Newbert & Wallace Shipyard Privy

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This simple shed at the end of the wharf between the L.A. Dunton and Sabino served as the toilet for shipwrights at the shipyard established by Herbert Newbert and Leroy Wallace in 1942. The yard specialized in building fishing vessels, including the Museum’s eastern-rig dragger Roann. This one-hole privy, complete with ship carpenters’ notations on its interior walls, represents the most basic form of sewage treatment used by Americans for centuries.

In Thomaston, Maine, the St. George River flushed the waste from the Newbert & Wallace yard. The Mystic River also served as a sewer for human and industrial waste from shipyards, shoreside businesses, and homes. Vessels also discharged their sewage overboard. Eventually, the water quality around many coastal communities was so degraded that marine life declined and human health suffered.

Beginning in 1972, the U.S. Congress passed a series of acts and amendments commonly known as the Clean Water Act, for “the protection and propagation of fish, shellfish, and wildlife and recreation in and on the water.” The act authorized the Environmental Protection Agency to target “point source” pollution like untreated sewage. More recently, efforts have been aimed at eliminating runoff pollution and on maintaining the health of entire watersheds.

The Newbert & Wallace privy was brought in Mystic Seaport when a new flush toilet was installed at the yard in the early 1970s.