Who Invented the Shower? History, Origins, & FAQ
A shower is one of those simple conveniences we don’t have to think much about. Simple as it may be, a shower is an invention that has advanced a great deal over the years. A stove maker, William Feetham (who lived in Ludgate Hill, London) invented the first shower in 1767¹.
The shower is still a great invention and a typical fixture in many households. It’s a classic invention that has been around for centuries.
How did this fascinating invention come to be? Don’t fret! Here, we’ll take you through the history of showers and how it has evolved. So, sit back, grab a cup of coffee or your favorite beverage and learn the history of showering!
History of the Invention of Showers
The Early Ages: First Shower (Waterfalls)
The history of showers is as old as human civilization itself. Ancient civilizations used natural water sources such as rivers and streams, to shower.
The first shower was a waterfall. Early men would gather near the falls to get their water supply. They also realized they could use the water from the falls for other purposes- they have been used as showers for thousands of years.
Early men would stand in front of a waterfall and allow the water to run down their bodies. But it was not efficient. Most of the water went downriver instead of hitting the person directly. But it was way better!
This first shower was not a human invention, but it showed human innovativeness- early men utilized natural resources in their inventions.
The Ancient Egyptians: First Man-Made Shower
A more advanced form of this technique involved using ceramic jugs or other containers to collect bathing water and pour it from above. The Ancient Egyptians are credited with inventing the first man-made shower.
They used jugs of water and poured them over themselves. Then, these containers were carried down to where people were waiting below to fill them up again with fresh water for bathing.
The wealthy Egyptians had a luxurious and comfortable bathing experience. They had servants who would take jugs of water into the wealthy Egyptians’ shower rooms.
The Ancient Greeks
The Ancient Greeks were the first to introduce baths, fountains, pipes, and many other water-related technologies. In ancient Greece, people bathed in public (communal) baths called thermae.
These baths had access to water sources. This water was drained and refilled with fresh water regularly throughout the day. A similar system was used for washing clothes. But instead of many basins, only one large basin was filled with fresh water from a nearby well or stream.
The wealthy Greeks had lead piping used to transport water in and out of their bathing rooms.
The ancient Romans were known for their fascinating water systems. They developed an intricate system of aqueducts, fountains, and pools. They provided fresh water to their citizens. These aqueducts carried drinking and bathing water from mountain streams into towns.
Romans also pioneered public health and plumbing systems. In 315 AD, they had already constructed 144 public toilets in Rome, Italy. Also, they constructed massive bathhouses in Italy and others across Europe.
But this technology from the Romans and the Greeks didn’t materialize due to the fall of these two empires. For hundreds of years, the actualization of showers remained dormant until the 18th century.
The 18th Century
William Feetham received the first patent to invent the first modern shower in 1767. Feetham’s solution was a self-contained cistern. It ran using a hand pump. The cistern held water in a reservoir to use at any time.
The only thing you did was to pull a chain. This way, water could flow, and you could bathe. He also added an outlet valve that allowed users to control the water flow. William’s invention was more convenient than the jugs used by Ancient Egyptians.
But there were a few drawbacks to this invention. One of them is that you couldn’t add hot water to the appliance. That means you could only use the water at room temperature. The other downside is that the water could be reused several times. It was unhygienic.
William Feetham’s invention didn’t become popular due to these two drawbacks. Several designs attempted to enhance William’s invention, but none could handle these two downsides well.
The 19th Century
In 1810, a device called the “Regency Shower” was created¹ by an unknown entrepreneur. It was a hot water shower fitted with a water-heating unit and an adjustable nozzle. It was the first time a shower provided hot water to bathe. It had a metal frame and was painted to appear like bamboo.
A hand pump powered the shower, and pumped water through a tank. The shower became popular among the wealthy as it saved them from taking many baths throughout the day. The first shower heads were made from metal.
Later, they were replaced with plastic ones that were more durable and less expensive. As technology improved throughout the end of the 19th century, so did shower heads.
Toward the end of the 19th century, indoor plumbing was invented. In England, it took longer for indoor plumbing to catch on. But later, many public baths had indoor showers. This indoor plumbing had free-standing showers linked to a running water source.
The 20th Century
Electric showers have evolved in a slow process. In 1929, the invention of tankless water heaters with electric showers improved shower technology. The Stiebel-Eltron Company invented the first electric tankless water heater.
Tankless water heaters were much smaller than older models. They didn’t need to store hot water. It made them more efficient and cost-effective for homeowners. Besides, they didn’t need to be replaced as often as traditional tanks and pumps.
This invention was revolutionary. It eliminated the need for a large tank of heated water in the bathroom. Instead, it created a constant stream of hot water from your shower head. It used an electric coil to heat the shower’s cold water as it flowed through the pipes.
In 1980, the shower head with a removable cartridge was invented. It was easy to clean and replace the filters in the head. The cartridges were made of silicone rubber, which is flexible and durable.
It was also easier for plumbers to install these heads. They could be fitted by twisting off the front faceplate and twisting on a new one. These types of shower heads were popular until the 1990s. New showers that had more features added to them were invented.
They have become increasingly popular with homeowners today due to their convenience. This invention was followed by colored lights, drencher heads, and body jets. Many households had a shower by the late 1990s. Around the same time, shower technology had advanced. There were mixers, power, and electric showers.
The 21st Century (Today)
From advances in technology to new types of showers, we have come a long way since the invention of showers. The 21st century has seen many new developments, and digital showers are one of them. The invention of digital showers has made things easier for people who want to have a luxurious shower experience.
A UK firm (Aqualisa) pioneered digital showers¹, which are now available for use in homes worldwide.
Here are several features that make a digital shower popular:
The Future of Showers
While the classic shower remains a staple in most homes, the industry is moving towards innovations in shower design. From customizable options to smart features, there’s no shortage of ways to bring life into your bathroom.
The future is smart showers. They offer easy connectivity to your existing devices. This way, you can stream music, check weather forecasts, and more while getting ready for work or enjoying a relaxing soak after a long day at work.
Today, showers are complex systems you can adjust to get the desired experience. Besides, we have come a long way, and it’s now possible to have water jets in your home shower! Now that’s progress.
So, the next time you find yourself under a soothing shower of hot water, ensure to give shower inventors a wink and a nod. They worked to path your way to a clean and fresh start to the day.
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Featured Image Credit: kevin Baquerizo, Unsplash