A Brief History of Swimming Pool

The First Swimming Pools

Pools for bathing and swimming go back at least as far as 2500 B.C.E. The first elaborate construction was The Great Baths of Mohenjodaro in Pakistan, which was used for religious ceremonies. In ancient Rome and Greece, swimming pools were an important part of society because they were used for many public and social activities. In Rome, swimming was part of the standard education of elementary age boys to physically train for war, and the Romans built miraculous, 900,000 square foot pools that were heated by giant fires beneath the pool floors.

Swimming pools grow in popularity

Swimming pools did not become popular until the middle of the 19th century. By 1837, six indoor pools with diving boards were built in London. Competitive swimming became new and exciting with interesting swimming styles and quick speeds. After the modern Olympic Games began in 1896 and swimming races were among the original events, the popularity of swimming pools began to spread.

Leaps in sciences and technology

In the 20th century, chlorination and filtration systems began delivering clean water into the pools. Prior to these developments, the only way to clean a pool was to remove and replace all the water. Materials were developed that allowed for faster and affordable installation, and more flexible design. The post-war rise of the middle-class, coupled with the relative affordability of pools accelerated pool proliferation even further. With the advent of Hollywood movies, swimming pools became a status symbol. Swimming pools became part of the American dream.

A timeline of swimming pool evolution

  • 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.