"DO NOT STINK ABOVE GROUND"
So admonished the religious pioneer, John Wesley, to his
disciples in the eighteenth century. For Wesley, the world was
his perish--filled with "parishioners" certainly not generally
given to bathing. Bathing of the body was not part of the
regimen of folks in the eighteenth and first half of the
With the placement of a bathtub in the Mesa-Sanchez, the
interpreters should advise the visitors that bathing was quite an
avant-garde activity in c. 1840. An indication of that is the
remark by a New York gentlemen, George Templeton Strong, in 1843
calling himself "amphibious" because he had taken a bath nightly
for a week.1
By mid-century cleansing the whole body was spreading in
popularity. In 1850 Dr. John Bell of Philadelphia set out to
clean up tpe American way of life. Bathing had been associated
with health and medicine, seen as therapeutic or preventive of
certain ailments. Physicians sometimes prescribed baths or
administered the ablution themselves. Steam baths, which were
considered superior, or showers were the favored form of bathing
rather than immersing the body itself. In fact there were
concerns about the detrimental effects of such immersion, one
being that if the dirt could flow out of the pores, it could
conversely be sucked in. At a time when one tubful of bathwater
was frequently used by a series of bathers in a family, this was
certainly cause for concern."
Spongebaths were more common than a more extreme wetting.
Carolina Gilman's 1840a manual lists instructions for giving
oneself a bath: remove clothes, apply water to the whole body
with hand, then rub akin dry. To do so one could stand on a
carpet or the floor or spread a towel or stand in a large shallow
vessel. "...with tact and patience" the bather could prevent
allowing one drop to fall on the carpet or floor. Like many
authors on the topic, Gilman assumed resistance to bathing among
her readers. Soap was not used for personal bathing. The
kitchen was the usual bathing place.3
At least one inventory for a St. Augustine boardinghouse,
dated 1841, includes "a large bath tub" and "foot tubs."" The
bather stood in the latter and spread water over the body with
his hands or a cloth. They looked like a common washtub.
The bathtubs were probably of metal: copper,zinc, or sheet
iron, painted or jappaned.t Custom required the exterior to be
plain brown and the interior, imitation marble-finish, which did
not stand up well, and re-painting was common until the
introduction of porcelain enamels. (This is a description of tubs
taken to the Continent from England.)1 For those less in the
vanguard of personal cleanliness, Ora Howard operated a bathing
SJapan is a varnish yeilding a hard brilliant coating on
such surfaces as metal or wood. Japan black is a quick-drying
black varnish consisting of asphaltum, linseed oil and thinner.
house with "baths warm and cold, vapor and showers on Wednesdays
and Saturdays" near today's National Guard headquarters."
It is probable that bath tubs located in St. Augustine at
this early date were at boardinghouse for the enjoyment of their
urban, middle-class clientele. Charles Loring's parents operated
a "hotel" two blocks south of his home and he may have been
introduced to the contraption via the guests and their needs.
Susan R. Parker
April 28, 1989
1. >>>>>>>>>>>>, Journal of American Studies (March 1988), 12A7
2. Lawrence Wright, Clean and Decent (New York: Viking
Press,1960), 161-163; )>>>>>, 1225..
3. >>>>>>, 1226.
4. St. Johns County Public Records: Deed Book 0, page 305.
5. Wright, Clean and Decent, 165.
6. Florida Herald (St. Augustine), January 20, 1836.
THE SPONGE BATH
Out in the open, with everyone passing,
With everyone passing, and shouting What ho!'
She took her bath in the garden ...
(pause for laughter)
... to paint it,
So what does it matter. I'd just like to know?
The Sponge Bath is circular, shallow, with tapered sides, a roll-
edge, carrying handles, and a spout for emptying. It may have a little
island in the middle which will be explained. More than adequate
instructions were published for its use:
In taking such a bath it is desirable that the sponge be of large size,
and it should be placed in the bath, charged with water, ready for imme-
charged sponge, as the bather steps into the bath, should be lifted and
carried quickly to the back of the head, which should be slightly inclined
forward, so that the bulk of the water will run down the spine and back;
the next spongeful should be almost instantaneously applied, leaning for-
ward, to the top of the head, and the third, standing quite upright, to the
chest; the arms and legs may then be separately treated: and if desire be
felt for more, the application may be repeated to the back of the head and
The use is recommended, in conjunction with the Sponge Bath, of a
broad stool (heavily weighted at the bottom, to prevent the risk of upset-
ting) covered loosely with carpet, and high enough to reach above the level
of the water when placed in the middle of the bath: the piece of carpet
may be dried each day after use; or a Sponge Bath may be readily con-
structed with a fixed raised centre of metal forming a portion of the bath,
the bather standing as it were on an island; the feet may thus at first be
kept dry, and the preliminary shock received on the head and shoulders; 77
persons who in despair had almost given up the Bath are by this means
enabled to enjoy it without discomfort. Should the reaction after a Sponge
Bath be very slow, it may be hastened by the previous addition to the
water of a small wine-glassful of eau-de-cologne, spirits of wine, or spirits
of any description, whiskey being perhaps best.
So that the learner might refer constantly to these vital instruc-
tions, there should surely have been an edition printed on waterproof
paper, as was done later for d'Annunzio, who liked to read his own
poems in the bath. cr
THE HIP BATH
The Hip Bath, to become by far the most popular form, is oval,
occasionally round, tapered downwards and with a base tapering
outwards, a high back, a roll-edge and perhaps little elbow rests also
serving as soap-dishes. Many older persons will still remember a hip
bath set out in a cosy bedroom, on a waterproof bath-sheet, with
brass or copper hot-water cans gleaming in the light of a good fire,
and a thick towel warming on the fire-guard.
It is very beneficial in various forms of cholera, colic, liver complaints,
diarrhoea, and disordered conditions.
:/ """ --'. .
1_ _.=- -. .x '.. -.
HIP AND THIGH
One model has a little seat half way up the back, to keep the rump
out of the water; had it only been provided with foot-rests too, a bath
could have been taken without getting wet at all.
The Fountain Bath or Ascending Douche has vanable sprays like
a garden hose, giving an upward jet of water over which the patient