My father grew up on an Iowa farm in the 1930’s and 40’s. One Saturday afternoon his older brother, Verle, was taking a bath in a tub placed in the middle of the kitchen floor. “The Morlan girls are coming!” someone called out. Hoping to escape the eyes of his cousins, my uncle jumped out of the tub and ran for the stairs leading to the second floor. But Verle stepped on a piece of soap, fell on the floor, and slid several feet before scrambling up and making another mad dash for the stairs.
Lack of privacy was only one of the everyday inconveniences in those times. In 1829 the architect Isaiah Rogers built the Tremont Hotel in Boston, the first U.S. hotel with indoor toilets. The four-story building had eight “water closets” on the ground floor. More than a century passed, though, before indoor plumbing became affordable to the average homeowner. In 1929 Americans spent $498 million on plumbing supplies and heating equipment. But in 1954 they spent $2.33 billion—an increase of 367% in just 25 years (www.theplumber.com/usa).
Roll back your mental clock one century and imagine this. It is a bitterly cold night in mid January, 1914. The temperature is hovering around 20 degrees. Ice covers the ground two inches deep, and an Arctic wind is rattling the windows. At midnight you wake up with cramps and diarrhea. The outdoor privy is 40 feet from the back door. Being sick is never pleasant, but these primitive conditions would certainly make an illness more distressing.
King Solomon was fabulously wealthy. One source of his annual income brought 666 talents of gold into the royal coffers (1 Kings 10:14). A talent weighed approximately 66 pounds. Just one ounce of gold in today’s market is worth more than $1,300. And yet even a Solomon could not have bought the luxury of a modern American bathroom. How richly God has blessed us!