The History of the Bathtub

Bathtubs are a staple in our bathrooms, but that wasn’t always the case. The history of bathtubs is a somewhat confusing one. H. L. Mencken wrote the story “A Neglected Anniversary,” in 1917 as a hoax during a time of war. It was a completely false history of bathing and the bathtub that many people believed and quoted for years.

The history of the bathtub actually started possibly as early as 6,000 years ago. Copper water pipes were discovered from ruins in the Indus River Valley in India. Also, in Crete, a five-foot long cousin to the claw-foot tub made of pottery was found.

During the Roman Empire public baths were more common than private baths, which usually took up an entire room. They had bronze and lead pipes and developed a sewage system. After entering into the dark ages, bathing was not as common.

In the early and mid-19th century, before indoor plumbing, private bathtubs had become common, but were portable and usually stored somewhere until they needed to be used. They were usually made out of copper or zinc. Some were anchored in a wooden box, if the house had a water-heating device. It was soon discovered that copper, and zinc discolored. Sheet metal wasn’t much better as the seams were near impossible to keep clean and both iron and steel rusted.

Eventually, ceramic tubs and glazed surfaces came to be. They were heavier and much more costly, but soon made themselves permanent fixtures in the bathroom. Many people found the cast iron feet on these tubs made them difficult to clean behind which then led to recessed tubs. Eventually, in 1911, the built-in tubs we use today were developed.

In the beginning, white was the only color manufactured because it was easy to spot filth. But in 1929, colors became more popular in the bathroom. Starting with pastels and then appearing in bolder colors, bathroom fixtures became bold and decorative like they are today.

If you’re wanting to give your bathtub a facelift, Refinish First can help.


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