Saturday, January 25, 2014

Bathing in the Victorian Era

Today, we are discussing Bathing

Vic, my ersatz male character in my Xavier & Vic series, does not have time to waste on bathing. The butler and sister are constantly sending an odoriferous Vic to the tub.

With the invention of boilers to warm the water, and better comprehension of the benefits of bathing, by 1880 even middle-class homes were built with special rooms for holding a full size bath. 

In 1870, an Englishman invented a water heater. Like many inventions, it did not yet catch on. However, it inspired another inventor, Edwin Ruud, to improve upon the concept. In 1889, he created the first marketed automatic storage water heater and went to work at a poorly named company in Pittsburg: The Fuel Gas and Manufacturing Company.

Here's a slightly later version of his water heater that is still working as of 2013:



Now, that's what I call made to last.
However, Vic's water heater probably looked more like this:

This British Heater (approx. date: 1895) was gas heated and installed by the bathtub. To operate it: you light the pilot, turn on the water, then turn on the gas. Do those in the wrong order you may not live to regret it.

When turning it off you had to remember to turn off the gas BEFORE you shut off the water. Otherwise, you'll be buying a new unit and might even set your home on fire.

While a vast improvement over slogging buckets upstairs to pour hot water into a tub, this was not something the wealthy could be trusted to do on their own. Thus diligent servants were still required to assist in bathing preparations. Their job just became more dangerous.


The cast iron tub is what most of us picture when we think Victorian bathtubs. However, the wealthy had more options.
First of all, the bathtub was considered furniture, so it often came with nice woodwork fitting it out.

The finer baths of the Late Victorian era (1895 & forward) might have multiple shower sprays mounted on a framework.  

That's something I still don't have.

Young ladies were advised to bath at least once a day, twice if possible. I imagine men didn't bath nearly so often. They had more important things to do. 

That's all I know about bathing. Go take a bath now.

8 comments:

  1. Funny. I lived in a house with one of those tubs. Tweeted.

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  2. I had a cast iron tub when I lived in Britain and also one in a cottage on the Oregon coast. I miss having one! They are cold as heck in the morning, but absolute bliss to sink into the water up to your neck. :)

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  3. I think that they wanted someone else to do it because it was so dangerous. I can't imagine people forgot the order to do it properly too often but would be a great way to get rid of some one... although you would probably be gone as well.

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  4. We had that tub before we moved. It was heavenly. My husband still misses it. Great post. I want to know more!

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