The term 'body odor' or 'BO' wasn't coined until the 1930s. That's also when the 1st deodorants came into use. Folks used 'scents' to avoid stinking before that. One of the most popular for men was a stuff called 'Florida Water' & it's still on the market, tho you usually can only find it at old-fashioned barber-supply houses.
A pal of mine drives tour buses. Some kid got sick on one of the luxury buses & threw up on the carpeting. You know how that's gonna stink! He went to a barber-supply place, got a 6-oz bottle of Florida Water, & poured it on the spot. It completely covered the odor. It has also been used as 'po' folks' embalming fluid.' If grampaw died in July, you didn't have any ice, you couldn't afford an undertaker, & it would be a couple of days before the family could gather for the burying, you poured a bottle of Florida Water on grampaw to keep him from stinking. It covered the odor completely.
The still made grand daddy of perfumes was Kolnisch Wasser 4711 or Cologne Water .It is the same formula as the original compounded in the 1790's.Peynaud's Lilac Vegetal is also a very old one that is still available.The famous French perfumiers got their start hundreds of years ago in the business of masking stink.
Remember the cartoon character "B.O.Plenty"?
Dick Tracy. B. O. married Gravel Gertie. Tracy once made a 'guest appearance' in the Smilin' Jack strip. He was also parodied by Al Capp as 'Fearless Fosdick' in the Li'l Abner strip.
A verse from a favorite old song:
The water in the well is gettin' lower and lower
Can't take a bath, for six months or more
But I've heard it said, and it's true I'm shore
Too much bathin' will weaken ya.
I heard they were strong in the old west!
Strong yes (in more ways than one), but died younger than they should have, mostly from poor hygiene and lack of sewage technology. Two of the main reasons the life expectancy doctors take credit for has increased in the past 100 years.
And then there are those of us who have to have a warm-water soak each morning to loosen up our joints so we can actually walk & use our hands.
I grew up in Ash Fork, Arizona on old Route 66. We lived there from 1947-1955 and at the time all the water was hauled in daily by rail from Chino Valley. We lived in a 2-room trailer house with no plumbing and we hauled water in buckets up to a wash tub that doubled as a bath tub. We heated the water on an open fire and bathed outside. It was pretty grim on those snowey winter days. My mother got the water first, followed by dad when he wasn't out on the trains. My two brothers and I fought over who got in next. We lived like that for about four years and other than my poor mother who was a waitress and needed to bathe daily. The rest of us bathed once a week at the most. I was never in a shower until I was in the 8th grade and we started playing sports. It was pretty much the same for all the kids in town. Looking back on those days I guess we really stunk up the classroom. No wonder the teachers rarely stayed more than a year.
If I remember correctly, some years ago Smithsonian Magazine did an article on hygiene and bathing. Frequent bathing was considered, in some places, to be almost sinful! Puritan New England had stringent laws on the matter. I understand the use of incense came about under the Roman Empire to counteract the odor of what was called the unwashed populace. The use of colognes and perfumes probably also developed for like reasons. The Smithsonian article gave the impression that people like St. Francis considered that holiness stemmed from smelling horrible.
It depended upon what class you were among the Romans.They had rather sophisticated indoor plumbing and their public baths were marvels.When Christianity really took hold during the decline of both the governmental and real infrastructure of Roman civilization the long and rather smelly decline began as cleanliness was associated with paganism.By Jove,this new sect is a stinky lot!
By the 1600s most of the groundwater was so polluted all over Europe that it was risky even to bathe in the stuff, much less drink it. Folks drank beer or wine rather than water. When the Pilgrims landed they nearly died of thirst because they ran out of beer. The water from the springs & streams around them was fresh & clean but they were afraid to drink it because of what they remembered of the water in Europe.