30 Disgusting Hygiene Practices From The Old West
The Wild West is one of the most significant times of modern American history. You may think that you know how it looked like from various movies, video games, and even books, but the truth is that you have no idea how this expansion looked. Yes, we know about the cowboys, Indians, saloons, heavy drinking and smoking, and the famous Gold Rush.
However, what do we know about the people from that time? What were they doing behind the closed doors? We know that far back then, people had to sacrifice a lot, if not everything, to make it. Starting a new life wasn’t easy. The truth is that living in the Wild West was so hard that many had to neglect and sacrifice their hygiene. The cowboy life may sound like a fantasy, but it absolutely smelled like an oily rag. Read on to see why.
30. Barbers Were Also Dentists
Dental hygiene products were more or less non-existent. In your night cabinet, you may find a toothbrush and a toothpaste, but back then, that wasn’t the case. Did you know that barbers were also dentists?
Having a dentist in every place was almost mission impossible. Doctors and dentists were so hard to come by, that people had to be creative. So, barbers took the dentist’s responsibility for them. Treating the tooth wasn’t an option, so people went to their barber or blacksmith to pull it.
29. Hair Care Was Wild
Just like anything else in the Wild West, hair care was really wild. Hair products were a bit different than they are today, and people even rarely washed your hair.
People used to spare some whiskey, before they drink everything, and mix it with castor oil. That mix they would use to wash their hair. We really hope that they have never tasted this mix.
28. Smelling Like A Horse Was A Real Thing
Cowboys may seem romantic, with their stylish hats, beautiful horses, and striking gestures, but the smell was anything but pleasant. Are you familiar with the phrase – Smelling like a horse? There is a reason why people say this.
Smelling like a horse is far from a cute cowboy phrase. However, this reference comes from the man who returned from months on the trail and was so dirty they often had staph or strep infections.
27. Spitting Was Dangerous
Spitting was so frequent in Wild West. This was so common that bars offered spittoons for men to hock their chew into, which were later dried out with sawdust. Can you imagine someone doing that today?
Eventually, sawdust would ferment and, because the spittoons were rarely emptied, the soiled dust would get kicked back in the air. As a result, people often suffered from respiratory issues.
26. Public Beds Were Awful
You may gladly stay in hostel today, but staying in public beds in Wild West was a real disaster. They were specially designed using only straw or hay, and it was a ground for many unwelcomed guests.
Public beds were a breeding ground for insects and critters. The most common bed bugs were lice or seam squirrels as they called them. So, whoever stayed in these public areas was at risk, which is why they usually slept in their clothes.
25. Unusual Soap Standard
Mexican women had a rather unusual method of making soaps. They made soap from yucca plant, and many called it soap-weed. However, settlers choose to make their soap using different ingredients and techniques.
Many settlers made their soap directly from animal fat. As expected, this tended to be harsh and caused rashes. However, it didn’t matter since many believed clean pores allow germs.
24. Women Avoided Sun
You may love to spend your vacation on the beach and working on your new ten, but women from the Wild West were from this practice. They wanted to keep their skin as white as possible.
They had different beauty standards. However, real women in the Wild West knew how vital their role was; they knew that keeping away from the sun wasn’t an option. So, they changed beauty standards for a more cowboy way of life.
23. Clean Water Was Rare
It’s easy nowadays to get clean and fresh water – you simply open a tap, and there it is. However, in the Wild West, the most important thing was to survive, so they cared little about clean and fresh. They just needed water.
They used horses a lot, so the change of finding fresh or clean water was impossible until the first stream was built. What about collected rainwater, you may ask? If left too long, this water would turn to be dangerous.
22. Toilets Were Outside
Even today, you can find some outdoor toilets across the country. This is common in rural areas and especially in rural and distant villages. Still, it’s rare, because the majority of bathrooms of today are indoor. However, having indoor toilets in the Wild West was rare.
Back then, they had two options: use the outdoor toilets, or find a near bush. As expected, outdoor bathrooms were magnets for bacteria and flies, and they were only retired once they were full of … well, you know what.
