The original source (J.L. Mott Iron Works, 1888) says the following:Salmoneus wrote: ↑20 Aug 2020 18:19 I have a question, people! About bathing!
So, by a roundabout way, I came across a brief article about the history of bathrooms - how the modern bathroom was invented as part of a craze for 'sanitary' arrangements in the early 20th century, echoing some concerns we face now. Yada yada.
But what perplexes me is the illustrations. Look at this late-19th-century bathroom. Obviously, the most striking thing is that everything is a monumental wooden block. But beyond that, what ARE those things? Well, going clockwise from the bottom left... that immense plinth must be the toilet (see cistern above), and then the bath, and then... huh? A sink? A chest of drawers - but with something on top? And then on the right there's another one - that's definitely a chest of drawers, with maybe a container for cosmetics and the like on top? Then the real sink, and then... what is that narrow thing, a sort of lidded bidet?
But then finally, there's the real mystery: what is that thing at the bottom right?
And then again, at the end of the century, we have a bathroom like this one. The style is rather ornate, but more recognisable. And it contains the four essential items: the bath, the sink, the toilet, and, on the left, the.... what!?
The item on the left of the later picture and that on the far right in the earlier picture appear to be the same thing. Both are lower than the corresponding bath - the front is in each case lower than the seat of the toilet. Both are quite wide/long, but not as long as the full bath. Both appear to have taps nearby. And both have a very distinctive ogival 'shoulder'. And given that it's still there as one of only four items in the simplified ~1900 bathroom, they're clearly important.
BUT WHAT THE HELL ARE THEY!?
So, I've thought of four options, but none of them seem convincing to me:
a) a bidet. You could sit/crouch in it. However, having to sit in the water doesn't seem to match the sanitary purpose of the bidet. It's much larger than it would need to be, too. And the older, wooden bathroom has that otherwise unidentifed 'narrow plinth' item that could well be a bidet itself.
b) a urinal. It's a little bit like a trough urinal, to use while standing. But if you're going to have a private urinal, why would it need to be so wide? And the front of the wooden one seems rather high for that purpose. And you've had thought the makers of the wooden bathroom would have discretely hidden the porcelain if it was used for urination. And it's not just high-backed, it's specifically got those 'shoulders' - how would they help a urinal? And finally, both devices seem to have no cistern-powered flush, but instead THREE taps. Presumably, given that everything else has three taps, that's hot and cold mixers and a volume control. A bit elaborate for a urinal!
c) a sit-in bath. Those shoulders look useful for helping you stand up out of the bath, don't they? The width is wide enough for you to sit while still have room on either side for, say, dipping a pitcher or the like. And yet... it's really low! Why would a sit-in bath be lower than either the bath or the toilet? In fact on the newer one, given that no seat is visible, you'd almost be down on the floor! Given the depth of the baths, why not just fill the bath partway, if you just wanted to sit in some water? Unlike the baths, both devices have no visible water taps down INTO the device, presumably meaning that the water comes in from the side or from below (supporting the bidet theory, I guess). And since the newer bathroom has both a bath AND a shower - and it wasn' felt necessary to make the shower separate from the bath - would it really be worth a third showering device, separate from the others? And are those shoulders really ideal for pushing yourself upright - aren't they too far back, and too curved?
d) a foot bath. For washing your feet. That would explain why it's low. And maybe why the water comes in from the side - you'd only need a little water in the bottom, and you could even have a sort of 'running stream' effect that might be nice. But... wow, that's a big bit of expensive furniture just for washing your feet! And the wooden one has quite a high front to step into. And... what, you're meant to just stand there, with no (visible) seat? And despite the huge design changes in these few decades, the 'shoulder' shape is retained, so surely is important somehow? I guess you could lean on them while bending over to wash your feet... but that hardly seems ideal! The shoulders are very low, lower than the sides of the bath, lower than the sink. If you were designing something for foot-washing, wouldn't you make it a seat with a small basin in front, not a big semi-bath you have to stand in, then bend over to wash your feet one-handed while precariously holding on to a curved, slippery enable side?
On balance, I'm guessing d) is the answer, but it still seems like a really bad answer. Does anyone have a better one?
While we're at it, look at this. What's that on the back left? A low trough, but seemingly with some sort of dome lid? I'd put it down to a weird picture, but then look at the picture on the right here. It looks like the same 'domed' item in the right corner. What are these? Footbaths? Why the dome? And then in that picture, look, right front, there's ANOTHER low trough by the door! Nobody can need two different foot-bathing items of furniture in one bathroom, surely!? [And neither is likely to be a bidet - not only are they the wrong shape, but look, in the second picture there, the 'sanitary ideal', the toilet is discretely in its own demichamber - presumably the bidet would be, too?
I know these questions aren't exactly vital, but it's just really curious!
"This very complete Bath Room is designed to show how the various Fixtures illustrated in the following pages, may be fitted up. The Fixtures shown are our "Imperial" Porcelain Bath and Seat Bath, both with Supply Fittings and "Unique" Waste, our "Hygeia" or "Inodoro" Cistern Water Closet, Bidet, and Wash Stand fitted with Oval Wash Stand fitted with Oval Wash Basin and "Unique" Waste. The Wood Work is Mahogany, the design Elizabethan. The size of the room represented is about 13 fett x 10½ feet; of course the size can be modified should any of the fixtures be dispensed with."
The thing at the front right seems to be the seat bath going by the rest of the catalogue, and just back from that is the bidet.
The seat bath seems to be somewhat similar to what's called a "hip bath" in some online stores, where the person bathing would literally just sit in the bath with the water up to their hips, as opposed to lying down as in a standard bath. Other, smaller variants in the catalogue look to be aimed at a place to bathe small children.
EDIT: Oh yeah, source: https://library.si.edu/digital-library/ ... gueg00jlmo