1860 Sitz Bathtub

A bath in a sitz or sit tub was said to provide relief from inflammation of the brain and organs of the chest, as well as nervous fevers.* The bather sat partially immersed up to the navel, in cold water with the head supported at the back and the feet dangling over the edge.
Physician John Bell wrote A Treatise on Baths in 1859 in which he defined baths by the manner of water application to the body, by the bath’s temperature, and the parts of the body immersed in water. He categorized such a bath taken in this type of tub as a semicupium (lower half of body), cold (40°–70°), immersion type.
This tin tub, now worn and unattractive, shows evidence of a fomer beauty. Hints of red paint beneath the current chips of cream indicate that it was a red tub, with cream–colored striped accents on the base and a cream interior. The arm rests, ending in bold scrolls, lend elegance to the form.
For more information on bathing and bathtubs in the 19th and early 20th centuries, please see the introduction to this online exhibition.
* John Bell, A Treatise on Baths, (Philadelphia: Lindsay and Blakiston, 1859): 295-296.
Currently not on view
Object Name
tub, bath
date made
ca 1860
Physical Description
tin (overall material)
paint (overall material)
iron (ring material)
overall: 23 3/4 in x 25 in x 33 in; 60.325 cm x 63.5 cm x 83.82 cm
overall: 62 cm x 68 cm x 65 in; 24 7/16 in x 26 3/4 in x 165.1 cm
place made
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Family & Social Life
Domestic Furnishings
Portable Bathtubs
See more items in
Home and Community Life: Domestic Life
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Gift of Kenneth E. Jewett
Additional Media

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