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History of Bathing from Ancient to Modern Times

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The History of the Bath

Bathing and showering, washing our hands are part of our routine cleanliness habits. We probably have given little thought to its origins in civilization, customs in society or even to the invention of the running water. Starting with the dawn of time, whatever baths cavemen took, it was in streams, and waterfalls and other forms of water that nature offered. Water is essential to life in many ways.

Anthropologists and archaelogists have found evidence of prehistoric man living near streams and where ever areas of water existed. Artifacts dating back to 2800 B.C. in Babylon found a material resembling soap in a clay container. These cylinders had incriptions on the outside of it with a kind of recipe that stated fats and ashes were boiled together and is a known way to make soap. There is no evidence of what this material was used fo, but it most likely had something to do with ancient baths. Some speculate it could have been used even to style hair. It appears form records dating back to that time that Egyptians took baths regularly and documents written on ancient papyrus show bathing was also used to treat skin diseases. Moses in the Bible gave detailed instructions to the Israelites to maintain cleanliness of their bodies, and assoicated cleanliness to personal health and for religious purification purposes. The bible records that people used clay, pumice, sand, ashes and oil to get dirt off of their bodies, and that ashes and oil were used as a hair gel sort of product. As we look at the connection between man and water through history, we can see milestones in bathing that take us from thousands of years ago to today’s day :

Baths Have Changed Over Time

the-history-of-baths-from-ancient-to-modern-times
  • Artifacts from the era of the caveman
  • Religious and ritual habits of cleanliness
  • Egyptian and Mesopotamia bathing habits
  • Roman and Greek Baths
  • The Middle Ages and the outlaw of bathing
  • The invention of the bathtub
  • The Civil War
  • The first water heater which led to the invention of the shower
  • The invention of the shower
  • Habits of today

Many religions include bathing rituals in their customs, for purification purposes. Bathing customs around the world and through the centuries vary greatly. The oldest religions from Hinduism, Judiasm, Islam, Buddhism, all required baths for tradional religious reasons, purging, purification, and cleansing purposes. Going back to 2500 B.C. the palaces in ancient Greeks had separate bathing rooms with bathtubs and water that was transported by pipes into the palace for the purpose of taking baths. The bathrooms also had their own drainage system. One of the purposes of taking baths for the Greeks was to tone up their bodies and they did this using cold water. Greeks are the first civilization to be credited with inventing a modern type of shower. They had aqueducts of and a lead piping system where watere could be pumped in and out of communal showering areas. Everyone from the common man to the high society could use these rooms.

the-history-of-baths-from-ancient-to-modern-times

It Was Hard Work to Take a Bath in the 19th Century

Early bathtubs were made of wood and had to be filled by hand. They were usually put away when they were not being used. Around the 1830’s the shower stool was invented. The contraption was placed in the tub. The person taking a bath pumped water through a hose and at the same time moved another pedal or lever that moved a scrub brush up and down the person’s back, shoulders, and head. It was a lot of work to take a bath using this. Closet tubs were tucked into a corner of a room, usually the kitchen.


The early permanently installed bathtubs were constructed of wood and lined with metal like tin, copper a or iron. John Kohler in 1883, coated it with white enamel. According to the Kohler Corporation, he sold his first enameled bathtub to a farmer in exchange for a cow and 14 chickens. It was during this century that the shower was reinvented using some of the knowledge of Ancient Greece showers, and the use of indoor plumbing at the time. With the invention of an automatic hot water heater, around 1889. invented by Edwin Ruud, showers began to be used. During WW I, the U.S. army installed showers in the barracks as an efficient way to save time and water for the soldiers. They became popular among the soldiers as they returned from war and showers began to be installed in gyms and schools across the country. Yet, the bath, in the United States, still continued to be more popular than showers until the about the 1950’s. After WW II, the popularity of the shower had a resurgence from the men returning home and showers began to be installed in homes.

By the Late 1800's Soap Advertising Started

In the 1830’s  approximately 33%  of the homes in London, England had indoor plumbing. Paris hesitated fearing that it would cause their houses to become damp.  With the Civil War in the United States, came an awareness through the Sanitiation Commission (a forerunner of the Red Cross), headed by Frederick L. Olmstead, who designed Central Park in New York, that washing people,  scrubbing walls, and  changing linens created less illnesses and reduced infections among patients.  By the end of the 1800’s, soap advertising started to become big business.Early bathtubs were made of wood and had to be filled by hand. They were usually put away when they were not being used. Around the 1830’s the shower stool was invented. The contraption was placed in the tub. The person taking a bath pumped water through a hose and at the same time moved another pedal or lever that moved a scrub brush up and down the person’s back, shoulders, and head. It was a lot of work to take a bath using this. Closet tubs were tucked into a corner of a room, usually the kitchen.      

