Toilets and other Infernal Contraptions

Dublin Core


Toilets and other Infernal Contraptions


Here we'll look into the emergence of the toilet within the novel The Grapes of Wrath, it's use during the time of migrant farmers in the Great Depression, and how this and some other new contraptions (mentioned in the novel) effected the people. We can also get insight to John Steinbeck's take on technology and his different ways of portraying certain ones.


Zarina Samadzada

Collection Items

During the 1930s, prior to indoor plumbing emerging, a lot of people in the farming community had to use outhouses to take care of their business. They didn't have bathrooms inside their homes...which meant that they had to tiptoe out across the lawn…

First flushing toilet
This is an example model of a "water closet" from the year 1824.

Allis-Chalmers Model "B" tractor from the 1930s
In contrast with the glorious washrooms that emerged in the 1930s, Steinbeck's novel also showed a dark side to technology. He showed what technology was capable of destroying just as much as it was capable of progressing/innovating. People used to…

Palmolive Soap Ad, Listerine mouthwash Ad, and Gillette Razor Ad from the 1930s
The emergence of the washroom meant the opportunity to bring out all sorts of products to sell to proud washroom owners. Things like soap for washing, mouthwash for freshened breath, and a nice razor for a close shave were luxuries of the 1930s. Of…

Rural Iowa Outhouse from the 1930s
Before the Joads discovered the luxury of the washroom, what they left behind in their fields in Oklahoma looked more like this. This is what they left behind. Literally. Outhouses were a thing for farmers before the new indoor plumbing systems. Yes,…
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