The History of Clawfoot Bathtubs


While the earliest known plumbing systems date back some 6000 years, it was the 3000 years ago, on the island of Crete, that the ancestor of the pedestal bathtub was first unearthed. It was five feet long, made of hard pottery and its shape resembled the 19th century clawfoot tub.

However, it was the popularity of bathing during the Roman Empire, from 500 B.C. through 455 A.D., that brought together the control of water flow (in particular, the lead pipe), containment, and disposal of waste on a mass scale that led to the general use of the bathtub in both public and private use. Marble fixtures, ornate designs, and decorative plumbing was taken to a high level and that part of antiquity was brought forth and recreated in bathrooms during the Victorian era of the 1800’s by the elite of that period.

Introduction to the United States
The cast iron pipe was introduced from Europe in the early 1800’s, which started the production of cast iron domestically. It was in 1848 that the National Public Health Act was passed creating a plumbing code for the U.S.

In the late 1880’s several companies, such as Kohler and American Standard (originally known as the Standard Sanitary Manufacturing Company), began the process of enameling porcelain to cast iron bathtubs. These tubs gained in popularity when the tubs were recognized as having an extremely sanitary surface that was smooth and easy to clean, thus preventing the spread of bacteria and disease.

Victorian Influence

The Victorian era of the mid to late 1800’s produced a wide variety of unique clawfoot bathtub designs and decorative plumbing fixtures with the clawfoot bathtub as the dominant fixture in the bathroom. It was an expression of wealth, luxury, and elegance for the upper class. These tubs were beautiful and made a bathroom look like it was made for royalty.

Mass Production

After World War I, a construction boom in the U.S. resulted in the clawfoot bathtub being mass produced along with the water closet and sink, which was in demand as only one percent of homes at that point had indoor plumbing at all. Over time, the once popular clawfoot tub was replaced by the less expensive built-in tub with an apron front, which brought about an end to an era.

The Clawfoot Bathtub Makes a Comeback!

The trend today, though, is shifting back to the elegant style and luxury of a soaking clawfoot bathtub. Homeowners are tearing out their dine-a-dozen built-in tubs and replacing them with either original clawfoot tubs that were re-conditioned through refinishing or purchasing expensive reproductions. Bathtub refinishing is the economical choice, especially if you already own the tub and refinishing is all that is needed for the tub is a sparkling new finish. The clawfoot tub is very popular among traditionalists everywhere and is a good choice to give your home a little bit of edge and style. Nothing screams antique bathroom like a clawfoot bathtub!


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