Journalism has produced few more plausible hoaxes than H. L. Mencken's famed essay on the history of the U.S. bathtub. Mencken's yarn explains how a Cincinnati grain merchant named Adam Thompson caused the first tub to be constructed of sheet lead and Nicaragua mahogany back in 1842, how he built a pump with which a team of six Negroes lifted water into a tank in his house, how he ran a heating pipe through his chimney, and finally took the first modern bath.

Gaining speed with every paragraph, it further relates how President...

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