Tag Archives: Victorian bathing machine

A Fashionable Bathhouse for Sea-Bathing: 1893

bathing machine LOC image

Bathing Machines, Ostend, c. 1910-1915 Library of Congress.

SEA-BATHING A LA MODE

The Interior of a Lady’s Bathhouse at Long Island.

As we all know, decorous Britishers of both sexes refuse to frolic in the big sea informally and in jovial fellowship as do the unconventional American “brethren and sisteren.” Mr. and Mrs. John Bull or the Misses Bull have little movable rooms, inside of which are the conveniences we enjoy in our seaside bathhouses, says Demorest for September. The rooms are on wheels. Enter Mrs. John Bull with a bathing-suit and a number of towels on her arm; a little pony is hitched, by primitive harness to the room, and when Mrs. J. B. gives a sign at the window of her queer little house the pony is driven down to the beach, even out into the water as far as he can go, is unhitched and trotted back to the shore. Out then, by the back door of her little room, comes Mrs. John Bull, arrayed for the sea, into which she hops and, so long as she wishes, enjoys a dip. The bath over she enters her wheeled room, the pony is sent down and hitched on, and the protean mermaid inside is brought back to terra firma. When the public seen her again she is clothed in the common garb of civilization.

Now this whole idea so pleased a friend of the Van Kortlandts, who went abroad for the first time last summer, that on settling down in her Long Island home she quite made up her mind to have a bathing-machine like those at Brighton. She had a little gable-roofed box built about 5 by 5 feet and at least 8 feet from floor to roof. Outside it is painted a clear sea green and it is swung on two big black wheels. There is a window in the roof and a door and pair of steps at the back.

Inside, madam’s imagination has worked wonders that would make Mrs. John Bull turn green with envy. The interior is all done in snow-white enamel paint, and one-half of the floor is pierced with many holes, to allow of free drainage form wet flannels. The other half of the little room is covered with a pretty green Japanese rug. In one corner is a big-mouthed green silk bag lined with rubber. Into this the wet bathing-togs are tossed out of the way. There are large bevel-edged mirrors let into either side of the room, and below one juts out a toilet shelf, on which is every appliance. There are pegs for towels and the bathrobe, and fixed in one corner is a little square seat that when turned up reveals a locker where clean towels, soap, perfumery, etc. are stowed. Ruffles of white muslin trimmed with lace and narrow green ribbons decorate every available space. When the mistress steps out of this bathing machine her maid dries and airs it, then ‘tis securely locked and wheeled high and dry behind the humble bathhouse of ye vulgar American.

The Morning Call [San Francisco, CA] 3 September 1893: p. 11

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Ah yes, “the maid dries and airs” the bathing machine.  Mrs Daffodil shudders at those “ruffles of white muslin” decorating every available space. The lace and ribbonry required hand-washing and goffering and a heavy starch to keep them from going limp in the sea-breezes. A delightful effect, but scarcely a sea-side holiday.

Charming as is the description of the white-and-green bathing machine, Mrs Daffodil suggests that it exists primarily in fantasy. The reality is below:

MARINE EXCURSIONS.

We consider the essentials of a watering-place may be alliteratively summed up thus:— Sea, salt, sun, sand, shrimps, shells, sailors, and shingle…

A bathing-machine is an aquatic caravan, containing respectively two towels, two ricketty hat-pegs, a damp flooring, a strong smell of sea-weed, and a broken looking-glass, exhibiting the phenomena of oblique refraction. Though this last cannot be exactly considered the “glass of fashion,” it frequently exhibits the “mould of form” about to have a dip.

The Traveller’s Miscellany and Magazine of Entertainment, 1847

This post was originally published in 2013.

A story of a bathhouse scandal is found in The Bathing Machine Mystery part 1 and  part 2.  And the inside story of The Great Grampus Bath-House Tragedy is found here.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

 

The Great Grampus Bath-house Tragedy: 1875

The Sad Result of Using Patent Bathing Houses.

New Orleans Picayune.