21. The Dust Was Unberable
The Wild West was so much more than beautiful scenery, wild horse rides, and drinking a lot of whiskeys – it was also dusty. Simply said, they had something similar to sandy storms.
The dust was so strong that even the indoors would protect you from the dust storm. Next to that, every dust form would cause several respiratory issues, with its thick layer of dirt and grime.
20. Almost Evey Man Had A Long Hair
Men had a thing for extended care. They didn’t care much for fashion trends, but they had a trend of their own – long hair. Now, you may think that along hair can be a problem in dusty areas, but that wasn’t the case.
Just check this photo of Buffalo Bill and his long hair – this was the look. Short hair was rare. Maybe they really loved the way Native Americans rocked their long and dark hair?
19. Women Were Just A Bit Cleaner Than Man
Throughout history, women took much more care of their bodies. However, that wasn’t the case too much in the Wild West, because women were slightly cleaner than men.
The truth is that women weren’t out cowboying as much as the men. This doesn’t mean that they didn’t have work to do; they just had different obligations. They had so much time to rinse their face, and that would usually be it.
18. Kerchiefs Were Key
Unusual fashion items aren’t only for a good look. They are mostly for practical uses. For example, due to dusty days, cowboys had to come up with a solution to keep their mouth accessible to clean air. They need to keep dust out of their nose and mouth when riding around.
That’s how the old bandana trend was born – it was practical. Cowboys would use this fashionable detail to protect their nose and mouth and dab the sweat off their brows.
17. Communal Bar Towels
Fashion was a big thing in the Wild West. The majority of men had bears or mustaches, at least, so it was common to have some beer foam on your face. So, saloons came up with a solution.
The solution was straightforward. Saloons would place along with the bar towels that men used to wipe beer foam from their beards. It’s hard to believe that laundering these beard mops was a thing.
16. Beards Had Germs
A man in a Wild West without a beard? Men started cutting their beards off when a common menace appeared. Cutting their beard off was the only way to keep their face healthy.
It’s still hard to believe, but beards started harboring germs, so cowboys were forced to choose a more clean-cut look. Even that look suited them great.
15. Disease Were Common
The world of that era had a big problem with various diseases. Some were more dangerous, while some were only a minor issue. However, cholera was the most common and significantly affected both settlers and natives.
Living in unsanitary conditions didn’t help, so the disease was like a permanent resident. Truth be told, it was considered a real miracle to come across any settlement not affected by the disease.
14. STDs Were Common
People had a really poor understanding of STDs or any knowledge about the existence of venereal diseases. So, simply said, safe intercourse wasn’t being practiced.
Saloon girls and cowboys were simply carrying on business as usual. Since there was a lot of activity, STD couldn’t really disappear overnight. Luckily, that change over time.
13. Fungus Was Also Present
Fungus infection was present every day, in every city, and every state for decades. Just imagine riding horses and working in a field all day long without bathing.
Fungus would commonly crop up the crotch, buttocks, and armpits of cowboys and was horrendously itchy. Having an itchy part on your body with hot weather is a real disaster.
12. Alcohol Was Used For Everything
In the Wild West, alcohol was much stronger than it is today. You probably can’t find such strong alcohol nowadays. This drink was so strong that it even had a unique name.
Two of the most popular drinks were “firewater,” a combination of alcohol, burnt sugar, and tobacco, and “cactus wine,” which was tequila and peyote tea. As you may see, drinking was a big deal in the Wild West, and it comes as no surprise why the drinking tradition is still active.
11. Almost Everything Was Lawless
The Wild West was named as such for a good reason – everything was new, without order, and wild. Almost everyone had the unwritten right to whatever he or she wants to.
Since the land was lawless, in terms of familiarity with the settlers, both cowboys and natives committed horrible crimes. For example, one of the most devastating stories includes a 14-years-old, Olive Oatman, who saw her family murder before being kidnapped and eventually sold to a Mohave tribe.
