Getting to Know Your Antique Clawfoot Bath Tub

The original clawfoot bath tubs, first used in Victorian times, were replaced by light weight, more colorful, more convenient built-in tubs. In spite of that, the antique clawfoot bath tub is once again popular. Even designers that don’t care about the antique value of the tubs are choosing to purchase modern acrylic tubs made to look like the authentic tubs.

The History

Although bathing was the norm during the Roman Empire, it fell out of favor afterwards. The problem, besides the lack of respect for hygiene, was the technology of plumbing. It wasn’t until the 19th century that cast iron pipes replaced those made of hollow trees. The first plumbing code in the country was passed in 1848.

Cast iron tubs made by the Kohler Company in 1883 were of cast iron. Early advertising described them as a “horse trough/hog scalder, when furnished with four legs will serve as a bathtub.” At that time, bathing in a tub was unfamiliar. People found that the cast iron surface was easy to keep clean and would prevent the spread of disease – and so it caught on.

An extra bedroom or a spare room would be converted into a bathroom. The housing boom following World War I saw houses being planned and built with a room intended for use as a bathroom with plumbing to accommodate a sink, toilet and clawfoot tub.

The Tub

The antique clawfoot bath tub is made of cast iron with a coat of enamel for ease in cleaning. American tubs are drilled for drainage, overflow and water while the English model uses faucets placed in the wall so has no holes drilled to accommodate those pipes.

Compared to modern tubs, the antique clawfoot bath tub is colder to the touch because of its iron core, has surface irregularities and is very, very heavy. The classic style has a rolled or flat rim. Often, one end is rounded and one is flat. If one end of the tub is higher than the other for comfortable lounging, then your antique clawfoot bath tub is a slipper tub. A double slipper tub is raised at both ends.

If your taste runs to the older, authentic antique clawfoot bath tub, you can find one on the internet. Just be prepared to deal with high shipping costs and perhaps the need to reinforce the floor of your bathroom to support the weight of the real thing.


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