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Primary Source of the Month
St. George Tucker Tub
The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation
St. George Tucker installed the first copper bathtub recorded in the Williamsburg in 1796. Tucker put it in his dairy (a cool outbuilding where cream and butter would be kept), piping in hot water from the laundry in the servants' quarters. The cold water pipe came in from his well. After he splashed about in it and scrubbed himself, he vented the bathwater right out of the house. The bath is a "hip bath," which he would have sat in like a chair.
While most homes would have contained a wooden, iron, or copper tub for washing linens or dishes, bathing was an uncommon practice. Most American colonists relied on a small pitcher of water and a bowl for washing their faces and hands, and washed their hair infrequently, instead covering it with a cap (for women) or a wig and/or hat (for men).
There was one other bathing novelty in Williamsburg during the eighteenth century: the law teacher and jurist George Wythe was in the habit of taking a rudimentary shower in the mornings. He'd fill an elevated bucket with cold water, pull a cord and release it upon himself!