fans take note. Arizona's Hohokam Park in Mesa, Ariz., may ring
a bell as the spring training grounds of the Chicago Cubs
baseball team. It is named for the far-flung, extinct Hohokam
Indians who played their own brand of ball and worked those same
fields centuries before.
were the master farmers of America's Southwest, and engineers of
great networks of irrigation canals in the Salt River Valley.
They first appeared about 350 B.C., building canals of open
ditches, gouged out with stone tools and wooden hoes. The canals
spanned almost 250 miles, stimulating trade and commerce between
communities of hundreds and thousands of people. No one knows
why, whether by climatic upheaval, drought or floods, the
Hohokams suddenly vanished in 1450 A.D., well before Columbus
discovered America or the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock.
Pueblo Grande ruins of this lost culture sit in ironic view of
the jet planes taking off at the Phoenix airport. Located on
East Washington Street, they provide a specter of dry bank
canals 80 feet wide and 20 feet deep. Strange trash mounds offer
clues of organic wastes, vegetation and shells. And
multi-storied "apartment" buildings attest to a condo
style of life. But there is no evidence of any piping, latrines
or privies. Native Americans, it is explained, have always
shunned communal spots for defecation.
World settlers would copy the Indians casual discharge of waste
and refuse in running water, open fields, shrubs or forests.
Like their folks back home in Europe, the colonials would also
toss garbage and excrement out the front door and windows onto
the streets below. The country's first garbage disposers would
be hogs and scavengers.
would be more than midway through the 19th century before young
America would develop reasonably efficient water and sewage
systems, and for the great invention of the water closet to make
an appearance. But our forefathers made up nicely for lost time.
to the plumbing industry, the United States would set standards
in health and safety unsurpassed in the world today. At the
forefront was the unsung plumber, the skilled craftsman of lead,
expert bell hanger, blacksmith, toolmaker, tin and sheet-iron
2,800 years ago, the fabled King Minos of Crete owned the
world's first flushing water closet, complete with a wooden
seat. Lost for centuries in the rubble of the palace ruins, the
invention did not materialize again until 1594. Then, Sir John
Harington built a "prive in perfection" for his
godmother, Queen Elizabeth, to use in Richmond Palace, and one
for himself at his humbler estate. Once he published his pompous
book of terrible puns and off-color jokes about the new device
in 1596, A New Discourse of a State Subject, Called the
Metamorphosis of Ajax, the ridicule and scorn would
hound him for the rest of his days, and he never built another
one. ("Ajax" was the slang in those days for a privy
or "a jakes.") To the world's misfortune, another 200
years would pass before the idea took hold again.
when the colonists packed for the New World, they probably
tucked a chamber pot in among other crockery items and tinware.
But to a backwoodsman or a bride of 14, the term "chaise
percee" or "commode" often disguised its use. In
the early 1800s, a settler's wife reportedly bought several from
the new stock at the local store for kitchen and table use.
privy or outhouse slowly became accepted, albeit a peril for
those walking by. One diarist disgustedly wrote: "Privy
houses set against ye Strete which spoiling people's apparill
should they happen to be nare when ye filth comes out ...
Especially in ye Night when people can not see to shun
the more humble and ramshackle outhouses of wood emanated more
glorious structures. Human nature as it is, some became symbols
of distinction, as would current bathrooms of the well-to-do.
William Byrd's 1730 outhouse was made of brick and had five
holes. Byrd was chef magistrate of the colonial court and thus
sat on the largest seat at the center of a raised, semicircular
bench. So did Mr. Byrd preside in the family privy.
of years later a two-story model was built and still stands in
Crested Butte, Colo. The upper level was used when heavy snow
blocked the first floor. A more typical, single-hole outhouse is
found in a replica located in Old Sturbridge, Mass.
to bring a workable water closet into the house without mess or
odor was an invention waiting to be born, however. Some of the
country's leading citizens would try to improvise on the basic
knowledge of the times.
