M18949 | Bath (foot)

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Bath (foot)
19th century
40.5 cm
Gift of Mr. Frederick Cleveland Morgan
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Bath (2)
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Keys to History

This metal bathtub dating from the late 19th century has a peculiar shape: it is provided with a seat on which you could sit while performing your ablutions, and comes equipped with a handle, and a hose for easy emptying.

It seems that in Canada, as in most Western countries, few people had access to bathing facilities prior to the 20th century. Most modest-income homes in late-19th-century Montreal did not have a tub. In any case, there was often not enough space to put one in. In the United States during that period, five out of six people used a simple wooden tub and a sponge to wash. Most Canadians probably did the same. To extend our comparison, note that in France from the early 19th century onward, some middle class women availed themselves about once a month of the luxury of taking a bath.

Around the 1870s and 1880s, most Montreal houses had running water. This does not mean, however, that they had hot and cold water. Apart from the cases of well-off households that did have such amenities, having running water usually meant having a single tab with cold water, and this tap was not always inside the house. To fill a tub like this one, which was not hooked up to any plumbing system, you had to first heat the water in a container on a stove.

  • What

    The pewter bottom of this tub has an imitation wood pattern. The seat and soap holder are decorated.

  • Where

    Today's sort of bathroom with its tub, toilet and sink became widespread only in the 20th century when most houses were outfitted with plumbing.

  • When

    This tub was manufactured and used toward the end of the 19th century.

  • Who

    For those who had neither running water nor a tub, Montreal in the 1860s had several public baths where men - and sometimes women, depending on the time of day - could bathe. Workers aware of the importance of hygiene began to visit them in great numbers.