Critics will sniff that the jar is not a smoking gun; it does not prove that Earhart lived or died at the Seven Site. That’s true, but the paper rather definitively allows us to assign the jar to the growing list of painstakingly analyzed evidence that something odd happened at the Seven Site. Something, that is, involving medicinal and cosmetic products from the United States, some of which (e.g., the apparent compact with its mirror and rouge) was most used by women.
The paper shows that the jar almost certainly contained a mercury compound, and that Dr. Berry’s Freckle Ointment, alone among substances currently known to have been sold in such jars, contained mercury. It also shows that the jar was most likely manufactured in the United States in the 1930s, and it puts forth a plausible rationale for the fact that it is translucent rather than opaque – as contrasted with all the Dr. Berry’s Freckle Ointment jars we’ve been able to find in collections and on Ebay. Finally, it summarizes the evidence suggesting that Earhart wanted to diminish her freckles.
What I like best about the paper is that it leaves few stones unturned. The conclusion that the jar contained a mercury compound is based on multiple laboratory tests on the jar and on several controls. The conclusion that it was made in the 1930s draws on detailed research into its embossed manufacturer’s logo and the history of the firm itself. The paper exhaustively compares the artifact with a number of “siblings” that contained non-Berry’s products or whose original contents are unknown. It does not jump to conclusions, and it does not claim more than it can justify. It does, however, make a strong case for the notion that the jar contained a cosmetic/medicinal substance used in the 1930s by freckle-faced women seeking smoother complexions.