1930s Roosevelt Outhouses

Outhouses, facilities not in a family home, but rather a separate small structure behind the house, where a person could go to the ‘bathroom’. Such wooden structures started over 500 years ago. It was discovered during the Great Depression, many Americans had no outhouse or only ones in very poor condition and really unsafe.

It had been found that hookworm, typhoid fever, diarrhea and dysentery were in high numbers due to unsanitary facilities on farms and rural homes.

During the President Franklin Roosevelt administration, in 1933, he saw that the US government built through the Works Progress Administration 2.3 million sanitary outhouses across rural America. There was a major push by First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt for these to be built. Most were built in New England states and Southern states.

These new structures were nicknamed, ‘Roosevelt Outhouse’, ‘Eleanor’, ‘Vault Toilet’ and the ‘Roosevelt Room’. People were very grateful for these newest privies. Some are still found today in locations and people are proud they have one even if it is not used today because of indoor plumbing and bathrooms.

The 1930s new outhouses had an improved design. It had a concrete vault below ground, which served as the foundation for the structure. The pot had a square hole and a wooden seat with a lid that closed so tight flies couldn’t get in. The concrete vault also had a ventilation shaft with screens to keep out flies. Families could have a one-hole or two-hole seat for children.

These new 1930s outhouses were also built for schools, filling stations and tourist camps. For families, if they could afford to pay for the supplies, which was about $17, they did and then the free WPA work teams spent about 3 days to build it for the family. If the family could not afford the $17, special arrangements were made. They were well-ventilated with four vents.

By the 1950 census, it was figured there were 50 million outhouses in the United States.

An information addition about Roosevelt Outhouses would be good to add to your family history especially if they lived in a rural area.

Photos: Outhouse Promotion and Roosevelt Outhouses

Related FamilyTree.com Blogs:

History of Public Restrooms

The Family Outhouse

Personal Hygiene in the 1800s

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