Hundreds Of People On The Titanic Had To Share A Single Bathtub
In the movie Titanic, a scene early on shows you the difference between the classes in a way you can't possibly miss. In third class, we see a bunch of flimsy bunk beds, with strangers crammed in four to a room. Then over in first class, Big Bad Rich Guy has not just his own suite of luxurious rooms but even his own private promenade deck.
That's accurate enough. But if they really wanted to weird us out about life in steerage, they should have shown us the bathrooms. In first class, some cabins had their own bathrooms, naturally, but in third class, all 700 passengers had to share just two bathrooms, with two just two tubs for everyone.
They had more than two toilets (or "water closets," as they were called), and cabins had their own sinks, but they had just two tubs total. One was for the 200 or so women, while the 450 men all had to share the other single tub. It's unclear where the children bathed; probably, they didn't bathe at all.
In fact, most adults likely didn't bathe either. One bathtub among 450 people was actually a step up from what many of them had at home, which was zero bathtubs and just a sponge for scrubbing. And while a tub was a cool novelty, most of them probably didn't bother queuing up to use it. They'd had a good wash before boarding the ship, and a week at sea wasn't a long time to go without bathing.
Even in first class, where many had the convenience of their own tub if they wanted one, guests might have gone a week without bathing, as was normal at the time. They spent the journey stewing in a thick smelly funk, covered by the scent of perfume and brandy. When the iceberg hit and the ocean swept in, many cried out in horror, not for fear of drowning because they were so unfamiliar with the feeling of water.
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Top image: 20th Century Studios