Happy President’s Day! How Lincoln Used the Toilet in the 19th Century
Just what you wanted to know!
We take for granted that when we flush our toilet, our waste just magically goes to the treatment plant where it becomes grey water and fertilizer. We have no need to think about how the pipes in our bathroom work (unless something goes wrong!). Of course this was not always the case. In honor of President Lincoln’s upcoming birthday on Monday, February 12th, we will examine the early days of plumbing (of lack of it) during the time of one of our country’s greatest leaders…
“Using the Facilities” in Lincoln’s Childhood home: the Frontier in the 1800s
Born in 1809, and raised in the wild frontier lands of Kentucky, and later Illinois, Lincoln was used to living rurally, with limited resources. In his era, going to the bathroom usually meant doing his business in the woods. If it was nighttime, or if the weather was too severe to step outside, then a chamber pot was used, which was merely a round bowl that would later be disposed of outside.
Lincoln’s log cabin also had an outhouse, which was a small building away from the main home that had a hole in the ground, which was indeed a “rural toilet” to say the least. Lincoln’s outhouse was rumored to have three holes in the ground, so more than one person could use the “facility” at a time. In the early 1800s, toilet paper had not been invented yet, so products from nature (e.g., dry corn cobs and husks) were used instead.
Using the Loo in White House during the Lincoln Presidency
In Washington D.C. during Abraham Lincoln’s presidency (1861-1865), some of the surrounding estates and hotels did indeed feature a version of indoor plumbing, usually utilizing pumps and wells. Even though the White house did have indoor plumbing installed by 1830, it was because of strict budgetary restrictions that the water was not piped in. Instead, servants filled up the bathtubs with water from a local reservoir.
As for the toilet, Lincoln and his family had to rely on the east side of the White House’s outdoor premises, where a row of outhouses were provided. There is evidence that a toilet may have been in place on the first floor of the White House by 1840, but still without running water. It wasn’t until 1876 that the white house was finally equipped with improved pipes that were installed and connected to an attic water tank. Finally, in 1902, actual working toilets graced all of the floors of the White House (almost 40 years after Lincoln died).
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In Lincoln’s era, water pumped into one’s home, even if it was the White House, was considered an unnecessary luxury. Thankfully, times have changed, and Perry Plumbing Heating & Air continues to keep up to date with the very latest technological advances in all types of plumbing. Contact us at 619-472-2112, and check out our website at www.perryplumbing.com for cost-saving coupons and discounts. We are proud to be a Better Business Bureau 2015 Torch Award Finalist for our outstanding marketplace ethics. We were also recently named the Contractor of the Year from both Contractor magazine and the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors (PHCC) Association. Don’t forget to look up our 5-Star Google Plus ratings and favorable customer reviews on Yelp.com.