A harrowing story comes to us from one of our sea side watering places. Old Mr. Grampus was in Paris last spring, and he brought home with him one of Baptiste’s patent bath houses. It was made of vulcanized silk with steel ribs, and it shut and opened by a spring. Open it had the appearance of a beautiful blue and buff striped pavilion, octagonal in shape, and covering a superficial area of some ninety or a hundred square feet. Shut up, it looked like a huge Brobdignagian umbrella, though, being very light, Mr. Grampus could carry it to the beach as easy as he did his camp stool. The Grampuses were very proud of this bath-house. They used to take it down to the most crowded point on the sands and flaunt it in the faces of their rivals. It afforded to Mrs. Grampus and the Miss Grampuses a satisfaction more ecstatic than they had ever known before to emerge from this gorgeous edifice just as those odious Millers came sneaking out of their dingy old wooden huts under the cliff. The crowd gazed at them with envy and admiration, while they either pitied or ignored the Millers. Baptiste’s patent bath-house was an object of respectful amazement to the whole caravansary, and the Grampuses came in for no little social eminence and superiority in consequence.

This sort of thing went on smoothly for a fortnight or so, until the Millers and the Joneses and the Snagsbys were absolutely on the point of leaving Jolimer for sheer mortification. And perhaps they would have gone the very next day, but for the singular adventure which little Blinker had with his donkey. It was about 11 o’clock; the beach had been crowed for an hour or more, and as usual the centre of attraction and of interest was the Grampus bath-house. They had lately embellished this beautiful structure with a pair of golden horns [antlers] and a silk centennial flag, and in the eyes of the unhappy Millers it looked more insolent and gaudy and overwhelming than ever. The Grampus ladies had been inside for a quarter of an hour or so, and the spectators conjectured, rightly as it afterward transpired, that they were almost ready for the surf, when all of a sudden little Blinkers was seen descending one of the winding paths astride a particularly contumacious and evil-minded donkey. His agonized cries and expostulations attracted attention, and in less than a minute every eye, except those of the doomed and unsuspecting Grampuses, was riveted on Blinkers. Here he came, his donkey churning away at the bit, and buck-jumping like a mustang, and be miserable, frantic and helpless with terror. Blinkers stuck, though, and the donkey lunged away down the path like something mad, without shaking off the stricken wretch who rode him.

There were a few Ravelian acrobatics, a wild lurch, and then Blinkers and the donkey went kerslap again the Grampuses’ patent bath-house! One complicated shriek shot through the air, a flutter and a rattling as of machinery, and the next instant Blinkers was dashed upon the sand in a crumpled heap, and a haggard and affrighted donkey with his ears pinned back and his tail between his legs, was seen hustling down the beach like some panic-stricken meteor. And then the great Grampus pavilion with a creak and a snap, suddenly shut itself up into umbrella shape, and waddled hysterically toward the surf on a pair of elephantine legs—identified by a spectator as the legs of the Mrs. Grampus—suggesting the idea, with its towering outline and its antlers and its flag, for some gigantic species of horned giraffe which had just taken the blue ribbon at the fair.

And that was the end of the great Grampus bath-house tragedy. Old mother Grampus pranced about the beach awhile with the patent bath house sitting on her head like a long but emaciated extinguisher, and the two Miss Grampuses who had escaped the collapse rushed frantically into the surf, with a good deal less bathing dress than they would have had if Blinkers and his donkey had given them a little more time. Next day the family departed before the rest of the world had wakened, and the Millers and the Joneses, and the Snagsbys are having their own way. Now, if this narrative should reach the eye of any family using Baptiste’s patent portable bath-house, we trust they will take warning, and never afterward trust to its protection until it has been enclosed in a serviceable picket fence.

Fort Wayne [IN] Weekly Sentinel 18 August 1875: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Truly, a useful warning about bathing-pavilion hubris, which we all should take to heart. How are the Vulcanized fallen!  Mrs Daffodil has sought casually, but in vain for the inventor. Considering his role in submerging persons in water, he must have been called “Jean Baptiste.”

Mrs Daffodil has previously written about a bathing machine as the scene of scandal, as well as the ideal bath-house, which will, indeed make one the envy of one’s friends, if not one’s maid.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

 

The Bathing Machine Mystery, Part 1: 1893

Bathing Machines, Ostend, From the Library of Congress image collection

Bathing Machines, Ostend, From the Library of Congress image collection

Mrs Daffodil is packing up the Family for their annual sea-side jaunt. There are bathing-dresses to be let down and taken up; bathing-caps and shoes to be located and inspected for holes; and a whole host of creams and unguents packed in the first-aid kit for the inevitable sun-burn. Once the Family has been seen off, then it’s on with the muslin loose-covers, the cheese-cloth over the mirrors, pictures, and chandeliers, and out with the carpets, to be taken up, beaten, and aired. In view of this hurly-burly and with the children clamouring for their water-wings, Mrs Daffodil presents a diverting story in two parts, translated, naturally, from the French.

