01 April 2006

A Neglected Anniversary

I just found out that we all missed something really important back in December: the 164th anniversary of the invention of the bathtub (on the 28th).

How could it be that something so important could have been picked up by NO ONE -- not newspaper, television, radio, NPR, the BBC or a single blog (that I could find)?

It makes you kinda wonder, in this day and age of ever-changing electronic gizmos, newfangled gadgets, and just plain goofy technology that you look at and go "Wha?" how we as a civilization could overlook something so fundamental. I have even heard it said that the ability to bathe regularly is the foundation for civilizations. Look at the Greek and Roman baths. Could you be any more civilized than that?

Invented in Cincinnati, of all places, the wonderful bathtub was ridiculed and derided -- called everything from Satan's bowl, to unhygenic; and the medical profession thought they would lead to a whole list of unpleasant diseases.
They were banned in Boston and taxed in Virginia.

Of course, as with all things, the tide changed and people slowly began to adjust their thinking. I understand the floodgates were finally opened when one was installed in the White House by Millard Fillmore -- 13th president of the United States.

Sadly, the name of the inventor has apparently been lost in time.

Well, here's a tip o' the hat to you, whomever you are, for coming up with such a great and useful invention.

[Thanks to Mr. Mencken in New York for this tip.]

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dear Christopher,
In an assignment in my undergraduate English course, we were handed th bathtub article by Mencken and told to "check the facts" on his published piece. I mean no offense in correcting you, for most of the American public, including historical textbooks and the like, believed his bathtub hoax too. Still, from one fellow truth-seeker to another, the bathtub was not invented in Cincinnati, and it was not introduced into the White House by President Fillmore.

In fact, in his own book, Mencken himself penned the following introduction to his book years later (for A Mencken Chrestomathy, pub. Alfred A. Knopf, 1949): "The success of this idle hoax, done in time of war, when more serious writing was impossible, vastly astonished me. It was taken gravely by a great many other newspapers, and presently made its way into medical literature and into standard reference books. It had, of course, no truth in it whatsoever, and I more than once confessed publicly that it was only a jocosity... Scarcely a month goes by that I do not find the substance of it reprinted, not as foolishness but as fact, and not only in newspapers but in official documents and other works of the highest pretensions."

If you still don't believe me, check out this article by Wendy McElroy, a research specialist. http://www.independent.org/newsroom/article.asp?id=333 article

It stumped a lot of people, so now that you know, you could pass the real info on to your crowd of readers. Best of wishes,

Kate in WA