Later, there were ingenious (though ultimately impractical) hideaway alternatives, like the portable canvas tub (similar to a pot-bellied cot), or the Mosely folding bath tub—an armoire-like contraption with a hinged door that pulled down like a Murphy bed to reveal a bathing saucer.
The Smithsonian National Museum of American History does not have images of a Mosely fold bathtub as best I can tell, but it has images of early American tubs in its collection. Supposedly “The earliest known bathtub was found in Greece, and was found in the Palace of Knossos, in Crete, dating from 1700 B.C. Excavations of Greek cities have turned up alabaster and ceramic tubs, as well as sophisticated hot and cold water systems providing indoor plumbing to the bathers. We are more familiar with ancient Roman baths, where bathing took on great societal and public importance.”
The first baths weren’t about getting clean or relaxing, according to JSTOR Daily. “In the 1860s, experts agreed that the best kind of bath was a brief plunge in cold water… The focus of bathing was not to remove dirt, and few experts suggested the use of soap. One physician suggested soap only for excessively dirty bodies, since it removed necessary oils from the skin.”
Taking a bath can actually improve your health, according to some (“help you sleep better” AND “wake you up”? Make up your mind, Town&Country). But bathtubs are not just for bathing. Rose Heichelbech of Dusty Old Thing offers readers Our Lady of the Clawfoot Tub: The History of Bathtub Madonnas.