THE NUMBER THIRTEEN MYSTERY.

 

After All It Was Not What Appearances Indicated.

 

At Mareville all the bathing-machines are actually alike; they are made of boards, painted yellow, with blue horizontal stripes. The swimming-master and his wife rejoice in the name of Pichard, and have two

children.

Gaston, being accustomed to close his door without locking it, was not surprised to find it open when, after more than an hour in the surf, he came forth, dripping, and blue with cold, and bounded into what he thought he recognized as his own bathing-machine. He closed

the door quickly.

Outside, the sun was blinding; it was half-past four on a warm July afternoon. Gaston’s eyes, dazzled by the glare of the sun and the reflection on the water, could not at first distinguish the details of the interior, but at the end of a minute he could see clearly, and

perceived that he had made a mistake — he was in some fair bather’s dressing-room.

His first idea was to get out again immediately; but the devil, who was watching this little scene out of the corner of his eye, judged that it was time to interfere and to make of this innocent mistake a tragedy which

should set the whole beach by the ears. The devil, then, so managed it that Gaston was seized by an irresistible curiosity and stopped to look about him.

With a furtive and rapid glance, then, he passed in review the garments which hung floating from the wall like so many perfumed clouds. He inspected the dress, with its fluted folds and fantastic buttons; he

took down the dainty sailor hat, with its fish of iridescent enamel floating in a bouquet of green alga; and red actinias ; and he gently stroked a little pair of undressed-kid boots. And then he saw on the shelf a great ivory comb and brush — and no false switches! There were still two or three hairs of the color of molten gold which remained interlaced among the teeth of the comb.

This examination had lasted but four or five minutes at the most, and Gaston, ashamed of his indiscretion, now that his curiosity was satisfied, put his thumb on the latch and opened a slit of the door, glancing out to

see if he could escape without being seen. But he hastily closed the door again; a fair bather was hurrying from the water in the direction of this bathing-machine, at the same time beckoning to the Pichard woman, who was now running to open the door for her.

At the sound of the key entering the lock Gaston felt his knees giving way beneath him. In a few seconds, with the rapidity of lightning, he ran through all the possible schemes to escape. Should he lower his head,

and, dashing out like a bull, scattering the women in his way, spring into the sea and swim to America, never to return? Should he fall on his knees, with protruded chin and the palms of his hands toward the

zenith, and sobbingly demand pardon? Should he lie down at full length and pretend to be dead? Should he conceal himself and await events?

 

The key turned in the lock, and while the fair bather, her eyes half-blinded by the sun, turned toward the door and closed it, Gaston had gone down on all fours, and, like a dog that has done something he knows he should not do, had squeezed himself under the bench

which ran across the back of the room.

Happily for him. the mirror was hung above the bench, and the brush and comb were on the shelves at right and left, so that the bather, naturally placing herself before the glass, looked at her own face, and

did not see the man at her feet. She began by wiping her face and neck, then she unbuckled a belt of oxydized copper that confined her waist, after which she unfastened her blouse. That done, she disengaged one

arm, then the other, and the discreet light of the dressing-room lighted up the most divine torso that ever nature, in her inexhaustible munificence, lovingly molded for the admiration of the artist or the delight of less gifted men.

But let the ladies reassure themselves, and the gentlemen smooth down their affrighted hair; the modesty of the fair bather ran no risk. The unfortunate Gaston, consumed with fear, did now as does the ostrich in

distress, he concealed his head. He glued his face against the wall, and of the magnificent spectacle being developed in the room he saw nothing.

Having quitted her bathing costume, the lady pushed it with her foot into the corner at the left of the door, threw a towel on the floor, and, having partially dressed herself, sat down on the bench and commenced putting

on her stockings, glancing about meanwhile for her shoes. The left one was at the corner of the door; she picked it up, drew it on, and buttoned it. The other was not to be found. The lady stood up, and with the

tip of her booted foot pushed aside her bathing suit to see if it did not cover the missing shoe. She stooped down and reached under the bench; instead of her shoe she caught hold of the bare foot of a man!

A terrible cry would have burst from her lips, but it could not, and she fainted, walling up with her inanimate body the place of concealment where Gaston was suffering agonies.

