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jackstr952
09-14-2012, 12:57 AM
I am revising a western taking place in the 1850 -1870 range and need some help.

I’ve consulted a book written about everyday life in the Wild West during that time frame and browsed the Internet ad nauseam, but still have some unanswered issues.

I’ve compiled the list here and would greatly appreciate help with any or all of them.

1. What sanitary facilities did hotels in the time frame provide? (e.g. a cabinet with a chamber pot, outhouse only, a “community bathing room”?) I am assuming that flush toilets, indoor plumbing, running water was not available, although my browsing revealed some discrepancies and inconsistencies – e.g. the first flushing toilet might have been in 1775, the 19th century or even suggestions from 4,000 years ago.
2. Did hotels provide basins or areas in individual rooms to wash up and provide the heated water in a bowl? Inotherwords, what did a typical mid 1800’s hotel in the West look like?
3. Since electricity wasn’t invented yet, what did people use to air-condition themselves and the room?

Thanks in advance,
Jack.

retropaw
09-14-2012, 01:12 AM
I'm not sure, but pretty sure the answer to no.3 is open the window! :0 good luck with it!

Alessandra Kelley
09-14-2012, 01:54 AM
Even into the twentieth century a lot of hotels had communal bathrooms, both the bathing type and the disposal of body waste type.

Are you talking of a fancy, big western city hotel? Or a small depot town hotel or something.

Mightn't boarding houses be more likely in smaller towns? I'm no expert, but I sort of feel that way.

In a lot of old photos of western towns I see saloons and dentists and surveyors' offices and dry goods sales, but not hotels so far as I've noticed.

A private boarding house would of course have the same sort of sanitation as any private residence.

dangerousbill
09-14-2012, 02:15 AM
1. What sanitary facilities did hotels in the time frame provide? (e.g. a cabinet with a chamber pot, outhouse only, a “community bathing room”?) I am assuming that flush toilets, indoor plumbing, running water was not available, although my browsing revealed some discrepancies and inconsistencies – e.g. the first flushing toilet might have been in 1775, the 19th century or even suggestions from 4,000 years ago.
2. Did hotels provide basins or areas in individual rooms to wash up and provide the heated water in a bowl? Inotherwords, what did a typical mid 1800’s hotel in the West look like?
3. Since electricity wasn’t invented yet, what did people use to air-condition themselves and the room?

Thanks in advance,
Jack.

I have that book, and it's not much help because so much changed, especially in the 1850-1870 time period.

1. Water came in a jug, if you were lucky. If not, you fetched it in a bucket. During the night, in a classy hotel, you used a chamber pot. For the well off, there was a commode, which was a wooden seat with the chamber pot underneath. The maid (or you) emptied it in the morning. If no chamber pot, you went outside to an outhouse and took your chances with the snakes, scorpions, bats, black widows, etc.

2. Rooms often had a dresser or dry sink with a ceramic bowl you used for washing. In cheap hotels, it was a common lavatory. Sometimes, you had to go to a special bathhouse to be washed, hair cut, etc, with or without assistance.

Some wealthy mining towns like Tombstone had advanced facilities like running water, but they were not for the ordinary folk. The OK Corral part of Tombstone was balanced by the raised-pinky portion, wealthy and insulated from the noxious miners at the west end.

3. Air conditioning? We didn't need no steenkin' air conditioning. Homes made of adobe tended to be cooler inside than outside. In other cases, people hung wet cloths in the windward windows. The very dry air out here caused the water to evaporate quickly, cooling it a few degrees. But for the most part, folks just grinned and bore it, or climbed a high enough mountain to find the cool zone.

More advanced towns had ice houses, but that was only in areas where enough ice formed in the winter. That was at altitudes of 6000 ft or higher, like the north of New Mexico Territory (NM and AZ today).

The first ice making machine in Tucson was built in 1880, but the product was used mainly for bars and in public urinals for keeping the smell down.

jackstr952
09-14-2012, 05:00 PM
Dangerous Bill - thanks - you helped a lot more than you know!

Lehcarjt
09-14-2012, 06:41 PM
Most of the answers to these questions depends on which year, which city, which financial segment of society. San Francisco in 1850 compared to 1870 was an entirely different town. By 1870 the upscale hotels would have had water pipes, etc. The sailor dives would not, etc.

anguswalker
09-14-2012, 10:27 PM
what did people use to air-condition themselves and the room?
Slight non-sequitur but I lived in a village in rural India for two years, many years ago before the electrification of rural India had really got going. Also the huts people (including me) lived in did not have brick or adobe walls but just split cane. It got pretty hot in summer but you slept outside at night (mind, I remember one night I had bacterial dysentery and a high fever but found it hard to take my temperature because the ambient temperature was over 105F already).

ANYWAY, my point is that the only time the heat made me feel really uncomfortable was when I had to go in to Bombay to buy machinery or whatever and went into an air-conditioned shop. It would be freezing inside, and then when I got out the heat would hit me like a wall. Apart from that you just acclimatised. People have lived in tropical and sub-tropical regions for millennia- air conditioning is an extremely recent phenomenon.

dangerousbill
09-14-2012, 11:16 PM
People have lived in tropical and sub-tropical regions for millennia- air conditioning is an extremely recent phenomenon.

Indeed. Here in the Sonoran Desert, people have had air conditioning as a necessity of life since the 1960s or later. Some refer to Phoenix as the city that air conditioning built. Summer temps there often spike at 110 F or even more.

But Europeans have been here since the 1500s, and ancient people inhabited this area since about 800 AD, without so much as an ice cube.

Orianna2000
09-15-2012, 05:58 AM
As a side point, be wary of what those kinds of books have to say about historical costuming. I read one that was supposed to be all about fashion of the "Old West." Its information was so broad and generalized as to be useless, and the few specific "facts" it gave were totally erroneous. It did mention some interesting tidbits about the different kinds of shirts cowboys wore and how they varied by region. But with the other information so blatantly false, how could you trust what it said?

Dave Hardy
09-15-2012, 06:03 AM
I think the writer Pidge (pen-name of a Virginian serving in the Texas Rangers) came up with this descriptive phrase back in the 1870s: As empty as a hotel in Austin in August.

After thirteen Augusts in Austin, I understand where Pidge was coming from.