I got several e-mails about the mystery of just who did install the first bathtub in the White House — the first plumbed, running water bathtub, not just the first tub. The White House Historical Association provides partial answers at their website:
The first running water was plumbed into the White House in 1833 — during Andrew Jackson’s administration.
Running hot water first made it to the First Family’s quarters on the second floor in 1853 (no, it wasn’t that somebody left the water on from 1833 and it took 20 years to back up — we’re talking pipes and a water heater).
1853! There was an election held in 1852, but Fillmore’s party, the Whigs, gave the nomination to Gen. Winfield Scott. He lost the election to Democratic candidate Franklin Pierce. (Fillmore would be the last Whig president; he won the Whig nomination in 1856, and the nomination of the Know-Nothing Party, but neither party had much strength. The race was between John C. Fremont of California, who had the first-ever presidential nomination of a new party made up of Free Soilers, antislavery Democrats and Whigs, called the Republicans; and Democrat James Buchanan of Pennsylvania. Buchanan won, of course. Fillmore was actually president during part of 1853!
There are two issues of interest to me here. The first, of course, is whether the White House Historical Association has fallen victim to the Mencken hoax, or whether the first plumbed bathtub really was installed in 1853; and the second issue is related: If the tub was installed after March, it would have been in Pierce’s administration (the new president took office in March until 1933). So there were two presidents in 1853, and one of them was Millard Fillmore. Which would get the credit, if 1853 is an accurate year?
Isn’t it somewhat ironic that there is, at this date, a possibility that part of Mencken’s hoax could be verified as accurate?