Public bathtub

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The public bathtub of the Krausswerke

As people bath a tin was bathtub referred to the plumber Karl Louis Krauss produced from the late 19th century in large numbers.


From 1887 Karl Louis Krauss manufactured appliances for domestic use in his plumbing shop in Neuwelt (Schwarzenberg) . Inspired by the wave bath swing of the plumber Carl Dittmann in Berlin, he began to develop his own bathtubs made of hot-dip galvanized sheet metal in the 1890s , which particularly met the requirements of the simpler sections of the population. They should be producible in large numbers at an affordable price, easy to transport and suitable for confined spaces. An advertising slogan from that time, "Every German has a weekly bath", makes it clear that Krauss also consciously introduced a new section in popular hygiene for ordinary people through his development. From 1910 these bathtubs were named after their design. In addition to other sheet metal products and washing machines , the bath tub was a very important and well-known product of the Krausswerke in Schwarzenberg until 1945 .

Bath tub in a medieval bath house, around 1470
Bathing knight with bathing women, 14th century

From when people were consciously and regularly concerned with personal hygiene by washing or bathing cannot be proven, although at the beginning streams, rivers, lakes or ponds were used by hot springs. But we know that there was a highly developed bathing culture especially among the wealthy in ancient times. In the private area , bathing was done in clay tubs or in public baths and communal baths, which were equipped with masonry tubs, bathing basins or wooden washing tubs. In the Middle Ages, people bathed in a washtub or in a wooden bathtub. The heyday of bathhouses in Central Europe was the late Middle Ages. Here, too, wooden tubs or even wooden tubs were used for bathing. The wealthy could afford support staff (bath women) to prepare the bath as well as to wash their bodies.

From the early 17th to the middle of the 18th century, body care by bathing, especially by the upper classes, was largely neglected, as it was believed that bathing damaged the skin and thus the diseases that were rampant at the time (e.g. plague , Syphilis , cholera , typhoid and yellow fever ) could easily enter humans through the skin.

In the 19th century, doctors, scientists and politicians in particular put washing hands and bathing the entire body back at the center of personal hygiene in order to avoid the transmission of diseases. From the 19th century, in addition to wooden tubs and wooden bathtubs, bathtubs made of sheet copper , tinplate and, since around 1840, also made of hot-dip galvanized sheet steel . Enamelled cast iron tubs were also known . These tubs could also be produced industrially in larger numbers. However, the selling price was well above that of a tin bathtub. They required a permanent place and could not be easily transported.

Tin bathtubs were handcrafted by tinsmiths , coppersmiths and belters . They were assembled from individual parts, which were then connected by soldering , folding , riveting and, after 1840, by acetylene welding and after 1900 also by electric welding . The production was carried out in such a way that the development of the corresponding individual part was recorded on the sheet metal and then cut out. The cut-out part was shaped with a hammer and plumber's tools. These bathtubs were relatively expensive because they were laboriously handcrafted. Copper bathtubs were the most expensive in the range at the time. They usually stood in the bathrooms of wealthy families and were permanently installed there.

Coal-fired hip bath

At that time, bath stoves were sometimes used to supply the bathtubs with hot water . Coal bath stoves are known around 1880, which were connected to the bathtub by pipes and heated the water according to the circulation principle. Gas heaters, which were arranged directly under the bathtub, were also used to heat bath water around 1890. A water heating curiosity from 1890 is a hip bath with integrated coal heating.

The bath stoves with vertical, slim and pressureless containers and underfiring were invented as early as 1890. These bath stoves were equipped with either a coal fire or a gas burner. This type of bath heater is still produced today in an improved version. Initially, this development was only beneficial for wealthier sections of the population. The development largely bypassed the broad mass of the population. Even the bathing rooms (public baths), which were set up for the poorer strata of the population in the middle of the 19th century, could not fundamentally remedy the problem, because a large proportion of the people, especially in the countryside and in the small towns, did not have them for financial or logistical reasons Possibility to visit the public bathing establishments. Entering a bathing establishment often cost three times the daily wage of a worker.

Until well into the 1920s, large parts of the population therefore had few opportunities for regular weekly baths. The development efforts of Louis Krauss and the creation of the bath tub contributed to a decisive improvement in the hygienic situation.

