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As someone who grew up in the mountains of Virginia as poor as an acorn, we did not get running water in our home until I was 13 years old. We bathed every day during the school year and every other day during the summertime. We didn't have a bathtub per se but did have a galvanized tub we children would bathe in during the summer. During the cold months, we washed in the kitchen out of wash pans from water heated on the kitchen stove and our coal stove. We didn't have a well or spring, but our neighbors allowed us to use theirs every day which was about 300 yards from our house. We, children, carried the water in Clorox and milk jugs each and every day, come rain, snow, or sunshine. One of my other daily chores was to keep kindlin cut, coal buckets filled, and keep the ashes out of the stoves. We had two Buckeye coal stoves. I don't ever remember anyone in the house having body odor, as my mamaw made sure we cleaned ourselves on a regular basis. I do remember when Mamaw got our Papas black lung back pay, she had a well drilled, and we built a pump house and she bought some lumber from the local sawmill and we built a bathroom that had a sink, toilet, and a shower. I remember enjoying a shower inside, but thinking it was nasty to use the toilet in the house, even though it was a modern flush type. Up till then, we had an outhouse at the end of the backyard which had its challenges in both summer and winter as you can imagine.
Our child hood memories have parallels, yours a bit more rustic from mine in an Ohio farm in the 40/50’s. Baths were Saturday nite in a wash tub set up behind the parlor stove. No indoor plumbing and a “ chamber pot, aka slop jar, in the bed rooms. No central heat or electric for the very early years, and summer baths were usually with a bar of soap and the creek. Don’t recall the soap but the creek was so shallow it didn’t matter if the soap floated.
Early years. by the mid 50’s we had electricity , piped in well water and indoor plumbing. The school had grown from one room to a regional modern school of Monroe Township and a hundred or so kids.
 
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Fact, some people smell worse than others. If your body's skin chemistry doesn't support the bacteria that makes the smell you don't get really stinky. YMMV
And when all bodies in the room smell alike who’s to say one stinks more than the other.
Ever set next to an old lady in church who’s wearing heavy perfume. 😁
 

Brokennock

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Fact, some people smell worse than others. If your body's skin chemistry doesn't support the bacteria that makes the smell you don't get really stinky. YMMV
Truth.
I notice my diet has a heavy influence on my scent.
When I was following a primal/paleo diet fairly strictly, not only did I feel a lot better and have some chronic health issue just about dissappear,,, my body odor was greatly decreased. Or at least the time it took to get strong enough for me to notice it was decreased.
If I were to shower right now, not put on "pit stick," and then sniff my armpit tomorrow morning, I will smell it. When I followed my diet closely, I could go two days or more, no deodorant, and not smell myself.

Maybe the more natural diet of people I'm colonial times reduced the odor, or made it less foul. Their bodies weren't processing all the chemicals and junk we are with modern foods.
 
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Yes, I take garlic and vitamin e, it doesn’t make me bug proof, but does decrease skeeters and ticks. I back that up now with bug spray, as we have lots of nastie from ticks and skeeters, but it was very effective.
We know ‘you stink’ was fighting words in the past.
Ships at sea, set aside a make and mend day when weather permitted and sailors took sea water baths, washed their clothes ect.
In the absence of deodorant by noon a busy man or woman would get an oder but one washed up for meals, bed and rising.
Corn meal rubbed on a head of hair and brushed out leaves hair clean and freshly ‘shampooed’.
Tooth brushes and soap were sold at rendezvous, and a chewed fibberius sapling like willow dogwood or grape vine can be called to duty.
All those little tricks that made it in to a turn of the twentieth century Boy Scout books were learned by frontiersman.
 
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Corncobs: you would use 2 reds and then a white to check the effectiveness of your previous efforts.
In the 50’s we would visit my grandmother in Arkansas who had no running water. She had a pump at the back porch, a rain barrel for drinking water (with cloth stretched over the top to filter out the leaves and bird poop), a toilet down the hill with the Sears catalog on the seat and a smoke house where Daddy would take us to smoke our hocks with his belt when we misbehaved. All bathing was done in the kitchen where a curtain was drawn across the door and water was heated on the wood burning stove. Every night you filled a small “basin” that fit a hole in a washstand and you washed your face, hands and nasty parts. On Saturday a large galvanized tub was brought in for a major ablution. Mama would supervise that one to make sure the job was done correctly, you weren’t going to embarrass her by going to church with dirty neck or ears and stinking pits.
 
