Monday, June 22, 2015

Taking a shower in the 1800s

Monday, June 22, 2015

Loretta reports:

Shower-bath at Scarborough
Recently, Isabella sent me to the website for the House of Dun in Scotland to look at this shower bath (please scroll down the left side of page), thereby reminding me I’d seen some 19th century shower-baths before, and setting off a nerdy historical search.

I distinctly remembered seeing one in the TV series, Regency House Party, and the connected book. When you view the image (second one down) at Jane Austen’s World, you may understand why it sticks in my memory. The blog post offers detailed information, which I won’t repeat.

Domestic Sanitary Regulations
But I will call your attention to the quotation from Godey’s, regarding the “high-peaked or extinguisher caps.” (Please see Leech caricature at left.)These were made of oil cloth.  As we’ve discussed before, hair washing wasn’t as frequent in the past (and we’re debating now whether we wash our hair too often nowadays), and there was strong disagreement about whether it was a dangerous practice. There did seem to be agreement about not having a large amount of water pour down on your head.

Christina Hardyment’s Behind the Scenes shows the Erdigg Shower Room.

This image from the Wimpole Hall Bath House, allows you to use a directional to view the shower-bath from all angles.

This page, at item 2485, explains how a certain shower bath works. This may enlighten us a little about the Scarborough picture at top.

The Mechanics Magazine, Volume 40, 1844, offers a diagram of a shower-bath.

New shower-bath from Paris
The clipping at left, from the 1830 Spirit of the English Magazines, notes the latest thing from Paris.

In 1839, the author calls daily bathing "indispensable."

For more about past bathing practices, you might want to read our Annals of Bathing:

Episode 1

Episode 2

Episode 3

Episode 4

Episode 5

Episode 6

As well as posts here and here, as well as some others I've probably missed.

Image upper left from J.B. Papworth, F. Wrangham, and W. Combe's  Poetical sketches of Scarborough  (1813).

Caricature, Domestic Sanitary Regulations, from John Leech’s Pictures of Life and Character, Volume 1

Clicking on the image will enlarge it.  Clicking on the caption will allow you to read at the source, where you can learn more and enlarge images as needed.


GSGreatEscaper said...

When an ear infection could lead to loss of hearing or even loss of life, in the absence of antibiotics and the harm caused by 'medical treatment' one can understand the reluctance to get water in one's ears.

Catherine Curzon said...

There are some wonderful shower baths at Lotherton Hall in Yorkshire, ranging from opulent and decorative for the lady of the house to austerely practical (and vaguely medical) for the master!

KittyinVA said...

Excellent post! And excellent comments, too!

Heather Carroll said...

Ooo now I must put the House of Dun on my list of places to visit!

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