Then he turned his head, saw this insentient body, these disheveled strands of hair, these beautiful eyes closed as in death, and delicately pushing aside this charming obstacle, he came forth from beneath the

bench. After a few seconds, which seemed centuries to him, Gaston at last saw those beautiful lids open languidly. She sighed deeply, raised her hand to her head, and murmured: “Where am I?”

Then she saw Gaston, and her face took on an expression of terror.

“In heaven’s name, madame,” said he. “in the name of your honor, do not cry out or you are lost! I am in the depths of despair at what has happened to you through my fault, and I am ready to do anything and

everything to save you. I beg of you to listen to me, and we will try if we can not find some way to get out of this situation.”

[To be continued tomorrow. ]

Mrs Daffodil has previously written about the ideal bathhouse here.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,”where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes.

A Fashionable Bathhouse For Sea-Bathing: 1893

Victorian Bathing Machines

Victorian Bathing Machines

SEA-BATHING A LA MODE

The Interior of a Lady’s Bathhouse at Long Island.

As we all know, decorous Britishers of both sexes refuse to frolic in the big sea informally and in jovial fellowship as do the unconventional American “brethren and sisteren.” Mr. and Mrs. John Bull or the Misses Bull have little movable rooms, inside of which are the conveniences we enjoy in our seaside bathhouses, says Demorest for September. The rooms are on wheels. Enter Mrs. John Bull with a bathing-suit and a number of towels on her arm; a little pony is hitched, by primitive harness to the room, and when Mrs. J. B. gives a sign at the window of her queer little house the pony is driven down to the beach, even out into the water as far as he can go, is unhitched and trotted back to the shore. Out then, by the back door of her little room, comes Mrs. John Bull, arrayed for the sea, into which she hops and, so long as she wishes, enjoys a dip. The bath over she enters her wheeled room, the pony is sent down and hitched on, and the protean mermaid inside is brought back to terra firma. When the public seen her again she is clothed in the common garb of civilization.

Now this whole idea so pleased a friend of the Van Kortlandts, who went abroad for the first time last summer, that on settling down in her Long Island home she quite made up her mind to have a bathing-machine like those at Brighton. She had a little gable-roofed box built about 5 by 5 feet and at least 8 feet from floor to roof. Outside it is painted a clear sea green and it is swung on two big black wheels. There is a window in the roof and a door and pair of steps at the back.

Inside, madam’s imagination has worked wonders that would make Mrs. John Bull turn green with envy. The interior is all done in snow-white enamel paint, and one-half of the floor is pierced with many holes, to allow of free drainage form wet flannels. The other half of the little room is covered with a pretty green Japanese rug. In one corner is a big-mouthed green silk bag lined with rubber. Into this the wet bathing-togs are tossed out of the way. There are large bevel-edged mirrors let into either side of the room, and below one juts out a toilet shelf, on which is every appliance. There are pegs for towels and the bathrobe, and fixed in one corner is a little square seat that when turned up reveals a locker where clean towels, soap, perfumery, etc. are stowed. Ruffles of white muslin trimmed with lace and narrow green ribbons decorate every available space. When the mistress steps out of this bathing machine her maid dries and airs it, then ‘tis securely locked and wheeled high and dry behind the humble bathhouse of ye vulgar American.

The Morning Call [San Francisco, CA] 3 September 1893: p. 11

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Ah yes, “the maid dries and airs” the bathing machine.  Mrs Daffodil shudders at those “ruffles of white muslin” decorating every available space. The lace and ribbonry required hand-washing and goffering and a heavy starch to keep them from going limp in the sea-breezes. A delightful effect, but scarcely a sea-side holiday.

Charming as is the description of the white-and-green bathing machine, Mrs Daffodil suggests that it exists primarily in fantasy. The reality is below:

MARINE EXCURSIONS.

We consider the essentials of a watering-place may be alliteratively summed up thus:— Sea, salt, sun, sand, shrimps, shells, sailors, and shingle…

A bathing-machine is an aquatic caravan, containing respectively two towels, two ricketty hat-pegs, a damp flooring, a strong smell of sea-weed, and a broken looking-glass, exhibiting the phenomena of oblique refraction. Though this last cannot be exactly considered the “glass of fashion,” it frequently exhibits the “mould of form” about to have a dip.

The Traveller’s Miscellany and Magazine of Entertainment, 1847

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.