No Fresh Water Except That Furnished by the Rains: Cisterns in Key West, Florida

Author(s): Bradford Botwick

Year: 2013


Nineteenth-century Key West was one of Florida's largest cities, an important port, an administrative center, and a host to U.S. Naval and Army bases.  Yet the island lacked natural fresh water sources, necessitating the use of cisterns to capture rainwater.  Recent exavation of three examples provided opportunities to examine cistern construction, adequacy, and water consumption.  Water use also had implications with respect to gender and class during the 19th century.  Water chiefly related to household activities within the women’s sphere.  Women put most water to use and were responsible for obtaining and disposing of it.  In places lacking plumbing, this was an onerous chore.  At the same time, within gender ideologies of the time, supplying water supported the image of the nurturing wife and mother.  Water also had class connotations, as bodily cleanliness was a mark of refined presentation.  Making the right personal statement in society thus influenced water consumption.

Cite this Record

No Fresh Water Except That Furnished by the Rains: Cisterns in Key West, Florida. Bradford Botwick. Presented at Society for Historical Archaeology, Leicester, England, U.K. 2013 ( tDAR id: 428620)


Spatial Coverage

min long: -129.199; min lat: 24.495 ; max long: -66.973; max lat: 49.359 ;

Record Identifiers

PaperId(s): 162