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Our holdings include hundreds of glass and film negatives/transparencies that we've scanned ourselves; in addition, many other photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs) in the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) They are adjusted, restored and reworked by your webmaster in accordance with his aesthetic sensibilities before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here. All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission.

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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Potty Mouth: 1941

Potty Mouth: 1941

January 1941. "This is the only toilet in a two-family house in New Brighton, Pennsylvania." Medium format negative by Jack Delano. View full size.

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If basements weren't scary enough

An architect explains that they were a sort of relief valve for early sewers.

Pennsylvania Winters

Primitive as this seems today, it was a better option than our coal-patch outdoor privy!


Yep, let's take America back to the 1940s.

Realtor's nightmare

I'm surprised that any of these survive, but Esandrof says that they do.

What would a realtor would say when showing a home with a Pittsburgh Potty? Is it possible to put a positive spin on this feature?


This reminds me of growing up in the Bronx in the '40s. Your parents didn't say "flush the toilet", they said "pull the chain".

A familiar sight

We live in a 1925 house in NJ that has one of those toilets in the basement -- luckily, not the only toilet in the house. Sometimes, it comes in handy.

Paging Thomas Crapper

That toilet is ancient even for 1940. The conical hopper bowls went out in the 1890s, I think. It also appears that the freshwater supply burbles up through the tank, which would be a potential cross-connection, a major health hazard.

Pittsburgh toilet

"A Pittsburgh toilet, often called a 'Pittsburgh potty', is a common fixture in pre-World War II houses built in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States. It consists of an ordinary flush toilet installed in the basement, with no surrounding walls" -- Wikipedia

I almost missed the enema bag

Oh sweet Jesus, to make matters worse the enema bag hanging behind the top step surely would have brought nightmares to any kids in that house. It made me clench when saw it.

[Also note the newspaper/TP. - Dave]

No trap

Did it flush into the sewer or a cesspool?

SHORPY OLD PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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