Most Egyptians bathed daily in the river or out of a water basin at home. Wealthy homes had a bathroom where servants would pour jugs of water over their master (equivalent to a modern day shower). The runoff was drained through a pipe to water the garden. A cleansing cream made of animal or vegetable oil mixed with powered lime and perfume was used instead of soap. People rubbed themselves daily with a perfumed unguent oil that had soaked in scented wood. The mixture was left in a pot until the oil absorbed the wood scent. Perfumed oil was used to prevent the skin from drying out in the harsh climate. At parties, servants would place a cone of perfumed grease on the head of each guests. The grease had a cooling effect as it melted and ran down the faces of each guest. Everyone, regardless of age or gender wore makeup. Highly polished silver and copper mirrors aided the application of makeup.
The Romans turned the public bath into an architectural marvel, with complex systems of plumbing and furnaces providing hot water. The bath was a large part of communal life in the Roman Empire, much like a community center. The public bath was largely abandoned in the Middle Ages. Water from the public baths or aqueduct system flowed continuously in troughs beneath the latrine seats; the sewage (along with waste bath water) was delivered to the sewers beneath the city, and eventually to the Tiber River. In 315 CE there were 144 public latrines in Rome. Public latrines are most associated with the Roman Empire, which introduced them throughout the Empire's reaches. The Romans were proud of their "rooms of easement." Public baths often included such rooms adjacent to gardens. The Romans went to meet friends, exchange news and gossip. Elongated rectangular platforms with several adjacent seats were utilized (some with privacy partitions, but most without). These latrine rooms were often co-ed, as were the baths. While public latrines were used by many people, human wastes were for the most part thrown into the street in Rome.
The Romans built sewers primarily for the conveyance of storm water. The other items that floated along were of no concern. Most homes or apartments were served by cesspools or covered storage tanks behind the dwelling. Every now and then, manure merchants would collect the wastes and sell it as fertilizer. People who lived on the second and higher floors didn't always use the common, ground-floor privies. They would use chamber pots and dump the contents out their windows and onto the street or alley below.
Soap is actually a pretty early invention. They had it by 2800 BC in ancient Mespotamia. These soaps were made by boiling animal fats or vegetable oils with ashes and would have been pretty harsh and abrasive. The Greeks and Romans prefered to use something called a strigil. They'd oil their bodies, then scrape them clean with this strigil, a curved piece of wood. Women in India did not use soap but instead used a turmeric germicidal cream treatment composed of gramflour or wheat husk mixed with milk. The wheat husk would remove dead cell tissue.
The Ancient Egyptians, would shave their hair (so they didn't get lice!) and then wear wigs. They shaved their body hair too. Before the late 1800's, Europeans just covered up body odor with perfumes. In the Middle Ages, it was customary for the wealthy to put rose petals and rose oil in their baths. Many noblewomen carried bouquets of fragrant flowers to cover body odors. Considering most European countries have cold climates, bathing was not only inconvenient, but a cold process. People tended to think that they got sick from bathing rather than realizing it was the cold and germs. During colonial times, taking off your clothes, getting into water and washing their hair was a time consuming process just due to the mechanics such as hauling in the water; heating it on the wood stoves; bringing in the hip baths; making the soap; cleaning the clothes and towels afterwards; etc. Bathing usually required more than one person to put it all together. For the wealthy, that meant many servants. For the lower classes, that meant a family affair. They would put up a quilt in a corner, hopefully by the fire, and bring in the tin tub. Because bathing was a big affair, they sometimes made cuts to hurry up the process such as the whole family using the same bathwater. Starting with the men of the house, then the women and children and lastly, the babies. By then the bathwater was so filthy that you couldn't see the bottom of the tub. This is where the term, "Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater!" came from. So many times they avoided bathing.
The commode, sometimes called "the malodorous furniture", was not a popular item, and was generally found only among the richest of citizens. Most preferred chamber pots, outhouses and, towards the middle of the nineteenth century, toilets that flushed with water. The chamber pot was found in all homes, and could be replaced by any container, pot, can or pail. In the country, and in populated areas of large cities, the chamber pot and outhouses at the far end of the backyard remained the norm until the end of the nineteenth century.
