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By Alan Knight

Despite the intrusion of the shower in modern times, the bathtub is here to stay.  There will always be those who prefer to soak rather than spray.  I suppose it is because bathing should be a relaxing time, not just a time to get a quick cleanup.   There have been many notable bathtubs in history that set the tone.

The ancient Greek inventor Archimedes discovered the physics of displacement while sitting in a bathtub.  The water rose when he got into the tub, and he figured you could measure the volume of all kinds of objects that way.  As the story goes, he jumped up from the bath, shouted “Eureka!” and ran around naked telling people of his discovery.  The Emperor had asked whether the royal crown was pure gold.  Archimedes measured the volume of the crown by water displacement and compared that to the volume of an equal weight of pure gold.  The volumes were different, indicating that the crown had lighter material underneath the gold. 

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In December 1842, Adam Thompson installed in his Cincinnati house a bathtub like the one he had seen in England.  By defying the current taboo against bathing in the winter, he was severely scolded by doctors, politicians and the general public.  In 1926 the story was retracted as being a hoax.  Believe it or not, bathing was then considered a health menace.  Some say Millard Fillmore installed the first bathtub in the White House, but the actual “first” bathtub in the White House is hard to pin down.  Early presidents bathed in tubs that were brought in and filled with water heated on stoves, at least as far back as James Madison.

Another bathtub of note was designed for a Navy ship.  Battleships are designed to carry as much equipment and as many men as needed without wasting an inch of space.  But an exception was made when a ship was to take President Franklin Roosevelt to the Cairo Conference and the Tehran Conference in 1943.  Roosevelt had been crippled by Guillain-Barr syndrome since 1921, and would have a hard time taking a shower.  A bathtub was needed for the president.  Today, the USS Iowa is looking for a home as a museum ship.
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William Howard Taft was the heaviest US president at 332 pounds.  Early in his administration (1909-1913) he bathed in the white house bathtub, and had a larger one installed later.  In 1912, he took his own oversized tub onto a ship for a trip from Key West to Colon.  It was not permanently installed. 

There has also been notable deaths in a bathtub.  Orville Redenbacher, founder of the popcorn company that bears his name.  In 1995 he was found dead in a whirlpool bath after falling victim to a heart attack. 

Jim Morrison, the lead singer for The Doors, was found dead in a bathtub in Paris in 1971.  He had an ongoing love affair with alcohol and drugs.  Others, whose dead bodies were recovered from a bathtub would include Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston.

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Bathtubs have forever been a point of interest, both in life and death.  They have been associated with glamour and famous celebrities, and just pure relaxation and enjoyment to everyday folks.  Today the bathtub has taken on new looks and designs.  The huge porcelain tubs have replaced interest in the old whirlpool fiberglass or acrylic ones.  People from all walks of life are going back to just plain relaxing in a soaking tub.  Take a bath, yes, but also just lean back and relax.  Put on some soft music and stay until the water begins to cool.

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Don't be fooled.  I don't care how many shower designs, whether you sit or stand, that can be produced or reproduced in the future, they will never eliminate the need and the fond attachment to the bathtub.  Today the most popular bathtub designs are unique in shape.  Unlike the old standard roll top look, the new designs include slipper tubs that offer a shape similar to a banana bowl where you can recline on either end, satisfying one or even two people.  They come in a variety of sizes, up to 75 inches in length, and stand on beautifully ornate legs made of chrome, brushed nickel and oil rubbed bronze.  Add to that the famous dual ended tub, or the spectacular pedestal or skirted tub, and you have choices that attract the most ardent decorator.  There are even ultra-modern solid surface designer bathtubs that will fit right in where the interior designer has taken a futuristic tack. Yes, tubs are here to stay.  If you don't have one of these newly crafted beauties you might want to check it out.

In this article, I have discussed several famous and infamous bathtubs in history. I provide details on several types of modern bathtubs and further show how showers will never replace the relaxation and enjoyment that bathtubs have brought to bathing.

Would you like to receive a FREE COPY of our new e-book? Tub King's Ultimate Guide to Cast Iron/Porcelain Tubs, Walk-in Tubs & Safety Suite Showers.  Fill in the form below and we will send it to you for free! It is also for sale and you can see/buy it on by clicking on this link.

Have a question? Feel free to contact me at the number or email listed at the end of this article and I will personally get back to you. It’s been my pleasure sharing this information with you.

Alan Knight is the owner of Tub King, Inc., and  in Jacksonville, Florida. He has many years of experience in the antique and senior bathtub industries. In addition to providing superior products, Tub King has been honored with “Best of Jacksonville Chamber Awards” for four years running. If you would like to contact Alan Knight, call (800) 409-3375 or (800) 843-4231; or send an email to

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