Camac Baths


Undated, but ca. 1930s. 11 x 14" broadside printed in green and black ink on recto only, verso coated with water-activated adhesive; mild toning and a few tiny chips at edges, else fine. Extant in at least one private collection, but unrecorded by OCLC.

In its heyday, the Camac Baths was the most popular of several Eastern-European style "Shvitzbads" (sweat baths) in Philadelphia. Affectionately called "the Shvitz" by many members (mostly Jewish men, but also women and white-skinned non-Jews of both genders), the bath house featured three steam rooms, several types of massage, a gymnasium, a tanning room, colonic irrigation, alcohol rubs, "a lunch counter, a barber, a podiatrist, a small ice-cold swimming pool, a half-sized basketball court, and a four-wall handball court... Tables and lounge chairs were available for a friendly game of pinochle or to relax, doze, or smoke cigars," according to Ron Avery of Describing the Russian Bath, or "playtza," Avery tells us: "Here was a room heated to more than 180 degrees by a furnace packed with tons of stone. The victim lay prone on a marble slab while a hearty attendant hosed the man down and scrubbed him with soapy oak leaves." This cost extra, as did a wet, soapy rub-down outside the playtza, "where the masseurs violently tenderized the customer like a cut of beef and expertly cracked every joint." The poster we have here offers many of these services, and also (for men only) private rooms, "day and night." (for men only) private rooms, "day and night." The Camac Baths survived until the mid-1980s, having been open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year for decades. (In a 1982 interview, the founder's son Eddie Lucker declared, “Christmas, Yom Kippur, New Year’s Eve, Pearl Harbor, we’re open!”). The building was sold and repurposed as the 12th Street Gym, which continued the tradition of shvitzing for another 30 years before closing its doors forever on January 31, 2018.

Item #20037

Price: $295.00

See all items in Ephemera and Archives
See all items by