12. The Founding Fathers were not typically covered with vermin
A longstanding myth of Early America is that vermin such as lice, ticks, and others permeated the homes and bodies of all but the wealthiest. Lice, fleas, and other pests are said to have been present in their clothes, their beds, and their wigs. The image is false concerning most of the Founding Fathers. Nearly all of them were men of considerable influence and gentility. Most traveled to their meetings in Philadelphia in private carriages, and while there stayed in the more upscale rooming houses, or as guests in private homes. Upon arrival, several did require their wardrobes be fumigated to remove vermin, picked up along the journey to America’s largest city.
Travel in 18th century America was slow, and required several successive night’s stays in taverns, inns, and roadhouses. Often mattresses were shared by boarders; John Adams and Benjamin Franklin shared a bed during one journey which led to a memorable debate between them. On these stays, travelers often encountered lice, bedbugs, and other vermin due to the less than savory practices of the innkeeper. Many of the latter advertised the cleanliness of their facility, some with less truthfulness than others. Upon arrival at a planned destination for an extended stay, it was common to fumigate items to ensure no undesirable companions were acquired during the trip. An alternative was to ship wardrobes separately, so fewer clothes came into contact with vermin during the journey.