The public bathtub of the Krausswerke

At the end of the 19th century, so-called wave bathing swings were already being produced in relatively large numbers. The main producer was the bathing equipment company "Moosdorf & Hochhäuser" in Berlin. The inventor of the wave bath swing was the plumber Carl Dittmann. Karl Louis Krauss recognized the potential of this product for his company. He also developed and produced a wave bath swing, which he marketed as the “Triumph cradle swing”. The Triumph cradle bath swing was the starting point for the development of the public bathtub.

Plumber Carl Dittmann's wave bath swing

Plumber Carl Dittmann's wave bath swing

The plumber Carl Dittmann from Berlin constructed a bathtub with a curved bottom in 1889. The vaulted floor made it possible for the bather to rock the tub and create waves by himself. He had the wave bath swing protected with a patent. In 1894 he sold the patent to the company for bathing equipment "Moosdorf & Hochhäuser". She produced and sold a large number of this wave bath swing. The price was between 42 and 48 marks , depending on the size . The bathtub was made of hot-dip galvanized sheet metal with a relatively low weight and was therefore easy to transport.

The bottom runs from a straight part (1) into a curved part (2). The cross section of the bathtub is trapezoidal, i. H. the sides (3) of the bathtub are inclined inwards so that water (4) does not splash out during rocking movements. The entry opening is provided with a rolled bead (5). Tightening and stretching the legs shifts the bather's center of gravity and the bathtub is set in a rocking motion, so that the water flows over the bather in a wave-like manner.

From the wave bath swing to the public bathtub

Advertisement for the Triumph cradle swing

Six years after Carl Dittmann's wave bath swing, Louis Krauss also developed his own model in his plumber's workshop in Neuwelt (Schwarzenberg) . The wave bath swing with rocking movements along the body was patented by Carl Dittmann. His solution had the disadvantage that “the body of the bather can only be accommodated in a hunched or seated position and moving the bathtub for the purpose of flushing the body with water is only possible using the arms and legs (by stretching and pulling back) with considerable effort “Was. Because of this disadvantage, Louis Krauß developed a new solution for the wave bath swing, in which the waves run across the longitudinal axis of the body. Louis Krauss had this solution with patent no. 86351 of April 19, 1895 in the German Empire and with patent no. 10477 from June 26, 1895 in Switzerland. He described his wave bath swing as the "Triumph cradle swing". The tub is designed so that the bather can comfortably find space in the tub.

By alternating pressure on the shoulders, which rest against the curve of the bath, the bath begins to rock in the desired manner. The water washes the entire body alternately and in waves. The arms lie comfortably against the body. When using the tub as a full bathtub and without the rocking movement, four feet can be deflected, which then give the tub a firm hold. If the bathtub is used as a rocking bathtub, the feet are folded up. The tub is light and therefore easy to transport. It can be hung upright on the wall or placed vertically on the floor so that little space is required. The tub could also be used as a steam and sweat bath. The tub was closed with a tarpaulin with an opening for the head. The tub is connected to a steam generator via a hose.

The decisive factor in this development, however, was that the tub could also be used for a full bath without rocking. The fold-out feet ensured that the bathtub stood firmly. The rocking bathtub developed by Louis Krauss in 1895 differed from all other bathtubs known to date in terms of its geometry. The solution, which was originally designed as a rocking bathtub, was reproduced as a "normal" bathtub by around ten companies as early as 1910 due to the sophisticated geometry and technological design. This rocking bathtub (patent no. 86351), developed by Louis Krauss in 1895, was continuously further developed as a "normal" bathtub in the years to come, and from 1910 onwards it was called the public bathtub. In the case of the public bathtub, the feet of the bathtub were arranged rigidly. The bathtub production had to be stopped from 1898 to 1903 due to a patent dispute. The resumption of production in 1904 took place in a newly built factory in Schwarzenberg. This company was expanded in the following years and from 1922 on it was known as Krausswerke. The production number of bathtubs increased steadily and so after 1925 up to 1000 pieces of this public bathtub were produced daily.

