Privy Gal's Dig Report




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Dig reports:  

 12-26-2023 - This was such a crazy busy year with my job and family that I wasn't able to dig as much as the "Covid Years." Everything has returned to a pre-Covid pace, but there is actually more work to do for my day job! Complicating matters is the higher interest rates have made building projects too expensive and so construction in Philly has slowed, meaning fewer opportunistic dig opportunities.

Nevertheless, I did have a couple decent solo hits and group digs that yielded nicely. Here's a smattering of pics of digs and example results since my last post. Fingers crossed for more succes this winter!



1-15-2021 - I've been digging so much that I haven't had time to keep this page updated, but will add some more recent reports asap. Over the past 100 or so pits since my last update, we've hit a few good ones. But sadly it's been more digging than finding overalI. I keep a journal of my digs and some day I'll write an article about the percentage of digs that actually pan out, and the "hourly wage" return on investment. You certainly don't do this to get rich! Ya gotta love the glass and history.


10-8-18 - The dirt has been flowing out of many holes over the past few months. After a fairly slow start to 2018 with too many dry or dipped holes to count, the bottle mojo has been coming back around, especially during September. I'm now up to 590 privies dug, including some recent mammoth pits in Philly. Here are some recent pics from some of the better holes, mostly dug with Bob Daly, Mike Freschette, Tom Salvatore, and scattered others. Check out Mike's Facebook page for "The Privy Diggers." Now you might think that we are always hitting good holes. But please know that for every set of pictures here with bottles, there were probably 3-5 more digs without anything to show, not including the set-up time to scout, do research etc. Still, when you get to periodically dip into history like this, it keeps you going.

10-7-18 - Found a monstrous, 10 foot diameter brick-liner in Philly. After 2 days of work, we had to give up on it. The water was coming in faster than we could bail it. But we won't lose any more sleep because it didn't probe well. I've never dug a pit more than 8 feet in diameter, so this was a Guiness record privy in my book. And no one on the experienced dig crew had ever seen a privy this massive. We got it down at least 16 feet.

9-21-18 - Philly dig that unexpectedly finished at 4 am, in bed by sunrise. But it was worth it, more than 150 sodas out of 2 holes, 4 people digging the night away.


9-12-18 - Philly dig that went into the night. We didn't have enough buckets for all the bottles that were popping out, so I had to keep running them to the car and unloading the muddy buckets straight into the hatch!


8-12-18 - Philly dig

7-26-18 - Philly dig

8-15-17 - It's been so busy this year that I've only been able to dig about 15 privies, putting me up to about 525 to date. We have some new holes and permissions lined up, but getting dates open for the crew has been a struggle, mainly because of work and family schedules. Stay tuned though, I think our luck is turning....

5-27-17 - Philly dig with Bob, Mike, and some new friends on a digging trip from Colorado. After getting skunked on some other holes we were pretty excited about, and burning out our hands probing a parking lot (ugh), we finally found one on a big bulldozed lot being redeveloped. Little did we know that this one would turn out to be a massive 6 foot diameter brick liner that went about 16 feet deep. It did taper in to about 5 foot diameter at the bottom, but still took 5 people a day and a half because of the volume. It turned to black goo at the bottom, but we're prepared for that and the size made for good air flow. This turned out to be a decent hole, and everyone went home with some keepers. Some of the more interesting finds were from metal detecting the piles from the deeper layer, including some rings, a watch, some coins and some other nice artifacts. This had a nice variety of bottle types, include a blue pontiled MaGee squat and some green Haeberles, McFarlands, etc. Unfortunately, there was a pile of at least 30 pontiled sodas that were headless or otherwise broken, including a few names we have never seen.


Some Dig Pix, 2016-2017 - Chester PA, Columbia PA, Burlington NJ, etc.


3-30-15 - Philly dig with Bob, Chris, Alan, Bruce and Bruce. After working to line up future digs in the heart of the city, we went "south by southwest" and dug a pit in an area that is on the edge of pontiled age. Two full days were needed on this 31 footer. The good news is that the slowness was partly because it had a healthy layer, maybe 5-6 feet. The bad news was that we had lots of brick and three monster rocks that took everyone to hoist them up, even with the tripod. Weather was cold, with wind in the face, but dry at least. This hole had lots of redware and dinnerware shards, and the rocks did their share of damage to the best items as usual. The best broken bottle was a pontiled blue Kirkpatrick soda (headless) and another green IP squat. But we did manage to get a dozen green and aqua smooth based sodas and squats, a couple nice snap case medicines, a rare amber Philly California pop soda in a name we never saw, and 67 Dr. Grove's Anodyne for Infants! The pop bottle will be going up on ebay soon. More digs are lined up in the coming weeks, weather permitting of course.

Just getting started.

Tripod set up.

Dirt containment wall built from blocks from the hole mainly.

Checking the shards for small items.

After the fill and lot all cleaned up.


3-16-13 - Philly dig with Bob, Greg, Chris and Alan. Another bust of a dig. We were pretty hopeful after discovering a privy that had been cut down 10 feet already on a construction site just off South Broad Street. After getting permission, we took it another 17 feet to bottom which took awhile since it was a big wide one filled with clay and brick. The tri-pod got a good workout. Alas, it was a blank excepty for a chipped aqua McGrudden and Campbell, wooo (sacarstic). We did buy a few pontiled and smooth sodas from some construction guys, bottles they saved from another site, so not a total loss. The first pic was just after getting started in the sleet and snow, and the second pic was after backfilling and tamping the hole.


5-22-11 - Wilmington digs. What do you do when bored and slogging wet clay? Make representations of your digging crew! The following masterpiece from Chris Rowell.



