The History of the Shower: Part 3

Bathtubs were the only game in town for most of human history. Sometimes, they would be set off from the rest of the room where they were located by a screen to offer some privacy in the days before there were actual rooms dedicated to the act of bathing and person hygiene, but even as the 18th century was dawning, we still weren’t even close for the need for someone to invent the shower curtain, let alone something as advanced in both form and function as frameless glass shower enclosures.

Things Are Heating Up!

As Kaushik Patowary explains in a post about the History of Showering found on Amusing Planet, it was advances in medicine and epidemiology that spurred a renewed interest in keeping clean.

As Patowary points out, though, there were drawbacks. “Bathtubs were large and needed a lot of water to fill, which had to be heated and carried to the bathroom from the kitchen in buckets. It involved a lot of labor.”

It wasn’t until 1767, when William Feetham was given a patent for the first mechanized shower. It never really caught on for two reasons: 

  1. The water in its tank was used over and over again over the course of your shower, so the cleaner you got, the dirtier the water that you were showering in was.
  2. It used cold water. (Ironically, Feetham was a stove maker.)


The first hot shower, the English Regency Shower, came along in 1810, but it still reused the water. It wasn’t until the second half of the 19th century that things really started heating up.

“In 1868, an English painter named Benjamin Waddy Maughan invented a water heater that, for the first time, did not use solid fuel. Instead, water was heated using hot gases generated by a burner. Unfortunately, Maughan forgot to add a ventilation causing the burner to sometimes explode,” Patowary’s history of showering reports.

“Maughan’s design was improved by a Norwegian mechanical engineer named Edwin Ruud, and in 1889, the first safe, automatic, gas-powered water heater was invented and a new era of warm showers began,” Patowary says.

It still took time for not only the technology but the cultural attitudes surrounding bathing and showering evolved enough to usher in the era of the clear glass shower enclosure.

If you are more interested in the future of showers – particularly your shower – and would like to talk about frameless glass shower panel options, please contact us.