Egyptians built elaborate bathrooms inside pyramids.
The year: 1500 BC or so. So says John C. Flood.
The ancient Romans had toilets.
Wealthy people in the Middle Ages had toilets.
The Queen had a toilet.
So did lots of other people.
In 1775 Alexander Cummings, a watchmaker, developed the S-shaped pipe under the toilet basin to keep out the foul odours [sic].
In 1833, the White House was plumbed (on the ground floor) with running water.
In the 1840‘s, the finest of American homes had indoor plumbing (including flushing toilets), running hot and cold water, and all the conveniences such as bathtubs.
“In 1920 only 1% of U.S. homes had electricity and indoor plumbing.”
Note: the conjunction ‘and’ betwixt electricity and indoor plumbing implies that in 1920 the houses had to have both to qualify for that 1%. Feel free to read the document and let me know if you gather different information.
Note: Prior to cities providing sewer systems, individual homes had septic tanks.
I toured the Flavel House in Astoria, Oregon (see this post too), and found the original decor of the bathroom facilities fascinating. On both the first and second stories, the toilets are built into a decorative wooden cabinet, much as the bathtub is, below. A lid shut over the bowl and seat of the toilet (much like we have today, but it covered the entire cabinet that extended well beyond today’s oval rims). The seat was finished wood, as was the lid. The toilet paper dispenser (if memory serves) was also in a bowl-like depression beneath the over-encompassing lid. When closed, the toilet appeared much like a wooden cabinet (see left-hand side of second image, below. The two signs are standing immediately behind the toilet lid). The following two images are two different views of the same upstairs bathroom in the Flavel House. [built 1884-1885]
The Molly Brown House, built 1889 (Denver), “contained all the modern technology of the day including electricity, indoor plumbing, steam heat and telephone lines“.
Proper Plumbing Techniques.
Near the end of the following article about a new hotel in New York City, see the references to proper plumbing techniques. In case this scanned image is difficult to read, I’ve transcribed the ‘paragraph’ I’d like you to see, below.
Transcription of the last segment of the article, immediately above, regarding plumbing of the Buckingham Hotel:
“…The plumbing arrangements have been very carefully considered and thoroughly executed, and everything connected with them is of the most complete description. All waste-pipes are double-trapped so as to prevent the possibility of odors arising from the sewer. There are more bathing tubs in this house than in any other of the same-size in the world, and every part has all the conveniences in modern plumbing that can possibly be devised in a hotel.”
~ The New York Times, May 30th, 1875 (referencing Buckingham Hotel) [source: newspapers.com]
This 1884 illustration shows proper plumbing of a home. (note: same year as Flavel House [Mansion] was built)
The historical floor plans I purchased to reference when writing LESSIE: BRIDE OF UTAH (The American Mail-Order Brides Series) showed an upper-middle-class family home with two bathrooms: a full bath on the main level and a half-bath on the second floor. As Lessie’s circumstances in her youth had not been comfortable, she’d never had the luxury of an indoor bathroom, much less running hot and cold water and the ability to take a full bath daily. I made sure she had the chance to savor a hot bath in her new home…and make the scene do double- or triple-duty as her husband becomes acquainted with his mail-order bride. (It’s a ‘clean’ book! [pun intended]–mildly sensual, kissing, tender falling-in-love emotions, a bit of longing, but nothing further.)
Tip: to my fellow writers— I used this floor plan extensively when writing Lessie’s story, particularly in the scenes where Richard Cannon shows his new wife the home he had built for her, and the scenes that occurred inside the house. I had the distinct pleasure of beta readers telling me they could easily “see” the house. No confusion in the author, no confusion in the reader.
Portable Gilded Age Toilets.
In Lessie’s twin’s book (JOSIE: BRIDE OF NEW MEXICO), I enjoyed writing luxury railway travel, with a private rail car equipped with not one private bathroom (for the family) but two (for the help).What are your thoughts about indoor plumbing in the Victorian Era? Any tidbits to add? Please scroll down to the space provided for feedback and responses.
Sites of interest:
- Clatsop County Historical Society’s Flavel House (because there is more than one Flavel House in Astoria, this is one is sometimes referred to as “Mansion”)
- Molly Brown House Museum
Old West Bath Tubs Victorian Refrigerators (a.k.a. Icebox) Screen Doors, a new invention! Top 5 Reasons AUTHORS of Western Historical Romance Benefit From Visiting Historical Museum Residences Top 5 Reasons READERS of Western Historical Romance Benefit From Visiting Historical Museum Residences The Necessary (a.k.a. the outhouse) Chamber Pots and the Old West Luxury Travel 1890-Style Victorian Ladies Underwear Victorian Era Feminine Hygiene Victorian Lawn Mowers Book Description: Lessie, Bride of Utah Book Description: Josie, Bride of New Mexico
Copyright © 2016 Kristin Holt, LC