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Chamber pot with a few fragments.

Mar 8, 2016

Discovery of the Month: Get Privy to this Chamber Pot

Presidio archaeologists discover a chamber pot once used by Army laundresses.


March 2016: From the Presidio Artifact Collection – Get Privy to this Chamber Pot

Did you know the Presidio Archaeology Lab cares for a collection of more than 500,000 discoveries? This extensive assortment is the result of two decades of research in the Presidio. Join us each month as we uncover unique objects and share the stories they reveal about the park’s past.

Before flushing toilets, French bidets, and those elaborate air-drying Japanese commodes, most folks had a chamber pot in their bedroom. This humble contraption was a convenient way to avoid a chilly visit to the outhouse.

Life in the Presidio was no different. In the 19th century, working class women were employed by the Army as laundresses who provided critical support for the soldiers and helped keep the military post running. They did all the washing; worked as cooks, maids, seamstresses; and even supported the hospital.

In the late 1880s, the laundresses lived in humble homes along Taylor Street (right where today’s Montgomery Street Barracks are located on the Main Post). This chamber pot was excavated from the privy pit right behind these quarters in 2005.

To learn more about the Presidio Artifact Collection, check out the Archaeology page.