1840 - 1880 Full-size Adult (Plunge) Bathtub


Until the mid–19th century, the application of soap in the bath was uncommon. Most soap, made from tallow, was specifically for washing of clothes. Only the wealthy had access to the imported, specially wrapped, and expensive perfumed toilet soaps.

Occasionally hemlock branches and herbs such as tansy, wormwood, and chamomile were steeped in a vapor or foot bath to assist a cure, rather than to scent or cleanse the bath. The bather lay or sat, wrapped in blankets, on strong sticks of wood set across a large tub of scalding hot water and herbs.* This tub is the largest of the portable bathtubs in the collection and could have been used for such a purpose.

Later in the 19th century, Mary Gay Humphrey in the Woman’s Book recommended bran, oat, or almond meal as accompaniments to the bath. If one had greasy skin, she suggested adding borax or ammonia to the water.

For more information on bathing and bathtubs in the 19th and early 20th centuries, please see the introduction to this online exhibition.

*Lydia M. F. Child, The Family Nurse, (Bedford, MA: Applewood Books, 1997; Originally published in Boston by Charles J. Hendee in 1837), 135.

Date Made: 1840 - 1880

Maker: unknown

Location: Currently not on view

Place Made: World

Used: BathingReferenced: Portable Bathtubs


See more items in: Home and Community Life: Domestic Life, Bathtubs, Family & Social Life, Domestic Furnishings


Exhibition Location:

Related Publication: Dover Stamping Co., 1869

Credit Line: Gift of Kenneth E. Jewett

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: DL.238049.0086Catalog Number: 238049.0086Accession Number: 238049

Object Name: Tub, Bathtub, bath

Physical Description: tin (overall material)paint (overall material)cork (part: stopper material)iron (part: handle material)wood (part: handle material)Measurements: overall: 7 3/4 in x 50 3/8 in x 20 3/4 in; 19.685 cm x 127.9525 cm x 52.705 cmoverall: 8 in x 50 in x 21 in; 20.32 cm x 127 cm x 53.34 cm

Guid: http://n2t.net/ark:/65665/ng49ca746a1-07f3-704b-e053-15f76fa0b4fa

Record Id: nmah_310734

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