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Our child hood memories have parallels, yours a bit more rustic from mine in an Ohio farm in the 40/50’s. Baths were Saturday nite in a wash tub set up behind the parlor stove. No indoor plumbing and a “ chamber pot, aka slop jar, in the bed rooms. No central heat or electric for the very early years, and summer baths were usually with a bar of soap and the creek. Don’t recall the soap but the creek was so shallow it didn’t matter if the soap floated.
Early years. by the mid 50’s we had electricity , piped in well water and indoor plumbing. The school had grown from one room to a regional modern school of Monroe Township and a hundred or so kids.
It's interesting that when ask about "how you grew up" most people don't believe you.
 
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We had a bath in a galvanized tub each Saturday. During the week we did the wet rag and soap routine. Until I was 10, we had no running water or indoor toilet. Only the few rich had that sophisticated stuff. But when we moved to Southwest Kansas, we had it all. I did not know we were dirt poor. We enjoyed life and knew everyone in town. If I got in trouble the neighbors did not hesitate to paddle my butt. Child abuse? I think not, we learned discipline and obedience, along with respect for older folks. Those were great days folks. Now???? Polecat
 

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In a recent and ongoing thread some age old myths about colonial life surfaced. I confess I only read about a page, and had to pen this....


NO Bathing?
So we hear this a lot, and how people would douse themselves to the point of being self-marinated in perfume, because they didn't bathe. This is Balderdash upon Balderdash. They rarely conducted full immersion bathing in the home..., because it was a pain in the arse to heat all that water (especially in a quick manner) , and to maintain a vessel for the purpose aka a bathtub. (Ben Franklin was rich enough to own such BTW). Authors in the past for some unknown reason decided that since there was no bathtub in the home, and some sources mentioned "bathing" only once or twice a year, that meant that they didn't "wash" their bodies. They never bothered to look into the fact that when the old sources used the term "bathing" they mean full immersion, and not always in hot water. There is AMPLE evidence that folks performed washing of more than their face and hands on a regular basis. We would call this a "sponge bath". Franklin regularly aired his body in his rooms, calling the procedure an "air bath"... and today we know that a lot of the odor causing bacteria on the body is anaerobic (which is why the stinkiest of places on a person are the crevices on the skin where moisture doesn't evaporate, and are dark most of the time.

As for the perfume "dousing" that was simply another one of the "conclusions" of so called historians, who simply decided that since perfume existed, and bathtubs didn't then it must have been used to cover the stench. Of course it never occurs to these same "scholars" that such perfume was highly expensive. The same way that you hear how "pepper" was used to cover the taste of tainted meat so was desired by Europeans who had no refrigeration at that time in history... ignoring the fact that spices were SO expensive that IF you could afford pepper you darn well could afford fresh meat.... so wouldn't need the pepper.....

Washing of Clothing?
Folks, part of hygiene in the 18th century, in fact a major part, was in using clean clothing on a daily basis. So not only was washing with water and a cloth performed, but changing clothes on a regular basis was performed. Not to mention that a lot of clothing was also for protection, i.e. women wearing a head covering was fashion but kept their hair cleaner than not from soot and smoke and perspiration. A recent study was done where one man bathed as modern folks do and the other wore 18th century clothing and changed into something clean every day, sometimes changing twice a day. Results for the guy not "bathing" was only a slightly higher amount of personal bacteria and much akin to several European nations today in this century. This use of clothing wasn't a practice for just the "rich" or the "prosperous" either, as information on common folk on the "frontier" show a good quantity of clothing especially the clothing that was worn as undergarments. Further Proof? Folks, Castile Soap (hard, lye soap) was exported into Antwerp, Belgium in the 1560s. In the 1600's the Spanish purchased a monopoly on the stuff in Europe and then it later caused a problem in England as it was cheap enough to supplant the soft soap that the English were making and using. (Until widespread availability of hard [Castile] soap, all soap was "soft" ) . IF folks aren't using it to wash themselves.... what then? Clothing.

