Part of the American History and Genealogy Project


Famous Bathtub

On December 20, 1842, Thompson had a party of gentlemen to dinner, and boasted so of his bathtub that four of them, including a French officer, tried it for themselves. Next day the story was in the papers, and then the fun began.

That is, it seems like fun today, but it was earnest enough then. The doctors attacked the bathtub on the ground of health, and the politicians opposed it as an obnoxious and luxurious toy from England, designed to corrupt American simplicity. In 1843, the Common Council of Philadelphia considered an ordinance to prevent any such bathing between November and March. The ordinance failed by only two votes. In the meanwhile, the legislature of Virginia laid a tax of thirty dollars a year on all bathtubs that might be set up, and special and very heavy water rates were also laid on them. Boston actually passed an ordinance forbidding the use of bathtubs except on medical advice.

But it was soon a dead letter, for in 1850 the President of the United States decided to have a bathtub in the White House. Millard Fillmore, it seems, when Vice President, had visited Cincinnati as the guest of Adam Thompson, had taken a bath in the famous tub, and had liked it so much that, when he succeeded Taylor, he invited bids for a White House bathtub. It was made by Harper and Gellespie of Philadelphia, and was of thin, cast iron. It remained in the White House, by the way, until Cleveland became President, when a more modern contrivance took its place.

Before twenty years had passed over Adam Thompson's bathtub, every hotel in New York was advertising one, and some hotels actually had three! Today America has almost forgotten her bathtubless days. From The Germantown Guide.

New Jersey AHGP

Source: A Brief History of New Jersey, by Edward S. Ellis, A.M. and Henry Snyder, American Book Company, 1910.

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