Heritage, Volume 6, Number 1, Spring 1988 Page: 15
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"Epicurean Innovations" and "Johnnies"
by Ellen N. Murry
Mid-nineteenth century swimming costumes.
In 1840 the bathtub was denounced "as an epicurean innovation
from England, designed to corrupt the democratic simplicity
of the Republic." The Republic referred to in the quote
was the United States, but attitudes in Texas towards cleanliness
and bathing reflected the country as a whole in the midnineteenth
It has been estimated that perhaps fewer than one in ten
persons bathed even once a year in America. While traveling
through Texas in 1849, Edward Smith suggested that the same
cultural attitudes prevailed. Texans, he noted, "have great natural
facilities for bathing, but we scarcely found a Texan who took
advantage of them-as a general rule, they were not wasteful
with soap and water." One nineteenth century author noted:
"Men and women, though accustomed to washing their hands
and faces daily, neglect washing their bodies from year to year."
According to Ferdinand Roemer, a German traveler, the custom
in Texas when entering an inn or house was to "enter the hall
where a bucket of water, a gourd used as a dipper, and a tin basin
are found. After washing face and hands, the traveler seats
himself and chats with the host about politics or the crops."
In 1845 a writer lamented Americans' lack of cleanliness and
noted: "In all parts of the world so far as I can learn...from history,
among the civilized, and among the barbarous, more attention is
and has been paid to bathing than among the English and among
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 6, Number 1, Spring 1988, periodical, Spring 1988; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45435/m1/15/: accessed August 24, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.