10. The Drinking Was Crazy
Strong whiskey and guns in one place is an instant association to the Wild West. Nowadays, you usually can’t find people taking guns into the bar. However, that was a must when cowboys ruled the country.
They had nothing special to do for fun, so they would use guns to create exciting content. It wasn’t strange for a man to play the “bullet dance,” where a group would shooty at one man’s feet as he tries to avoid the bullets as fast as he can.
9. Cowboys Used To Gamble A Lot
Next to drinking, playing the famous bullet dance, cowboys also loved to gamble, especially during the gold rush. Cowboys loved to gamble so much, that there were special gambling halls available for those who preferred this type of entertainment.
Every establishment of this nature looked the same and offered the same. These places were simple, well-organized, had their own rules, and offered three things: whiskey, women, and wagers.
8. Have You Heard About Jack Vermillion?
Jack Vermillion was one of the most notorious men in the Wild West. He was so unpredicted that no one wanted to sit with him around the table or even see him. He had a popular nicknamed, Texas Jack.
Jack got his nickname, after shooting a man over an argument at cards. He used to shoot the man in the eye. This is why he had another nickname as well, “Shoot-Your-Eye-Out Vermillion.”
7. The Prophecy Was Real
Next to guns, alcohol, and other games for adults, people from the Wild West o really had a thing for fortune stories. This position was usually reserved for Romani psychics, also known as “gypsies.”
These people, professional fortune-tellers, believed that they could read people’s futures through crystal balls, Tarot cards, and the palms of hands… Surprisingly, others believed them, so this was a really fruitful business.
6. Some Cowboys Were Girls
Being a cowboy wasn’t strictly reserved for boys. Rose Dunn was one of the most popular gunslingers of the time. She was known for her good look, charm, and romantic involvement with western outlaws.
Many men, mostly gang members, respected her loyalty. Due to her dedication at one moment, she was the most protected woman in town. Being protected in town was a big deal back then.
5. They Lived For Entertainment
Work, work, and more work – that’s how an ordinary day looked in the Wild West. For this reason, people at the time loved to relax and to have an entertaining program. Simply said, they liked to be entertained.
Some were into drinking, shooting, and games, or even sorcery, while others had different preferences. For those, Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show was everything. This traveling circus-like was created by a bison hunter named Bill, who decided to use art to show the Old Western lifestyle for people, without them having to live it.
4. Have Your Heard About Whirling Horse?
Whirling Horse was an unusual star. He was a Native American, and people mostly knew him as a “show Indian.” Whirling Horse decided to use the moment and earn for living.
Whirling Horse comes from a native tribe, and in his shows, he often portrayed the truth in his role as a victim of western expansion. This surprisingly helped with tensions during the American-Indian Wars. It seems that art can help with everything.
3. At the Saloon Everyone Was Friends
The Wild West was lawless for a long time, but there was one place that peace had to all the time. At the saloon, everyone had to respect rules and respect for each other. So, at one saloon, you might have criminals and police authorities enjoying a cold beer, without looking at each other.
Saloons were places of fun and enjoyment, and no one was ready to destroy that harmony. So, cowboys and outlaws would enjoy their time at the saloon before returning to their (very different) businesses.
2. They Had Bartenders With Serious Bartending Skills
Since the alcohol serving was so important in the Wild West, it is no surprise that they had great bartenders. They had to serve drinks, but they had to jump in and participate in the bullet dance.
Not only that, they loved their job, but they were proud of making history. Did you know that the very first saloon ever was established in 1822, Wyoming?
1. The Most Famous Wild West Man
Nowadays, you must be 21 to get alcohol, but in the Wild West, that wasn’t the rule, mostly because they had no rules. One of the most famous outlaws of the Wild West was “Billy the Kid,” who killed eight men before turning 21!
“Billy the Kid” was born as Henry McCarty, but because of his ruthless nature and love toward guns, he was only known for his nickname “Billy the Kid.”