Some basic features made a decisive contribution to the success of the Volksbadewanne:

  • The conical shape derived from a lying body (broad at the upper body, narrow at the foot end). This means that, despite a full bath, less water is required than with conventional bathtubs.
  • The semicircular cross-section enables the tub body to be manufactured easily.
  • The inclined head piece ensures that the upper body and head are in a comfortable position.
  • The vertical end at the foot end allows the bathtub to be placed vertically and thus in a space-saving manner.
  • The hot-dip galvanized sheet metal construction. It can be manufactured cheaply, so that it is also affordable for broad sections of the population. Sheet metal constructions are relatively light and therefore easy to carry.

The galvanizing plant of the Krausswerke

In 1905 Louis Krauss built a large hot-dip galvanizing plant with pretreatment. This made it possible to coat the bathtubs, along with many other products made from black plate, with a zinc layer as permanent corrosion protection. The pretreatment took place in a pickling shop with bricked pickling troughs, in which the tubs were first degreased and then pickled to a bright metallic finish with dilute hydrochloric acid. The tubs were then rinsed with water. The zinc kettle with the liquid zinc (440 to 460 ° C) stood in a separate building . The bathtub was immersed in the liquid zinc. After immersion, the bathtub remained in the zinc bath until it had reached the temperature of the zinc bath. When pulling the bathtub out of the zinc bath, care had to be taken that the surface of the zinc bath had been cleaned of oxides and flux beforehand.

The handling of the public bathtub

As the public bathtub became more and more popular, regular bathing became popular again, even under simple living conditions in which no bathroom was available. Nevertheless, the use of these bathtubs was still associated with a great deal of effort. The water had to be fetched from the courtyard well or even from a street well and heated in one or more larger pots on the stove. It was more convenient if there was a tap. In the middle of the 19th century there was occasional running water from taps in the houses. At the end of the 19th to the beginning of the 20th century, a large part of the houses was equipped with water pipes, although the area-wide water supply in the apartments continued until after the Second World War. If the bath was carried out in the apartment, the tub had to be scooped out with a pot. If a laundry room was available, in which the bathtub could also be set up, and where there was usually a floor drain and a washing kettle heated with wood or coal , which supplied the warm water, bathing the whole family was made much easier.

Further developments of the public bathtub in the Krauss works after 1920

In 1919 Friedrich Emil Krauss took over the business management of the Krausswerke from his father and thus also the further development of the public bathtub. He perfected the design and production technology. The most important development steps can be easily understood from the registered patents.

  • Patent for the children's bathtub

The bathtubs were manufactured in the Krausswerke in various sizes, including one with small dimensions for children. The body part of a children's bathtub is cut to size by cutting off acute-angled strips on the long sides of the rectangular sheet metal supplied by the rolling mill . In order to minimize waste, these strips are formed into skirting boards for the children's bathtub and attached to the body of the bathtub by spot welding . The continuous baseboards minimize the space required for the tub and allow it to be placed on a chair.

  • Patent for a portable tin bathtub

The stand of the bathtub was designed to be foldable so that the bathtub can be stacked one inside the other during transport. When folded down, the support foot nestles against the bathtub curve. When using the tub, the stand is folded into the position of use.

  • Patent for a process for the production of bathtubs with rounded corners between the shaped blanks

When the individual parts of the bathtub are welded together, the angular joints create dirty corners. Form rollers press the angular joints into a radius so that a rounded transition is created between the individual parts.

  • Patent for an improved public bathtub

The bathtub consists of a head, torso and foot section. The head and foot sections are designed in such a way that the joints between the two parts on the body section run in one plane so that no corners are created when these parts are joined.

Friedrich Emil Krauß planned to seamlessly deep-draw the public bathtub from a sheet of sheet metal in one work step. Corresponding tests on a reduced scale to demonstrate the feasibility of manufacturing such a large part by deep drawing were successfully completed in the 1940s. The 1000-ton deep-drawing press required to manufacture the full-size bath tub was already partially assembled in the Krausswerke stamping shop in 1945. With this press, with a column width of four meters, it was planned to replace the hot-dip galvanized sheet steel bathtub with a deep-drawn enamelled bathtub at a later date. The plan to manufacture the bathtub using drawing technology, however, could no longer be realized, since in 1945, after the lost war, according to order No. 142 of the Soviet military administration, all manufacturing facilities of the Krausswerke, including the half-finished 1000-ton deep-drawing press, were under the control of Soviets as reparations Officers were dismantled.

