Like many older farm houses my home was constructed without indoor plumbing. But in the early 1970s, indoor plumbing was added to my house. That’s fairly late by American standards.
Up until that time all water for drinking, cooking and bathing was hand carried into the house. Water was also carried in by buckets to the cellar for laundry which was heated by fire in a copper boiler.
For most of the family’s toilet needs an outhouse was located in the backyard. The outdoor privy has since been torn down but a foundation stone remains to mark the spot. For nighttime toilet needs a chamber pot was used.
A chamber pot is also known as piss pot, a jerry, a jordan, a thunder pot and probably by several other names that I’m not familiar with. Up until the advent of indoor plumbing, most people would keep a chamber pot in their bedroom for nighttime convenience. The pot was kept under the bed or in a nightstand or washstand and emptied in the morning.
I have early childhood memories of hearing my grandmother using a chamber pot at night. I don’t know why she used a chamber pot instead of the toilet when the bathroom was right next door to her bedroom. Maybe she was afraid she of waking up the house? Maybe old habits die hard and she preferred it?
I really don’t know.
But what I do know is that like my grandmother, once I reached my mid 50s, I too needed to answer the call of Nature at least once at night.
The problem was that I was sleeping on a second floor which had no toilet. So for 10 years I choose to use a chamber pot until I could afford to have a toilet installed in the second floor of my home.
If you find yourself persuaded that a chamber pot may be a temporary or even permanent solution in your home I offer a few suggestions.
- Old chamber pots can be found at auctions, yard sales, eBay and elsewhere. Lehman’s Hardware used to sell chamber pots but don’t any longer. I know there’s a need for them. Maybe American Manufacture will rise to the occasion and begin to produce them again.
- If you are going to use a chamber pot make sure it has a lid. No sense smelling urine all night or splashing urine when you move the pot.
- When the chamber pot has been used, set it out of the way so you don’t kick it over when you get out of bed in the morning.
- Ironstone chamber pots never rust and stay fresher than enamel pots but they can be broken.
- Enamel chamber pails usually are more budget friendly and have a handle that makes them easy to carry, but they are prone to chipping and then rusting.