J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Wednesday, September 08, 2010

George Washington Sat Here

The invoice for cleaning the John Vassall house in Cambridge before Gen. George Washington moved in, which aide-de-camp Thomas Mifflin paid on 15 July 1775, includes this item:

Necessary house — [£]1.2.6
A few weeks later, on 25 August, Washington noted in his expense notebook a payment of £1.10 to “James Campbell—Necessaries for the House.” Four days later he made an equal payment to Jehoiakim Youkin for “D[itt]o. D[itt]o.”

“Necessary” was an eighteenth-century euphemism for an outhouse. Apparently the general had paid for Campbell and Youkin to clean out the headquarters latrines, or dig new ones. (The unusual name of Jehoiakim Youkin or Yokum also appears in the records of the Stockbridge Indians. His signed receipt for 30 shillings from the general’s secretary Joseph Reed is in the headquarters files.)

As autumn arrived, that outdoor facility no doubt seemed less enticing in the middle of the night. On 20 September steward Timothy Austin bought “3 Chamber Potts & 1 Pitcher.”

The house became more crowded in early December when Martha Washington, her son, and his wife arrived, along with some enslaved servants.

Late the next month the weather turned cold, with ice covering the Charles River for the first time. On 26 January 1776 and then on 14 February, Austin added six more chamber pots for the household, so on chilly nights the family wouldn’t have to visit that necessary house.

(The image above shows the pieces of a Rhenish chamber pot uncovered in an archeological dig at Mount Vernon.)

1 comment:

Prof.A.Balz said...

Yes,no doubt the signs will appear soon throughout popular tourist attractions,"Washington Pooped Here".
How indelicate society has become....