Further, the bathtub was commonly found in homes by the middle of the 19th century, but the first commercial deodorant, known as Mum, didn't appear until 1888. Zinc was discovered in 1746. Zinc Oxide was in wide use by 1850, and at the time it's active ingredient was zinc oxide. Mum is still made today btw, but has a different formula.

So folks weren't covered in filth and reeking during in the Colonial Period.

The Language was hard to Understand?
Um so here is some written text, text based on the spoken language of the period....,

"There do not frequently occur opportunities of obtaining a passage from Charlestown to Norfolk : the season was too far advance to admit of travelling on horseback through North-Carolina, and making in that state a sufficiently long stay to acquire good information. After having waited a week for a vessel to convey me to Virginia I had engaged a birth [berth] in a sloop, but my Charleston friends thought it too much encumbered with passengers to allow of my being conveniently accommodated on board..." from a journal of 1799

The subsistence of the men in Hospital must be thrown into a fund, for the benefit of the whole in general, and no particular account given to each man, in what manner his money has been expended ; for though the disorder of one may not require the consumption of his Pay, yet that of another may much more, when wine, rich broths, and things of that kind are absolutely necessary : Cuthbertson 1776

Going back a little more than a century, we can still read and understand this recipe

Take a Pottle of Cream, and boil in it a little whole Cinnamon, and three or four flakes of Mace. To this proportion of Cream, put in eighteen yolks of Eggs, and eight of the whites ; a pint of Sack [sweet sherry] ; beat your eggs very well, and then mingle them with your Sack. Put in three quarters of a pound of sugar into the Wine and Eggs with a Nutmeg grated, and a little beaten Cinnamon ; set the basin on the fire with the wine and eggs and let it be hot. Then put in the Cream boyling from the fire ; pour in on high, but stir it not ; cover it with a dish, and when it is settled, strew on the top a little fine Sugar mingled with three grains of Ambergreece, and one grain of Musk, and serve it up. Sir Kenelm Digby 1669

Now yes, there were no established norms in spelling, the font of the printing of the time at first reading may be tough but regular reading and it becomes easy, and the further back one goes one gets some interesting phrasing, not to mention some accents and other dialects were found, but the majority of the people who were British subjects could and did speak English similar to what we would speak today. It's not Shakespeare and definitely not Chaucerian English.

Life expectancy

Compared to today, where we have childhood vaccines, antibiotics, antivirals, anesthetics, and chemotherapy (not just for cancer btw), the medicine of the 18th century sucked. BUT folks confuse "average life expectancy" stats with survival expectancy. The reason the life expectancy was low in the 18th century was childhood mortality due to a lack of pre-natal care and vaccines, which skews the average downwards. IF you survived past about 5 years of age..., you were likely to live to be old age, if you avoided a war zone. And "avoiding a war zone" doesn't mean being involved in the fighting but avoiding being exposed to bacteria and viruses cheerfully brought to your village by a moving army, even your own country's army. In New England in the 17th Century, it became common for people to know their grandparents, and by the 18th century, people in Britain were living to between 50 and 65, BUT people in the English Colonies in America were living on average as much as 20 years more, to 65-70, and it was not unheard of to live into one's 80's.

LD
Good post.....lots of good information and educated opinions!
 
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We had a bath in a galvanized tub each Saturday. During the week we did the wet rag and soap routine. Until I was 10, we had no running water or indoor toilet. Only the few rich had that sophisticated stuff. But when we moved to Southwest Kansas, we had it all. I did not know we were dirt poor. We enjoyed life and knew everyone in town. If I got in trouble the neighbors did not hesitate to paddle my butt. Child abuse? I think not, we learned discipline and obedience, along with respect for older folks. Those were great days folks. Now???? Polecat
Same with us growing up. We filled the tub and took our turn in it with the last child getting very dirty water. and like you said, our neighbors had the latitude to bust our butt if needed, and then they would send word to our parents about what they did and why and we usually got another tail warming for embarrassing our family when we returned home and we were better kids for it.
 