Jefferson, for example, devised an indoor privy at his
Monticello home by rigging up a system of pulleys. Servants used
the device to haul away chamber pots in his earth closet (a
wooden box enclosing a pan of wood ashes below, and a seat with
a hole cut out at the top). An architect and inventor, as well
as statesman, Jefferson also built two octagonal outhouses at
his retreat at Poplar Forest in Virginia.
the early 1840s, the architect and designers of New York City's
Central Park denounced the outhouse as "troublesome,
unhealthy, indelicate, and ugly." It was all true. They
tried to correct this by designing little Gothic structures
combining a summer-house with a view of the garden on one side,
and a two- or four-holer on the other.
of a few private homes, hotels were the bastions of luxury and
comfort - and indoor plumbing. In 1829, the brilliant young
architect, 26-year-old Isaiah Rogers, sent ripples of awe
throughout the country with his innovative Tremont Hotel in
Boston. It was the first hotel to have indoor plumbing and
became the prototype of a modern, first-class American hotel.
four-story structure boasted eight water closets on the ground
floor, located at the rear of the central court. The court was
connected by glazed corridors to the bedroom wings, dining room
bathrooms in the basement were fitted with cold running water,
which also went to the kitchen and laundry. Thebathtubs were
copper or tin and probably had a little side-arm, gas furnace
attached at one end. Perhaps shaped like a shoe as the French
and English models, the water in the tub would flow and
circulate backwards until the entire bath was heated to
the 1790s, the Northeast had bath houses, but not until this
period several decades later would city hotels or new dwellings
have baths as well. This simply was not feasible without a
suitable water and waste supply system.
the Tremont, water was drawn from a metal storage tank set on
top of the roof, the recently invented steam pump raising the
water on high. A simple water carriage system removed the
excretal water to the sewerage system. As with other individual
buildings of the time, each had its own source of water and
years later in New York City, Rogers surpassed his achievements
of the Tremont Hotel. He built the Astor House with six stories,
featuring 17 rooms on the upper floors with water closets and
bathrooms to serve 300 guest rooms. The Astor and the Tremont
were the first modern buildings built with extensive plumbing.
(In contrast, the Statler Hotel in Buffalo caused a sensation in
1908 by offering "A room with a bath for a dollar and a
the architect was in very good company. His former employer was
Solomon Willard, who had developed the first widely-used
American system of central heating.
the 1830s, at least one private house, a James River mansion,
had a wood-fired hot air heating system. Heat wafted up to the
first floor via handsome brass registers. Ladies of New York
City's High Society wasted no time in flocking to the parlor
after dinner to stand over its registers for warmth.
heating, however, was generally confined to the public rooms and
hallways. Guest rooms were still heated during this period by
parlor stoves and fireplaces. This lack of heat throughout the
home retarded the development of bathrooms.
Dirty Forerunners: It
was said that no house in Quincy, Mass., had a bathroom before
1820. When the temperature of a bedroom dips below the freezing
point, there is no satisfaction in bathing.
Colonial bathing consisted of occasional dips in ponds or
streams. More typical was a quote from Elizabeth Drinker, the
wife of a highly-placed Philadelphia Quaker. She had a shower
(probably a bucket arrangement) put up in her backyard for
therapeutic use in 1799. She said, "I bore it better than I
expected, not having been wet all over at once, for 28 years
bathing did become the rage, it evolved over quack hygiene
rather than cleanliness. Then there emerged a blend of latrine
and spa just like in Merrie Old England.
aping the customs of fashionable Britain, one historian
commented that dueling probably killed fewer people than the
spas springing up in various parts of the country. If the
mineral waters tasted or smelled foul enough, people believed
they could cure anything that ailed them. In the latter 1770s,
Colonials would soak and sip in fashion as their counterparts at
Bath or Spa, England, imitating the good society of the Old
Springs, Pa., in 1775 drew people from all over, taking in the
waters. Some lived in cabins, all cooking at a common fire.