Saxons had little time for luxuries. They used pots or deep cesspits. A cesspit is a big hole in the ground for toilet waste. In Medieval times people used potties. Potties were kept in most homes. Streets had open drains – channels that ran down the streets – so it was easy to empty the pots. You just chucked the contents out of the window. When people flung their potty waste out of the window, they would shout "Gardez l’eau" [gar-day low]. That's French for "watch out for the water". We probably get the word "loo" from this expression. It wasn't surprising that under these conditions whole cities would fall to hepatitis and typhoid. Rich people had little rooms jutting out from the walls of their homes. There would be a plank of wood with a hole in it, to sit on. There was nothing underneath – whatever you did would just fall to the ground! Sometimes these loos were over a moat, so the waste would fall into the water. Sometimes there was a chute which went down to the moat or a cesspit. The cesspits were emptied by people known as "gongfermors". In castles these little toilet rooms were known as garderobes (to 'guard' the 'robes'). They were called that because people kept their clothes in them. The pong kept moths away.
Henry VIII’s courtiers at Hampton Court shared a ‘great house of easement’ with 28 seats on two different levels. It emptied into brick-lined drains, which carried the waste into the River Thames. A team of ‘gong scourers’ cleaned these royal loos. Gong scourers or gong farmers were boys small enough to crawl along the drains. It was probably not a very popular job! While the servants shared the house of easement, Tudor kings did their royal business on a luxurious ‘close stool’. This was a large bucket and water tank, with a padded seat. Henry VIII’s close stool had a padded seat, trimmed with silk ribbons and studded with gold nails. Tudor people would happily ‘pluck a rose’ (have a wee) anywhere – in chimneys, corners of rooms or in the street. In Edinburgh, you could hire a portable toilet, which was a bucket with a tent-like cloak. Poor people would wipe themselves with leaves, moss or stones. Better off people used bits of old clothes. They called the loo 'the jakes'.
In 1596, Sir John Harrington invented the first water closet with a proper flush. He built one in his house. His godmother, Queen Elizabeth I, used it, and she was so impressed that she had 'a john' built at Richmond Palace. Unfortunately, it was knocked down after John Harrington died and it was almost 200 years until the WC was re-invented.
During the 18th and 19th centuries, 'pan closets' - sometimes hidden in commode chairs, became the rage - all of which required outside emptying and none of which were connected to an indoor water flow.
In 1777, Samuel Prosser patented the plunger closet. In 1778, Joseph Bramah created a two piece toilet that employed a hinged valve at the bottom of the bowl. He received a patent for the float and valve flushing system. This principle is still used in today’s toilets. It was however, Thomas Twyford, in 1884, who changed the course of bathroom history by inventing the first one-piece toilet. Twyford's model was also the first constructed of porcelain, much easier to clean than the previous wood or metal models.
1883-84 THOMAS WILLIAM TWYFORD introduced the first all-ceramic, free-standing, one-piece, washout, pedestal closet. The UNITAS. This incorporated the WC pan with an
integral trap as one piece of pottery without the need for a surrounding wooden cabinet. The UNITAS was exported throughout the world and the name itself is used to this day in the Russian language to mean toilet. In 1887 Twyford’s Cliff Vale factory was built as a "model" factory. The new factory’s toilet facilities and systems of ventilation were treated by Government Inspectors of Factories as a pattern for the whole of Staffordshire. Every workman had his own opening window.
Thomas Crapper was a real individual who ran a successful plumbing business in England from 1861 until he retired in 1904. Although he is often mistakenly credited with inventing the toilet, he did hold nine plumbing related patents, three of which were for water closets. Albert Giblin, claimed by some to be an employee of Crapper, held the 1819 British Patent for the Silent Valveless Water Waste Preventer, an invention enabling the toilet to flush effectively. The confusion stems from the likelihood that Crapper bought the patent rights from Giblin and marketed the device himself. His tanks were labeled with "T. Crapper" or "Thos. Crapper". World War I doughboys coming to Europe saw these commodes and began calling them "crappers".