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Good post, but overgeneralized. The "educated" class like Franklin was a damn sight different than the working class in the cities and the rural class. Reading contemporaneous books written at the time tells a varied story on smells and the like. In the cities, sewage and horse crap were the big issues, people were second.

Rural didn't seem to have the same issues, even the body smells.

Indian tribes also varied considerably. The Sioux were notoriously particular about their body sanitation where as the "digger" indians and the Shoshone were less than meticulous.

I must concur that the people "stench" has been overstated, but they certainly weren't as pristine as some think.
 
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While working in Mali, West Africa, we would pick up a tribesman walking by the road in the Southern Sahara and Sahel desert. Saying water was scarce is an understatement. We built a well near a local village that was near the minesite I was working on. The women treated the well
villagewell2sm.jpg



like pure luxury. The men had a layering of sand on their bodies and they rarely had enough water to even take "bird" bath. Out in the sun and sand, no water to bathe, and they didn't smell bad. If there was a smell, it was musty in nature.
 

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Regarding bathing without a tub, we used to call that a “Possible Bath.” The procedure still sees some use when the power is off and we have no running water.

You get a bucket of warm water, a bar of soap, and a washcloth. Take off your shirt, start with your face, and wash downward as far as possible.

Next, take off your socks and trousers. Start with your feet, and wash up as far as possible.

Last but not least, you wash old Possible.

Best regards,

Notchy Bob
Kinda doing that now. Ian has forced some of us to bathe the old way. Fortunately we have an Artesian we'll that pumps out water all the time. Makes you smell like Sulphur but has keep the skeeter away
 
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Kinda doing that now. Ian has forced some of us to bathe the old way. Fortunately we have an Artesian we'll that pumps out water all the time. Makes you smell like Sulphur but has keep the skeeter away
I took a lot of baths in sulfur water. It turns your clothes nasty red also.
 
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I have heard a couple of stories about Ivory soap as well. I don''t have any idea which is right or even close to the truth? All I know is my mother always bought Ivory soap? I didn't even know or care if there was another brand. Many years have past and tried and true Ivory is in my house?
My wife asked me the other day did I take a shower? I told her,""not that I could recall. ! I didn't even know one was missing''? LOL
I remember the taste of Ivory soap VERY well !!!
 
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Ivory was candy compared to Lava soap I’ve heard. Of course I wouldn’t have any personal experience with either. 😇
Lava soap is what you would use if you want to take about two layers of skin off. Lol. We used to wash our hands when I worked in a coal mine equipment rebuild shop. Tough stuff.
 

Brokennock

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While working in Mali, West Africa, we would pick up a tribesman walking by the road in the Southern Sahara and Sahel desert. Saying water was scarce is an understatement. We built a well near a local village that was near the minesite I was working on. The women treated the well View attachment 165679


like pure luxury. The men had a layering of sand on their bodies and they rarely had enough water to even take "bird" bath. Out in the sun and sand, no water to bathe, and they didn't smell bad. If there was a smell, it was musty in nature.
Yup. And what was their diet like?
 

Brokennock

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Good post, but overgeneralized. The "educated" class like Franklin was a damn sight different than the working class in the cities and the rural class. Reading contemporaneous books written at the time tells a varied story on smells and the like. In the cities, sewage and horse crap were the big issues, people were second.

Rural didn't seem to have the same issues, even the body smells.

Indian tribes also varied considerably. The Sioux were notoriously particular about their body sanitation where as the "digger" indians and the Shoshone were less than meticulous.

I must concur that the people "stench" has been overstated, but they certainly weren't as pristine as some think.
Who said anything about pristine?

Reading contemporaneous books written at the time tells a varied story on smells and the like. In the cities, sewage and horse crap were the big issues, people were second
Can you cite some references to this reading material?
Thanks.
 
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Who said anything about pristine?


Can you cite some references to this reading material?
Thanks.




I have to dig around for my books for that era....I am not saying people "stunk" but it was far from "rosy" too.
 
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