Local News

July 2, 2014

Do you know what this is?


This past week's artifact from the Nelson Pioneer Farm is a chamber pot.

Several readers sent their guesses as to the identity of the artifact.

Henrietta Veldhuizen, of Pella, wrote via email: “I think the artifact in the Herald of thursday is a chamber or commode which was a portable bathroom usually put under a bed many years ago before homes had bathrooms.”

Carol Woodson wrote via Facebook: “Looks like a chamber pot to me."

John Oleo wrote via email: “Can’t tell the size  but it looks like a chamber pot.”

Nelson Pioneer Farm Curator Kelly Halbert did some research on the artifact. She wrote: “Chamber Pot

Yes, this is a chamber pot and not a soup tureen. Basically the same design – just one less handle. For those unfamiliar with the use of a chamber pot – it is an indoor toilet for those who do not have indoor plumbing.

The fun facts about chamber pots include the many names that are associated with this household object. A chamber pot  can also be referred to as a mompot, a jordan, a jerry (the nickname Allied forces has for for members of the WWII German infantry because of the shape of their helmets), a po (possibly French: pot de chambre), a piss pot, a potty, a thunder mug, honey pot and a guzunder (‘cuz it goes under the bed!)

Chamber pots have been found in archaeological excavations dating from ancient Greece and are still used in some rural areas today.

Many materials have been used to make chamber pots. Copper pots were durable but a glazed clay or ceramic has been the most common – it is inexpensive and waterproof. Wood was also used, but since it absorbs odors … well you can figure that one out. For the more refined, a decorated porcelain pot may be in order. Most recently, during the 19th century, enamel covered steel pots were inexpensive and sturdy, replacing the clay pots.

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