Frederick Humpherson's proudest claim is that they produced ‘The Original Pedestal Wash-Down Closet’, and the direct ancestor of the type in use worldwide today. His competitor was Thomas Crapper and Thomas Twyford.
During the late 1700's and early 1800's, Florence Nightingale describes the usual English cottage,
"Watersupply almost entirely from shallow wells, often uncovered, mostly in the cottagegarden, not far from a pervious privy pit, a pigsty, or a huge collection of house refuse, polluted by the foulness soaking into it. The liquid manure from the pigsty trickles through the ground into the well. Often after heavy rain the cottagers complain that their wellwater becomes thick."
"The cesspits are excavations in the ground; often left unlined. Sometimes the privy is a wooden sentrybox, placed so that the fœcal matter falls directly into a ditch. Cesspits often very imperfectly or not at all covered. Some privies with a cubic capacity of 18 or 20 feet are emptied from once to thrice yearly. But we are often told that all the contents "ran away," and that therefore emptying was not required! These privies are often close to the well-one within a yard of the cottagers' pump."
In America, at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello estate, visitors can still see his indoor privy with a system of pulleys for servants to empty the pots from his "earth closet." In another display of American ingenuity, William Campbell and James T. Henry received the first American patent for a toilet (called a plunger closet) granted in 1857. Largely unsuccessful improvements continued to be made in the 1870s to 1890s in the search for sanitary "water closet". American designs were generally inferior to English ones and most "water closets" of this period were imported.
Roll toilet paper wasn't invented until the 19th century, so before that, people used leaves, moss, corn cobs (really!), paper, or scraps of cloth. The Romans used a communal sponge on a stick that was rinsed after each use. Some cultures in the dry middle east where leaves are hard to come by, traditionally used their left hands -- which is why that hand still in the near east is never used for shaking hands or eating. The first toilet paper was used in Britain in 1857. It was called ‘curl papers’ and came in flat packs. Chemists sold it from under the counter because people were embarrassed to see it displayed. Toilet rolls were first sold in 1928. Soft paper was introduced in 1932 but was unpopular at first. In 1957, coloured paper was first used.
During the 19th century the population in Britain increased greatly. Unfortunately the number of toilets did not. In overcrowded cities like London many poor families had to share a single loo called a privy. Sometimes more than 100 people shared one loo! The privies overflowed and the waste spilled onto the streets and into the rivers. In London, sewage, dead animals, horse manure and chemicals from factories were all dumped into the Thames. People drank the same water. It was brown when it came out of the taps! This was not only disgusting but also very unhealthy. It caused outbreaks of cholera (a disease carried in dirty water) in the 1830s and 1850s. Tens of thousands of people died. Because of this, the government said in 1848 that every new house should have a water closet or ash-pit privy. This was a loo which had a pile of ash instead of water underneath. Sometimes children would dip a stick into the waste and go and wipe it on the door knockers of posh houses! 'Night soil men' would come to empty the ash-pits. In 1858 a heatwave caused the 'big stink'. London smelled like one, big, recently-used toilet! The government had a new sewer system built, which was finished in 1865. It meant toilet waste would get taken way instead of going into the river or staying near houses. People stopped dying of cholera and typhoid. However, many houses weren't connected to a sewer system or piped water until the 20th century.
In rural areas, A three-sided shack with a door sitting on top of a hole in the ground, or as I mentioned earlier above flowing water. In America, we called these outhouses, privies, necessary houses, backhouses. The location was usually determined by the easiest digging spot and how fast you needed to get there. Old-timers would line the hole with a wooden crib to keep the sides from caving in. Later stones, brick and hydraulic cement were employed to keep the hole intact and in some required locations, provide a water-tight seal, hence the term "privy vault" found in municipal ordinances. Besides the standard bench with one or more holes, a trough or funnel may have been attached to one side, directing liquid wastes to the hole below. Problems were the odor, flies and vermin or snakes. Once the pits filled up, you had to dig another one and move the outhouse. When you worked hard all day in the fields, outhouses were the last thing you wanted to deal with. Convenience sometimes led to laziness in keeping your outhouses up to date. It might be easier to build one over the creek or river so you don't have to dig pits. This means that people downstream will suffer with dirty water. Many people didn't know about hygience, sanitation, germs, etc. even into the mid twentieth century in back areas of the country. Many people died of typhoid, cholera and other diseases and outbreaks due to poor sanitation up until modern times.
