1900 - 1920 Salesman's Sample Porcelain Bathtub

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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
place made
United States: New Jersey, Trenton
Physical Description
white (overall color)
ceramic (overall material)
porcelain (overall material)
overall: 5 1/16 in x 2 1/2 in x 1 5/8 in; 12.85875 cm x 6.35 cm x 4.1275 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Portable Bathtubs
See more items in
Home and Community Life: Ceramics and Glass
Family & Social Life
Data Source
National Museum of American History


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