Below is a timeline tracking some of the most important moments in the history of the bathtub.
1500 BC: A Bathtub Built for a Queen
It's suggested that the first bathtub was made for the Queen of Crete about 3500 years ago. It was small, cramped, but surprisingly portable. From what I've read many archeologist think this particular tub also functioned as a coffin given the handles and painted designs. I guess the Queen of Crete loved her tub so much she chose to be buried in it!
500 BC-400 AD: The Romans Make Bathing Popular
Whether they were rich or poor, everyone bathed in Ancient Rome! However only the elite had their own private bathtubs, made of the finest marble and stone. As you can see in this photo, the bathtubs were huge, ie they were definitely designed for more than one person!
1883: The Bathtub Meets Mass Production
(Please forgive the nearly 2000 year jump in the history of the bathtub. Given the historical record and terrible hygiene associated with the Middle Ages, Renaissance, and Enlightenment, it probably is safe to assume that only a few people actually bathed during this period.)
In 1883, American Standard and Koehler began to mass manufacture a cast-iron bathtub designed to increase sanitation standards. With the advent of indoor plumbing, these bathtubs became a huge success.
1917: The Great Bathtub Hoax
The one stain on the reputation of the bathtub came in 1917 when a journalist named Henry J. Mencken published an article in the New York Evening Mail entitled "A Neglected Anniversary." In the article, Mencken described in great detail the invention of the bathtub in Ohio in 1842 by a man named Adam Thompson, its illegality, and eventually adoption by President Millard Fillmore. (Read the full article here). The article, at the time, generated an enormously popular response from the newspaper's readership. However, Mencken completely falsified the story. The article was an enormous hoax!
1920: The Popularity of Fitted Bathtubs/Showers
Following World War I, a major residential construction boom began in urban areas within the United States. To accomodate apartments with reduced space, housing developers began fitting bathtubs into 5-ft wide spaces in each bathroom. The result: the modern bathtub shower that we may love...or hate today.
Do you have a cramped or crowded shower? Looking to add space in your bathtub, but not lose space in your bathroom?
Check out the Rotator Rod! Its the only patented rotating curved shower rod on the market. It gives you the space you need when you're in the shower, and rotates back into the tub when you're out.
- "History of Bathtubs." http://www.easternrefinishing.net/Historyofbathtubs.htm
- Old House Journal. http://www.oldhousejournal.com/coming-clean-history-of-the-bathtub/magazine/1639
- "Mencken’s History of the Bathtub, 1917" http://www.museumofhoaxes.com/hoax/archive/permalink/the_history_of_the_bathtub