Research outtakes || By order of the Health Bureau

“Do not spit on the sidewalk by order of the Health Bureau.”

One has to wonder what circumstances led to these little signs being put up throughout Central City in the late 19th century. The most obvious answer leads to a rather disgusting image.

The Old West had an interesting relationship with this particular bodily fluid, one that makes me grateful to live in the 21st century. Spittoons were a staple of saloons. So much so, you can easily find at least one in any antique store you enter around here. (Along with chamber pots. If you don’t know what a chamber pot looks like…well, that bowl with a handle on one side is not for serving soup. I repeat, do not use it for soup.)

But spittoons and signs were the most sanitary approach to this subject. I came across at least one story of a boarding house proprietor using the contents of said spittoons to…um…correct the color of the liquor they offered. Some men were skeptical about the quality of said alcohol because it was clear, so…

And now that we’ve all lost our appetites, back to Central City. Most of these notices by the Health Bureau are now gone, but there’s still one posted on the museum. I wonder how effective they were, considering how often we ignore signs these days. One thing you learn while doing research is that people are still the same. Yes much has changed, but people are still people. And there is something reassuring in that.

Along with our improvement in health standards.


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