18th century, cleaning, common people, Fort Ticonderoga, interpretation, living history, mops, women's history, women's work
Springtime sadness is best remedied by scouring, so in the best Scandinavian fashion, I have been looking into 18th century cleaning. Dem barracks, right?
First of all, were you wondering about what exactly they “smoked and cleansed” smallpox victims’ rooms with? Brimstone and frankincense. Now you know what Edward Langford would wake up smelling when the house next door was free of smallpox.
But what about those floors? They need to be cleaned. Swept, yes, and scrubbed with sand. But also mopped, and the doorstep mopped.
I have a broom and a whisk broom, and can substitute a kettle for my sad bucket but I lack a suitable mop. Lack never deterred me, whether of skills, knowledge, or supplies, so off to the interwebs and library I went.
I started with Foul Bodies, the 2009 monograph by Kathleen M. Brown. Nothing on floors, sadly.
I remembered the 10th Massachusetts Orderly book from 1782, that was more helpful.
Some part of the Camp and about the long Barracks in particular is relaxing into nastiness. Regimental QuarterMasters have been ordered to have them Clean and keep them so. An Officer of each Company has been ordered to visit the Barracks every day and to Confine & Report those who throw bones of meat Pot Liquor or filth of any kind near the Barracks. Yet all this has been done and no report has been made. it is hatefull to General Howe to Reitterate orders as it ought to be shamefull those who make it necessary.
Nastiness. Those barracks sound noisome, don’t they? We can’t have that.
So let’s cast out the bones, sweep the floors of the branches and dirt and grit the men have brought in, and mop them, too, now that it’s spring.
Mop, you say?
What did mops look like the in 18th century?
And how on earth will we acquire one?
Tune in next time for another exciting installment of “historical cleaning instead of cleaning my own house.”
 Dude, I have scrubbed baseboards with a toothbrush. Not one of my finer moments, but a memorable one.
 Kathleen Brown, Foul Bodies: Cleanliness in Early America. (New Haven: 2009) p. 129
 Really really: I meant it when I said keep the bucket wet.