Kohler Sold His Bathtub for a Cow and 14 Chickens

The early permanently installed bathtubs were constructed of wood and lined with metal like tin, copper a or iron. John Kohler in 1883, coated it with white enamel. According to the Kohler Corporation, he sold his first enameled bathtub to a farmer in exchange for a cow and 14 chickens. It was during this century that the shower was reinvented using some of the knowledge of Ancient Greece showers, and the use of indoor plumbing at the time. With the invention of an automatic hot water heater, around 1889. invented by Edwin Ruud, showers began to be used. During WW I, the U.S. army installed showers in the barracks as an efficient way to save time and water for the soldiers. They became popular among the soldiers as they returned from war and showers began to be installed in gyms and schools across the country. Yet, the bath, in the United States, still continued to be more popular than showers until the about the 1950’s. After WW II, the popularity of the shower had a resurgence from the men returning home and showers began to be installed in homes.

Luxurious Baths of Today

the-history-of-baths-from-ancient-to-modern-times

We Need to Improve Our Hand Washing Routines

Back in the day of the Roman baths, women paid twice the amount for bathing as men, and had less desirable hours to take a bath. During the time when baths were thought to be unhealthy, dried scents were carried around to hide the smell of the unclean environment. Today, the bathroom is largely a woman’s domain. Day spas and luxurious bathrooms are part of our lifestyle.

In the United States today, most homes have more than one bath and the bathrooms have become status symbols. Yet with all the advent of bathing knowledge, studies have shown that only 15% of people wash their hands adequately and long enough to be clean. Students and Dads were found to be the worst offenders, with health care professionals, being the best at hand cleaning.

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Comments

toknowinfo (author) on April 26, 2012:

Thanks BB, It is my pleasure to make it a pleasure to learn Thanks for stopping by, commenting, and reading my hub.

Thomas Mulrooney from Burnley, Lancashire, UK on April 26, 2012:

Thanks, who would have thought that the history of baths could actually be interesting? You made it a pleasure to learn about :-)

toknowinfo (author) on April 29, 2011:

Hi Mos, Thanks for stopping by and commenting. It was an interesting topic that I just wanted to know more about and got inspired to write this hub.

Chris Montgomery from Irvine, CA on April 29, 2011:

Great hub! I had to write on this subject a while back, such an interesting topic.

toknowinfo (author) on April 11, 2011:

Hi DaNoblest,

Thanks for stopping by and reading. I am glad you enjoyed it.

Fay Paxton on April 11, 2011:

Toknow, I must credit you with coming up with the most fascinating subject matter. A cow and 14 chickens strike me as a hefty price for a tub. Then again, I guess it's all about supply and demand. I love Kohler. Great hub!

DaNoblest from California on March 21, 2011:

Very interesting hub. I enjoyed reading it thank you =]

toknowinfo (author) on March 10, 2011:

Hi Ralph, I like your ideas and when I create it, I will certainly give you the credit as being my inspiration.

Ralph Deeds from Birmingham, Michigan on March 10, 2011:

Interesting history on a topic that would never have occurred to me. You might consider adding something on the role of the bubble bath in American burlesque.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OMhr5TyqQbg

toknowinfo (author) on March 08, 2011:

H Dearabbysmom,

It certainly makes us feel grateful for the everyday conveniences we have now. Thanks for reading my hub.

dearabbysmom from Indiana on March 08, 2011:

Hard to imagine back to the time when we could not hop into a hot shower!

toknowinfo (author) on March 06, 2011:

Thanks for stopping by. Maybe we are all cleaner for this hub.

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toknowinfo (author) on March 06, 2011:

Glad you liked this hub. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.

suejanet on March 06, 2011:

Very good informaiton. Thanks, interesting.

toknowinfo (author) on March 06, 2011:

Showers and baths are so rejuvenating. Thanks for stopping by and for your comments. All the best to you.

dinesh gurung on March 06, 2011:

bathing is so essential as we eat or breath.its great to feel happy after taking shower.bathing protect the body from germs so its necessary to take bath twice a day and remove plaque.

toknowinfo (author) on March 05, 2011:

Thanks for stopping by and leaving such nice comments. When you look at the history of bathing, there really is some wild information, like the shower stool and how much the first bathtub sold for. I am glad you enjoyed the info.

jennifercriston from Oxford Road on March 04, 2011:

What a great hub.

