Since I haven't posted anything on here in a while, a small update that I was recently asked to provide for a general interest audience:
In the Gilded Age mansion, the private bathroom was a symbol of comfort and convenience and was outfitted with the best and most state-of-the-art in both decoration and technology.
At The Elms (Newport, RI), family and guest bathroom fixtures were manufactured by the J. L. Mott Iron Works, one of the leading suppliers of sanitary and other iron works in America at the turn of the century. The porcelain sink basins were, as indicated by the maker’s mark seen on the back of the one located in Mrs. Berwind’s bathroom (above right), imported by Mott from Brown-Westhead, Moore, & Co. of Staffordshire, England—'Potters to Her Majesty'.
Though similar wares could be acquired domestically at a much lower price (and less an import duty of 55 to 60 percent), these import wares were considered the best available, and Mott proudly catered 'for the very best trade'.* This attention to quality in even the most functional (and, not insignificantly, least visible) objects indicates that Gilded bathrooms were thought of as more than simply utilitarian spaces: if bathroom technology was becoming more democratized at the end of the century, elite patrons maintained their distinction in part through increased sophistication and specialization of bathroom appointments such as these.
Photos by author.
*'Reply of the J. L. Mott Iron Works, of New York, manufacturers of iron pottery.', Sched. B, No. 789 in US Senate Committee on Finance, Bulletin No. 1 (1894)