Wednesday, July 1, 2015

When was the Last Time our Founding Fathers Took a Bath?

Every wish you were a fly on the wall to hear what the real conversations were about while these guys signed the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution?  Every wonder how stinky the room was?  I do, probably because I'm a soap person.  But seriously, it had to smell pretty bad.  Hygiene at that time was A LITTLE DIFFERENT than it is today!  Getting clean in Colonial America meant 'sponging off' usually just the hands and face.  Those that had a more luxurious home, may of had a wash basin and pitcher.  An under shirt was used to conceal sweat that would stain the "fancy" fabrics these men probably wore.

If you needed to thoroughly wash (which was usually once a month) a wooden tub would do the job. However, it was an ordeal to prepare this bath.  The tub had to be dragged out, someone had to draw the water from the well and then heat it.  The towel and soap would need to be found. And the person would have to stop worrying about catching a disease, as it was commonly though that a clean body would attract illness.  In other words, dirt and your natural oils created a protective layer guarding against disease.

Then there was the soap making processes that was fairly tricky.  Soap making was left to the women.  They had to make lye and save enough oil to make the soap.  They needed 6 bushels of wood ash for the lye and 24 pounds of grease/oil to make one barrel of soap.  To make lye they added wood ash to a barrel and layered each addition with straw.  The straw would stop the ash from clogging as water was added every once in a while to it. The ash water (lye) would seep out of a hole at the bottom of the barrel.  The grease and lye was then added and cooked together to make a very soft soap that was used for monthly baths. The most challenging part was figuring out how strong the lye was.  To see if the lye was strong enough, they tested the lye on a potato.  If it perforated, it was strong enough!

So yes, that room was EXTREMELY smelly.  Maybe I wouldn't want to be a fly on the wall!  LOL


References:
http://www.history.org/foundation/journal/autumn00/bathe.cfm
http://www.chagrinvalleysoapandsalve.com/idascorner/soap/the-origin-of-soap
http://roleofwomenincolonialtimes.weebly.com/making-soap.html

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