Because my new novel-in-progress is set in 1900, I’ve been researching details of daily life in the late 19th century. I bought two books and read another via Inter-library loan, but the greatest help has been the storage of memories, documents, and special interests on Internet sites.
Wide Awake by Charles Trowbridge Pratt
One day, thinking a character might have to clean a slop jar (chamber pot), I googled “clean a slop jar” and found a wonderful publication scanned by Google Books. The name of the publication is Wide Awake by Charles Trowbridge Pratt and the (or “of the”) Chautauqua Young Folks’ Reading Union, published in 1883. The work appears to be a course of study, with stories, poems, and illustrations by authors and artists, plus other sections like science, music, cooking, housekeeping, and business. Today I downloaded this treasure in PDF format and may post a review of it later, though the PDF file says it’s more than 1,000 pages long. Here’s an excerpt. No more complaining about cleaning the bathroom!
“… [plenty of] hot suds for washing the toilet ware and clean dry cloths for wiping should go round with the slop pail every day. Bring the chamber pail now with hot water and a pitcherful of the strong hot soda water I told you of, and wash and scald every article, for you will find they need it. Often the sediment on pitchers and bowls will need sapolio [brand of soap] to remove it, for it almost becomes part of the glaze in time. That neglected slop jar you will take out, and scrub with a broom and suds, not touching it with your hands; then let it stand with scalding soda water in it an hour or two, rinse, drain, and leave it all day in full sunshine.
…But you must know that dirty water leaves a slimy coating on whatever it stands in, wood, china, or tin, which is not rinsed off, and if left in this careless way, your slop jar takes a lining of putrid matter which gives the bad odor to ill-kept chamber ware.”
Writing is a good excuse to be distracted by all kinds of interesting stuff.