An Ode to Indoor Plumbing~Tanya Hanson

   Howdy to all and happy new year, too. We celebrated the holidays with a     pretty major present: three newly remodeled bathrooms. Starting the Monday after Thanksgiving indeed added to holiday stress and frantic-ness, but at least’s it’s all over now. Sheesh.

 With only one working commode downstairs for almost a month, we sure felt like pioneers, especially if nature called in the middle of a cold winter’s night.


Well, not exactly LOL. We didn’t have to brave the elements. But I sure got curious and decided to flush out some facts about the modern “necessary.” The idea of a room inside the home dedicated solely to personal needs only started in the late 1800’s. In fact my next hero Jed Jones seriously hopes to afford the luxury of a “bathing room” for his reluctant new wife (circa 1880) in my upcoming release, Midnight Bride.


An Englishman bearing the name (LOL) of Thomas Crapper is often given credit for the flushing toilet via his valve-and siphon design patented in 1891. But the idea didn’t just pop into his head while using an outdoor privy one day or anything like that. His device was a refinement of a design that puzzled yet tantalized Victorian England–how to build a flushing  “water closet”  without sewer gases entering the home.

Such a mechanism had actually existed during Elizabethan times. The queen’s godson, Sir John Harrington, designed one for her use about 1596. But the idea never caught on, mostly because municipal sewer lines hadn’t yet been developed. The Victorians, who made the connection between unsanitary conditions and disease, understood the need for cleaner cities–a concept that had escaped the first Queen Elizabeth and her ilk–and began to construct sewer systems.

However, without water to remove wastes, portable commodes and chamber pots, and the classic outhouse, remained the standards in many areas for many more years.

As for bathing itself, the ancient Romans mastered that art with their aqueducts and bathhouses. But the culture’s excesses had early Christians deem the practice hedonistic, an attitude that prevailed through the Middle Ages. The body, a vessel of sin, deserved to be conquered by the spirit, not a bath. Personal hygiene became considered a sinful indulgence. In the New World, the attitude persisted in seriously religious colonies, and along the frontier, there was simply too much else to do. Building sewers and designing indoor plumbing were the last thing on anybody’s mind when there were fields to plant and game to hunt and cabins to build.


Between 1875 and 1925, indoor plumbing began to be widely available and universally desired. Privacy attitudes changed, too. From a time when many families shared one bathroom in an apartment house, many of today’s homes have bathroom facilities in each bedroom.

The modern bathroom developed in response to essential human needs as well as improved norms of culture and technology.


Thankfully.  I definitely an indoor plumbing girl.  How about you?  Anybody else lived through a remodel or have one planned for the near future? 

Thanks to Bryan Nowak Photography for the generous use of his gorgeous photos.


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20 thoughts on “An Ode to Indoor Plumbing~Tanya Hanson”

  1. LOVE the history lesson. I have used many “outhouses” but we have a building here on the farm that looks like an outhouse but isn’t. We have had loads of fun watching first time guests open the door on our smokehouse expecting to see the two seater, finding instead an indention in the ground where a smoldering fire is built to smoke our meat. They have areally funny look on their face as the stand staring and not knowing what to think. There are times that I wish it were an outhouse. Having only one bathroom and a house full of guests can be a bit challenging!

  2. Great info, Tanya. I haven’t lived through a remodel like yours, but the holidays are crazy enough without adding plaster dust. Congratulations on finishing the project.

  3. I have not lived through any remodels for the bathrooms. Change of toilet was the only thing and it was done in a day. But I am hoping the my landlords are going to remodel the bathroom. It needs it. I would like them to make a walk in shower for me. But we shall see.
    Thanks for all that great information. I can just imagine how regal Queen Victoria looked on her “Throne”… LOL

  4. It’s hard to believe I know but our family used an outhouse up into the early 50’s. When I was born in the late 40’s we lived in a tent. We were poorer than church mice. Luckily, by the time I got old enough to know much we had a house with an indoor toilet. But I remember visiting relatives in Arkansas and having to use the outhouse then and that was in the 60’s. I’m so very very thankful for my bathrooms now. I try not to ever take them for granted. And when something happens to one of them true panic like I rarely know sets in. So I can relate to you going through your remodel and having to traipse downstairs in the night to use your one working one.

    Wishing you much success with your new release.

  5. Hi Connie, I’m laughing out loud at the expressions I am imagining on your guests’ faces, seeing your outhouse-smokehouse LOL. How clever! I’d love to see it, and your farm, too. There’s a lot of country-girl left behind in me from my Nebraska college days. Thanks so much for spending time here today. I so appreciate you.

  6. Hi Tracy, happy new year, filly sister. Oh yes, as William Faulkner wrote in A Rose for Emily, the patient and abiding dust. I think it will outlive me LOL even with the Swiffers. xo

  7. Hi Kathleen, thanks for stopping by today. I know, it makes me chuckle to think of “royalty” involved in the same everyday stuff we all are LOL. I hope you get your walk in shower. One fun thing about the re-do, my six-foot four hubby got to place the shower head higher. Our six-six adult son sure appreciated that, too on his Christmas visit. Happy new year!