Gentile boarding houses and pumps were built, and dancing rooms
added to the pleasantries. The adjacent mosquito-rich swamps
were drained, and the church was enlarged to keep pious visitors
Dr. Benjamin Rush had the bad luck to have a well with
horrible-tasting water in his backyard. The whole town flocked
to it to cure all kinds of ailments. When the over pumped well
went dry, the people learned too late that the well connected to
the doctor's privy.
thought bathing was a health hazard. In 1835, the Common Council
of Philadelphia almost banned wintertime bathing (the ordinance
failed by two votes). Ten years later, Boston forbade bathing
except on specific medical advice.
water supply contributed to this attitude. The bathtub had to be
filled and emptied with a hand
pail. It was too onerous a chore.
by 1845, the installation of sanitary sewers began to pay off.
With an outlet for waste water, indoor plumbing and working
water closets were getting closer to fruition. Unfortunately,
bad plumbing and the stench from open sewer connections made
some new homes uninhabitable.
in the 19th century, the stack was vented through the roof, but
no one knew how to properly size the pipe. Usually the size was
understated. Many vent pipes were so small they would clog up
with frost during the winter. Not long after, a crown vent was
added, i.e., the connection was made at the top of the vent.
the sewers provided for runoff water, sewer gas made the home
practically unlivable. Although venting was unknown in those
early years, there were traps in use since the early 1800s,
although they were of little use since the traps constantly lost
their water seal.
1874, there was a tremendous breakthrough when an unknown
plumber solved the problem of venting. He suggested balancing
the air pressure in the system with the outside atmospheric
pressure to prevent the siphonage or blowout of a water seal in
the traps. He installed 1/2" pipe at the traps and extended
the pipe outside. It worked for a little while, but then the
vent clogged and the stench returned. Through trail and error,
the plumbers learned to increase the size of the pipe.
settlers knew nothing of lead or iron pipe - they knew only to
build with wood, the country's bounty.
pipes were made of bored-out logs, preferably felled from
hemlock or elm trees. The trees would be cut into 7 ft. to 9 ft.
lengths, their trunks around 9-10 inches thick.
pipe laid below ground created several problems, however,
especially in larger settlements or towns. Uneven ground below
the joists would cause sags in the log where water would
stagnate, infest with insects, and generally leave a woody
borers themselves were colorful characters who usually traveled
in pairs from town to town bringing news and gossip of the area
as they went about their job. With a five-foot steel auger
between them, a handle at one end, they would fix the log by
eye, size it up with a point of the ax, and drill or bore out
the center. Ramming one end to make a conical shape, they would
jam the logs together in a series, using a bituminous-like pitch
or tar to caulk the joists. Sometimes they would split the log
and hollow it out, put it together, connect the logs with iron
hoops or get the blacksmith to caulk the logs with lead.
would set up a gravity water system, starting from a spring or
stream on high ground, allowing water to flow downhill to the
house or farm. It would cut a path to the back of the house,
through the barn, and flow into a catch basin.
1652, Boston incorporated the country's first waterworks, formed
to provide water for firefighting and domestic use. As fire was
a common hazard in those days of wood-framed houses and stores,
and chimney fires always a risk, it was imperative that a ready
supply be on hand.
line supplying water to Boston's wharves and other buildings ran
from Jamaica Pond to the Faneuil Hall area, the meeting place
for the Massachusetts rebels who held their Boston Tea Party in
the nearby harbor on Dec.16, 1773. Just recently a section of a
wooden water main was removed from that same vicinity. The log
measured 22 feet long, the bore a 4" I.D. for the lower
half of the tree, and 2 1/2" in the upper. Common with
early wood pipe, the tree's natural forks branched out in wyes
1795, the Jamaica Pond Aqueduct Corp. followed through with 15
miles more of 3" and 5" wooden water pipe of bored
logs, again using hemlock trees for construction. Since open
wells provided easy access to contamination from nearby privies,
the new supply of fresh water contributed to a lower death rate.