Janell Rhiannon from CA, USA on March 03, 2011:

a cow and 14 chickens? lol.

julietmorgan07 from Germany on March 03, 2011:

That bath tool is really kinda weird, but if it wasn't for it they haven't invented the shower that we use now a days.

toknowinfo (author) on March 03, 2011:

Thank you Munirahmadmughal. I am so complimented by your comments, and appreciate you explaining about washing rituals. Thanks you for adding such richness to the comments.

munirahmadmughal on March 03, 2011:

"The History of Baths from Ancient to Modern"

The hub is rich in information, beautiful in presentation, and careful in presentation of the whole history on the subject.

Cleanliness of the body and the soul both are important to keep them healthy and sound. Pollution of body and soul is injurious for both.

The process needs a locus and the washroom or bathroom is that locus.

From Islamic point of view washing of both hands, washing of mouth and gargles, washing of face, washing of both arms uptil ankles, rubbing of head and neck and both ears, and washing both feet. All washing thrice and the rubbing part only once is called Ablution. It is performed at least five times for daily regular prayers.

Doing Ablution and flowing water on the whole body is called a Bath. It is necessary after major impurity.

Brushing the teeth is also much stressed.

Before eating each meal the washing of hands is necessary.

After the meals the washing of mouth and hand is necessary.

Water is to be used only according to sufficiency and not wasted even if one is making ablution at the bank of a flowing brook.

The hub is excellent by all standards.

May God bless all.

toknowinfo (author) on March 03, 2011:

Thanks for your kind comments. I am so glad that you are finding this information interesting. So glad you stopped by.

bugslady8949 from The Bahamas on March 03, 2011:

i did not know all this about baths, it is good to know. you did a great job this hub.

Joey from Michigan on March 02, 2011:

I appreciate this hub and the informative history about bathing. Thank God for the Greeks and their invention! I learn a lot from so many hubs. High 5!

DeLaro11 on March 01, 2011:

Hi I thought this was an interesting Hub. Its easy to think that something as rudimentary bathing or showering has always been part of Human civilization in a big way. I guess it is not true just an other reminder of the thing we take for granted.

Smile

C DeLaro

PS check out my two hubs I think you will be entertained.

Maria Harris from Houston on March 01, 2011:

Very interesting hub. I was late to vote too, sorry.

toknowinfo (author) on March 01, 2011:

Thanks Clare-Louise for your kind words and for stopping by. It is nice to meet you.

Clare-Louise from Birmingham UK on March 01, 2011:

Well done on the win. I was too late to vote! But still enjoyed your interesting hub!

toknowinfo (author) on February 28, 2011:

Thanks Speedbird for your up rating. If you never thought someone would write about the history of bathing, you probably want to read some of my other hubs, and be surprised what other topics I write about. Thanks for visiting.

speedbird from Nairobi, Kenya on February 28, 2011:

Great hub, never though that someone will write on the history of bathing and washing hands. anyway, nice hub, voted UP and rated USEFUL

toknowinfo (author) on February 28, 2011:

Thanks Martie and Simone for letting me know about winning the contest. I appreciate you stopping by.

It makes me feel good that my articles are appreciated.

Simone Haruko Smith from San Francisco on February 28, 2011:

Congratulations, toknowinfo! This Hub Week 15 of the HubPages Top of the Class Contest! It shall be featured on the HubPages Students Page for three weeks :D

Martie Coetser from South Africa on February 28, 2011:

Another most interesting hub of yours! I’ve voted this one up and noticed that you are by far the winner in the category. Congratulations!

toknowinfo (author) on February 28, 2011:

Hi JustMeSuzanne and Micky,

I am glad you enjoyed this hub about the history to the bath. As far as those claw foot tubs, they will probably last way longer than anything made now. And Micky... with all the things you went through in VietNam, it is interesting to even hear about your showering needs.

Thanks for stopping by and if you could vote for this hub in the Top of the Class Contest, I would appreciate it.

Thanks https://hubpages.com/hub/HubPages-Top-of-the-Class...

