The first claw foot tub in history was found on the island of Crete and dates back approximately 3000 BC years. Evidence of the first bath tub, five foot long, and pedestal shaped was crafted from hardened pottery. This is the ancestor of the modern clawfoot tub.
The Roman Empire is most widely known as the early champions of bathing. Around 500 BC, Roman citizens were encouraged to bathe daily in one of the many public baths. Private bathing rooms were far from ornate and typically would resemble shallow swimming pools that encompassed the entire room. The Romans used marble for the tubs, lead and bronze for pipes, and created a complex sewage system for sanitation purposes. The Roman Empire set the early bar for modern personal hygiene.
Contrary to popular belief, bathing and sanitation were not a lost practice with the collapse of the Roman Empire. Bathing in fact did not fall out of fashion until shortly after the Renaissance, replaced with the heavy use of sweat-bathing and perfume. It was thought that water could carry diseases into the body through the skin.
Modern sanitation was not widely adopted until the 19th and 20th centuries. Many of the first bathtubs in the United States were made of wood or metal. By the time settlers traveled to the West there was porcelain over cast iron. The cast iron claw foot tub was created in the Victorian era when bathing became popularized.
In 1921 only 1% of the homes in America had bathrooms. At the end of World War 1, a housing construction boom occurred. The new home concept was a purpose built bathroom, complete with tub, sink and toilet.
American Claw Foot Tub History
The J.L. Mott Ironworks Company is credited with being the first company to produce a cast iron claw foot tub with an enamel interior in 1873. They quickly became popular because their hard enamel surface could be cleaned easily and did not harbor bacteria. Also, this was an affordable way for people to bathe. Powdered enamel was heated to very high temperatures and poured over the cast iron tub to create a smooth, slippery glass-like surface. The weight of these cast iron tubs is between 250 and 400 pounds. Cast iron tubs were produced in the United States until the 1930s when built in bathtubs became the standard.
The Sheboygan Union Iron & Steel Company, Kohler Company initially manufactured cast iron and steel implements for farmers. In 1883 The Kohler Company produced an item that they marketed in their catalogue as a Horse Trough/Hog Scalder and stated it could also serve as a bath tub when legs were added. The items used as a hog scalder was considered a more important marketing point than its ability to function as a bath tub. Everyone know what a horse trough or a hog scalder was, but many people, at the time, had never bathed in a tub.
Eventually the bath tubs caught on because of the sanitary and easy to clean surfaces that prevented the spread of disease. It became a tub of elegance for the upper class. This was the beginning of a long and sucessful tub history for Kohler. During the 1950's the "modern" bathtub became more practical for suburban homes. The antique bathtub manufacturers nearly halted production and claw foot bath tubs almost fell into obsurity except for antique collectors.
The Claw Foot Tub Look
Today, many home decorators have started looking into history for elegant design inspiration. The cast iron claw foot tub, one of the most stylish bathtubs in decoration history, has seen a re-emergence in popularity.
Antique Pedestal Sinks
You may have noticed that all older pedestal sinks are fairly short in height, around 30"-32" compared to those of modern sinks which are usually 34"-36". Not only are people in better health and on an average taller in this century, but the way people use their sinks has also changed.
Many of the things we do standing at a sink today used to be done at a dressing or make-up table.
Daily bathing was not as common either. The lavatory was commonly used as a basin for an evening sponge bath or hair wash. In times when the water heater often had to be lit with a match after a trip to the basement, it was easier to pour a teakettle of hot water into the sink.
Hair washing was probably the biggest factor in height of older sinks. The large basins with taps widely spaced apart were ideal for washing hair. There was also no center spout to bump your head on. The low height insured that the water would run straight into the basin and not down one's neck when bent over the sink.
As the post WW1 world industrialized and people adapted to more "on the go" lifestyle, the ritual of the evening bath fell by the wayside in favor of daily bathing and a quick shave or makeup application at the sink.
In response to consumer demand, sink heights began creeping upward at about 1" per 20 years until reaching their present heights.
Earthenware was a cement-based precursor to china, and like china continues curing for over 90 years, shrinking as it ages. The shrinkage causes the surface glaze to crackle. This was once considered a flaw in the material, but is now a much sought after look in period fixtures and restorations.