Bathtubs from Krausswerke with a wave swing effect

Wave bath swing based on the Carl Dittmann principle

With the development of the public bathtub, the Krausswerke initially moved away from the wave swing effect. Bathing fun with wave swings was so popular until the 1930s that the Krausswerke also served this market. The feel-good effect created with the wave bathing swing was very popular, so that relatively large numbers of the wave bathing swings could be produced.

Wave bath swing from Krausswerke analogous to the solution from Carl Dittmann

Carl Dittmann's patent had expired in 1910, so that a second variant of a wave bath swing analogous to Carl Dittmann's solution, but with significantly improved properties, was also produced in the Krausswerke. The improvements over Dittmann's solution included:

  • The body found comfortably in the wave bath swing.
  • The attached wooden runners made it possible to rock, i. H. a wave generation with relatively little effort.

Models of the wave bath swing

The inventive spirit in the Krausswerke knew no bounds, so that various wave bathing swings were manufactured as models on a small scale. A full-size production of these models is not known.

Further tub products from Krausswerke

In addition to bathing tubs and wave bathing swings, other tub products were also part of the Krausswerke range until 1945.

The public bathtub as a motif in the fine arts

Plant installation with galvanized sitting and rocking bathtubs

Galvanized bathtubs from earlier times are often still used today as animal troughs or planters. The artist Joseph Beuys helped the bathtub based on the Krauss system to achieve unexpected fame as an object of art. In addition to the great benefit that it has brought for ordinary people, it is exhibited as an art object in the Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich under the title "Jason II".

A collection of various historical rocking and hip bathtubs can be seen as part of a plant installation by the artist Martin Weimar in the art and pleasure gardening in the Schleißheim Palace Park near Munich.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Script for the special exhibition in the Schwarzenberg Castle Museum A century of washing machines from Schwarzenberg from October 20th to 19th. November 1995.
  2. Patent 51766, Empire , October 29, 1889th
  3. Product brochure for the Krauss bathing apparatus from 1900.
  4. Karl Louis Krauss .
  5. ^ Louis Krauss: Brochure Metallwarenfabrik in Schwarzenberg (Erzgebirge) for the 25th anniversary of the company , April 1912.
  6. bathtub .
  7. Volksbad .
  8. Bathhouse .
  9. ^ Bütte .
  10. ^ Personal hygiene and hygiene in the 18th century .
  11. Hygiene in the course of contemporary history .
  12. Brief history of bathing culture .
  13. Patent 18467, Empire , December 9 1881st
  14. Bath heater .
  15. ^ Client FE Krauss: The blue bathtub book , Feldhaus and Friedrich, 11th private print.
  16. ^ Working group image, print, paper: conference proceedings 2000, Ute Protte: The wave bath swing an advertising campaign around 1900 .
  17. Patent 51766, Empire , October 29, 1889th
  18. Patent 86351, Empire , April 19 1895th
  19. Patent DE86351 : Conical bathtub. Published April 11, 1896 .
  20. Patent CH10477 : cradle or rocking bath. Published December 15, 1895 .
  21. Patent 86351, Empire , April 19 1895th
  22. Patent 86351, Empire , April 19 1895th
  23. ^ Louis Krauss: Brochure metal goods factory in Schwarzenberg (Erzgebirge) for the 25th anniversary of the company .
  24. ^ Louis Krauss: Brochure metal goods factory in Schwarzenberg (Erzgebirge) for the 25th anniversary of the company .
  25. State Archives Chemnitz, October 9. Metal goods industry, call number 31089 ( Memento of the original from September 4, 2011 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link has been inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  26. ^ Client FE Krauß: Walk through a bathtub factory , 8th private print.
  27. Patent 449548, Empire , August 30 1925th
  28. Patent 436,709, German Empire , March 17, 1926th
  29. Patent 530289, German Empire , July 9, 1931.
  30. Patent 549751, Empire , April 14 1932nd
  31. speech concept of FE Krauss from 1960, City Library Aue, no. 98th


  1. Joseph Beuys: Jason II , 1962/80. View of the exhibition room in the Pinakothek der Moderne.