by almost anyone's standards, these new pipelines were
nonetheless invaluable to firefighters. They would punch a hole
into the wooden pipe along the edge of the street, insert a
smaller pipe, pre-sized to fit the newly-bored hole, and harness
the hose of their fire wagon, a two-man pumper. The fire out,
they would plug up the hole again with a pre cut conical stopper
on the end of a long pole, insert it into the hole, and bang it
shut. This was the " fireplug, " the wooden pole left
sticking out of the ground marking the plug, ready to be pulled
out for the next chimney fire.
pipes were common until the early 1800s when the increased
pressure required to pump water into rapidly expanding streets
began to split the pipes, a change was made to iron.
Come Of Age: In
1804, Philadelphia earned the distinction as the first city in
the world to adopt cast iron pipe for its water mains. It was
also the first city in America to build large-scale waterworks
as it drew upon the ample supply of the Schuylkill River. A
friendly neighbor, Philadelphia sold its cast-off wooden pipe to
Burlington, N.J., where it remained in use until 1887, when
larger mains were required.
were the days when the science of medicine in its infancy, and
misguided notions of causes of disease ruled the day.
Philadelphia was motivated to clean up its city and draw upon a
new supply of water in the mistaken belief that yellow fever was
caused by the city's polluted wells rather than the bite of the
mosquito. Yellow fever hit Philadelphia in 1793 with an impact
like the Great Plagues of London.
waterworks depends on pumps. Prior to steam power in the 1800s,
water wheels harnessed river flow to raise the water. On the
frontier and on farms, windmills and simple hydraulic pumps
provided the most efficient means of pumping water for the
entire farmyard. A storage tank large enough to hold two or
three days' supply of water would be mounted on the upper floor
of the barn, water then piped to individual locations.
the latter 1800s, windmills would still be, in full force, their
new and better workings keeping the farmers son from the lure of
the big city. Who could resist this 1893 sale pitch from
a farmer's boy has been content to remain home through the great
assistance rendered him by the Geared Aermotor. This tireless
worker not only pumps water, but turns the grindstone, saws the
wood, shells corn, churns and a dozen other things that are most
disagreeable to the boy, and that would tend to discourage him
and make him discontented."
metropolitan cities require more than windmills or simple
hydraulic pumps to generate a water supply for an entire
population, especially for those in the throes of the Industrial
Revolution. The population of Chicago, for example, soared from
350 people in 1835 to over 60,000 by mid century. In 1869, the
city unveiled a new engineering feat that made newspaper
headlines around the world.
Chicago Water Tower supplied the city with water via a
twin-tunnel system which extended two miles out into Lake
Michigan. Offshore, the clear take water entered an underwater
shaft leading to the tunnel below the lake bed, the intake shaft
protected by a wooden crib.
first tunnel, completed in 1869, contained a massive
three-foot-wide, 138-foot-tall standpipe that equalized pressure
in the mains throughout the city's water system. The building
was miraculously spared in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, and
still stands as a monument to the city's past.
steam-driven engines drew water from the tunnel beneath the
lake. They provided 15 million gallons per day into the city's
water mains. When the pumping station was modernized in 1906 and
new engines installed, the standpipe was removed. The station
today contains six powerful engines which pump 72.5 million
gallons on an average day.