Micky Dee on February 28, 2011:

Oh I am so glad that the "bath" has progressed to where it is today! I love the shower actually. When I was in Nam and Okinawa I wanted a bath or shower ever hour or two. Very humid. Great post! Thank you.

justmesuzanne from Texas on February 27, 2011:

Lots of good info! I am always fascinated by movies that show older apartments in NYC that have a claw-foot bathtub in the kitchen. So odd that some of those apparently still exist.

toknowinfo (author) on February 27, 2011:

Hi Dirt Farmer,

The shower stool on QVC LOL! Thanks for stopping by and taking your time to comment and to vote for my hub. Welcome to HubPages.

Jill Spencer from United States on February 27, 2011:

Interesting article. I'd never seen the shower stool before. It's a bathing apparatus AND a piece of exercise equipment! I'll probably see it soon on QVC. You've got my vote.

toknowinfo (author) on February 27, 2011:

Thanks Epi, for your very nice compliment. I was also nomimated for Top of the Class Contest. I would sure appreciate your vote today. Thanks

https://hubpages.com/hub/HubPages-Top-of-the-Class...

epigramman on February 26, 2011:

.....well with the perfect balance of art and commerce you just may well be the 'definitive' hubber - and you do it all so very well - lucky readers, we are!!!!

Mohan Kumar from UK on February 25, 2011:

Nice one, very interesting to read and full of new info! thanks !

toknowinfo (author) on February 25, 2011:

Wow from what you just explained, that could be the reason dinosaurs became extinct.

Nell Rose from England on February 25, 2011:

Hi, evidently in 16th century England, we all bathed like mad, in communal areas, until everybody got to close! lol then they all caught syphilus, and the warm water was blamed for it! then the baths were outlawed and we all got smelly again! good luck with the vote!

toknowinfo (author) on February 25, 2011:

When you look back in time it can certainly make us appreciate the everyday things we take advantage of today.

It is also nice to be appreciated by hubpages for my nomination. Thanks for the votes for this hub in The Top of the Class Contest. https://hubpages.com/hub/HubPages-Top-of-the-Class...

Emma from Houston TX on February 25, 2011:

Thanks for bring my understanding to the ancient bathing. Kudos!

Susan Hazelton from Sunny Florida on February 24, 2011:

you don't know how glad I am that I live in today's world. Very interesting.

toknowinfo (author) on February 24, 2011:

Thanks for voting for me in the Top of the Class Contest

https://hubpages.com/hub/HubPages-Top-of-the-Class...

azure_sky from Somewhere on the Beach, if I am lucky :) on February 23, 2011:

Congrats on your nomination, toknowinfo! VERY interesting and well written..it kept my attention! You've got my votes!!

toknowinfo (author) on February 23, 2011:

I was nominated for "Top of the Class" contest.I would appreciate your vote. Thanks https://hubpages.com/hub/HubPages-Top-of-the-Class...

Christina Lornemark from Sweden on February 15, 2011:

Very interesting to read this! It is funny how views of what is considered to be healthy can vary through time! Thanks for this very well written hub!

vydyulashashi from Hyderabad,India on February 15, 2011:

Interesting hub!

A unique info on a unique topic.

God Bless You!

b. Malin on February 14, 2011:

I'm with Fossillady on this one. Very enjoyable and informative read...Lots of facts, and who knew...thanks for taking the time to present this Hub so well! Now I'm off to take a shower, I'm not a Bath person!

Emily40 on February 14, 2011:

Very interesting..thanks for sharing!

lyjo on February 14, 2011:

This was most awesome...we can never be too clean! Interesting stats & facts! Take care!

Kathi Mirto from Fennville on February 14, 2011:

It is interesting and the picture with people bathing together looks like the most natural thing to do!

Thomas Silvia from Massachusetts on February 14, 2011:

Hi toknowinfo, loved this very interesting and informative hub ! Some of it i did not know, Thanks !

*•????•*¨*•.¸¸? Happy Valentine's Day ?¸¸.•*¨*•????•*

Gustave Kilthau from USA on February 14, 2011:

toknowinfo - That shower stool gadget was really something altogether "else." Thanks for this interesting article.

Gus :-)))

Don A. Hoglund from Wisconsin Rapids on February 13, 2011:

Interesting bit of social history.I'm glad to har that health care people are setting the example.

Helen Murphy Howell from Fife, Scotland on February 13, 2011:

Hi,

Fascinating hub! It also reminds me of a Scottish king - James VI. He never bathed at all and went to bed with all his day clothes on. He believed that to wash would be dangerous to his 'royal person'. Needless to say he stunk to high heaven - I pity his poor wife! Great hub.

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