Bathing has been a ritual throughout history, witnessed by the Romans, Minoans, and Indians. The earliest records can be traced back to the Romans (around 500 BC to AD 455) when the custom of sanitation and bathing was normalized for the royals and their subjects.
However, bathtubs have undergone an impressive journey to reach where they are today. The 21st century hosts a plethora of options in terms of designs, colors, materials, and styles. For example, homeowners can now choose between Badeloft freestanding bathtubs, claw tubs, cast iron tubs, and more!
But to learn more about the evolution of modern bathtubs, it’s important to know their origin story. Let’s dive in!
The Romans- The Era Of Enormous Tubs
According to history, the Romans were known for their daily ceremonies of bathing and cleaning, which is why public bathtubs were quite common. However, the Romans also enjoyed private baths with tubs covering the entire room- meaning they were similar to the modern swimming pool. During this era, the material of choice was bronze with lead pipes and marble fixtures.
The first pedestal tub was discovered years on the island of Crete. It was primarily used by the Minoan Kings. This tub was five feet long, made of hard ceramic, featuring intricate designs.
In the United States, the first record of a tub dates back to 1909, when a portable tinware plunge bath was commonly used. This tub featured a wood-covered bottom layered with enamel paint.
However, in the later 19th century, running water became a common feature in homes, allowing bathtubs to become readily available and less portable. These steel-cased tubs included a wood-based enclosure constructed with either oak or cherry. The 19th-century tubs mimicked the modern claw-tub style, with legs crafted out of bronzed iron.
The Egyptians are believed to have invented the world’s first copper pipes. However, records of medieval plumbing systems can be traced back 6,000 years, when archeologists unearthed copper water pipes near the Indus River Valley in India.
The Romans revolutionized plumbing by constructing water channels that transported water from the mountains to the cities, where it was distributed through underground supply lines crafted from lead. With this invention, hot baths became possible.
In the United States, the first sophisticated plumbing system was found in Philadelphia. The city ran water pipelines throughout, offering both paid and free water supply. Philadelphia’s first water system was powered by steam turbines, which collected water from the Schuylkill River.
Since then, plumbing systems were used and crafted all around the globe. England was the first country to pass The National Public Health Act in 1848, pioneering the standardization of plumbing codes.
The Invention Of The Modern Bathtub
As World War I ended, it came with a construction expansion in the United States, which accelerated the production of sinks, modern bathtubs, and toilets in several American homes. Despite this, just one percent of the population had indoor plumbing since outhouses continued to be standard in rural America.
Keeping that in mind, John Michael Kohler, an American, developed the idea of the modern bathtub in 1883. He used a cast-iron horse trough to create a hollow tub for bathing and layered it with an enamel glaze. Kohler’s tub also had four legs for support. This innovation gave a head start to the Kohler Corporation, which began as a factory in 1873. It was formed by three individuals, including Jacob Vollrath and John Michael Kohler.
Their firm first concentrated on making steel or iron goods, but that swiftly switched when John Michael Kohler produced the very first contemporary claw foot tub in enamel.
With the passage of time, the previously popular claw foot tub subtly transitioned into the current built-in tub with an apron front. This enclosed bathtub made bathroom upkeep much easier for homeowners. As it came in a variety of colors, it allowed individuals to design their homes creatively.
Now, the number of accessible designs, functions, materials, hues, and sizes, has increased significantly. Manufacturers create tubs with head and back supports, lamps, a variety of hues and textures (glossy or matte), circulating water, sprinkler jets, and several other functions.
In addition to materials, tubs are also available in various sizes, styles, and design options. Homeowners can choose between the original claw tub, freestanding tub, and wall-mounted tub, among others, to enjoy a relaxing bath.
Although bathing traditions have evolved, the original design of a freestanding tub is still used in homes today. These tubs are primarily selected for their visual appeal, but their traditional design allows homeowners to save time and money on framework construction. Moreover, the freestanding tub does not require hob tiling, allowing homeowners to enjoy an aesthetic bathtub at a low cost.