Baths

PUBLIC BATHING?

Public baths originated from a communal need for cleanliness at a time when most people did not have access to private bathing facilities. The term public is not completely accurate, as some types of public baths are restricted depending on membership, gender, religious affiliation, or other reasons. As societies have changed, the need for public baths has reduced as private bathing facilities became more commonly available. Public baths have also become incorporated into the social system as meeting places. As the title suggests public bathing does not refer only to bathing. In ancient times public bathing included saunas, massages and relaxation therapies. Members of the society considered it as a place to meet and socialize. Public bathing could be compared to the spa of modern times. [source]

VICTORIAN-ERA OLD WEST BATH HOUSES

As evidenced by the advertisements from newspapers of the era (particularly in the western states and territories), bath houses were often connected to hotels (simple and refined), barber shops, shaving parlors, ladies’ hairdressers, and the like.

The following ad, a “Bathing Establishment and Tonsoloial [sic] parlors” offers a wide range of barber and hairdresser services (and apparently baths, too).

Oakland Tribune of Oakland, California, on June 19, 1883.

Oakland Tribune of Oakland, California, on June 19, 1883.

TONSOLOIAL?

It’s an 1883 typo. The typesetter grabbed an ‘l’ out of the bin rather than an ‘r’….and slipped in an extra ‘o’ for good measure. (It’s easy to do when working with an unfamiliar Latin word.) It’s actually tonsorial. And a popular word in the 19th century (and first half of the 20th).

Tonsorial Definition, courtesy of Google.

Tonsorial Definition, courtesy of Google.

Bath House Composite

HOT OR COLD BATHS(?)

Who wants a cold bath, even in July?

KP Barber and Bath House. Wyandotte Gazette of Kansas City, Kansas on July 13, 1871

Wyandotte Gazette of Kansas City, Kansas on July 13, 1871.

City Shaving Parlors offers both hot and cold baths. Advertised in the Osawatomie Graphic of Osawatomie, Kansas, on June 3, 1893.

City Shaving Parlors offers both hot and cold baths. Advertised in the Osawatomie Graphic of Osawatomie, Kansas, on June 3, 1893.

3 baths for $1! Is bathing a group activity? (Shanghai Noon would suggest that yes, bathing is a group activity.)

Baths and barber shop. Public Ledger of Memphis, Tennessee on June 24, 1873

Public Ledger of Memphis, Tennessee on June 24, 1873.

Shaving and Bathing Saloon, owned and operated by R.C. Francis and Mrs. M.L. Frances.

Shaving and Bathing Saloon, owned and operated by R.C. Francis and Mrs. M.L. Francis. Interesting that the establishment is called a saloon rather than a salon. Advertisement in Santa Cruz Weekly Sentinel of Santa Cruz, California, on April 17, 1869.

Shaving. Bathing Salon. Bathhouse. Santa Cruz Weekly Sentinel. Santa Cruz CA. 30 mar 1872

Shaving and Bathing Saloon is still open for business 3 years later. Santa Cruz Weekly Sentinel of Santa Cruz, California, on March 30, 1872.

Quip used to advertise barber's shaving services and the "bath-room" (public bath) at barber's establishment. In the Osawatomie Graphic of Osawatomie, Kansas, on July 1, 1893.

Quip used to advertise barber’s shaving services and the “bath-room” (public bath) at barber’s establishment. In the Osawatomie Graphic of Osawatomie, Kansas, on July 1, 1893.

MEDICATED BATHS, STEAM BATHS, & TURKISH BATHS

Smedley and Son offers Steam Baths at their Public Bath. Advertised in Lawrence Daily Journal of Lawrence, Kansas, on June 29, 1888.

Smedley and Son offers Steam Baths at their Public Bath. Advertised in Lawrence Daily Journal of Lawrence, Kansas, on June 29, 1888. The special price–half off–would make the original going rate roughly 50 cents, or about $12.50 in current prices.

$0.25 of 1888 dollars would be worth: $6.25 in 2015

~ Dave Manuel.com Inflation Calculator

Medicated Steam Baths at Smedley's. Advertised in Lawrence Daily Journal of Lawrence, Kansas, on June 29, 1888.

Medicated Steam Baths at Smedley’s. Advertised in Lawrence Daily Journal of Lawrence, Kansas, on June 29, 1888.

$0.50 of 1888 dollars would be worth: $12.50 in 2015

$5 of 1888 dollars would be worth: $125.00 in 2015

$1.00 of 1888 dollars would be worth: $25.00 in 2015

~ Dave Manuel.com Inflation Calculator

Ideal Bath House for Ladies and Gentlemen offers a wide variety of spa services. The Black Hills Daily Times of Deadwood, South Dakota, on June 27, 1896.

Ideal Bath House for Ladies and Gentlemen offers a wide variety of spa services. The Black Hills Daily Times of Deadwood, South Dakota, on June 27, 1896.

Manitou Hotel in Salt Lake City, Utah Territory, offers Turkish Baths in suites. Ladies' Hairdressing Salon in the building. The Salt Lake Herald of Salt Lake City, Utah Territory, on April 12, 1893.

Manitou Hotel in Salt Lake City, Utah Territory, offers Turkish Baths (as well as baths in suites). Ladies’ Hairdressing Salon in the building. The Salt Lake Herald of Salt Lake City, Utah Territory, on April 12, 1893.

NINETEENTH CENTURY LUXURY

No running hot and cold water at home? No problem.

As more and more private residences had baths installed and access to such facilities became routine, the era of the public bath came to a close. But at the turn of the century (1900), Public Baths (or Bath Houses–not entirely the same thing) were still a feature of towns and cities alike. The businesses were patronized by the wealthy and the poor alike.

At the turn of the 20th century, New York was a densely populated industrial city with many of the city’s residents living in squalid tenement homes that lacked facilities for regular bathing. In keeping with the strong progressive spirit of that era, the city built “public baths” that were buildings of showers intended to promote personal cleanliness and, ultimately, Godliness and good civic behavior. As private bathrooms became more universal, the bathhouses became unnecessary and most were decommissioned soon after the end of World War II, although at least one bath held out until the city’s financial crisis closed it in the 1970s. [source]

The Oskaloosa Independent of Oskaloosa, Kansas, on June 24, 1898,

The Oskaloosa Independent of Oskaloosa, Kansas, on June 24, 1898.

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