Chicago is credited with having the first comprehensive sewerage
project in the country (designed by E. S. Chesbrough in 1885),
the already teeming city of New York provided the general model
for the development of water supply and sewage disposal systems
across the country.
was always at a premium in Manhattan, from day one of its
purchase from the Indians in 1626. A bucket of water had to be
hand-drawn and carried from springs or wells. Those too far away
relied on peddlers who made rounds selling water by the bucket,
off water carts or barrels. Later, water would be rationed at
street pumps or hydrants which would operate infrequently during
and garbage thrown onto the streets created abominable
conditions, though people were merely following centuries-old
customs. They were compounded by privy stations set against
buildings whose "cleanup" presented even more
problems. As early as 1700, concerned officials passed an
ordinance prohibiting scavengers from dumping "tubs of
filth" in the streets.
driving wells and digging cisterns to collect rainwater were
still the primary means of procuring water throughout most
settlements. However, water was not a popular beverage during
those early days. A little girl from Barbados boarding with her
grandmother in 1714 while the eight-year-old attended school in
Boston, complained to her father that grandmother was making her
drink water. Dad wrote back and insisted that she get beer or
wine as befitted her station.
distaste for water probably harkened back to the medieval notion
that water caused the chills, ague and all sorts of ailments.
The more likely reason was that the privy and the local well
were too close together and spawned cholera and typhoid instead
of good taste and purity.
the early 1700s, New York, as did Boston, had constructed a
wooden pipe system under the roads, and sold water at street
pumps or hydrants. It would take New York another 25 years to
lay underground sewers for storm water as well.
York's first real system of water supply consisted of a
reservoir fed from wells and ponds, and distribution from wood
piping. It was a crude operation and operative only a short
time. It took another 50 years before New York constructed a
truly viable public waterworks system. In this plan, well water
was pumped to an above-ground reservoir and distributed via
water mains of cast iron. The main carried the water to fire
hydrants along the narrow streets. But five years later, the
system broke down in the chaos of the great New York fire of
1835, which destroyed 530 buildings. The water supply could not
cope with the demand of the firefighters.
response to the needs of its firefighters and to provide potable
water for the already teeming population, the city revamped its
designs and developed a more sound, pressurized system.
Completed in 1842, the Croton Aqueduct System transported water
from a huge reservoir in Croton, 40 miles north of the city, to
a secondary reservoir on 42nd Street, and to another in Central
Park. They fed into a network of underground mains. Now it was
possible to supply buildings with running water. However, except
for a simple water carriage operation, there was no provision
Copper lined closet, with oak high tank and seat.
Julius W. Adams provided the framework upon which modern
sewerage is based. In 1857, Adams was commissioned to sewer the
city of Brooklyn, which then covered 20 square miles. There was
no data available in proportioning sewers for the needs of the
people. Yet, working from scratch, Adams developed guidelines
and designs that made modern sanitary engineering possible. More
importantly, he published the results. By the end of the
century, how-to textbooks would be available for towns and
cities to use all across the country.
pieces to the puzzle of good plumbing had finally come together
--- proper venting, waterworks and sewers brought the closet
indoors to stay. American potters duplicated the successes of
their English predecessors, and then some. Finally, the mass
production line brought down the cost of production of fixtures,
fittings and valves,
making them affordable and available from the rich on down. With
the final correlation between disease and waterborne bacteria,
the impetus to plumbing was complete.
Closet Evolves: The
development of the water closet in the United States parallels
the experience of England where the modern closet was invented.
But until the development of a one-piece toilet with no metal
parts, the closet would continue to be a source a contamination
and a health hazard.
in England, the conical-shaped hopper was invented first. It set
into a lead trap that was placed under the floor. Flushed by a
valve directly connected to the bowl, it readily became a source
came the pan closet, consisting of an upper earthenware basin
and a shallow copper pan containing 3-5" of water as a seal
at its base. It could be tipped to discharge the contents into a
lower, large, cast-iron receptacle connected to the drainage
system. The metal pan operated on hinges, activated by a lever.
washdown closet followed the principle of pan closets. The water
was flushed by a direct line from a storage tank in the attic.
