The IWSG Wants to Know Your Watchlist Words

In which we now know ENTIRELY too much about 1870s bathroom habits, and not quite enough about sexual preferences in the Wild Wild West.

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Welcome to the first Wednesday of the month, which is also Insecure Writer’s Support Group day and thus the day of full support for you, your insecurities, and your author journey.

The awesome co-hosts for the November 6 posting of the IWSG are Sadira Stone, Patricia Josephine, Lisa Buie-Collard, Erika Beebe, and C. Lee McKenzie!

Since it is November and many of us are in the throes of NaNoWriMo fever, I’m just throwing together a nice, quick list of the incredibly random paths my Google searches have led me on for you to peruse before you go back to furious typing. Why on earth I’d need them all is another story entirely which you’d need to read my books to understand, but I do have a more in-depth explanation for the whole Question of Potties.

  • Windows and window screens in 1850-1870. Turns out metal window screens were invented much earlier than you’d think.
  • Toilets in 1877. Did they exist? How did they work? How common were they? Why did people in Virginia City, Nevada fight so hard to stick to their outhouses? (Answer: they didn’t want a crapper inside the house, thank you, no, that was obviously disgusting and unhygienic).
  • For that matter, how did the entire sewer system work in big cities? Had the Sacramento city planners figured out this newfangled 1800s concept of “dying horribly from the various diseases excrement leeches into drinking water and how to avoid them, i.e. don’t have open cesspits in a city”? (Answer: mostly.)
  • Tanning. How to do it in the first place and what kinds of supplies you need (Answer: NASTY, NASTY THINGS.)
  • Chemical tanning vs. tree bark tanning
  • Courting practices of the late 1800s. For this I turn to the Full text of the hilariously named “Marriage and Home: or, proposal and espousal: a Christian treatise on the most sacred relations to mortals known: love, marriage, home.” by “A Clergyman” from Port Melbourne, Australia, 1888.
  • Immigration to and from San Francisco. This was a whole different ballgame than the more famous Ellis Island.
  • Riots, persecution, murders, beatings, legislation, and the various forms of discrimination against immigrants in the supposedly free Wild Wild West. (There was A LOT, especially from 1880-1890. Humans have basically been trash to each other based on no other factor than skin color since forever.)
  • Gay couples/same sex love in the history of the American West. It’s a strange, unpredictable melánge of general tolerance, acceptance of individual preferences, and then intolerance which runs from nasty jokes to the occasional murder. It’s actually difficult to find many resources because much of this history has been erased and primary sources are coded with different words.
  • For this I mostly turn to online articles and the academic books already written on the subject, including Re-Dressing America’s Frontier PastMale-Male Intimacy in Early America, and Love Stories: Sex Between Men Before Homosexuality.
  • Definitely hope you’ve enjoyed the articles and even learned something, NSA agents watching my blog. Some of the pictures are a lot of fun.

10 thoughts on “The IWSG Wants to Know Your Watchlist Words

    1. The scary part is how often they did not, in fact, get the sewer system right! I often think we as a species have survived through a combination of tenacity, omnivorous tendencies, and blind luck.

  1. I have definitely done my fair share of research on toilets and toilet practices in history. I think what makes it bizarre is that I wasn’t conducting research for any writing project. I was simply curious. The ‘wiping’ situation is…interesting.
    I also went down a rather alarming Google-search rabbit hole about historical birth control. Fun times.
    Thank you for another great post. It was amusing, as always!

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