It seems that Saturday evening has always been bath night, but few of us know that it stems from a religious beginning. When the Sabbath started at sundown on Saturday, many people followed the old adage that cleanliness and Godliness go together and bathed only at that time.
Before bathrooms existed, cedar tubs were placed before the fireplace on Saturday, half-filled with cold water, while the kettle of hot water to be added later hung over the fire. Some of the first portable tin tubs even had Biblical quotations painted on them, but not many people would now associate a bathtub with the Sabbath.
The first tubs, like any other new-fangled gadget, assumed strange shapes. Some were made with "hips" to fit the shape of the body. Some were painted with scenic designs, some were decorated solidly with floral patterns. Among the oldest was the cradle-tub for children to splash and rock in while taking a bath.
Excerpted by Maury Tosi
From Eric Sloane's booklet American Yesterday (1956)