Throughout its history, Scientific American published numerous war-related articles ranging from strategies and weaponry to more candid, humanizing portraits of life at the front. In this article from April 14, 1917, we learn how some soldiers were able to stay fresh and clean during World War I via the routte de bains or traveling bath caravan.

Around a dozen bathtubs, a water-heating plant, and a roll-up tent were unloaded from a truck and set-up on the ground.


"So perfect are the sanitary arrangements of the leading armies engaged in the European conflict that it may be stated without exaggeration that a soldier at the front can take his bath under almost normal conditions."

One can only assume that wartime rationing did not allow the caravan to provide soldiers with rubber ducks.


About the Author: Mary Karmelek is a production assistant for Nature Publishing Group and is currently working on Scientific American's Digital Archive Project, where she spends countless hours scouring articles and ads of decades long ago. She graduated with her MA in English from Fordham University in 2010 and currently resides in New York City. While her educational background is in gender and war trauma in modernist literature, Mary also has a keen interest in the historical and visual documentation of science, nature and medicine.