  8. I have lived through remodeling, but we still only have one bathroom. We added on to our house when my son was born and remodeled the old part of the house and we survived. When I was a child we had an outhouse for many years. I was eight before we moved to a house with indoor plumbing and I wouldn’t go back now for nothing. It get mighty cold going to the outhouse in the winter.

  9. Hi Linda, I used outdoor facilities at girl scout camp and the horse rescue has one, too. But the most, shall we say, rustic, was during our wagon train trip. During noon stops, there was “boy meadow” to the right, “girl meadow” to the left LOL. And a very primitive dedicated privy when we camped for the night. But I may have missed a shower most of all 🙂 Thanks for stopping by, filly sister. Love ya and have the best new year ever!

  10. Hi Quilt Lady, I so hear ya. It isn’t even that cold here at the beach and I never had to go outside, but it sure was an adventure LOL. Indoor plumbing sure is a blessing, that’s for sure. Thanks for the comment today. It’s always so wonderful to see you here in Wildflower Junction! Blessings in 2013.

  11. Hi Tanya, I have lived through remodeling and it isn’t fun. But you have entered into my favorite subject: out houses. I have lived in the mountains, deserts and pack stations for over 60 years and have seen absolute wonders. Wonders how they managed to stay upright. My son inherited one of these wonders and for 15 years it had the best lean to it and for some reason was very sturdy.This particular one had been in that same place for around 50 years! However the Forest Service didn’t think it was very attractive, so last year he had to remove it. What was put in it’s place was a very ugly metal thing that was smelly and didn’t add a thing to the ambiance of the area. We have a friend who lives in the Mammoth Lakes area and has a book out on–what else–Outhouses! I believe there are two, however, Mike’s outhouse is in one of them.

  12. Hi Clare, nice to see you here from way across the Pond. I hope your new year is off to a good start and that your “Child” series is the most successful yet!

  13. HI Mary J, I know those metal things. Those were the privies during our wagon train trip. I guess they are metal to withstand winter blizzards maybe? The lean-to one has my imagination really swirling! I need to take a peek at that Outhouses book. And I think Bryan did such a wonderful job photographing some. Thanks so much for stopping by today. It’s always wonderful when you’re in Wildflower Junction.

  14. We had an outhouse when I grew up and thought it fun to use sometimes. (We had indoor plumbing too.) It had three seats, two for adults and one smaller, lower for kids. I remember when the hole filled up, Grandpa dug another a ways away, moved the house there and planted a rose garden over the filled hole. We had lovely roses!

  15. Hi Tanya, Thanks. The author is Londie Pedalsky. Her pictures show up in all kinds of magazines, and calendars. I was thumbing through a magazine and saw a familiar figure and it was my daughter in law. My son shows up in calendars all the time. (All with horses or mules).

  16. HI Nancy, I remember you telling me about the children’s area LOL and the lovely roses! Thanks so much for stopping by today.

    Mary J. thanks for the author’s name. I remember you love mules, too, as well. Thanks again for your faithful visits to Wildflower Junction.

    Blessings in 2013 to you both!

  17. We have been renovating for 20 years. The main stuff has been done for a while, but we are still working on little details. We bought an 1898 victorian farm house that had been neglected. We had to gut it down to the studs, one room at a time and wire, insulate & sheetrock. The guy who had the house before us really made a mess of it with his remodeling ideas. He butchered the upstairs to put in a bedroom there which we should really tear out and redo, but I am not going to say that to my poor DH. Downstairs, there was a toilet in the hall that led from the kitchen to the old part of the house. No room, no door, just a toilet sitting in the hall (and yes, it was the one to use downstairs). I don’t know what they were thinking, there was no way to make a room around it. Needless to say, we took care of that rather early on.

    When I was in the Peace Corps, I used a wide variety of necessaries. Some were no different from here, some were holes in the ground with a 3 foot wall on 3 sides. You learn to appreciate good facilities when you don’t have them. When my parents bought the old farm house I grew up in, circa 1865, it had an attached outhouse with 3 holes. One was small, made for a child, which I had not seen before. Since it was attached to the house, there was no pit dug under it. They must have used large chamber pots and emptied them somewhere.

    We really have become spoiled. We were a family of 8 and had only one bathroom. School mornings were frantic. We have 3 in this house and there are only 2 of us.

  18. Well Tanya, many people much later than these dates had to use outdoor toilets (or outhouses as they were called.) My parents were married in 1921 and raised 8 children. I was 7th in line and was 10 years old before we moved into town and had a indoor bathroom. Also, electric lights. I thought it was a mansion. Then when I was almost 13 we moved to a town in OKLA. where we once again had an outhouse, altho lots of houses had indoor toilets by then. So, we were happy campers when he built us a restroom in our new(to us) home. I was born in 1935 and lived through outhouses, drawing water from a well, using kerosene lamps when it got dark, and to get our lessons. Also, heating water and taking baths in a wash tub.( The kitchen was closed off till baths was over.) Oh, and helped my mom do laundry the old way with boiling water over a fire and several washtubs. And hanging clothes on the line to dry, and then starching and ironing. (And, now I hate to iron). Altho I lived through all of this, we were a poor (tho we never thought of it) but very happy family with many good memories. And, especially being raised in a Christian home. And, many homes built in the 50s thru 80s still only have 1 bathroom. I think every house should have at least 2. Just my thoughts! A walk down memory lane. LOL

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