Eye on the Past: Wash Tub Baby 1933

This photograph has perplexed me for years. A baby in a diaper, lying on a pillow inside a steel wash tub. I strongly suspect this is my father, David D. Hanneman (1933-2007). The image raises many questions but provides no answers.

A strange place for a nap, circa 1933.
A strange place for a nap. This might be David D. Hanneman in the summer of 1933.

Why stick a baby in a wash tub? Was this the poor family’s playpen? The Depression-era bassinette? A brutal pre-Dr. Spock time-out? Freshly picked from the vine? In this day and age, such a photo might get you a visit from Child Services. I’m guessing my Grandma Ruby (Treutel) Hanneman (1904-1977) just thought it made a cute photo. She was known to dote on her “little Davey.”

If this was Dad in the tub, the photo was likely taken in Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin, where he was born in March 1933. The family did not move to Mauston until early 1936. Usually I can confirm my Dad’s ID in photos by the ears, but they are not visible in this image.

My memories of such a steel container at the house in Mauston had nothing to do with babies. I recall bluegill, sunfish and bass in such a tub, waiting for Grandpa Carl’s skilled fillet knife. Or the tub filled with ice and bottles of orange and grape soda (known as “pop” by some of you). But no babies.

This one is destined to remain a mystery. I’m sure it would tickle my grandma to know it was a conversation piece some 80 years later, and that no one called Child Services.

©2015 The Hanneman Archive

5 thoughts on “Eye on the Past: Wash Tub Baby 1933”

    1. A good thought, Lavinia! know they had a properly supplied nursery, so I’m still guessing the photo was for effect. I didn’t write this in my post, but my Grandpa Carl was just mischievous enough to do this as a joke. How I wish they were here to ask!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Not sure if my last post went through. Was researching an ad I found from a 1940 baby book. Unused. ( I collect books) and found an ad from a drug store I believe your grand father worked at …was trying to find someone who’d treasure it. …can’t find the owner of the drug store in guessing it’s no longer in business? The ad is about 70 or so years old. Wish I could post a pic. I’ll post one on my blog. If I have the right person – enjoy !


    1. My grandfather did work at McCue & Buss in the mid-1920s. Elsewhere on this blog you will find an article and photos of a portable pharmacy kit that includes vials from this pharmacy. I will check out your blog. Thanks for sharing!

      Liked by 1 person

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