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The Bath, also Said the Woman in the Bath or Shower Giclee Print

The Bath by Alfred Stevens, 1867

April may be known for its showers, but baths are far more luxurious in the minds of many. Despite the fact, I am inclined to disagree on a practical level, I completely agree on an aesthetic on.

At its most rudimentary, a bathtub was merely that. I bucket or tub one would either stand or sit in to bathe. In the 19th century, baths were more sponge baths and often people bathed as little as possible. The fear of contaminated water was high and rightfully so. Family members would bathe one right after another and reuse the previous person’s water. It was quick business as the intent was to rush through the bathing processes so the water was still warm for the next person. Since the water first had to be boiled over the hearth or the stove before being poured into the bucket or tub, only those with a house whole of servants had the luxury of submerging in heated water as the help continuous ran to and fro to keep to refill with warm water.

Then indoor plumbing arrived on the scene. It was such a novelty and not a very good one in the beginning. The laying of the pipes, the demolishing of the walls, the carving out at space in an existence home contributed to its slow adoption. Aside from cost, the most difficult aspect was operating the contraption. The pressure of the water spurted, the water itself was . . .questionable due to the reactions to the chemical properties of the pipes and the peculiar fluid coursing through it. Many people were burned in the early days, pipes burst and destroyed homes and started neighborhood fires. On and on the trials went, but gosh darn it! The English were determined to be sanitary. With the increase knowledge of germ theory, everything seen and unseen was a threat that needed to be expelled. Figuring out the precise formula of how often to wash and prevent disease came after they mastered those blasted water pipes.

In modern times we romanticize the past from those fragments that were left to use. Those legacies by nature tended to be descendants from the uppercase who had the means to utilize ornate materials withstood the years and use. The middle and higher echelons also had the education and ability to write and record their accounts of their lives; as well as the leisure time to pen this memoirs. So what were are left with when we think of 19th century baths are beautiful gilded tubs, ornate carvings, claw feet, slipper forms, and host of other decadence for the second most industrial room in the house. Like these for example . . .