How did people smell in the 1800s?
We were watching an old film on Turner Classic Movies the other evening and my mind began to wander because the action, if you could call it that, centered on the love affairs of rich people in 1847. The setting was France, so as all the characters were wastrels I was thinking it was time to set up the guillotine again.
Some of the scenes were in crowded ballrooms so I started wondering how people smelled in those days. This happens, too, when I'm watching a western and you see a bunch of cowboys whooping it up in a saloon.
Aware that in 1847 you couldn't stop by a drugstore and pick up a Mennen's Speed Stick I said, "I wonder how people smelled back then?"
This was not a subject of appeal to Jackie so rather than the flippant, "With their noses," that I expected she said, "Maybe they had a different diet so they didn't smell."
Not for a minute did I buy that theory. I recalled reading of how Ben Franklin was loathe to bathe so one day a woman said, "Mr. Franklin, you smell." Ben looked her up and down before replying, "No, Madame, you smell. I stink."
After a few more minutes of watching tortured romance it dawned on me that women doused themselves with perfume in those days. Unfortunately some still do.
But what about the men? Surely they didn't need to apply a manly scent in order to smell like a man. No, that's a 21st century development. If a man fails to shower for a week, women flee when he walks into a room, but if he does shower every morning all he has to do is spray himself with any number of manly scents on the market and the girls will swarm over him like crows on roadkill. I know this because of seeing TV commercials.
I have been unfortunate enough to be on elevators with manly-scented men. It may not be quite as bad as being trapped in a small box with a woman who was liberal in applying perfume, but it's close.
So while I have not come up with a positive answer to my question, it seems there is little doubt as to how rich people smelled in France in 1847 or the fragrance emitted by cowboys in the Old West. Jackie still doesn't want to talk about it or even think about it. That's just how people are today.