From the Ashes, 1872-1900
A Selection of Documents from the Illinois State Archives

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January 19, 1891

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This communication was referred to the council's Committee on Finance. On May 25 it recommended that the letter be placed on file and in this the full council concurred. New York City had constructed two free public bathing houses or floating baths in 1870. In 1876 it added four more. For the period June 1-October 8, 1878 that city reported 2,457,557 uses of its facilities. The baths were open to men on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays from 5:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. and Sundays from 5:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Women had access from 5:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. For each house the keeper in charge had authority to refuse entry to any he judged undesirable. Women were required to wear suitable bathing dresses and baths were limited to twenty minutes. Profanity and rowdy behavior were not tolerated and spectators were not allowed.

By 1900 there were still many tenement houses and cheap hotels in Chicago with inadequate or nonexistent plumbing. Unscrupulous landlords continued to ignore building regulations in their pursuits of profits at the expense of slum dwellers.

Points to Consider

How were these proposed free public bathhouses going to be self-supporting?

Where is Christiania in the present-day?

Why didn't the men, women and children from "the crowded portions of the city" do their bathing and washing at home?

What kind of responsibility did the city council have in relation to providing free public bathing facilities?

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