Public sewer systems began to be built in urban areas in the late 1800's and slowly moved out into cities, towns, villages and neighborhoods. Some people in America were still using outhouses as of the mid-1900's in the rural corners of the country. It was a big deal to get an indoor bathroom. Houses that were built before there were indoor bathrooms were updated with indoor bathrooms by finding a closet or adding a backporch to add the bathroom. Therefore bathrooms were built just big enough to house the commode, bathtub, and sink. Bathrooms were small, necessary rooms. Homes built in America after 1920's had bathrooms included in their plans but they were still usually small as compared to today's modern bathrooms.
Cleaning your teeth took various ways! People in the ancient world rubbed ashes, pumice, ground shells (generally mixed with scented oils or herbs), ground egg shells, or borax powder on their teeth. Some used a stick with a frayed end to scrub them. Some trees were better than others at this. They also used wine as mouthwashes.
Antiperspirants and deodorants first appeared in the 1880s with aluminum chloride as the active ingredient. Aluminum chlorohydrate was substituted in the 1940s, after complaints of skin irritation, and it continues to be used today. Roll-on deodorant was launched in 1952, and aerosol deodorant in 1965.
Bathing did not fall out of fashion in Europe until shortly after the Renaissance, replaced instead with the heavy use of sweat-bathing and perfume, as it was thought in Europe that water could carry disease into the body through the skin. Modern sanitation as we know it was not widely adopted until the 19th and 20th centuries.
In the 1800-1900's, wherever there were natural hot springs (bubbling hot water from underground mineral springs that come to the surface), resorts would spring up. These natural mineral hot springs were used to bathe in and swim in for health purposes. Resort owners would build private bathrooms for people to soak in the natural hot waters. Or they would build swimming pools. Some people would take vacations to these resorts for "cures". The communities surrounding these resorts were often named for the mineral hot springs. Some around here were Boiling Springs, Hot Springs, Glenn Springs, etc.
Swimming became a big pasttime in the twentieth century, especially before there was air conditioning. There were many public pools with public bathhouses and bathrooms for dressing and showering. It was normal for blacks and whites to have separate pools or lakes. You didn't mix races in the same pools or lakes. During the Civil Rights era, it became illegal to enforce separate areas for public use. Many public pools and lakes either closed up or changed to private pools and clubs in order not to have to deal with an explosive situation.
Cosmetics of some type or another have been used since ancient times. The first examples date from 3000BC in China. They used gum arabic, egg whites, gelatine and beeswax to create their nail varnish. The royal family in China used gold and silver nail colours. In the first century AD black and red were also used. The lower ranks were only allowed to wear pale colours. We know Egyptians used heavy cosmetics. The Egyptians were very spiritual people, and believed their appearance was directly related to their level of spirituality. They used Mesdemet which was made of copper and lead ore. This could lead to lead poisoning if used constantly. They applied green to their lower eyelids, then black or dark gray to their eyelashes and upper eyelids. This deflected sun and helped with glare. And keeping with their spiritual beliefs, the dark colors were designed not only to enhance their appearance, but to ward off evil eyes. Mesdemet also warded off insects and worked as a disinfectant. And with life on the Nile being fairly filled with annoying insects, the eye makeup performed definite purposes. Kohl was made of burnt almonds, oxidized copper, a couple of different-colored copper ores, lead, ash, and ochre. They called it kohl, and it came out as a dark-colored powder, which was applied with a small stick, on and around the eyes, in an almond shape. Kohl was kept in a small, flat-bottomed pot with a wide, tiny rim and a flat, disk-shaped lid. Then, to complement the fancy eye makeup, they applied a mixture of red clay and water to their lips and cheeks. And the nails weren’t left out, either. They used henna to dye them orange or yellow.
