Mahaffie Blog Post #7 by Maddy Hajer

From my last post, I briefly talked about four items that will be inside the outhouse exhibit at the Mahaffie Farmstead: a bucket of lye, corn cobs, a chamber pot, and medicated paper. These four items will serve as items that were necessary for outhouse users in order to keep clean and to keep the smell of human waste at bay as best they could. The bucket of lye or lime was often sprinkled down outhouse holes in order to cover the smell of human waste. For the actual bucket in the outhouse exhibit, the site manager Tim and I got an old, crumpled bucket which he hammered out some to make it stand on the floor upright. We mixed bagged concrete chunks with water to make concrete and after mixing it thoroughly, poured it into the silver bucket. As that sat and began settling, we took buckets of ashes from the cook stove in the farmhouse and sprinkled them on top of the concrete. We had to pull out roots and other random objects from the ash bucket, but we got enough ash to cover the concrete completely and create a nice solid layer at the top of the bucket. We had some concerns about kids trying to kick the can over but in the event that it happens, we can always add more ash to the top for replenishing the exhibit item. For the corn cobs, I grabbed one down in the collections storage area and both Katie and Tim say that they have other corn cobs we can use for the exhibit. We were thinking of piling a bunch of corn cobs to the top of a bucket and setting near one of the outhouse seat holes to show that this was often what people used as toilet paper. The medicated paper Katie gave me represents the first commercial toilet paper. Although it was created in the 1850s, the same era the Mahaffies moved to their farm in Olathe, it was not widespread or readily available to many people who could have used it. That will be set either on the display panel or with the other outhouse user items next to a seat hole.

     The chamber pot is the fourth item that I discuss at the bottom of the outhouse panel and according to Tim, it was not nearly as popular as we would believe. From what he knows, outhouses were used in pretty much all cases except for the sick, the elderly, nighttime emergencies, and in cases of extreme inclement weather. For these situations, one would use the chamber pot and sometimes a chamber pot that was connected to a chair if one were not physically able or well. Tim and I were searching through some books to try and glean more information regarding chamber pots. The one I was reading tells us that it was normal for households to buy several chamber pots at a time since they were so liable to break due to household accidents.

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