History of the Bathtub … Abridged

After a long, hard day, few activities are more appealing than a nice, relaxing bath. For bath connoisseurs, this includes bath salts, bubble bath, candles, magazines…the works! But just how did this relaxing ritual come to be?

The concept of taking baths has been around for thousands and thousands of years. In fact, the idea of bathing as a luxury isn’t new either. In Ancient Europe, Roman baths were made of marble baths and finished off with lead or bronze pipes. Talk about impeccable design!

Here at ReBath of the Southeast, we know a thing or two about bathtubs – and how to incorporate that luxurious atmosphere in your bathroom. But how did the bathtub get to where it is today? Let’s take a look at a few important periods in bathtub history.


3300 B.C.

Let’s start in what’s now known as Pakistan, that’s where the first notion of a “bath” started. This bath was known as the “earliest public water tank of the ancient world.” It’s better known in history as The Great Bath of Mohenjo-daro. This bath had a maximum depth of almost eight feet.

1500 B.C.

Fast-forward a few hundred years to the idea of a single-person bathtub. The very first one of these was made for the Queen of Crete. This tub was small and portable. Archeologists believe the tub was also used as her coffin based on the handles and painted designs on the tub.

500 BC – 455 A.D.

Over the next century or so, in the Roman Empire, bathing becomes more commonplace. It was widely known that dirt was linked to disease. Therefore, bathing on a daily basis was customary among the members of this culture. In fact, bathing was even considered a popular social activity for Romans. Aqueducts were built to bring clean water into towns, making public and private baths (the size of modern-day indoor pools) a widespread trend.

500 – 1800

After the fall of the Roman Empire, the Dark Ages ensued. This period was appropriately named for many reasons – the cessation of bathing being one of those reasons. The tradition of daily baths came to a halt, and people either didn’t bathe at all or did so sparingly. Members of the upper class bathed more than most. Bathing was considered a tedious task, because water had to be gathered and heated before poured into the tub.


James Madison is believed to have been the first to bathe in the White House. However, in order to have hot water, it was heated on the stove and poured into the bath. Bathing was seen as an arduous process rather than relaxing.


In the late 1800’s, the bathtub begins to shape into what we now have today. Kohler and Standard Sanitary Manufacturing Company (known today as American Standard) produced and sold cast-iron bathtubs. In order to make their product more appealing to the public, the company added legs to the tub and advertised it as a horse trough that could also be converted to a bathtub.


This bit of history is often debated. Here’s the suspected story: on President William Howard Taft’s inauguration day (March 4, 1909), he got stuck in the White House bathtub. There were not any witnesses to confirm this story. However, a larger tub was installed soon after his inauguration.


Kohler was back at it again with new developments in the bathtub world. They founded the concept of a built-in bathtub. This design was easier to clean and more efficient on space.


In December 1917, H.L. Mencken published an article in the New York Evening Mail about the history of the bathtub. Many accepted the article, “A Neglected Anniversary,” as fact. Mencken wrote the piece in effort to prove that the public will believe anything they read. In 1949, Mencken wrote:
“The success of this idle hoax, done in time of war, when more serious writing was impossible, vastly astonished me.”
Many so-called “facts” from the piece have been repeated as truth as recent as 2008!


Moving into more modern-day bathtub concepts, Jacuzzi invented the Spa Whirlpool. The whirlpool, also known as a hot tub, was initially used for therapeutic reasons more than anything else.

The Future

Improvements to the tub continue to develop today. From new aesthetic designs to heated tubs to walk-in tubs, there’s always something new on the market. That’s where our experts at ReBath of the Southeast come in! We constantly stay up to date with the latest and greatest in the bathroom designs.

If you’d like to check out our extensive inventory of bathtubs, or any other bathroom product, stop by our showroom in Dothan or give us a call at 334-699-2191. We’d love to hear from you and help you with any of your bathroom design needs.