The History Behind Clawfoot Tubs

By Kerry Knight

Ever wonder how the idea of a clawfoot tub came about?  Well, it all goes back to ancient Europe.  Royalty has created some fine art, either by design or decree, and the deep, soaking tubs sitting upon legs or claws of animals, is one of them.

Unlike the bathing pools in ancient Rome or Athens, the soaking tubs were personal and private.  They had no faucet holes, so the tubs were filled with warm water by servants.  They were made of many composites such as stone, wood or  alabaster.

Eventually, with the passing of time, cast iron molds were made in the shape of deep tubs.  Porcelain glass was poured or sprayed over the cast iron.  Many were made to sit upon the legs or claws of animals, such as the lion or bear.  Some legs would bear the image of fish, eagles, turkeys, and even gargoyles.  These designs were also made of cast iron.

During the late 19th century and early 20th century,
the claw foot tub was manufactured in America by many foundries, offering a variety of sizes and shapes.  The length of the tub was always measured from the outside.  There were 48 inch tubs designed for small adults or children.  Then they increased in 6 inch increments:  54 inch, 60 inch, 66 inch and 72 inch.  

Most were called traditional roll top or rolled rim.  They were designed with a dramatic slope on one end and a more upright design for the plumbing holes on the opposite end.   Tens of thousands of these tubs came off the assembly line, and many can still be found today.    

Many of these will be banged up pretty bad, with cracks, chips and missing porcelain.    There is a great demand for those who can refinish and restore the old tubs to some semblance of their glory days.

Today, the foundries that once thrived in the making of these tubs are gone.  However, there are still ways to find newly manufactured ones.  Many American companies import newly made cast iron and porcelain clawfoot tubs from different parts of the world.  Not only will you see the roll rim design, but also dual ended, slipper tubs and even double slippers.  

Like the tubs of old, these new ones are designed to last a hundred years or more.  The legs are even more beautifully designed and can be made of chrome, brushed and polished nickel, and even old rubbed bronze.


For those looking for elegance in bathing and rich accents to their architecture, the new and improved clawfoot tub is still available. These tubs can be ship anywhere and can make any bathroom beautiful.



In this article, I have discussed the history of the clawfoot tubs and how it originated in ancient Europe. I also discussed how the many varieties came about and how there is a strong demand for those who are skilled in the restoration of these tubs. Today manufacturing of these tubs has shifted from American foundries to being imported by US company that specialize in the beautiful tubs. This article also lists many of the specific styles of tubs available to chose from. If you found this article to be useful please pass it on to your friends. If you have a comment leave it in the box below. It has been my pleasure sharing this information with you. Thanks again for sharing this journey together.

Until next time keep smiling.


Alan & Kerry Knight are the owners of Tub King, Inc and Senior Bathtub.com in Jacksonville Florida. Together they have many years of experience in the antique and senior bathtub industries. Their companies not only provide superior products they are also award winners, winning the best of Jacksonville Chamber Award 3 years running. If you would like to contact them call (800) 409-3375 or (800) 843-4231 or email them at alan@tubking.com. 

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