Prisoners of the 1800s

Anyone placed in a prison for whatever reason had poor care and an uncomfortable place to live. Not only poor food was available but they usually had to do manual labor. This intense work could include doing laundry, pumping water, digging ditches or even useless labor just to keep the prisoner busy.

Many prisoners were fed a diet that was somewhat nutritious, but bland and unchanging. Thus an inmate might look forward to bread, cheese, gruel, suet, and potatoes every week, with little to vary the experience from day to day.

A strange thought of the 1800s was that lobsters were thought of as the ‘mice of the sea’ or trash food and not worth eating by anyone. So instead lobster, freshly caught and cooked along the coastline was served to prisoners, enslaved people, and indentured servants in the U.S. throughout the 18th and early 19th centuries.

If a prison was not near the coastline, lobster and other shellfish had an unreliable reputation. When a lobster dies, its stomach enzymes seep out into the rest of its body, which makes the meat go bad quickly. This is why lobster is usually cooked alive – if a lobster is dead, it has probably already started rotting, and it can make you sick.

During the 1870s in Philadelphia, the inmates were given stews with meat and vegetables for many meals, with a generous supply of (unbuttered) bread, tea, coffee, cocoa, and sugar available to them. More generous portions of meat, along with precious butter for the bread,

Photo: Lobster

Related Blogs:

Finding a Federal Prisoners

Any Ancestors Who Were Prisoners

Related to a Prisoner?

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