What Is That Weird Extra Tap for on Vintage Bathtubs?

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You might say we've got home mysteries on tap around here. Our latest vintage riddle comes from Reddit user @Salt_Ad_779, who shared a photo of a friend's 1930s bathtub with a second faucet of unknown purpose. While the three middle knobs are used for your standard hot, cold, and shower elements, the extra faucet is imprinted with a "g" or a "6" and is disconnected from the others.

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Unlike most of the mysterious home fixtures we've encountered in the past, this feature may have had a few possible uses. While the most likely answer is that the additional faucet was a utility tap for filling chore buckets with non-potable groundwater, what's the fun in stopping there? Especially when history boasts a veritable fount of spigots to explore.

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One of our personal favorites, for example, is attached to this 1895 behemoth of a bathtub (pictured above) located at The Breakers mansion in Newport, Rhode Island. The not-so-quaint seaside "cottage" of Cornelius Vanderbilt II, The Breakers encapsulates everything one of the richest men of America's Gilded Age could want in a summer home. And if the four taps on this tub can tell us anything, it's that the Vanderbilts knew the benefits of a solid self-care routine. Every bathroom in the mansion features separate hot and cold taps for saltwater pumped fresh from the Atlantic Ocean so that guests could enjoy therapeutic soaks that likely put your average bag of Epsom salts to shame. Saltwater taps like these were also common on ocean liners like the Queen Mary, but were eventually phased out due to the havoc saltwater tends to wreak on plumbing over time.

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If all this talk of salty baths has left you thirsty, consider this forgotten lavatory hero: the ice water faucet. Typically seen in houses built in the first half of the 20th century, ice water taps were hooked up to wells or, in some higher-end homes, a separate refrigeration unit (similar to today's fridge door dispensers).

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Lest we make the mistake of assuming that unique luxury faucets are a thing of the past, consider products like the Hydro Tap by Zip Water, a kitchen tap that delivers instant hot, cold, or carbonated filtered water on demand. Returning to today's mystery at hand, utility faucets are becoming increasingly popular once again as households turn to systems like the Hydraloop to recycle non-potable gray-water from showers and washing machines for sustainable irrigation and toilet flushing. As always, everything old is new again.

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