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Found: Mystery in the attic of Lewis Place

11/29/2006

Ernie Sauerland and Victor Conner with tin bathtub
This past October two members of Miami's physical facilities department, while conducting a service visit, discovered a 19th century child's bathtub during an inspection of the attic of Lewis Place.

Next to a pipe in the wall, the edge of the disk was barely visible beneath a layer of blown-in insulation. Believing it to be another pipe, physical facilities employees Ernie Sauerland and Victor Conner pulled on the object and the bathtub appeared. They recognized its importance and contacted the McGuffey Museum.

Lewis Place has no record of its existence, and because the bathtub was found under the insulation it appears to have been hidden for some time, perhaps since the 19th century.

The tin tub itself is a saucer about 40 inches in diameter with a colorful painted stencil design. The stencils on the raised seat (where the child would have sat) and the soap holder on the side are worn off, showing evidence of use. The tub features a hook on the back side so that the tub could be hung on the wall when not in use. The painted green back is covered with soot - possibly from its years of storage in the rafters.

The tub appears to date from the mid-to late-nineteenth century. More research is being done to determine its original owners and possible user.

Sauerland, who has 24 years of service with Miami, said it was "exciting to find such a unique item... (I) knew what it was right away." Sauerland has seen similar reproduction bathtubs at Civil War reenactments, but nothing as unique as this.

The tub is currently in the care of the William Holmes McGuffey Museum, where staff will be researching and conserving this Miami artifact. Anyone with knowledge of 19th century bathtubs or this tub in particular is encouraged to contact Steve Gordon, curator, William Holmes McGuffey Museum, at gordonsc@muohio.edu, 9-8381, or the museum's general e-mail at McGuffeyMuseum@muohio.edu.

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