Theses (Historic Preservation)


Sarah Lerner

Document Type

Thesis or dissertation

Date of this Version



In 1895 the Public Bath Association of Philadelphia (PBA) was formed for the purpose of, “establishing and maintaining public baths and affording the poor facilities for bathing and the promotion of cleanliness.” In 1898 the PBA opened America’s first public bath house that offered both bathing and laundry facilities. This thesis illustrates how the organizational structure, geographic location, architectural aesthetics, function of space and technology, and advertising of Philadelphia’s public bathhouse embodies the social, cultural, economic, and political of environment of the city at the turn of the century. To properly understand the formation of the Public Bath Association of Philadelphia, this study also includes an exploration of how the morality of cleanliness, and the habituation of hygienic bathing became part of the national American identity.


Bathhouse, Progressive Era, Americanization, Sanitation reform, Immigrant



Date Posted: 16 September 2020