Monday, February 29, 2016

Answering Nature's Call in Paris in the 1800s

Monday, February 29, 2016
Domed cast iron urinal
Loretta reports:

This article* about public urinals in Paris reminded me—again—of the emphasis on beauty as well as utility that prevailed well into the early part of the 1900s. Even factories made of plain red brick had their artistic flourishes and touches. If you’ve ever been inside an old factory building, you might have noticed the effort to add beauty to elevators, handrails, and so on. Structures built for utilitarian purposes might feature stained glass or elaborate cast iron work.

I suppose the modern styles of urinals are easier to maintain and keep clean, but I find myself wishing a way could be found to make them add something to the aesthetics of the street.

Urinal with eight stalls
Photographs by Charles Marville (1813-1879). Above left: Cast iron urinal with domed roof, on curb of street, Place du Théâtre Français, Paris, France, circa 1865, courtesy State Library of Victoria under the Accession Number: H2011.126/33. Below right: Urinal with eight stalls surrounded by shrubbery screen, a lamppost with single lantern at each end of stalls, Jardins des Champs-Élysées, Paris, circa 1865, courtesy the State Library of Victoria under the Accession Number: H88.19/2/107a. Both images via Wikipedia. (If you click on the Wikipedia link, you'll find a direct link to the State Library of Victoria image.)

*Sent to me by my alert-to-nerdy-history husband.

Clicking on the image will enlarge it.  Clicking on the caption will take you to the source, where you can learn more and enlarge images as needed.


Welmoed said...

Those Paris public urinals are really pretty! But the pissoirs here in Amsterdam do have some beauty as well: They always remind me a little bit of the past with their flowing design (it's been around in Amsterdam since 1880, more or less the same design). They're called a 'krul' which means curl.

History Underfoot said...

What a great topic! I never knew I'd be charmed by public bathrooms from the past.

Karen Anne said...

How did women wearing those giant skirts use those, or were they just for men?

Unknown said...

Looks like there would not be much privacy. But they are really pretty.

bluefalling said...

They were for men. Public restrooms for women weren't common until the 1920's. A major way that women were kept in the home.

Several of the urinals in the article makes me giggle, because they are rather phallic looking.

Paris still has a tradition of public restrooms. Only now they are unisex and self cleaning, but with exterior of Victorian charm. They've licensed them to San Francisco, so you don't even need to travel to Europe to visit a Parisian toilet.

It turns out open urinals might be better for safety and cleanliness, though not good for women. Had heard horror stories about enclosed toilets in SF.

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