Perfumes, perfuming oils and unguents were much used by Egyptians, Jews, Greeks and Romans. The perfumer was considered an artist. In 54 AD, Emperor Nero spent the equivalent of $100,000 just to scent just one party. He had carved ivory ceilings in his dining rooms that were fitted with concealed pipes that sprayed down mists of fragrant waters on guests below. He had panels that slid to one side, to shower guests with fresh rose petals. One unfortunate guest was asphyxiated by a dense rose-petal cloud.
In Europe, during the medieaval period, a pale face was the desired look because it defined your place in society. It was recognized that those who worked in the fields had tanned and rugged skin. They were the working class, not to be associated with the upper refined class, who had white skin. Those with pale skin were the ones who had enough money that they didn’t need to work. And to achieve that look, women and men used a powder made of hydroxide, carbonate, and lead oxide and, sometimes, arsenic powder. As you can imagine this lead to lead poisoning and/or arsenic poisoning. During the French Restoration in the 18th century, red rouge and lipstick were the rage and implied a healthy, fun-loving spirit. This stuck in France, but eventually people in other countries became repulsed by excessive makeup use and said the painted French must be unattractive because they had something to hide. It wasn't until the 1800's that they began to substitute zinc oxide in place of the lead oxide. And it is what is used today in powders. Another way they produced the pale face was to bleed themselves using leeches or "cupping" (heating a glass cup and puncturing your skin and applying the heated cup to create suction and draw blood out). It was considered embarrassing for women to have to have help to look beautiful. Mrs. Henning, the owner of the House of Cyclax, discreetly sold face creams and rouge to the ladies. The ladies would sneak in from a back alley wearing veils. One of her products, papier poudre, was a colored-powdered paper that the women pressed on their faces to remove the shine. The pieces of paper came in books, and you can still buy them today; one company that sells them is Avon. As well as the papier poudre, the women used the charcoal on the end of burned matches for mascara, and flower petals for lipstick. Another beauty salon owner, Helena Rubenstein, found herself very busy with her upper-class clients. Women with disposable income were willing to spend a lot of money on their appearance. Helena Rubenstein started out with a face cream that protected the women from the sun, and later added lipstick and face powder. Victorians claimed to abhor makeup, associating it with prostitutes, calling them painted ladies. As the popularity of beauty salons increased, in the beginning of the 20th century, the cosmetics industry became established – and it’s never looked back. Starting with a salon called Selfridges, which opened in 1909 in London, cosmetics were no longer hidden under the counter, but were sold on the open market. Women became more confident, and didn’t worry as much about what others thought – as long as they looked good.
In the 1920s having tanned skin became popular when Coco Chanel was seen with a tan on the Duke of Westminster’s yacht. The idea of having brown skin became more attractive and products were produced that could create this colour artificially.
Hair dye and dressing hair is not new. The Romans, Ancient Egyptians and Greeks were all involved in elaborate forms of hairdressing and dyeing. Most of the early hair dyes, such as henna, indigo, sage and camomile, could only darken the hair. Roman women would show off their dark shiny tresses that had been dyed with a mixture of boiled walnuts and leeks. They also used blond dyes made from goat’s fat and ashes. In the Renaissance, blond was also popular as it was considered angelic and mixtures of black sulphur, alum and honey were painted onto the hair and left to work in the sun. It was in 1907 that the first synthetic dye was created by French chemist Eugene Schueller. It was originally called Aureole, but later it was renamed L’Oreal.
In America, cosmetics became fashionable among the upper classes due to European theatre and ballet. But, when the American masses had access to movies, cosmetics became popular with all women. The movie industry and Hollywood changed the cosmetic industry forever. Among those who saw the opportunity for mass-market cosmetics were Max Factor, Elizabeth Arden and Maybelline. In 1915, lipstick was first marketed in lipstick tubes. After World War I, it became the fashion to have dark-smudged, sulty eyes, red pouting lips and nail polish. At first, many women's magazines refused advertisements for cosmetics, but by the end of the '20s, cosmetics provided one of their largest sources of advertising revenue.
