Outhouses of the American West

Outhouse vintage postcard

Outhouse Facts & Trivia

Outhouse Jokes

Outhouse Links

Outhouse Poem

Outhouse Photo Gallery


No, we’re not kidding!

Honey, I’m headed to the office.

Outhouses were, after all, very much a part of the American West.  Actually, to be more succinct, they’re part of all history.  However, these old structures, in all their glory, are quickly becoming extinct.  We just couldn’t help but add a little something about these important Western Icons!  ‘Sides, we took a whole bunch of pictures of these “necessaries,” which were also referred to as privies, toilets, loos, thrones, and crappers.

While doing a little traveling around the Web World, we were surprised to find there are apparently a whole lot of people who like to read and/or write about Outhouses.  We found outhouse tours, outhouse jokes, outhouse races, outhouse books, and lots of outhouse pictures!  Hmm, perhaps we’re not so impaired.  We’ll let you decide as you check out the Outhouse Links.

To Westerners, the outhouse had always seemed a fitting memorial to the ingenuity and practicality of their founders, those restless, imaginative spirits who first caught the scent of opportunity in the Western breeze.” — Silver Donald Cameron, Outhouses of the West

Outhouse Facts & Trivia

Outhouses With Two Holes: No, these old vintage structures weren’t usually doing double duty. Rather, most contained two holes of different sizes – one for adults and one for children. Don’t think those kids wanted to sit on the bigger hole and risk the consequences. However, that being said, some large families would have multiple holes for use at the same time. In Montana, there was once a hotel that had an outhouse with 12 seats.

Crescent Moon: The crescent moon cutout and the star cutout on the door of many outhouses goes back to Colonial times. In a time when few people could read, the crescent moon was the symbol for women while the star cutout was for men.

It is thought that the men, in general, let their outhouses fall into such bad shape that it was the women’s outhouses that survived the test of time.  The cutout also let light into theouthouse as there were usually no windows.

Outhouse Builders: During Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration – the WPA – there were teams of outhouse builders who built most of the outhouses in rural areas.

Toilet Paper: Considered a luxury by most rural families, newspaper or pages from old catalogs was more often used.

Average Outhouse: Usually they were 3 to 4 feet square by 7 feet high with no window, heat, or electric light. Due to the odor, most were built between 50 and 150 feet from the main house, often facing away from the house. So that didn’t have to smell the unpleasant odor, many people left the door open while they were using it. Old-timers will admit that they had trouble breaking this habit with the invention of indoor bathrooms.

This double decker outhouse stands in Nevada City, Montana. July, 2008, Kathy Weiser.

Two-Story “skys-crapper” in Gays, Illinois

Two Story Outhouses: How in the heck did that work? Well, the upstairs facilities were situated a little further back so that the “materials” released from the second floor would fall behind the wall of the first floor. There are a few of these old relics still around. The one below was built next to a large store in Gays, Illinois. The store has long since been torn down, but thanks to those fine citizens of Gays, the “skys-crapper” was preserved.

Thomas Crapper: It is a myth that Thomas Crapper invented the toilet. Though the man held several patents for plumbing related products, he did not invent the water closet.

Interesting Outhouse Links

Architecture of Outhouses and the Smallest Room

Essay on the Outhouse

Outhouses of America Tour

Outhouse Postcards

Texas Escapes – Outhouses

Dans Outhouse Cartoons