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What is a Clawfoot Tub?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated May 17, 2024
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Once a staple in just about every well-to-do home, the clawfoot tub has become somewhat of a collector’s item as well as a popular decorating item in recent years. Originally constructed of cast iron and covered in a porcelain coating, some of the newer models are made from hard acrylic material. Characterized by a deep body and a graceful rolling rim mounted on claw feet, the clawfoot bathtub provides an ideal environment for enjoying a leisurely bath after a hard day.

The concept of the clawfoot tub goes back to at least the eleventh century BCE. There is evidence of pedestal tubs that had the same deep body that became a staple of their later counterparts. Often, these versions of tubs featured a level rim, and a simple drainage system. Pedestal tubs were the province of the higher classes, and were considered something of a luxury.

By the 19th century, clawfoot bathtubs were found in many of the larger homes in metropolitan areas. Slowly, the concept of indoor plumbing was also entering the picture. This innovation added a safety drain and running taps to the construction of clawfoot baths.

At the same time, the use of lightweight metal was coming into use for the construction of clawfoot tubs. Along with the heavy cast iron model, lightweight versions that were somewhat abbreviated in length were common in the Midwestern section of the United States. These space efficient versions allows the introduction of a water closet or bathroom into households that previously functioned with the use of a washtub in the kitchen when it came to bathing.

Well into the 20th century, owning a clawfoot tub was considered to be a luxury. However, as homes grew smaller and the emphasis on function increased, newer built in models of the bath tub began to replace the traditional clawfoot bath. By the 1960’s, scores of clawfoot baths were ripped out of bathrooms and discarded. Some of the tubs were purchased and altered into sofas as part of the new eclectic look in decorating.

By the early 1990’s, the clawfoot tub was enjoying a resurgence as a viable option for the bathroom. Unlike the heavy cast iron versions of yesteryear, the newer clawfoot tub options were constructed with lighter materials and were considerably less expensive. People who are looking for a luxurious look to the bathroom, as well as retaining an efficient use of space and function have found that the deeper and somewhat longer construction of today’s clawfoot tub options can create just the right look and feel.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including WiseGeek, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.
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Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
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