This week the Plumbing Museum took a field trip to New York to visit the Tenement House Museum and the Museum of the City of New York. Both museums featured exhibits relevant to our current research project for an upcoming display on the history of early bathhouses and sanitation in America.
For a common citizen in the mid to late 19th century getting clean was a near to impossible task. Most tenement houses in large and densely populated cities at this time lacked adequate plumbing and systems of waste disposal. On 97 Orchard Street, now home to the Tenement House Museum, only a single outdoor water faucet used to exist that was shared among all of the residents. One can only imagine how difficult it must have been to fetch enough water to wash off the soot and grime from walking the filthy streets! The Museum of the City of New York also evidenced the realities of shameful living conditions at the turn of the 19th century. A current exhibit featuring a collection of full and detailed photographs by Jacob A. Riis “How the Other Half Lives” gave a dramatic proof of the life in New York’s Lower East Side tenements.
Please check back to see more information about the opening of our new display that will tell the story of how and when bathing became easier.