Pull the handle in the closet, and it opened a valve at the top
of the chamber. It was connected by a copper wire. The water
flowed until the handle was released. It scored a complete flush
as the water struck against a piece of sheet lead inside the
bowl and caused a spray in all directions.
earlier models, a short hopper closet followed that was set on a
tray, and the trap was placed above the floor. Originally made
of stoneware, it was practically impervious. But later on,
fireclay closets would be passed off to unwary customers.
first American patent for a plunger closet is attributed to
William Campbell and James T. Henry in 1857. It resembled the
twin-basin water closets deplored by the great English engineer,
S.S. Hellyer. The mechanism was unsanitary, as was the trapless
closet of George Jennings.
Randall Mann, an American, developed a siphonic closet in 1870.
Three pipes delivered water into the basin: one fed the flushing
rim around the basin's edge, one discharged about a half gallon
rapidly into the basin and started the siphonic action, and the
third provided the after-flush.
Smith developed a jet siphon closet in 1876. It was carried
still further by the famous American sanitary engineer Col.
George E. Waring, Jr., into larger and more complicated pieces
Kennedy, another American, patented a siphonic closet which
required only two delivery pipes, one to flush the rim, the
other to start the siphon. William Howell improved it in 1890,
when he eliminated the lower trap without detriment to the
years later, Robert Frame and Charles Neff of Newport, R.I.,
produced the prototype of America's siphonic wash-down closet,
although it sometimes failed to develop the necessary action and
the contents overflowed. Another decade passed before a
redesigned bowl by Fred Adee would spur the production of the
siphonic closet in America.
the early 19th century, U.S. production of the closet was
inferior to the English, and most closets were imported. By
1873, 43 British firms, including Twyford, Doulton and Shanks
were exporting high-quality closets to the U.S.
century's end, U.S. manufacturers caught up with the Europeans,
and American products began to swamp this market. The American
sanitary industry was said to have been born when pottery maker
and decorator Thomas Maddock teamed up with his friend William
Leigh. The timing was none to soon, because importing English
materials was a very costly endeavor.
was tough to convince fellow Americans to buy American products,
however, so Maddock carefully stamped each closet with a lion
and a unicorn, and the following inscription: "Best
Stafford Earthenware made for the American market."
had suggested a basin of brick, stone or lead dressed with
pitch, resin or wax. Since then, stoneware, earthenware,
fireclay and vitreous enameled porcelain led the way. Salt
glazing was an early breakthrough; the process covered the
materials with an impervious glaze which offered new resistance
to stain and liquid.
were confined first to the bowl's interior because the wooden
surround precluded any outside design---no one would see it.
When the washout and the washdown models were now exposed in
their entirety, the water closet became not only a functional
product but an artistic one as well. The outside bowl could be
embossed or colored for esthetic choice.
models proved most popular, highlighted with elaborate patterns
and fanciful names. Popular examples were the English Lion and
the Dolphin models. The Dolphin curled up into a letter S, the
bowl in the shape of a fluted shell. (Carvings of dolphins had
separated the seats used by the Roman soldiers in the privy at
Timgad, an ancient Roman city in what is now Algeria.) A Dolphin
water closet of Edward Johns & Co. won a Golden Award for
design at the Great Philadelphia Exhibition in 1876. (The
company today, Armitage Shanks, has reproduced the original
"Dolphin Suite," complete with mahogany toilet seat,
vanity doors and polished brass taps and fittings.)
patterns became popular, too, as well as hand-painted patterns
of birds, flowers and fruit. Usually applied after the glazing,
particularly with fireclay and similar materials, these
underglaze decorations were less permanent. Gilding was the most
expensive decoration: a specially-prepared gold, ground down
with alloys and flux, compounded with turpentine and oil base,
was applied by brush on an already embossed pattern.
extensive piping and adequate sewer and supply systems, however,
the "modern" water closet would have gone the way of
Harington's old relics. Early American plumbers, unschooled in
the impressive engineering feats of their old Roman forerunners,
would have to learn on their own how to build and construct
comparable supply and waste systems. The method was still
Come Of Age: For
the well-to-do, an unused bedroom converted into the novel
bathroom. The practice probably foreshadowed the trend of
present-day "empty-nesters" to make unused bedrooms
into fitness and relaxation centers. By the mid-1850s, however,
finer new homes were being designed with separate bathrooms.
