Why there wasn’t much kissing in polygamy

The Victorians (and their neo-heirs) on both sides of the Mormon divide have long fussed about the sensuality of Mormon polygamy. There is some evidence to support both views, and I suspect most people who have read a lot on the subject feel that there was some sensuality associated with a practice whose basis was far from simply sensual. I believe, though, that I have cracked the case, discovering irrefutable evidence that there wasn’t much kissing in polygamy.

John Taylor in Nauvoo’s secular newspaper in spring 1843 reprinted an advertisement of a Mrs. Child from the New York Advertiser (if only the media were so honest in their naming conventions now) regarding methods for controlling “a bad breath” (the pseudo-scientific advertisers would call this “halitosis” now):

the careful removal of substances between the teeth, rinsing the mouth after meals, and bit of charcoal held in the mouth after, will always cure a bad breath.–Charcoal used as a dentrfrice [sic], (that is rubbed on in powder with a brush) is apt to injure the enamel; but a lump of it held in the mouth two or three times a week and slowly chewed, has a wonderful power to preserve the teeth and purify the breath. The action is purely chemical. It counteracts the acid arising from a disordered stomach, or food decaying about the gums, and it is this acid which destroys the teeth [describing a man with rotting teeth and an obvious initial charcoal deficiency who saw the light] nature set vigorously to work to restore the breath, and the crumbled portion grew again, till the whole tooth was sound as before. Every whole tooth was sound as before. Every one knows that charcoal is an antiputrescent. It thus tends to preserve the teeth and sweeten the breath.[1]

QED, as the pocket-protected might say, Quod Erat Demonstrandum

[1] Can’t believe you all didn’t object when I forgot the footnote. Here it is: “A Sovereign Remedy for an Offensive Breath,” The Wasp 1:50 (12 April 1843): 3.


  1. Steve Evans says:

    Kingsford is for lovers.

  2. antiputrescent

    That is what I want in all my dental hygiene products. Seriously though, one of the questions of the reformation catechism was, “Do you wash your bodies once a week, when circumstances will permit?”

    I guess people didn’t get the point. In 1914, the RS Lesson manual had a section on Hygiene specifically stating:

    Have you ever experienced the discomfort of sitting in public assemblies near some one who did not bathe or change underwear with sufficient frequency?

    The Bath should be taken more with the idea of keeping clean than with the idea of getting clean.

    Putrescence, indeed!

  3. Antiputrescent, lol.

    Sam, we are privileged to have mouthwash, toothpaste, deodorant, soap, showers, etc. Throughout history, and throughout most of the world even today, most people lack those things. Isn’t it slightly amazing that the human race manages to reproduce itself? When I read my ancestors stories and see the difficulty of their lives, their living conditions, and their lack of access to hygiene, I’m surprised they ever managed to bring children into the world at all.

  4. Aaaaggh!

  5. I’m still amazed at the rotting teeth being fully restored by chewing charcoal. Does my LDS dentist know this?

    BTW, in my area of the Northwest, LDS dentist is anoxymoron.

  6. …an oxymoron. I’ll rub charcoal on my thumb so I hit the spacebar.

  7. lxxluthor says:

    Kingsford is for lovers.

    Hah! Best comment I’ve seen in a month!

  8. Wow. You know, in movies, poor people are often shown as having black or darkened teeth. I’ve always mistaken that for being a representation of tooth decay. I now realize that it was charcoal dust — a sign of good oral hygiene.

  9. Steve Evans says:


    I indeed made a funny comment on smb’s mighty thread: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose snarks I am not worthy to imitate: he shall regale you with funny comments, and with living snark:

    some call him…. gst.

  10. Rick Ellis says:

    I’ve printed this for display in my office (LDS Dentist here in SLC is not an oxymormon) and put in an order for some Kingsford ASAP.

  11. Mark, if I answered your #3, we would lose our PG rating. I’ve been meaning to write about the modern neurosis of domestic antisepsis, but I’ve got too many other projects going on. Steve (may i call you the Baptist), your joke was quite funny.

  12. Sorry, I’ve got nothing.

  13. Steve Evans says:

    heh heh, chokes under pressure. You’re like the bloggernacle’s Shaun Bradley.

    Now can I stop living in the wilderness, eating wild honey?

    (removes hairshirt)

  14. gst,

    Is it easier to be funny before you’ve been pegged as “the funny commenter” or is it harder?

  15. If you kept it in your mouth long enough, will it turn to a diamond?

  16. Now there’s some hot love!

  17. Mark IV says:


    If I’m not mistaken, you don’t do art for a living, right? So my question is, do you have training in art? Or are you self-taught?

  18. Wrong thread mark IV!! heh.

  19. Mark IV says:

    Duh! You’re right!

    But Steve, don’t you see? I’m assuming danithew works in charcoal, and practices on his teeth. Yeah, that’s it.

  20. gst, award-winning commenter says:

    Seth R., there is a temptation to rest on one’s laurels.

  21. I’ve noticed that the passage quoted above is almost identical to advice printed in the etiquette guidebook The Ladies’ Vase; or, Polite Manual for Young Ladies. The book’s preface notes that “we have carefully availed ourselves of the best advice of some of our most judicious writers on female education.”

  22. Thanks for the note, Justin. It’s amazing to me how robust the textual borrowing culture was in this period. We would call them all plagiarists, but they were engaged in the dissemination of ideas. I’d be interested to read some studies about the patterns of dissemination.

  23. I don’t believe that deodorant has made it to France yet. At least, not onto anyone who rides the Metro in the summer.