This Date In History: On this date in 1900, a six foot tall, 175 pound, hatchet wielding woman attacked a saloon in Wichita, Kansas. Carry Nation had been married to a doctor who loved the bottle as much as he loved her…or maybe more. She tried to get him to quit drinking but failed. They separated and shortly thereafter he died. She then married a Texas minister and the couple moved to Medicine Lodge, Kansas in 1889. Nation was convinced that alcohol was the root of all social evil so she took to the streets preaching a temperance message designed to close all of the saloons; first in Medicine Lodge and then in the rest of the state. Now, Kansas was emerging from its wild days of Wyatt Earp and Dodge City cow punchers and Nation soon found that her words alone weren’t enough to get anyone’s attention so she took more aggressive action. She began using her trusty hatchet to try and destroy all of the saloons she could find. On this date in 1900, she managed to shatter a large mirror behind the bar in Wichita and throw rocks at a picture of Cleopatra bathing.
The funny thing is that the sale of alcohol was illegal and she thought it was law abiding citizens duty to enforce the law that public officials turned a blind eye toward. So she gleefully hacked away at whiskey casks, bottles of booze and haranguing customers about their evil ways. It appears her favorite thing to do was destroy expensive ornamentation in drinking establishments. Local law enforcement often didn’t agree with her vigilante ways and she many times found herself in jail. Nevertheless, she enjoyed a certain degree of success as she was able to pressure Kansas law enforcement officials into upholding the law a little more.
By the time national prohibition came about in 1920, Carry Nation had been dead for 9 years and largely forgotten. But Temperance Movement folks point to her actions as a hatchet wielding woman for helping to move the nation toward its “noble experiment” that failed miserably, unless your name was Al Capone.
White House Bathtub Leaves a Dirty Ring According to H.L. Mencken, the first bathtub was installed in the White House in 1851 by President Millard Fillmore. Mencken wrote in the New York Evening Mail that the first bathtub in the United States was an “elegant mohogany contraption” installed in the home of a Cincinnati businessman in 1842. He said after that point, that the practice of bathing became popular with the wealthy. He said when word reached the masses a public outcry against the “epicurean and obnoxious toy from England” was “desinged to corrupt the democratic simplicity of the republic.” Mencken added that it was Fillmore was responsible for the public’s acceptance for the habit of regular bathing. On this day in 1917, Mencken was basking in the glow created by his article just the day before.
He was probably still chuckling the day after his work was published because it was an elaborate hoax. December 1917 was a time of great sadness around the world due to World War I. He decided that a spoor on bathtub history would be a good way to raise the spirits fo his readers. Mencken’s joy turned to shock when he learned that his words were taken as Gospel. In 1926, he was so uneasy with the fact that his fiction was considered to be real history that he wrote a public confession of his hoax. But, no one listened and the result of his little tale have continued to this day with some sources claiming that Fillmore did indeed install the first bathtub in the White House. The real truth is that copper bathtubs and a shower were installed in the Executive Mansion on the first floor in 1833 or 1834. A permanent bathtub was put in the second floor of the White House in 1853. Mencken would have been better off publishing a true story about the White House bathtub. President William Howard Taft was 6’2″ and weighed a rotund 300 pounds. He had once become stuck in the normal presidential tub. So, he installed a tub that was 41 inches across and 7 feet long. It is said that it could hold four regular size men. The truth was stranger than fiction and this little story may be a good example of how if a lie is told enough times by enough people, then the lie becomes the truth. It also may be a good example of how we should not necessarily believe everything that we read.