Have you ever wondered why most outhouses have a crescent moon on the door? You may have not even really remembered that fact until I mentioned it just now. Well, there are actually a few theories behind this and it’s pretty interesting. This practice is believed to be centuries-old, but evidence points to it being pretty modern, according to TodayIFoundOut.com.
The website states, “Supposedly before the adoption of the more familiar male and female bathroom symbols, it was common to use a crescent moon to denote that an outhouse was for women and a sun to denote that it was an outhouse for men. This supposedly being a nod to the fact that women have long being associated with the moon and men supposedly with the sun.”
The many theories surrounding outhouses and the crescent moon
The website points out that in regards to their number of “supposedlies” in the previous paragraph, there’s no factual evidence pointing to these claims. This is even despite some outhouses at historical sites that have the crescent moon on them. Those outhouses have actually had the crescent moon placed on them in modern times rather than centuries ago. Dr. Adam Brooke Davis of Truman State University and the Missouri Folklore Society says that this is a perfect example of “Historical Retrofitting.”
The sun/moon dichotomy for outhouses was not mentioned until the 1972 book The Little Red Schoolhouse: A Sketchbook of Early American Education. The book states, “The woodshed was often a lean-to attached to the schoolhouse, but the most accepted arrangement was to place it between the schoolhouse and the privy, with a fence separating the boys’ entrance from the girls’. The ancient designation of privy doors was to saw into them a sun (for boys’ toilet) and a moon (for girls’ toilet).” However, even this was questioned because the photos show an American school’s outhouse for girls with no such crescent moon symbol on the door. These photos date back to 1917.
More comedic theories
The crescent moon on outhouses started showing up during the 1930s and even through the 1950s. We often saw them in cartoons, comics, and even on postcards. Dr. Davis theorizes that “it had a cutout… so that one could slip one’s fingers in to grasp it. It permitted light, ventilation and easy opening.”
Another theory is due to the term “mooning;” the act of dropping your drawers and flashing your butt at someone. This term dates back as early as the 18th century and adds a comedic flair to the use of the crescent moon on outhouses in the media. So, to sum it all up, nobody really knows for sure why the crescent moon is etched into the doors of outhouses. Which theory do you believe? Watch the video below for another wild theory about “the fart that killed 10,000 people” and how it relates to the history of outhouses.