Bathtub hoax

From Academic Kids

On December 28, 1917, an article titled "A Neglected Anniversary" by H.L. Mencken was published in the New York Evening Mail. It was a completely fictional account of how bathtubs were introduced into the United States as recently as 1842, only having been introduced in England in 1828. The introduction of the bathtub purportedly initially was greatly discussed and opposed, until the example of President Millard Fillmore who had a bathtub installed in the White House in 1850 made the invention more broadly acceptable.

The whole article is entirely false, but was widely quoted elsewhere years later. In 1949 Mencken wrote:

"The success of this idle hoax, done in time of war, when more serious writing was impossible, vastly astonished me. It was taken gravely by a great many other newspapers, and presently made its way into medical literature and into standard reference books. It had, of course, no truth in it whatsoever, and I more than once confessed publicly that it was only a jocosity... Scarcely a month goes by that I do not find the substance of it reprinted, not as foolishness but as fact, and not only in newspapers but in official documents and other works of the highest pretensions."

Further reading

  • H.L. Mencken (1949). A Mencken Chrestomathy. Alfred A. Knopf.

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