Outhouses in American photographs: Victorian Age – early 20th Century including FSA Lee Russell, Carl Mydans, Walker Evans (excerpt 2)

Per reader request, over the next few days I’ll be reposting mini chapter excerpts — primarily illustrations– from a longer read about the evolution of outhouses and public utilities specific to Gloucester, Massachusetts, Privy to Privy History, on Good Morning Gloucester June 6, 2021.

Catherine Ryan, Aug. 2021

Gloucester housing stock (and hotels) included luxury homes with bathrooms and water closets as well as modest solutions. Rough outhouses were common, too. Can you spot the outhouses downtown and in East Gloucester?

(Reminder about the photographs: you can pinch and zoom to enlarge and right click for descriptions. Some media offer the option to “increase file size”.)


Then (below the garden) | Now

Gloucester – Victorian Age outhouses

1930 – 1941 American outhouses – cross county photos

photographs outhouses across America – Library of Congress

  • Cincinnati row houses with backyard outhouses, 1930s
  • privy plant pre cast base, Missouri, by Lee Russell, 1938
  • Placing concrete in form for privy slab, MN, by Shipman, 1941, Library of Congress (collection FSA Office of War Info)
  • South family’s shaker style privy, Harvard, Worcester County, MA 1930s
  • General Israel Putnam Privy, Brooklyn, CT after storm
  • Arlington, MA, Walker Evans 1930s
  • Privy Monterey, Delaware, circa 847
  • Washington DC “slum” privy, Carl Mydans, 1935
  • “old six hole privy, Wiggins Tavern”, Northampton, MA, Lee Russell, 1939

photographs Indoor bathrooms residential and public – New York Public Library


Cincinnati backyard outhouses




Kim writes;

Hello Butterfly Friends!
Please join us during the week of August 3rd through August 7th (Tuesday – Saturday), for the premiere of a new short Monarch Butterfly film, “The Marvelous Magnificent Migrating Monarch!”  The film was created for Cape Ann kids and for the Sawyer Free Library. You’ll learn about the special connection Monarchs have to Cape Ann, how you can help the butterflies, and how to raise Monarchs from eggs found in your own backyard, meadows, and local dunes. 

To see the film, register here.
Once you register, you can view the film anytime during the week of August 3rd -7th.

My deepest gratitude and thanks to all who are contributing to the second phase of launching Beauty on the Wing: Life Story of  the Monarch Butterfly out into the world, the world of Public Television! To date we have raised close to $18,000.00 toward our goal of $51,000.00.

For more information on how you can help launch Beauty on the Wing to the American Public Television audience, please go here.DONATE HERE

Thank you so very much to all these kind contributors:Lauren Mercadante, Jonathan and Sally Golding, James Masciarelli, Pete and Bobbi Kovner, Karrie Klaus (Boston), Sally Jackson, Marion Frost (Ipswich), Joy Van Buskirk (Florida), Lillian and Craig Olmstead, Suki and Fil Agusti (Rockport), Janis Bell, Nina Groppo, Nubar Alexanian, Marguerite Matera, Claudia Bermudez, Thomas Hauck, Judith Foley (Woburn), Jane Paznik-Bondarin (New York), Paul Vassallo (Beverly), Stella Martin, Liv Hauck (California), Julia Williams Robinson (Minnesota), Cynthia Dunn, Diane Gustin, Heidi Shiver (Pennsylvania), John Ronan, Karen Maslow, Fernando Arriaga (Mexico City), Holly Nipperus (Arizona), Kristina Gale (California), Maggie Debbie, Kate and Peter Van Demark (Rockport), Mia Nehme (Beverly), Chicki Hollet, Alice Gardner (Beverly), Therese Desmarais (Rockport), Jennie Meyer, Kathy Gerdon Archer (Beverly), Melissa Weigand (Salem), Duncan Todd (Lexington), Catherine Ryan, Linda Bouchard (Danvers), Elaine Mosesian, Paul Wegzyn (Ipswich), Catherine Bayliss, Jan Waldman (Swampscott), and Alessandra Borges (Woonsocket RI).

Gloucester High & Project Adventure

Hi Joey!
I thought you might be interested in seeing this short video about Project Adventure and Gloucester High working together this year. We supported kids in their social skills and mental health, especially important in the face of COVID. Gloucester teens came to our ropes course in Beverly to climb and ride the zip line, and our staff member led them through teambuilding and social and emotional learning activities every week at GHS. We’d love to share this with the community! 

Coming up in the Arts

Joan Bediz Solo Show at NSAA

August 3 – 20, 2021
Artist Meet & Greet: 
Thursday, August 12, 2021, from 4:00 – 6:00 PM

North Shore Arts Association
11 Pirate’s Lane, Gloucester, MA 01930

Joan Bediz, “Sunset,” acrylic, $375 

Joan K. Bediz currently has a solo show of pastels and acrylic paintings on display at the North Shore Arts Association August 3 – 20, 2021. Come and meet the artist and experience her stunning works during the reception on Thursday, August 12, 2021, from 4:00 – 6:00 PM.  

Joan strives to look at the world with a sharp sensitivity, feeling a degree of compulsion and responsibility to put that information on canvas and paper as art. There is a quote hanging in her studio that she continues to revisit as she takes on challenges required to be a dedicated and working artist in the world today. “Nothing’s harder than being given your chance.”  Her work is represented at the North Shore Arts Association, Rockport Art Association & Museum, Cambridge Art Association, Rocky Neck Art Center, and Pastel Painters Society of Cape Cod.

North Shore Arts Association is located at 11 Pirate’s Lane, Gloucester, MA 01930. For more information about events please call (978) 283-1857 or email arts@nsarts.org. Visiting hours are Wednesday – Saturday, 10 AM – 5 PM and Sundays 12 – 4 PM.

Lucky Catch Gloucester Lobsterman

There are a variety of displays of Gloucester history all around town but one of the most interesting appears in the Crow’s Nest. Probably not your first stop when seeking history, but the walls are rich in Gloucester heritage displays. This Norman Rockwell print is one such example at the Crow’s Nest.

“Lucky Catch” (sometime referred to also as “Mermaid”) by Norman Rockwell appeared on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post Aug 20 1955 and created quite a stir. The story can be found here, but the significant piece of the story for Gloucester is the 81 year old lobsterman tapped to be the model: Walter E. Marchant. Walter was born in 1873, lived and lobstered in Gloucester all his life. He died just a few years after the cover appeared.

In my search for his identity, I sought assistance from Lois at the City Archives (thanks so much Lois!). I also went over the the library as well as to Cape Ann Museum; by the time I got home an email from Lois was waiting for me. This was a link to a Boston Globe article Sept 18 1955 verifying the identity of the pictured lobsterman. The article is very interesting and I encourage you to read it through. He describes Norman Rockwell as a “nice sort of duck”. Walter travelled to Stockbridge to sit for the artist which I imagine was no small undertaking for him.

As I sought out further information about Walter, I found a very intriguing story including his redesign of the lobster pot which was apparently successful in luring the lobsters. As a young man, he participated in a rescue off the breakwater of the Schooner Nautilus in 1905 out of the life saving station at Dolliver’s Neck. This article from the Boston Herald Sept 4 1955 shows a picture and we understand why this man was chosen as a model.

It’s a classic Gloucester story commemorated in true Norman Rockwell fashion for “Lucky Catch”.