Most people have an immediate answer to that question. When asked “Which do you prefer a shower or a bath?” the response usually comes rather quickly. Some people like to sit and soak while others enjoy the invigorating spray of a shower. I am definitely in the latter category. I really need the spray of hot water on my head to help me truly wake up and start each day. I have mentioned previously in this column that I sing in a church choir with my wife and daughter. The morning shower brings on an interesting phenomenon. For some unknown reason as soon as the water strikes my head I start hearing a hymn that we have been rehearsing and that music sticks with me most of the day and often the rest of the week. It is pleasant, but an ear worm none the less. If I try to stop it, for some reason, it just starts over again.
One day this week while in the shower it occurred to me that researching the origin my morning ritual would be an interesting story to share with you. The simplest form of taking a shower is standing under a small waterfall. The cold water can be very jarring and at the same time quite refreshing. I imagine our cave-dwelling ancestors figured that out a very long time ago. If you have been camping and came upon a small waterfall I’d be willing to bet you’d give it a try.
It wasn’t very hard to get a simple answer to question with a quick web search. According to GreekBoston.com “Early ancient Greek showers were very simple and could largely be found in public bathing facilities that everyone in the population had access to, and they became an important part of these bathhouses. Water was pumped into these facilities through the aqueduct system and then brought into the building through a series of pipes. Some of the pipes were installed higher up, and people would stand under the falling water as they bathed.”
The first patent for a shower was granted in 1767 to William Feetham, a stove maker in London, England. The shower had a hand pump to propel the water.
The first designer shower was created in the early 19th century and was called The English Regency. It had hand pump to push the water through a tank and was made out of a metal frame that was painted to look like bamboo. It makes me wonder why they wanted to to look like bamboo.
Here is a quote through The Bowery Boys Podcasts from BoweryBoyshistory.com that they quoted from a 1908 journal called Modern Baths and Bath Houses: “The rain bath is the most important form of cleansing bath, from a hygienic point of view, hence it is deserving of special attention. Since the first introduction, about the year 1883, of the so-called ‘rain baths’ in Germany, I have followed with keen interest and close attention the gradual development and rapid spread of this new system of baths. In the ‘rain bath’ system …. tubs are entirely abolished, simple spray or shower baths being substituted for the same, and being installed in the bath compartments as a distinct and independent form of bath.”
The shower or “rain bath” as they called it made it’s appearance in New York as seen in this newspaper ad above from November 11, 1914. It took until the 1960s for the modern bathroom we are used to having to become the norm in England. In the 1980s shower technology and innovation really skyrocketed into more complicated shower heads and shower stall designs. Today it seems there is no limit to how fancy your shower can be. It’s only limited by how much money you have to spend.
Let me know what you would like me to talk about or explain. You can comment below or email me at: [email protected].