During the 1930s, lipstick was dark red, with an ever-changing array of shades. But that was bad news for the philanderers – the dark lipstick left a distinct stain, and many wives were looking for explanations for the “lipstick on the collar”. At the same time, fingernails followed suit with the lipstick, with their dark crimson colors. But that was contrasted by the lighter pink of the toenails. In 1935 Max Factor developed the pan makeup to make actresses look natural in movies. In 1933, the first permanent waves using chemicals instead of heating machines were introduced.
Around World War II, the use of cosmetics dwindled a bit because of shortages of ingredients to make them and many women were working in factories and plants for the first time. But as soon as the war was over, people started spending money again. It was in 1958 that masquara wands were invented. Cover Girl makeup was developed and marketed to teens in 1961.
This bathroom is a modern bathroom that is made to look like the old bathrooms.
This is an Art Deco style bathroom that was probably popular in the first twenty years of the twentieth century. I can see these in craftsman style bungalows.
This 1930's bathroom has the green and black tile, the separate tank commode, the old porcelain pedestal sink, the tiny tile floor and the radiator. There are still many houses built in the early twentieth century that still have their old bathrooms because, by golly!, they made them last back then. Everything still in working order. One neighborhood in Spartanburg that has these houses and I've seen their bathrooms...is Converse Heights.
There was a time period for several decades where ceramic tile was considered the easy-to-clean-wallpaper. So they tried different color combinations. It was like the fashion to have this lime green and black during the 1930's.
But there was also the white and black, pink and black and then...in the 1950's they began to really try all kinds of colors until the 1980's. By the end of the 1980's people were going back to white bathroom fixtures and real wallpaper or paint. In the 1990's, bathrooms began to grow. They have gotten bigger and bigger until, now, the market demands a master bathroom that is as big as the master bedroom or living room.
These 1940's bathrooms have tile from floor to ceiling in bright colors.
This yellow 1945 bathroom even boasts 2 sinks and a separate water closet for the commode. This has come back in style.
I've seen quite a few of these bathrooms. This one looks like it's in great condition considering it's probably over 50 years old! That is a pretty turquoise ceramic tile. Notice the undermounted sink? Again, that has come back around.
In the late 1950's and 1960's you begin to find the vanities rather than pedestal sinks. This was to give more room for all that makeup and hair styling that began to go on in this era. Remember the beehives, the Dippity Dew, Avon and hair spray?
this particular bathroom is really a large bathroom for that time period.
This bathroom is WAY OUT in the color spectrum. To me, teal, purple, white and red just don't go together. At least it's interesting.
This gray and mauve ceramic tile was popular in the late 1960's. Our last house was built in 1969. One bathroom was white and gray and mauve ceramic tile and the other bathroom was white and pink ceramic tiles. Our bathrooms had those builtin chrome things over the sink too. I like these trim, mod sinks. Notice this bathtub is a corner tub. The terrazo tile floor is a nice touch.
This peach was popular in the 1970's along with yellow, gold, avocado and the blue. I don't know what they were thinking! I'm a child of the 1970's but I never liked the colors from that time period. The blue could be pretty except it's always so intense and bathrooms are usually fairly small rooms, at least back then, with artificial light so the blue is just too intense and dark a color. It makes a bathroom look smaller than it is.
This bathroom looks like a late 1970's redo. It's been cosmetically done since then but not gutted. That '70's peachy color is hard to decorate around. Whoever did this bathroom did as good as can be expected by using gray and white to try and drown out the dark peach.
This is your typical 1980's bathroom. It's a small bathroom with the dated light wood cabinets (and wooden commode seat) and the dark blue countertop. It looks like it's been upgraded recently because of the waterfall bathtub spigot and the gooseneck sink spigot and fresh paint.