A Brief History Of Clawfoot and Whirlpool Bathtubs

If you have ever dreamt of owning lavish bathroom with a regal clawfoot tub centerpiece, you’re sure to be interested to know that the earliest tub in that style dates back to over 3,000 years. Clawfoot tubs didn’t stick around, though, and are rarely recognized as being that old. While this is the oldest bathtub ever found, it’s usually the public bathhouse from Rome that gets the credit for lifting up sanitation standards. That being despite the fact that these two styles existed roughly around the same time. That isn’t so strange granted that right now we have plenty of options for the discerning homeowner to pick from finding their favorite. We’ll talk about two of our favorites, here.

Clawfoot Bathtubs

This was first marketed in America as a “glorified horse trough” as it looked like little more than a trough with legs. It eventually became a mark of luxury and social standing in the 19th century. By the time of the first world war the designs on the legs of the tub were increasingly long and intricate. When the United States become involved in the war, the metal from clawfoot tubs was often confiscated to melt down. The confiscated metal would be used to create new weapons and supplies for the war effort as the demand for the raw materials had grown so high.

After each world war followed a heavy emphasis on affordable housing. Because of this, indoor plumbing and built-in tub designs were becoming increasingly popular for how much more cost effective they were. For this, clawfoot tubs dropped in popularity significantly.

Today, clawfoot tubs are on the rise again. As many homeowners are looking for a way to bring a bit more luxury to their homes in a practical manner, clawfoot soaking tubs are making a comeback. These tubs are not made of the heavy cast iron of the predecessors, though, but fiberglass and acrylic to match all of the original elegance, with only a fraction of the upkeep.

Whirlpool Baths

Whirlpool baths, or hot tubs, are an easy favorite for anybody. Whether you just enjoy them at the hotel on your work trips, at your commercial gym after running your laps for the day, or have one installed at home to enjoy, you can’t argue that they are great for relaxing in after a hard day of work. Deep enough to soak in, and equipped with water jets to loosen up the tightest muscles, there is nothing not to like.

There are two distinct places where hot tubs came along separately. The first, Thessalonica, the ancient Greek city originally called Therma. Marble bathtubs have been found here connected to the aqueduct that brought water to the tubs. Second, Japan. Bathing facilities called onsen, which are still enjoyed today, have been in use since 700 AD. In ancient Rome there were three different types of baths you could find, balnea, balnea privata, and balnea publica. The latin roots of balnea privata and balnea publica differentiating between the two – private and public. A “balnea” without the qualifying publica or privata simply meant the bath was in someone’s home and not open for use to others.

The Greek version was often heated with braziers, but soon after being adapted in Rome the system was improved upon to use hypocaust. This was a wood-burning furnace (prafurniae) that sent warm air underneath a raised floor (supensurae) that stood on top of narrow pillars (pilae) made of solid stone, polygonal or circular bricks, and/or hollow cylinders. They would heat up the air underneath the raised floor of the tub, and leave convection take place to heat the water above.

The later developed Japanese version of the hot tub, the onsen, is heated by volcanic springs. One thing that can often surprise a western visitor is that tattoos are typically banned from these facilities, because of a historical taboo on tattoos in Japan.

Indoor baths, that are not volcanically heated, are referred to as sento. These are filled with heated tap water. These are distinctly different as by definition onsen are naturally heated by volcanic activity.

The first modern whirlpool tub, or Jacuzzi, was designed by the Jacuzzi brothers in the late 1960’s by adding jetted water to a simple bathtub. There has been plenty of features added on since then, though. Air tubs are a more budget conscious version that shoots burst of air into the water instead of jets of water. Whirlpool tubs do the same thing, arguably more effectively, with water. Then, total massage tubs provide you the advantages of both air tubs and whirlpool tubs in blending the pressurized water of a whirlpool tub with the fizzy bubbles of an air tub.

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