging with Matt Waholek

Photos from bottle digs by Matt Waholek

In Philadelphia and elsewhere. Great finds....

Metal Detecting With Dave Wise

Nova Ceasarea coin

Metal Detecting photos - Dave Wise

Dave Wise is a Connecticut based bottle digging enthusiast and an avid metal detectorist who was a member of the White's Field Team. Dave does a lot of metal detecting in CT and turns up the occasional antique and collectable bottle while metal detecting.

The Digger's Page

Antique bottle shards

Photo album of bottle shards

Shown here is an outrageous early green medicine bottle from Philadelphia

Are those prairie dogs?

Digging Bottles in Philadelphia

Here's some club members on a cold day February 14, 1999, these photos were taken and submitted by Dave Leitinger.  That's Dave Peterson in the foreground, Tom Kennedy-Jansen with the yellow hard hat and further down the privy line is Dave Tinney.  This picture was taken on a construction site on Broad Street in Philadelphia.  As you can see from the sheeting and shoring activity, the ground level of the site has dropped about 20 feet.  Since the privies were about 25 feet deep from street level there was only 5 feet left to dig.  Since the layers were about 4 feet thick this was an ideal situation since 20 feet of overburden was removed and the layers were already exposed.  No bucketing of sterile fill just dig the layers!  The other great aspect was that the entire privy line was undisturbed.  Once you found one you just had to pace off 22-25 feet and you were into another one.  This created the 'prairie do'g effect where everyone gets their own hole, now that's great digging, more privy layer that can be dug in a day.  Of course the guys obtained permission from construction site management. They made the necessary arrangements and they were allowed to conduct their excavations on a Sunday when the workers were not there and the diggers were not in anyone's way or in any danger.

Typical Philadelphia brick lined privy
Half a privy is better than none at all. 1/9/99

This is a typical round brick lined privy/well in Philadelphia. Wells were obviously dug to supply clean potable water, unlike Manhattan and other early cities that had water piped in from a reservoir system. In Philadelphia non functioning wells were quickly converted to privies once the clean water from them was not realized. This is not to say that many round brick lined structures sunk into the earth were not built as privies from the start. It is not uncommon to see square and rectangular privies in Philadelphia yards along side the round wells that were later converted to privies.

There was much habitation in the massive expanse of neighborhoods that make up the greater Philadelphia area. All sorts of possibilities for privies exist. Sometimes the early privy or well shafts were in the middle of the backyard. A later addition onto the original building would cover over this first and most early shaft. Newer privies were then dug on the rear property line, usually in the corners or in the middle.  In this photo it appears that the privy was very close to the sidewalk. This is not unusual and very desirable.  Privies in odd places have a better chance of not being cleaned out before they were filled as was the case with this brick lined privy. As you can see an earthmoving machine has ripped half of the upper privy away. The fill dirt can now be easily thrown downhill and out of the way. The remainder of the shaft is not seen in the photo and this portion must be excavated with a shovel, bucket and rope until you reach the bottom. The use layer can vary from just a few inches to 10 feet in depth. Can you imagine digging through 10 feet of c1850 bottles? It dosen't happen often, even a 4 foot thick layer can be very productive.

This privy contained about 25 Engle & Wolf teepee shaped soda bottles from Dillwyn Street in Philadelphia. It was half and half mix of iron pontil and smooth base examples and all were green in color.  The smooth-based examples were just as nice as the pontiled ones.  There was also a large sized blue Hubbell open pontil corset waisted pharmacy product bottle that took a paper label and was probably for cologne, lotion or some other liquid sold by the pharmacy. This bottle comes in 3 sizes, all in medium blue and all display an open tubular pontil.  The privy was near the site of the Hubbell pharmacy that is listed in period business directories.  Clear smooth based Hubbell pharmacy bottles were found in the fill.

Once again, the NJ Antique Bottle Club makes it perfectly clear NOT to attempt such excavations without permission from the appropriate construction site management.


A Field of Clover

Field of clover?

Is this a field of clover? 

No, it’s just another dig spot for Jim Dews.  A few years ago Jim and his family lived near Phoenix, Arizona.  This unsuspecting field was obviously home to some early structure that was torn down.  The evidence is a privy that contained mold blown bottles.  Notice the shovel and rake in the fore ground, the genuine pipe handle probe in mid photo and the office buildings in the background.  When Jim heard “Go West young man” he didn’t forget his digging tools or his probe.

Field of clover?

Picture #2 :  Here’s Jim in typical Phoenix, Arizona privy.  These privies don’t look like much, just rotted away woodliners with bottles down in the use layer. See more digging photos here

Privy Pit

Picture #3 : That’s Jim in a different privy.  He always likes to let the cameraman know that he’s #1.  Well how did he do?

Picture #4 :  Pretty darn good!!! He found a Mills’ Bitters, A. M. Gilman, Sole Proprietor lady’s leg bitters that was undamaged!  What a great find!  I heard he also found a privy out West that had some gloppy top California style whiskies down in the layer.  Way to go Jim!!!

Mills Bitters

See more photos of Jim Digging - the Jim Dews Digs photo album