A History of Plumbing in the USA

In addition to providing North Carolina’s Forest City, Cleveland, Rutherford, and Polk Counties with fast, dependable plumbing services, we’re also pretty patriotic over here at Ohmstead Plumbing. To celebrate America’s birthday (she doesn’t look a day over 245), we thought we’d share a little history of plumbing in America! (We’re just over 45 ourselves, having serviced our local community since 1973.) So here you are, NC, a brief American History of Plumbing.

Many take for granted the modern miracle that is plumbing (not us, of course.) Not only can you wash away dirt and grime with the turn of a knob, modern plumbing has greatly boosted human hygiene and has been able to greatly reduce contamination, and prevent disease. The first city ever to use cast iron pipes for its water and sewage was the good old American city of Philidelphia, in 1804. They were also the first to build a water works system. Ring the bell, Rocky! But, it took awhile for the rest of the country to catch up. Many American cities were cropping up at that time, and there were a lot of opportunities for commerce, culture, and entertainment. However, the raw-sewage carrying disease as it ran down the streets? Not as exciting. Firefighters also needed a an accessible water supply to keep the cities safe. Country folk also lacked in resources. They relied on the use of hand pumps, and most didn’t have running water (even for years after they received electricity.) Luckily, once the innovation existed, the existence of plumbing became gradually ubiquitous. In 1829, Boston’s Tremont Hotel became the first hotel to offer indoor plumbing for its guests (cable tv, and coin operated vibrating beds were but distant sparks in the future.) In 1833, during Andrew Jackson’s presidency, the White House received indoor plumbing, on the main floor. Twenty years later during the tenure of Franklin Pierce, the second floor got plumbing, too. In 1835, New York started construction on its first aqueduct and reservoir system for midtown Manhattan. Utilizing water from the Croton River, the system delivered seventy two million gallons of fresh water a day to the residents of midtown. In the mid-1800s, Chicago finished building the Illinois and Michigan Canal, and reversed the flow of the Chicago River, two major feats of plumbing feats which transformed Chicago into the hub it is today. At the same time, however, terrible outbreaks of dysentery, typhoid and cholera were rampant, and responsible for the death of many residents of the city. City engineers elevated the streets by as much as eight feet in some places by laying sewer lines above the thoroughfares, and by 1855, Chicago had built America’s first citywide sewer system. More plumbing milestones followed. In 1857, the first commercially available toilet paper hit the scene. Did this begin the tradition of Charmin squeezing that would someday become Mr. Whipple’s greatest challenge? Not quite yet. At this time, TP was made of hemp and aloe, and was actually sold in flat sheets, and advertised as “the greatest necessity of the age” (a prophetic notion, indeed, particularly when one flashes back to the early days of 2020.)

The 1870s brought the first ceramic flushing toilet. And, flash forward to just before Herbert Hoover became the 31st president of the United States. He is considered to be one of the fathers of modern standardized plumbing codes for builders and plumbers. According to the Plumber.com, the U.S. would go on to create standards, issuing regulations for health and safety in plumbing and sewage that continue to lead the world.

As we enjoy the celebrations this July, we’ll be feeling an extra sense of patriotic plumbing pride, and hope you will be, too. Give Ohmstead Plumbing a call at (828)245-7302 or visit our website at: www.ohmsteadplumbing.com. We use state-of-the-art equipment, including robotic sewer and drain camera equipment, and offer a full range of plumber services, from minor repairs, to bathroom and kitchen makeovers! Happy Birthday, America!

Three Cheers for the Red, White and Blue (and indoor plumbing):