Digging for Bottles
Places to dig: Most city and towns started having dump sites in the 1870s and were getting more popular by the 1890s. The dump was usually with in a mile from the city or town. Be sure to research the growth of the city or town, if the original dump is still there or if the ground was redeveloped and the dump site was moved further outside of the town. As people and business would dump there garbage, heavy equipment would push the garbage away to the sides and the end of the dump site.
The best place to dig would be the end and the sides of the dump site for the oldest bottles. The depth you have to dig usually can be determined the adjacent property level. Farm dumps are in most cases are very small one or two family dump sites. Most of the time they were located at the end of a field, just inside a wooded area, or a ravine. In most cases, you only have to dig one to two feet deep depending on how much foliage there has been.
When digging a ravine you start at the bottom and dig your way up the hill. As you are working your way up the hill you are covering the hole you have just dug. This will make for a lot of less work. Also, most old farm homesteads had a fruit cellar that you can dig and under a porch is another good spot. Old barns sometime had a ramp made out of dirt to enter the barn. I have dug old bottles on the sides of these ramps.
Most homes had a privy or in modern terms an outdoor restroom. This was one way people would dispose of they garbage or they would just dig a hole in they yard and dispose of it that way. Many privies could be in the back yard as one would get filled up, another would get dug. This is I think the best way to dig for older open pontil bottles. Please note that privies and cisterns (a hole in the ground for water storage) digging can be very dangerous because the hole you have to dig may be six to fifteen feet deep and cave-ins can happen.
I would suggest that you go to Digger Odells bottle book website, www.bottlebooks.com, and purchase a copy his book on "THE SECRETS OF PRIVY DIGGING" by John Odell. The most important thing to remember is always have a buddy or two with you on the dig and always have permission from the property owner. Always respect the owners property, fill the hole in and clean up the mess. Always be very careful so know one gets hurt.
Digging equipment that you will need:
1. Long handle shovel
2. Small hand shovel
3. Small hand plastic rack
4. A potato rake in some soils is very handy
5. Good pair of leather gloves
6. Safety glasses
7. A spoon comes in handy
8. A small brush
9. 2 foot probe
10. 5 foot probe
11. Insect repellent
12. First aid kit
13. Plenty of liquids to drink
14. Sometimes a sandwich is a good idea
15. Some bubble wrap for your bottles
16. A back pack to put your small equipment in.
17. Cell phone
18. Dirt sifter for small relics that you might dig up Additional equipment for privy digging
20. Posthole digger
21. Root cuter
22. Rope with tripod and pulley
23. Some plastic five gallon buckets
24. Come along and heavy straps
25. Some tarps
26. Hard hat when in a deep hole
27. Ladder when in deep hole
28. 4x8 sheet of plywood to cover hole if you need to come back another day to continue hole
29. Pick truck to put all this equipment in
30. GPR (ground penetrating radar) for the diehard professional