Another thing was the problem of body cleanliness after going to the bathroom because toilet paper didn’t exist on the frontier. The first toilet paper manufactured for that use was found in China in the 6th century. The first tissue manufactured on a large scale was in the Zhejiang Province of China in the 14th century. In the United States, toilet tissue didn’t come along until the 1880s and it was just flat sheets. Before that it was grass, rocks, and seldom available catalogs or newspapers. The ancient Greeks and Romans used a sponge on a stick that was dipped in a bucket of salted water for communal use. The reason for the hole through the corner of the Old Farmer’s Almanac was so people could hang it on a hook in the outhouse. As manufacturing methods progressed, in 1935, Northern Tissue advertised that their toilet paper was splinter free. Today, Americans use more than seven billion tissue rolls per year.
Before tissue was available on the frontier, buckets of corncobs and moss were placed in the outhouses of homes and at stagecoach stops for use.
There was no going back to the sponge on a stick days.
In the late 19th century, a man by the name of Thomas Crapper invented the flush toilet that evolved into the toilets of today.
Other areas of filth were beds, which were often made of straw and hay. The bedding went unchanged for weeks, which would often lead to infestation of lice and bedbugs.
Mosquitoes found their way into the houses through open doors and windows. Flies were also a huge bother, making their way from the animal pens into the kitchens. They also made their way from the outhouses to the kitchen and back again, leaving droppings of whatever they picked up along the way.
Outhouses were a part of the frontier, though some settlers simply relieved themselves in the nearby woods. Outhouses were later built near houses for convenience. A hole was dug and a wooden structure was built above it. Once the hole was full, it was simply covered up with dirt and the wooden structure was moved over another hole.
The outhouses were not a pleasant smelling place and people would try to cover the smell with lime, if available, hay or dirt. The outhouses harbored flies, wasps, yellow jackets, and black widow spiders. The latter often would bite individuals as they sat down on the wooden seat.
Snakes also found their way into the open doors of the outhouses. The following story was reported as being true. During a picnic where much beer had been consumed, someone went to the outhouse and yelled, “There’s a snake down there.” One fellow grabbed his shotgun. One blast killed the snake but caused an eruption of the continents of the pit. It took a while to get the outhouse and the guy cleaned. Outhouses still exist today in rural areas where water is scarce.
In saloons, men spat tobacco onto the floor where spittoons and cuspidors sat at the foot of the bar. Spit was covered with sawdust if available, which harbored disease and was a breeding place for germs. In attempts to reduce excessive spitting, signs were posted: “Do not spit on the floor.” Towels were hung from the bar to be used by customers to wipe the beer foam from their mouth. These towels were used by countless patrons contributing to the spread of disease. Respiratory diseases like pneumonia and tuberculosis spread quickly.
Saloons would often rent out the floors for travelers so they had to sleep amid the muck around them.
Life expectancy on the frontier was seemingly short, about 35 to 45 years for men and women. This is an increase from the ancient Roman and Greek times when the life expectancy was 25 to 35 years. It does not mean that the average person living then died at the age of thirty-five. Rather, for every child that died in infancy, another person might live to their 70th birthday.
Average life expectancy didn’t reach 50 until 1900 because of unhygienic living conditions and little access to effective medical care. Infant mortality was about thirty percent on the frontier due to accidents and diseases such as cholera, tuberculosis, smallpox, typhoid, rheumatic fever and scarlet fever.
Doctors didn’t begin regularly washing their hands before surgery until the mid 1800s due to a better understanding of hygiene and the transfer of germs.
Seguin has come a long way since the first settlers arrived and civilization has come a long way since the sponge on a stick days.