From the collections at the Leavenworth County Historical Society and Museum. Reprinted with permission from The Leavenworth County Historical Society and Museum and the Leavenworth Times. Donated by Debra Graden.
Wamego, Kas.--After disappearing for many years, the "Saturday Night Sensation," first bathtub in Kansas, has been rediscovered. The old tub, a copper-lined job with wooden frame, was installed in 1870, in the Ames hotel, Wamego. It received acclaim as the first bathtub in Kansas. The Ames, which no longer stands, was on Lincoln street near the Union Pacific railroad tracks.
This spring the Wamego Reporter inquired where the old tub might be.
Mrs. William Kaine revealed it was on a farm, owned by her husband, a mile and a half north of Wamego. In fact Mr. Kaine, in his youth, had taken baths in it.
The trough-shaped fixture is 6 feet long, 2 feet wide and 25 inches high. The copper lining is shaped like present-day tubs, replete with a drain at the foot end. Of course, there aren't any fancy hot and cold faucets attached. Hot water was brought in pans and teakettles from the kitchen range.
Historians in Wamego will tell you that the "Saturday Night Sensation" gained a reputation in the hinterlands. Men rode for miles either on horseback or in spring wagons and buggies, just to hit town on Saturday. This done, they'd hustle to the Ames, where a patron first signed up for a night's lodging. Then he'd sign another book, which placed him on the waiting list for 20 minutes in the bathtub.
Train passengers got off at Wamego, just to take a bath.
In time, the "sensation" was replaced by an iron tub, and the excitement waned. Fact is, five years after the tub made its appearance, a hotel in Kansas City was the first to boast that there was a bathtub in every one of its rooms. This was in 1875.
With the advent of iron tubs, the "Saturday Night Sensation" was moved to a place of prominence, for display purposes only, in the Ames. A local sign painter fashioned a sprightly notice across the front: "First Bathtub in Kansas."
When the Ames hotel closed, the tub was relegated to a nearby shed. Some say that for a long time thereafter it was tipped on its side, and served as a bed for a police dog.
Eventually it found its way to the Kaine farm.
Not that the "Saturday Night Sensation" is back in the spotlight, several communities have asked to borrow it for centennial celebrations. The Wamego Reporter editorializes:
"We surely do hope some effort is made to get the tub to a place where it can be seen. If it is deemed advisable not to have the tub located here in Wamego, it should be given to the state historical society.".