The history of the bathtub dates back to the Indus River Valley around 6000 years ago. This is when the earliest form of plumbing was in place, as indicated by copper water pipes found in a palace’s ruins. 3000 years later, a pedestal tub was found on the island of Crete, made out of clay which surprisingly resembled a 19th century clawfoot bathtub.
During the time of the Roman Empire (500 BC to AD 455), sanitation was prioritized through a sewerage system and daily bathing rituals. After the collapse of the Roman Empire, sanitation also collapsed and perfume compensated for the lack of bathing. Drinking water became contaminated and the phrase “gardez l’eau!” came about which means “mind the water!” After the bubonic plague, more efforts were made to improve sanitation. It wasn’t until the 19th century that underground sewerage systems in Europe were put in place. It wasn’t until the end of the century that a new construction era led to the introduction of the clawfoot bathtub and cast iron bathtubs.
History of the Clawfoot Bathtub and the Freestanding Bathtub
The clawfoot bathtub was one of the first personal bathing designs and became popular during the 19th century. The clawfoot bathtub was considered a luxury tub and owning one indicated that a person was of high prestige and social class standing. Since the clawfoot bathtub came about before the time of indoor plumbing, the bathtub had to be filled by hand by servants. As time went on, the designs became more intricate and the clawfoot bathtub morphed into a built-in tub.
The freestanding bathtub was also considered a luxury item in the 19th century, like the clawfoot bathtub. The wealthy had servants who were able to maneuver around the freestanding bathtub and help the person bathe.
History of Cast Iron Bathtubs
In 1883, Kohler and the Standard Sanitary Manufacturing Company began the process of enameling the cast iron bathtubs to create a smooth surface on the inside. The smooth surface was advertised as a new and better invention that was more sanitary. This was because the cast iron bathtubs would be very easy to clean, thereby preventing the spread of bacteria and diseases. The cast iron bathtubs could be furnished with feet, and Kohler fashioned its first clawfoot bathtub with this smooth inner finish of the cast iron bathtubs.
Bathtubs began to take after the Roman tubs, which looked more balanced and attractive in a larger room. By 1911, built-in tubs became the new luxury bathtubs because they were efficient and modern.
Colours also came in style around 1929, and white was seen as an extremely sanitary colour. Eventually, luxury bathtubs came to look more like furniture as designers moved away from white and closer to velvety rich maroon or black. As color became increasingly more important, the whole bathroom industry evolved as manufacturers began marketing their products based off of colour.