ask the marshall trimble true west

How bad was body odor in the Old West?

Michael C. Westlund
Clarkdale, Arizona

Body odor was pretty bad. Pioneers had no deodorant, shampoo or commercial toilet paper. They didn’t bathe often, and they rarely changed clothes. Women didn’t shave their armpits or legs. Bad breath and rotten teeth were prevalent. Hollywood sanitizes almost everything, and, in this case, I’m sure glad they do.

Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official historian and vice president of the Wild West History Association. . His latest book is Arizona’s Outlaws and Lawmen; History Press, 2015. If you have a question, write:  Ask the Marshall, P.O. Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327 or e-mail him at

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