Toilet Parlours

There, I was innocently working away documenting old pharmacy bottles when I came across one that caused me quite a degree of puzzlement:


it’s from Lane’s Pharmacy in Wangaratta. It’s difficult to see from the picture but underneath the Lane’s Pharmacy line on the label it reads Chemist and Toilet Parlour.

Now that’s a term I hadn’t come across. Nowadays we associate toilets almost solely with excretion, and my first thought that was that Lane’s had decided to provide one of these upmarket facilities with an attendant to help with any quick fixups required as well as providing a place for relief.

Personally I’ve never really encountered anything like that outside of Dubai where the attendant handed one a towel after you had washed your hands, or in Morocco, where in one town in the south – I forget where exactly – we had gone to the only hotel in town that had a bar that served alcohol – warm white wine and even warmer red – but at least the beer was cold.

After a beer I of course needed to go to the toilet, where there was all the modern glistening push button flush facilities one would expect anywhere, and a man in a yellow gown whose job appeared to be to flush the urinal for you in return for a dirham – which was only about 15 cents – so hardly worth worrying about.

Anyway, back to the story – curiosity piqued I did some digging, and was rewarded with this from PapersPast NZ


A toilet parlour was a beauty salon – and it wasn’t just an Australia and New Zealand phenomenon – the term was also in use in America in the 1890’s


A quick search on QueryPic shows that (in Australia at least) the term was only really widely used in the nineteen twenties and had pretty much gone out of use by the early nineteen thirties …

chart (4)



About dgm

Former IT professional, previously a digital archiving and repository person, ex research psychologist, blogger, twitterer, and amateur classical medieval and nineteenth century historian ...
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1 Response to Toilet Parlours

  1. Pingback: Toilet Parlours (continued) | stuff 'n other stuff

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