The attention placed on gentility, and so on cleanliness, is also reflected in books and pamphlets written in the early to late eighteenth century. In 1715, a Boston schoolmaster named Eleazar Moody published The School of Good Manners. Likewise, George Washington produced his Rules of Civility and Decent Behaviour in Company and Conversation a few years later. While these volumes largely reworked materials from books published in France and England, they demonstrate a colonial interest in good behavior.
By 1780, the instructive Letters of Philip Dormer Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield, had been published in North America. Written to his son, they exhorted him to clean his teeth and nails, brush his coats, and maintain his wigs. The years following the American Revolution and the founding of the new republic showed further interest in bathing and hygiene.
Now that they were part of a new nation, wealthy Americans were especially anxious to demonstrate to their European counterparts that they were equally genteel and refined. Public bathhouses began emerging in Europe and England in the 1790s. While New York saw its first public bathhouse in 1792, it appears to have been more in the tradition of the therapeutic baths of the mid-eighteenth century, with its offering of warm, fresh- or saltwater baths.
The first bathhouse in Philadelphia, opened in 1801, had bathtubs, running water, and drains. And the second New York bathhouse, opened in 1804, advertised hot and cold water, and it also provided a private space for women. Wealthy families also began creating bathhouses or bathrooms within their own homes.
In time, these attentions to bathing and cleanliness became part of daily life for the rest of the population, largely through the work of the domestic economists of the 1840s and 1850s and the continued scientific discoveries resulting from the American Civil War. Abigail B.Chandler See also: Disease; Housing.
Bibliography Busham, Richard L., and Claudia L.Busham. “The Early History of Cleanliness in America. ” Journal of American History 74 (1988): 1213 38.
Hoy, Suellen. Chasing Dirt. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995.
Wright, Lawrence. Clean and Decent. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1963.
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