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The Bedpan Collector

People will collect almost anything. It’s the thrill of acquiring something distinctive and rare, and sometimes it’s the thrill of having something other people don’t. Most people don’t have bedpans. Eric Eakin has around 250 bedpan items, both bedpans themselves and ephemera relating to bedpans. It all started out as a prank played on his mother, and when she began collecting them, he inherited her interest. At first, Eakin collected both antique bedpans and chamber pots, but let go of the chamber pots because other people collected them.

Collectors Weekly: What’s the difference between a bedpan and a chamber pot?

Eakin: Well, they’re distinctly different in size and function. Indoor plumbing only arrived in the early 20th century for most people. Before that time, if you got up in the middle of the night and had to use the toilet, you’d go in a little pot. It was usually the youngest child’s responsibility to empty all the chamber pots in the morning.

Chamber pots are about 10 inches around, often with ceramic handles, and have a lid on them. A friend of mine said he once sat down to dinner with some friends, and they were eating on fancy china. But then, they brought out the soup and served it from a chamber pot, and he didn’t have the nerve to tell them what they were eating out of. They thought it was a beautiful antique soup dish.

As with anything else, there’s a lot to know about bedpans. They were made much sturdier in the past than they are now -modern bedpans are practically disposable. There are a very few bedpan collectors in the world, but Eakin knows them and their unique stories. Learn more than you thought you’d ever know about antique bedpans at Collectors Weekly.

(Image credit: VCU Libraries)

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