The Civil War Connections Blog

Squeaky clean? Not so much…

Well, I’m back and I hope you enjoyed my first attempt at writing a blog.  It is an interesting activity and allows me to be both creative and I hope a bit educational.  Some readers will be so young that my story will be history; others will begin to smile as they remember, along with me, things long forgotten.  I do hope each one finds it rewarding to read these musings (is this a good description of a blog?) and want to return as new ones come along.

Today, I want to pick up, sort of, with the laundry issue.  In my research for another project here at The Mariners’ Museum, I discovered a societal norm to which I had not given much thought.  If you remember, my previous blog discussed the emergence of a new apparatus for handing laundry.  However, this was in conjunction with mid 18th century America (and Europe as well) and it was the cusp of the great industrial revolution, with the steam engine and railroads now in full throttle.  It turns out, though, that along with innovations in machines, other rather more radical innovations were bubbling up in society.  One in particular was the issue of health and what humans needed to do to improve their health.  While the most obvious area to consider is probably medical science, people actually rarely thought in that way.  Rather, cleanliness became the focus.

And to aid in the achievement of a healthier life, the creative entrepreneur appeared ready to help.   His bag of new soap powders with chemical additives to aid in the washing became the proverbial “dime a dozen.”  Bleaching which had been mostly done by the sun, was now helped along with chemicals as well.  And Monday continued to be “wash day.”  For some reason, I find it an notion of one day per week for laundry when people had a limited wardrobe as compared to 24/7 laundry days when people have a limitless wardrobe.

At the same time, however, personal hygiene doesn’t seem to change much at this time.  Even when I was a kid, lots and lots of people, especially those in rural areas, continued to bathe once a week.  So, some things move at the speed of lightening, while other things move at the speed of a snail.  Maybe I’m just naïve, but for some reason, I have a feeling that the salesmanship of the soap manufacturer proved superior but his ability to convince people to bathe more often missed his mark by a mile.