M992.20.2 | Potty chair

Potty chair
1825-1850, 19th century
53 x 31 cm
Gift of Mrs. G. G. Kingsmill
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Chair (31)
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Keys to History

Used in the 19th century, this potty chair was used as a toilet by children.

There were no flush toilets before the advent of running water in homes. People used chamber pots - an expression they avoided mentioning out loud - which they concealed in commodes or under their beds. A law forced all landlords to build outhouses to prevent the contents of chamber pots from being emptied in the streets of the cities.

Located close to the houses, outhouses were used mostly in the summertime. In the wintertime, the population continued using commodes and chamber pots, which were emptied regularly into the outhouses. Many working-class homes in Montreal still had no sanitary facilities of this kind in the 1950s, even though the sewer system had been build almost throughout the whole city.

  • What

    Before the advent of running water in homes, adults used chamber pots and children used potty chairs.

  • Where

    Well water was often contaminated in the cities since wells were dug too close to cesspools.

  • When

    The principle of flush toilets had been known for a long time. However, this invention could not be used before the advent of running water and the installation of sewer pipes in home, that is, about the middle of the 19th century.

  • Who

    In the working-class neighbourhood of Griffintown, in 1897, only one dwelling in four was equipped with indoor flush toilets.