Portable Bathtubs: Tub Bathing from the Early 19th and 20th Centuries
Bathing, from the early 19th to the early 20th centuries, required stamina and fortitude. Without indoor plumbing, bathing involved filling small portable tubs with water, bucket by bucket. This, as well as different attitudes about cleanliness, meant that few people fully immersed themselves in water.
"Portable Bathtubs: Tub Bathing from the Early 19th and 20th Centuries - Introduction" showing 1 items.
- By the early 20th century, many in cities and towns lived in homes with bathrooms. Consumers now viewed tubs as plumbing fixtures rather than furniture, along with sinks and toilets. In providing recommendations for fixtures in this new room, advice manuals and sanitary specialists preached against the heavy, free standing tubs behind which dust and dirt could collect.
- Bathtub manufacturers began to market built–in porcelain tubs, which they claimed were more durable and more easily cleaned than those of metal or iron enamel. Soon porcelain tubs came in various colors, “lend(ing) themselves to the most refined artistic and delicate (bath) decorations.”* The Trenton Potteries Company, maker of this sample, was one of the larger manufacturers of porcelain tubs in the United States.
- Many bathers, now accommodated by indoor plumbing and hot water, took to the tub for pleasure and relaxation, as well as to get clean. Ivory Soap advertisements emphasized this: “Ah—my Ivory bath—it’s a pleasure—pure pleasure.”** The bathtub became the center of the cleanliness ritual. The bathroom was on its way to becoming one of the featured and larger areas of the home in the later 20th and 21st centuries.
- For more information on bathing and bathtubs in the 19th and early 20th century, please see the introduction to this online exhibition.
- *Archibald M. Maddock, II, The Polished Earth: A History of the Pottery Plumbing Fixture Industry in the United States, (Trenton, NJ, 1962), 275.
- **Ivory Soap ad, 1953
- Currently not on view
- date made
- early 20th century
- Trenton Potteries Company
- ID Number
- accession number
- catalog number
- Data Source
- National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center