Swimming Pool History 101

Mohenjo Daro
I have worked in the pool industry for some time now and I have always wondered where the idea of swimming pools came from.  I guess in my head I figured that the idea of the swimming pool as we know it today originated not all that long ago.  After doing some research I found that I was completely wrong.  For those of you who might have wondered this same thing my post for today will be dedicated to the origins of the modern swimming pool.
The oldest swimming pool discovered is approximately 5,000 years old and is located in the Pakistani city of Mohenjo-daro and is referred to as “The Great Bath”.  It was built to be water tight by perfectly stacking bricks with gypsum plaster and coating the walls and floor with a natural tar like substance.  This particular pool was 12m X 7m and approximately 2.4 m deep.  Scholars believe that this pool was likely used specifically for religious functions where the water was used to purify and renew the well being of its bathers.
Some of the pools that stand out most in history are those of the ancient Greeks and Romans.  I think that the reason for this is due to the fact that at this time the standard of living increased along with individual wealth.  This lead to the rise of the luxurious pools.  Like the inground pools of today these ancient swimming pools added a more aesthetic value to the property.  In addition to that they also served the same purposes that pools before them did.  They were used for religious ceremonies as well as bathing, socializing, and their militaries would utilize them for training purposes of their troops.  As time went on and individuals got wealthier private pools began to be built.  In fact one of Agustus Caesar’s top political advisors designed and ordered the first Jacuzzi style custom pool in 8 B.C.
Then in A.D. 305 the Romans built an immaculate swimming pool that was 900,000 ft2.  This pool was used for bathing and was actually heated.  They heated the pool by having several large fires in the basement area beneath the pool.  Then the heat from the fire would radiate through columns, pillars, and the floor of the pool to heat the water.  Given the history of the Romans for having extravagant marble and sculptures it is likely that this pool was also adorned with some of these things making it quite a site I’m sure.
Jumping ahead several hundred years, the first time anyone did any competitive swimming was in the early 1800’s in Britain by the National Swimming Society.
One of the first U.S. inground swimming pools happens to be the oldest pool in Texas.  It is located in Austin and originated as a swimming hole in the Colorado river.  This pool is referred to as the “Deep Eddy Pool”.  It was an area along the Colorado river in which cold springs rose from the river banks and people would swim in an area where a large boulder formed an eddy.  Then in 1915 a man named A.J. Eilers bought the land surrounding the swimming hole and built the concrete pool.  In the 1920’s this area became a resort and today it is still a popular swimming pool and operating by the city of Austin.
Now we all know that many cruise ships today have swimming pools on board.  So that begs the question, where did that idea come from?  The first pool to cross the Atlantic was installed on the Adriatic cruise ship from White Star Lines.  As a matter of fact the Adriatic’s sister ship also had this luxury on board, unfortunately that particular pool probably did not get much use as that ship went down on its maiden voyage.  We remember it as the Titanic.
Inground swimming pools did not become “mainstream” in America until after WWII, and with the coming of Hollywood movies and movie stars they also became a status symbol.  I believe that for the most part they still are today, however they are becoming more and more attainable for everyday people and not so much reserved for the likes of Hollywood stars and the upper class.
Today there are swimming pools located in just about every country of the world including some of the smallest.  New Zealand boasts that there are 200,000 swimming pools in the country of about 4 million people which make it the leader in pools per capita.
This is just a brief snippet of the history of the swimming pool.  Form more information on this topic please visit www.swimmingpool.com.  There you can see more detailed information regarding the history of swimming pools but before you go check out the timeline below showing swimming pool history.  You will also find this timeline at www.swimmingpool.com but its right here right now so take a gander.
  •  2500 BC: Egyptian hieroglyphics depicting swimming.
  • 36 BC: Japanese historic records describe swimming competitions.
  • 78 AD: Romans introduced swimming as a social event to Britain.
  • 1400s: The Catholic Church objects to naked bathing on moral grounds.
  • 1800s: Acrobatic diving is developed in Germany and Sweden.
  • 1830s: Swimming clubs are established in England.
  • 1844: The Breaststroke loses popularity after Britain is introduced to the Native American “Crawl.”
  • 1862: The First documented indoor swimming pool is built in England.
  • 1885: The first diving competition is held in Germany. Briton Matthew Webb is the first documented person to swim the English Channel.
  • 1900: The Paris Olympics feature an obstacle swimming event in the Seine River.
  • 1907: The White star line installs a swimming pool on its ocean liner, The Adriatic.
  • 1908: The international governing body of swimming, FINA (Federation Internationale de Nataion de Amateur), is founded.
  • 1912: Women’s swimming events are added to Olympic Games in Stockholm.
  • 1924: Johnny Weissmuller sets 67 world swimming records before becoming a Hollywood movie star.
  • 1943: Two-piece swimsuits are introduced after wartime shortages prompt a 10% reduction in the amount of fabric used to create swimsuits.
  • 1972: Mark Spitz wins seven gold medals in the Summer Olympics.
  • 2008: American Michael Phelps becomes the world’s most decorated Olympic swimming with a career total of 14 gold medals.
  • Today: The National Swimming Pool Foundation estimates there are more than 10 million swimming pools across the USA, including more than 360,000 public pools that are open year round.

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