Franklin is said to have imported the first bathtub to America.
Brought over from France in the 18th century, this early
creation was made of sheet copper shaped like a shoe, and
hand-filled by bucket. A more common model would be in the shape
of a mummy's tomb, all wood and six feet long.
popularity of tub-bathing grew as the country flourished and
expanded. For example, only 200 people resided in Tucson, Ariz.,
in 1865. By 1871, however, the town would boast 3,000 people, a
newspaper, a brewery, two doctors, several saloons and one
the country's first bathtub---with fittings---was commissioned
by a Mr. Thompson of Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1842. He envied the
invention of Britain's Lord John Russell, and had the same tub
duplicated for himself. The tub was encased in mahogany and
lined with sheet lead. It measured 7' x 4', and weighed nearly
fittings connected to two pipes running from the attic tank. One
pipe carried cold water, the other was a hot water pipe that
coiled down the chimney. The water heated as it passed through
bathtubs a century later were encased in panelled or embossed
wood. Big, brass fixtures were bold and showy in Victorian
splendor. George Vanderbilt's bathroom of 1855 boasted a
porcelain tub, and featured exposed pipe for all to see, the
fittings reduced to a neat arrangement. Those with money tried
to emulate Queen Victoria's bathroom where, it was said, the
controls looked like those for a battleship.
old Saturday night bath in front of the kitchen fire or
pot-bellied stove was of tin or copper. Lead "gave
way" to cast iron, which in turn was the forerunner of the
modern enameled iron tub. Now we can add porcelain enameled iron
and steel and acrylic, too.
the turn of the century, a luxury bathroom would be a
grand-sized room, outfitted with a 5-foot enameled tub, shower
bath and receptor, sitz bath, foot bath, pedestal lavatory and
siphon jet closet. Including all the fittings, trim and traps,
the cost would come to $542.50. (Heavy tasseled drapes and
stained glass windows were extra, of course. Although patterned
wallpaper would yield to tile on the walls and the floor, the
big area carpet would remain.)
Johnny came marching home after the wars, builders could not
keep up with the demand for housing. A land shortage in the
throes of urban development sparked cubbyhole apartments and
smaller homes than before. Tract housing would be one answer;
downsizing the bathroom in sacrifice for more space was another
tradeoff. Pedestal lavs disappeared as vanities with storage
cabinets below topped the trend. Today, the reverse is true -
bathrooms are bigger, the fixtures more imposing than ever. And
at least two bathrooms are a must in most new houses.
there are tubs for two and oversized tubs with accompanying
oversized faucets, and lavs constructed from all materials
including marble and precious stone. Where chrome and
nickel-plated faucets stood, luxury materials such as gold,
malachite, tiger's eye, onyx and polished granite would take
their place. In such a setting, King Midas might well turn green
growth of plumbing in America was phenomenal. In one 25-year
period, from 1929 to 1954, sales by distributors of plumbing
products and heating equipment rose from $498 million to $2.33
billion, a whopping 367% increase.
manufacturers would cater to the increased demand with myriad
choices of materials, colors and styles. Forerunners of great
plumbing companies today would make their first appearances in
the 1890s: Crane Co., National Tube Works (U.S. Steel), Ahrens
& Ott and American Radiator (predecessor companies of
American-Standard), and the Kohler Company, to name just a few.
single-handle mixing faucets so commonplace today are actually
less than 50 years old. Al Moen is credited with the design for
a double-valve faucet with a cam to control the two valves that
he made in 1937. He refined the design into a cylinder with a
piston action. Continued refinement has led to the replaceable
cartridge, push-button diverter, back-to-back installation,
swivel spray and pressure-balancing valve.
