|Two Section -- Two Door Outhouse|
Small Town Commercial Area
Paint Lick, Kentucky
Now most folks will think that outhouse use is past history. Oh yes, there are the national and state parks that have outhouses -- but do households have them? Well according to my 2010 edition of The Old Farmers Almanac there are plenty of outhouses still being used in this country. In fact, 670,000 U.S. households are without indoor plumbing. According to the U.S. census this number is part of the approximately 114 million households in this country.
Outhouse basic design is a small space with door/s, roof and walls over a pit for human waste with a bench seat above covering the pit. The bench seat has usually one to three holes depending on traffic use. No air conditioning, heat etc. It is just a plain place to get in and out as soon as possible.
|Unpainted Household Outhouse|
Madison County, Kentucky
Toilet paper was not used in early outhouses. Various items were used in place of toilet paper -- corncobs, leaves, rags, newspapers, catalogs, etc. Really this was a good thing. Why? It was a good form of reuse.
Today we are using up 27,000 trees a day globally to produce toilet paper. How long can we keep this up as our population grows. Using recycled toilet paper helps alleviate the strain on forests.
|General Store Outhouse|
Estill County, Kentucky
Outhouses were not just used by households. they were also used by commercial establishments, schools, and churches.One problem with them was waste leakage into the ground water. Another was odor -- a factor that resulted in many outhouses being placed a distance from the the main structure. For household members -- this could be inconvenient as dipping temperatures were difficult to deal with in the middle of night. Usually chamberpots were used for human waste during the night.
|A one hole interior of a farm outhouse|
As outhouse pits (holes) became filled a new hole would be dug and the outhouse moved over it. The old became a place where one threw away unusable items to eventually fill the hole. The items that were thrown in the old hole became history layers from items such as dishes, tools, etc -- telling the story of the household over time. Archaologists and anthropologists are aware of this and use these old pits for archaeological digs.
|Leaning from age -- a country church outhouse|
Madison County, Kentucky
There are even regular folks that are aware of the items to be found in these pits -- folks called diggers. They are particularlly interested in old bottles.
So the lowly outhouse still serves a vital part in many households but also serves to tell us about our cultural life. Outhouses are as alive today as in our past..