Bathing methods also changed with the availability of running water. A concern about hygiene prompted people to question how someone could become clean while sitting in a tub of water that became increasingly dirty as one bathed. Such concerns led to an interest in the vapor or steam bath and the shower as superior alternatives to the tub bath.

The shower became possible when a method was found to pump hot water up a pipe for the overhead spray. The modern concept of the shower evolved from military barracks and gyms com­monly used by men. It was increasingly recommended as a preferred bathing method over the bathtub in both private homes and public baths of the working class. The first shower was a simple device that used a hand pump to move water up a pipe over a portable or outdoor tub. Eventually, public water supplies included enough pressure to force the water to the showerhead.

Because of their invigorating water action, the first home showers were considered to have thera­peutic value. The state-of-the-art shower at the time was a needle spray, which had a series of sprays placed around the body for various needs. It included a kidney spray, a spinal spray, a bidet spray, and so forth, each with a separate control. A crude valve for mixing hot and cold water often left the bather either scalding or chilled. At the time, the idea of water spraying the bather was considered too vigorous for the "gentle sex." For women, it was not uncommon to contact a physician before undertaking a shower.

Most likely the last fixture to be plumbed was the lavatory. The new fixture was designed much like the former wash basin and stand, emerging as a bowl-shaped basin on a pedestal base with a drain in the middle (see Figure 1.5) It turned a china bowl on a marble stand into a china bowl in a marble stand. The first faucet used a hand pump to draw water, and later a faucet with hot and cold water controls was attached. Soon the pedestal lavatories disappeared as cabinetry en­tered the bathroom, and sinks were installed into vanities that contained the much desired and needed built-in storage. This design became common by the 1950s.

Updated: September 22, 2015 — 11:00 am