history lesson

  1. Weird History

    Next time you're washing your hands and the water temperature isn't just how you like it, think about how things used to be. Here are some facts about the 1500s.

    Most people got married in June because they took their yearly bath in May and still smelled pretty good by June. However, they were starting to smell, so brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hide the body odor.

    Baths consisted of a big tub filled with hot water. The man of the house had the privilege of the nice clean water, then all the other sons and men, then the women and finally the children -- last of all the babies. By then the water was so dirty you could actually lose someone in it. Hence the saying, "Don't throw the baby out with the bath water."

    Houses had thatched roofs -- thick straw -- piled high, with no wood underneath. It was the only place for animals to get warm, so all the dogs, cats and other small animals (mice, bugs) lived in the roof. When it rained it became slippery and sometimes the animals would slip and fall off the roof -- hence the saying "It's raining cats and dogs."

    There was nothing to stop things from falling into the house. This posed a real problem in the bedroom where bugs and other droppings could really mess up your nice clean bed. Hence, a bed with big posts and a sheet hung over the top afforded some protection. That's how canopy beds came into existence.

    The floor was dirt. Only the wealthy had something other than dirt, hence the saying "dirt poor."

    The wealthy had slate floors that would get slippery in the winter when wet, so they spread thresh (straw) on the floor to help keep their footing. As the winter wore on, they kept adding more thresh until when you opened the door it would all start slipping outside. A piece of wood was placed in the entranceway, hence, a "thresh hold."

    In those old days, they cooked in the kitchen with a big kettle that always hung over the fire. Every day they lit the fire and added things to the pot. They ate mostly vegetables and did not get much meat. They would eat the stew for dinner, leaving leftovers in the pot to get cold overnight and then start over the next day. Sometimes the stew had food in it that had been there for quite awhile. Hence the rhyme, "peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot nine days old."

    Sometimes they could obtain pork, which made them feel quite special. When visitors came over, they would hang up their bacon to show off. It was a sign of wealth that a man "could bring home the bacon." They would cut off a little to share with guests and would all sit around and "chew the fat."

    Those with money had plates made of pewter. Food with a high acid content caused some of the lead to leach onto the food, causing lead poisoning and death. This happened most often with tomatoes, so for the next 400 years or so, tomatoes were considered poisonous.

    Most people did not have pewter plates, but had trenchers, a piece of wood with the middle scooped out like a bowl. Often trenchers were made from stale bread which was so old and hard that they could be used for quite some time. Trenchers were never washed and a lot of times worms and mold got into the wood and old bread. After eating off wormy, moldy trenchers, one would get "trench mouth."

    Bread was divided according to status. Workers got the burnt bottom of the loaf, the family got the middle, and guests got the top, or "upper crust."

    Lead cups were used to drink ale or whiskey. The combination would sometimes knock them out for a couple of days. Someone walking along the road would take them for dead and prepare them for burial. They were laid out on the kitchen table for a couple of days and the family would gather around and eat and drink and wait and see if they would wake up. Hence the custom of holding a "wake."

    England is old and small and the local folks started running out of places to bury people. So they would dig up coffins and would take the bones to a "bone-house" and reuse the grave. When reopening these coffins, 1 out of 25 coffins were found to have scratch marks on the inside and they realized they had been burying people alive. So they thought they would tie a string on the wrist of the corpse, lead it through the coffin and up through the ground and tie it to a bell. Someone would have to sit out in the graveyard all night (the "graveyard shift") to listen for the bell; thus, someone could be "saved by the bell" or was considered a "dead ringer."

    And that's the truth. . . (who ever said that History was boring)?
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    About tiger

    Joined: May '01; Posts: 1,253; Likes: 15


  3. by   Beach_RN
    Tiger...thanks...how very interesting....WOW.. I really enjoyed reading that!

    Very Kewl.... I actually cut and paste and sent it to a few friend in a email!... Thanks again!

  4. by   emily_mom
    That was so interesting...thanks!

  5. by   ShandyLynnRN
    my goodness!!! THose are indeed interesting facts!!! Thanks for sharing!

    BTW, why in the world did people only bathe once a year??? Surely there were lakes and ponds and rivers that they could bathe in?? I never understood that!
  6. by   rncountry
    Because if you bathed too frequently you would get sick. The French aristocrats used to place straw behind those big ole curtains they used to help keep drafts out. The purpose for this was so people could go behind the curtains and go to the bathroom on the straw. Every few days it was cleaned out and fresh straw put down. Suppose they figured it worked quite well for the animals so why not.

    The French invented perfume to cover the stench of unwashed bodies.

    However, it is a misnormer to believe that people bathed only once a year. Sorry, it's me the history freak

    Soap was invented by the Gauls sometime before Christ, and by the end of the ninth century it was in widespread use in Europe. It was soft, much like today's liquid soap, until hard (cake) soap came into use in the twelfth century.

    Going without bathing was considered a penance, even in the early Middle Ages. Public bathhouses were not uncommon, and many were closed down during the Black Death in the mid-fourteenth century due to fear of contagion. (They were also popular spots for assignations.) At home, folks were known to take baths by the fire in the winter and out in the garden in the summer.

    It's interesting to note that many historical accounts state the aristocrats bathed much less frequently than the "common" people. Not sure why that would be, or frankly if it is actually true, but I have found it in more than one book.
  7. by   rncountry
    ok, I just had to go back and find a source for the information on the original post. It took me less than 5 minutes to find it. This information is a hoax.
    Since history is my thing, and never have I seen anything regarding what the original post says, I just had to look. Couldn't help myself.
    Here is the link that debunks the information.


    For those that are interested anyway.
  8. by   tiger
    well what could i expect from wierdnews.com? at least i think that was the site it came from. thanks rncountry for the correction..
  9. by   MIKEY LIKES
    One of the most interesting posts I have read to date. Thanks
    I love little tid bits like this.
  11. by   Mkue
  12. by   semstr
    The filling of the tub and everybody going in there, starting with my father, I was 2., is something I will never forget in my whole life!
    We didn't have a bathroom with a shower or a tub, the house was built without one, as were many other houses. I was born and raised in the centre of Haarlem a very old town and the houses were/ are typical Dutch: very small and steep.
    my father built a bathroom in the garden, with a corridor to the kitchen, in the late sixties.
    The other days (the tub thing was done on saturdays) we washed in the kitchen at the sink.