Bathtubs and hoaxes

What was The Great Bathtub Hoax?

In 1917, the American journalist and polemicist HL Mencken published an article in the New York Evening Mail in which he berated readers for neglecting the 75th anniversary of the introduction of the bathtub to the USA. According to Mencken, the bathtub had been first used in 1842. Its use had been firmly opposed by traditionalists and it was only when, eight years later, the president installed one in the White House that the innovation had become widely accepted.

All of this was, of course, complete nonsense but, as Mencken himself noted more than 30 years later: “It was taken gravely by a great many other newspapers, and presently made its way into medical literature and standard reference books.” His hoax is still occasionally quoted as ‘fact’.

Answered by: Nick Rennison

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