July 30, 2012

TEEN LIFE WAY BACK WHEN: Stink, Stank, Stunk

Ever been in an elevator or a bus with a person who had really terrible body odor (BO)?  Whew, does that ever stink! Remember the Seinfeld episode where a car was so saturated with BO that Jerry  couldn't get rid of it?  Yup, that's about how bad it gets.  We all started using deodorants at puberty when the sweat glands really got going. If you didn't, peer pressure soon forced you into grabbing that can or stick and slathering it on.  Well, in Victorian times, everybody stank.  There were no deodorants or antiperspirants.

BO is caused by bacteria in the armpits breaking down the sweat.  This produces the smell and the stains.  In the nineteenth century, only the rich had the money to buy perfumes to mask the smell and to have multiple changes of clothes.  The average person possessed only a few changes of clothes that were'nt washed very often, if at all.  It wasn't uncommon to wear the same clothes every day with only one change of clothes for church on Sunday.  Laundering clothes could be quite difficult if water wasn't readily available and even if it was, it was a major production to wash, rinse and dry clothes.

The first commercially available deodorant was invented in 1888 under the trade name of Mum.  In 1952, using the new ball-point pen technology, the roll-on deodorant was invented - Ban Roll-On.  It wasn't until 1965 that the first aerosol anti-perspirant was available.  Before anti-perspirants, women used to wear underarm pads or liners so their dresses didn't become stained from the sweat!

I wonder - if everybody stank, did anyone notice the stink?

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