steel is also a relative newcomer to the surging market of
plumbing materials, perhaps exemplified by the growth of Elkay
incorporated to manufacture pantry sinks of German silver and
polished copper, Elkay added a line of galvanized steel scullery
sinks in 1921. By the 1950s, the company was spurring lines of
sinks and faucets in stainless steel that would become mainstays
of the plumbing industry.
water supplies are
fairly recent developments as well. They were pioneered by
Robert M. Zell the founder of Brass-Craft Mfg., back in 1939.
today's manufacturers are not content to rest on past successes,
as research and development produce better pipes, valves,
fittings and fixtures. In the 19th century, plumbers used plain
or tin-lined lead piping for cold-water service, but they also
had a choice of tin-lined, galvanized, enameled or rubber-coated
wrought iron piping. Coppertubing
was added after World War I, and now plastic under
seems that the wonders of the Ancient World and the Old Roman
Empire have come full circle. Presently under construction is a
grand hotel complex in Scottsdale, Arizona. It is patterned
after the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. There will be 10 pools, 28
fountains, 47 waterfalls, a man-made sand beach and a
Roman-style aqueduct. Under the watchful eye of the old Hohokam
spirits, about 28 basic plumbing systems will be used to make
this feat possible.
Codes And Men: It
was only after the Civil War that the germ theory of disease was
proven true, that contagion could be traced to contaminated
water supply and unsanitary waste disposal. With waves of
cholera, typhus and typhoid fever sweeping the country, the
people turned to the resources of government to investigate the
English Public Health Code of 1848 became a model plumbing code
for the world to follow. Twenty years later, the New York
Metropolitan Board of Health was formed, the first such health
board in the United States. Two years later, its Metropolitan
Health Law was considered the most complete health legislation
in the world. The nature of ground water was studied, as were
drainage, sewage, water supply, garbage disposal and location
and characteristics of water closets. The plumber, long vilified
in early years, saw his status upgraded to that of the
idea of sanitary plumbing systems within buildings was an
American development that soon spread throughout Europe. Over
the next two decades and more, plumbing health codes expanded
its coverage to envelope examination, training and licensing.
associations were formed, spearheading plumbing ordinances and
laws for regulations and examination. Master plumbers, while
they had developed methods of trapping and venting to guard
against contamination, had no real knowledge of hydraulic
principles. So they installed systems they didn't understand or
know how to design. Standards had to be proposed, and lessons in
business management learned.
the National Association of PHCC (formerly the National
Association of Master Plumbers), first met in committee in 1883
at the old Astor House, the hotel that provided the impetus to
modern plumbing back in 1834. Many new plumbing inventions had
appeared and too many plumbers were ill-prepared. Close on their
heels would be the Mechanical Contractors Association of
America, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air
Conditioning Engineers and the American Society of Sanitary
banded together, too, starting programs to prod manufacturers
into standardizing such things as sink and basin outlets, faucet
drilling, trap gauges, etc. The Central Supply Association, for
example, was formed in 1894 and soon made contacts with the old
Eastern Supply Association, the Plumbers Association of New
England and the National Association of Master Plumbers. But it
would take another 30 years to accomplish the standardization
which everybody takes for granted today.
outbreak of amoebic dysentery in Chicago during the 1933 World's
Fair was traced to faulty plumbing in two hotels. Tragic results
were 98 deaths and 1,409 official cases. One year later, Major
Joel Connolly, Chief Inspector of the Chicago Bureau of Sanitary
Engineering, spoke these prophetic words:
of the lessons to be drawn from the amoebic dysentery outbreak
... is that plumbing demands the very best, painstaking effort
that thoroughly qualified, certified plumbers can give in every
building, and especially where the systems are complicated and
extensive, and where large numbers of people may be affected by
contamination of water."
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