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  • Chamber Pot Enemies March 14, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern , trackback

    napoleon chamberpot

    Chamber pots have been practically banished from modern western households but as late as the Second World War most families had a ceramic bowl that passed as a toilet; a potty for grownups with no running water in the house. These chamber pots were, of course, carefully decorated. Some of them were twee, some were beautiful. But what do you do with the inside of the chamber pot other than glaze it? Well, some chamber-pot makers realized that there was a chance here for fun: you clearly put your enemy at the bottom of the chamber pot for some scatological laughs, ‘that’s one in the eye for Disraeli’ etc. Beach has often come across references to such chamber pots and today with a few minutes to spare went in search of pictures. However, he was disappointed. There is a modern entrepreneur who has decided to put politicians faces at the bottom of chamber pots: and incredibly he has sold many (‘incredible’ because they are surely an almost obsolete object). There is a reference to Lady Wortley Montagu having a chamber pot with Swift and Pope imprinted on the bottom. Beach has a notice from a novel (by the brilliant Richard Hughes) to chamber pots with Gladstone’s face grinning up. William R. Hearst was expelled from Harvard in part for sending chamber pots to professors with their own faces embossed upon them…. But Beach was not able to find many concrete examples in online museums. At the head of the post is a beautiful photograph of a Napoleon chamber pot, where the emperor has actually been made into a small sculpture and another example follows on.

    napoleon chamberpot2

    Here below is a reference to Roosevelt’s election campaign: the sense is presumably don’t vote Roosevelt?!

    roosevelt for president chamber pot

    There is also a chamber pot with the ghastly Benjamin Franklin Butler printed on the bottom: one of the cruelest generals of the American Civil War. And that was about it…

    benjamin franklin butler

    Beach spent some time on auction sites looking at nineteenth-century chamber pots and was disappointed that no chamber pots turned up faces. It would seem then to have been a jolly joke, one enjoyed perhaps by many (‘my cousin has a pot with…) but one that few actually participated in. There was some low humour written onto a few of the chamber pots, but most were just crass inscriptions. E.g.

    amusing chamber pot

    Can anyone find some more faces or give some more background to this rather bizarre eighteenth-century (?) custom. On that front it would also be interesting to know how far the custom went back. drbeachcombing AT  yahoo DOT com

    14 March 2015: Tacitus from Detritus writes Per Wikipedia: ‘Many of [Butler’s] acts, however, were highly unpopular. Most notorious was Butler’s General Order No. 28 of May 15, 1862, that if any woman should insult or show contempt for any officer or soldier of the United States, she shall be regarded and shall be held liable to be treated as a “woman of the town plying her avocation”, i.e., a prostitute. This was in response to various and widespread acts of overt verbal and physical abuse from the women of New Orleans, including cursing at and spitting on Union soldiers and pouring outchamber pots on their heads from upstairs windows when they passed in the street (with Admiral David Farragut being perhaps the most notable victim of a chamberpot attack). There was no overt sexual connotation in Butler’s order, but it’s effect was to revoke the protected status held by women under the social mores of the time, which mandated that any “respectable” woman (i.e., a non-prostitute) be treated with the extra degree of respect due a lady, regardless of their own provocations.[20] Under General Order 28, however, if a woman showed any form of insult or contempt towards a Union soldier (even so much as turning her back when he approached or refusing to answer his questions), the usual social standards no longer applied, and she could be retaliated against (either verbally or physically) as if she were a common prostitute. The order produced the desired effect, as few women proved willing to risk retaliation simply to protest the Union presence[20], but was seen as extremely draconian by everyone except the Union soldiers in New Orleans, and provoked general outrage in both the North and the South, as well as abroad, particularly in Englandand France.’ So which came first? Did his offense of Southern Women encourage them to put his image on the chamberpots? Or since “chamberpot attacks” were the reason for Order No. 28, did the Butler/Chamberpot connection come first?