When was the first bath tub brought to Martha’s Vineyard? Nantucket had a bath tub, weighing more than 800 pounds, in 1881. A Nantucketer reports having seen another as early as 1861 on that island. Commenting editorially on the question of bath tub priority, the Boston Herald on Wednesday morning challenged Vineyarders to adduce proof of the earlier existence on this Island of a receptacle designed solely for bathing the human form.

The challenge is successfully met, for it is an authenticated fact that a bath tub was installed in the Doctor Fisher house on Main street, Edgartown, in 1840. This was, it is believed, the first bath tub in Edgartown, the first on the Vineyard, and one of the first in the state. It antedates Nantucket’s oldest reported bath tub by 21 years, and Nantucket’s second oldest tub by 41 years. It is said that the first bath tubs were installed in Boston in 1841, and in that case Edgartown’s tub would assume priority.

Installed Large Tub

Dr. Daniel Fisher was a skillful physician and surgeon, as well as the owner of important enterprises relating to the whaling industry. At that time he was in charge at the United States Marine Hospital at Holmes’s Hole. Partly because he attended so many cases of illness, he believed in absolute cleanliness and sanitation. Accordingly he installed a large bath tub in a square room just off the kitchen of the house, the large Georgian structure adjacent to the Methodist church, now the property of Mrs. W. D. Faris. The house was heated entirely by fireplaces, and when the kitchen was immaculate and cooking out of the way for the time being, the door was opened, allowing the heat to flow through into the bathroom.

A large copper tank was kept on the kitchen stove, and water from this tank was carried into the next room and poured into the tub. Incidentally, so far as is known the tub was not connected with any plumbing system.

The tub itself was made of metal, possibly of copper, for it was green in color. Dr. Fisher was a large man, more than six feet in height, and the tub was a large one, of considerable length but narrow across. In later years this tub was removed to the large Fisher house on Water street where it is at the present time. By this means Dr. Fisher enforced in his household a rigid standard of cleanliness which was far in advance of the ideas which people nowadays attribute to his generation.

An interesting sidelight is the fact that Dr. Fisher was an early advocate of salt water bathing. He erected on Chappaquiddick Point a large double bathhouse which was the cause of great comment in the community, since sea bathing at that time was not esteemed.

A correspondent suggests that the first bath tub in Vineyard Haven may have been the one installed at Summer Hill, the residence of the late Captain and Mrs. Presbury L. Smith. This house was built in the early sixties, perhaps in 1862.