Public bathhouses! Commonplace in many countries throughout the world, in America they have earned a not-so-savory reputation. That wasn't exactly what Simon Baruch had in mind.
Baruch, a Prussian-born doctor and ex-Confederate soldier, father of famed financier Bernard Baruch, was a big fan of the public bathhouse. It wasn't for frivolous fun; it was for health. For example, at the time, on New York's Lower East Side, only one in 79 families had a bathtub. Baruch saw (FREE!) public bathhouses as a solution. He successfully lobbied the government, and soon, numerous locations were opened throughout New York and the country.
So the unwashed masses became... washed. Thousands upon thousands of city-dwelling Americans found comfort among their ilk, rinsing away the day's (week's/month's) filth. And, perhaps, some frivolity was to be had... a side effect, for better or for worse.
With the proliferation of indoor plumbing, public bathhouses became less necessarily. By the time World War II rolled around, pretty much all had shut down. Still, Baruch's legacy remains in the ornate grandiose buildings that were left behind.
Public health initiatives, free to the general public! America sure has advanced over the past century, no?