Did you know that the earliest water pipes were made out of bored-out logs, or that the White House didn’t have running water until 1833? From the invention of the toilet to the first American sewage system, there is a lot that even the most experienced plumbers do not know about the history of indoor plumbing.
How Indoor Plumbing Came to be in every Home
Although King Minos of Crete was reported to have a flushing water closet 2,800 years ago, plumbing is mostly a modern convenience.
In 1596, Sir John Harrington designed the first modern flushing toilet for his godmother, Queen Elizabeth. However, the idea failed because there was no sewage plumbing to support it. It would be several centuries later before indoor plumbing would become a reality.
Plumbing Advancements in the 1800s
In 1804, the city of Philadelphia was the first in the nation to use cast iron pipe for its water mains. Six years later, the English Regency Shower was invented. The system sprayed water through a nozzle, then collected it and reused the water.
Throughout the 1800s, significant progress continued to be made with indoor plumbing.
New York opened the Croton Aqueduct System in 1842, which transported water from a huge reservoir 40 miles north of the city to two smaller reservoirs in Manhattan. From there, the water fed into a network of underground mains to supply buildings with running water.
However, waste water management was not part of the initial plan.
In 1857, Julius W. Adams provided the framework for the modern sewage system. He was commissioned to make a 20-square mile sewer for Brooklyn.
By century’s end, Chicago was home to the nation’s first comprehensive sewer system.
The Introduction of the Toilet
Although the invention of the toilet has been widely credited to Thomas Crapper, it was actually first designed by Alexander Cummings in 1775.
Crapper updated the toilet and helped to popularize it. His company’s name, Thomas Crapper & Co., was stamped across many of the first publicly available toilets. Crapper entered the American lexicon after it was commonly used by U.S. servicemen, who built plumbing infrastructure in the 1900s.
The Modern Era of Plumbing
In many ways, indoor plumbing changed everything in America in the 20th Century. From 1929 to 1954, distributors’ sales of plumbing products and heating equipment skyrocketed 367 percent.
Today, plumbing is more of a necessity than a convenience. Plumbing products have evolved significantly since the invention of the water closet. As a result, we all enjoy the daily benefits of a cleaner, more sanitary environment.