4-29-10 - Finally got back into Philly for a dig at the end of April. This time, hooked up with my first ever privy digging partner, Marty Jenson, along with Roger T. It had been awhile since I dug with Marty, since he had hurt his leg last fall and was laid up awhile.

So we had a hole lined up that was in a good area, the "deep" area, the deepest area in all the US. This is where most holes go 30 feet, and I've been in some that we measured with a tape at 38 feet. We had three bodies and only one day. Could we do it, especially being out of "Philly shape?" And if we could, would we hit? I was more worried about the first part, the physical side and time limits. This area was one of the best I've dug. In Philly, if a hole goes more than 30 feet, it usually was not dipped effectively, meaning you usually get 2 to 5 feet of layer or more. It's also a 100% pontiled area. So I was less worried about whether it would be a good hole, and more worried about whether our three old bodies were up to the task.

The good news was that I am the proud new owner of a tripod setup, courtesy of Chris Rau from Baltimore. Thanks Chris for the fine craftsmanship. This was the tripod's maiden voyage on what would be a fairly challenging hole. The other good news was that the weather was springtabulous! High temp was about 70, sunny.

To make a very long story short, the tripod was a daysaver. We used the double rope bucket method to get down about 15-18 feet in fast time, without using the tripod. It was mostly ash with none of the usual major impediments like cap stones, etc (Philly holes have a knack for all dishing up something unexpected.) The guys were starting to burn out and I sensed we were still only half way down. No bottles up to this point, but some pontiled era redware shards and bits kept us hoping. The tripod was set up just after lunch, and after getting the hang of the clip and three bucket rotation (2 in the hole, 2 up top) to keep things moving, we started sailing. More important, the guys got a breather on their backs.

This hole eventually went 32 feet and we finished backfilling just at dusk. We were lucky. The hole was mostly ash. I had taken the head lamps and lanterns, expecting a late night. But no need. But the bad news was that it never turned age. Remarkably, the 3-4 foot layer started out about 1880 and finished at about 1870. Much of it was broken, including a GIANT cathedral pickle with the top busted. That was probably Civil War era, a late throwaway. WE did get 33 aqua pony sodas, mostly common Johnstons. A couple smooth based green O-Briens. Three umbrella inks. An embossed cone ink and a few odds and ends. But nothing pontiled. Given the depth, this probably was a newer hole rather than being dipped. I scrubbed the bottom and there wasn't a single older shard. So we'll need to do more work on this lot and see what else is there, hopefully an older pit.

Pix from the dig, plus my share of the bottles.



1-2-10 - Was able to hit some privies with Alan and friends several times this fall, right up until the December 20th 2 foot snowstorm. Got a nice yellow foral pattern spittoon in the pick on that December dig. Earlier in the fall we hit some nice barrels that barely touched pontiled age, but a few decent Civil War period items came to light, including a S B G cathedral pickle that I landed, and some of the other items were Saratoga type mineral waters and early Wilmington medicines. I really appreciate Alan's perseverance in getting honest permission digs and his extended network of capable diggers (John, Doug, Chris, etc), since my old digging crew is not very active anymore. Looking forward to even more digging in 2010!

Pix from the fall... me in the hole, and a tri-pod used for deeper pits.


8-23-09 - Been getting out digging more this summer than in many recent summers. Although the heat is now on, it's been reasonably cooler and wetter overall and so the ground has not gotten rock hard and bone dry this year - in fact, most pits are wet like in spring.


8-4-09 - Been getting out in Wilmington with Alan Rash and friends. Also back in Chester with Marty Jenson. A few pics....

Training the next generation - two 10 year olds in the hole.

Pizza hits the spot, especially after a bust dig.

Tons of dig experience here! Doug taking a rare water break.


7-19-09- Part of my set-up at the Shupp's Grove Bottle Fest


4-15-08Digging in Chester with Marty Jenson and my son.



*Rant Alert* Unfortunately, permissions are getting much tougher because..... some really LAME digging crews are once again leaving holes open in our region! A few years back there was a spate of this happening in Philly and now once again I'm getting reports of open holes being found in Philly and Wilmington. What the f*$@??? The authorities have even been involved. We are one accident or bad news story away from seeing things shut down! This is a safety issue people - kids and pets are in those lots. Thanks to all the respectable diggers out there who have been backfill ing these holes when they're found. I've done this myself, always fearful of who is watching, worried whether angry neighbors will come out with guns or knives thinking it was us (this happened in Philly years ago). I've dug over 400 privies and take pride in always leaving a lot better than found, and I will only dig with people who have the backbone to clean up after themselves. If I find out who is leaving these holes sloppy and open, rest assured, I will expose you to the bottle community.


Baltimore Report. Another fine show from those Baltimore Bottle Club folks. Thanks Baltimore Club!! The weather was fine too. Did you catch me at J21? I sold OK, and bought OK. Nothing fabulous mind you, but I'm always happy when I pick up some new pontiled Philly names I don't have. Thanks to Todd V. and others, I was able to add 4 new examples this year, albeit most had damage of some sort. The Baltimore show seems to be the only venue anymore where I can expect to come home with something for me each and every year, without spending a fortune in an auction. On balance, other dealers seemed to think the crowd was down a bit, likely due to the economy. It seemed to me like the high end stuff was slow selling, and the less expensive stuff sold well. But that is just from my perspective since I don't have much high end glass and the big spenders don't rush me at J21. It's always nice catching up with everyone and getting those dig updates - lots of new crews are working now along with most of the old regulars, albeit intermittent like me.


Some past digs....


Got something you want me to report in the Philly region? Want to put up some pix of your own digs? Send them to me at