By the late nineteenth century, it was said that “everyone should bathe, some people more frequently than others.”
The portable antique tubs of the early century were being replaced by freestanding bath tubs made of iron, copper, zinc, earthenware, marble, or, in short, of any substance which could be made to hold water. There was no question about which was the best. The porcelain tub was preferable to any other; after that was the porcelain-lined tub, which was made of iron with a coating of so-called porcelain over its inner surface.
Roman Pattern White Porcelain Bath - 1898
Bathtubs at the end of the Victorian era became one of the most important fixtures in a “modern” residence. With the exception of tenements and old houses, probably every modern residence and flat in New York possessed a fixed bathtub; indeed, there were a few mansions with a “plunge-bath” in the cellar.
The "Vedora" White Enamelled Bathtub - 1898
Many of the new Victorian bathrooms were luxurious; not only was the tub of porcelain and whatever plumbing there may be of silver or nickel, but all smaller fixtures, such as sponge-racks, soap-dishes, etc., were also of silver or nickel. The basin and pitcher were often of cut glass, while the tooth mug and other implements were either of glass or of fine china. The prevailing fashion among the rich and famous who were owners and occupants of the palace-like mansions that lined the eastern side of Central Park, was to have their luxury baths as lavish and ornamental as their boudoirs and bedrooms.
White Enamelled Bathtub - 1898
The essential accompaniments to a bath were good sense, good soap, and a rough towel; the first and last to be used at each bath, the soap but once a week. The time occupied was considered important, only a moment for the plunge bath while the shower or sponge bath should not exceed five minutes; once a week soap and warm water would precede the cold bath.
The "Olympian" White Enamelled Bath - 1898
The best hour for taking the bath was an open question. To some a bath just before retiring motivated insomnia, while for others it acted as a sedative. Many advocated a warm bath at night and a cold plunge or sponge in the morning. After a bath the skin would be wiped dry, and then rubbed with a coarse towel or “flesh-brush”.
Valuable accompaniments for the nineteenth century lady’s bath were bags of bran, oatmeal, or almond meal; it was only the wealthy who could indulge in perfumed toilet soaps. For people with greasy skin, a little borax or ammonia was added to the water. A bathing glove of Turkish toweling was used by those who preferred this to a sponge or washcloth. Hard rubbing with a rough towel after the bath was recommended. Needless to say, the lady residing along Central Park pampered herself with opulent luxury bath accessories.