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Chemise with crocheted necklineWomen’s split drawersLaundry stove and copper wash boilerChamber potExamples of 19th-century games
Chemise with crocheted neckline


Women’s split drawers Laundry stove, copper wash boiler Chamber pot Examples of 19th-century games

Thank you for visiting our booth at the Iowa State Fair! Here’s more information about how your life would be different if you lived in 1876 instead of 2023.

You wouldn’t wear underpants!

underpants icon on green

At least, you wouldn’t wear underpants like we wear today. Girls might wear a chemise under everything—basically a second dress. Both boys and girls could wear drawers—a pair of shorts under their pants or dresses. These drawers were open in the middle, so they were usually called split drawers. That design made it easier to use the outhouse. And some people didn’t wear anything at all!

Your family would share bathwater!

bathtub icon on blueYou couldn’t turn on a faucet or shower the way we do today. Bathwater had to be pumped from a well, carried to the house, heated on the woodstove, and poured into a wash tub made of tin or wood. Imagine all that work for a bath! On bath day, everyone would use the same bathwater. The father usually went first, then the mother, and then the children from oldest to youngest. The youngest child would be left with some cold, dirty water!

Girls would wear blue and boys would wear pink!

onesie icon on yellowBabies wore mostly white because it was easy to bleach. When it came to colors for children, blue was considered delicate, and pink was considered strong. In their early years, both boys and girls wore dresses because they were easy to remove to change a diaper. Around the age of 5, a boy would be breeched and get his first pair of pants. Clothing had no zippers or elastic. Everything was closed with snaps, buttons, ties, or hooks!

If you needed a bathroom in the night, you would use a pot under the bed!

toilet icon on light blueVery few homes had plumbing, so people used outhouses for toilets. Outhouses were small wooden buildings, separate from the house, built over a pit in the ground. They were stinky and uncomfortable. In the middle of the night, especially a cold or rainy night, no one wanted to walk to the outhouse. Instead, people used chamber pots stored under one’s bed. In the morning, it might be your chore to empty the chamber pots. Ick!

You wouldn’t have any electronic devices!

device icon on redNo smartphones, no tablets, no televisions! All these inventions were still years away. Even movie theaters and radio didn’t exist yet. For entertainment after your chores and homework were done, you would read books or play games, such as Hunt the Thimble or Throw the Kerchief. Find some games of the 1800s here.



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