Indoor plumbing is a convenience and necessity for homes in Glendale and the surrounding areas, yet there are some communities in Arizona that do not have indoor plumbing. Can you imagine life without this modern marvel? Believe it or not, indoor plumbing was not common in the United States until the 20th century. At Christian Brothers A/C, Plumbing, and Electrical, we love to share little tidbits about the history of indoor plumbing, so here is the entire fascinating story.
Introduction of Water Pipes
We can thank a civilization in the Indus River Valley of what is now India and Pakistan for the first pipes that moved water. The Harappan civilization is known for many inventions and the use of metals. Water pipes were first used between 4000 and 3000 BC to bring water to wells for households. They also used pipes to remove waste, making the Harappan civilization one of the cleanest of their time.
Egyptian Copper Pipes
If you have copper pipes in your Glendale home, you can thank ancient Egyptians for the invention. They used their skill with copper alloys to form pipes for water around 2500 BC, approximately 500 years after the Harappan civilization introduced their water pipes. The Egyptians primarily used copper pipes for irrigating crops and managing floods from the Nile River. Copper pipes have also been found in the pyramids, reflecting the Egyptian belief that the deceased deserved the same amenities as the living.
Sewage and Drainage Systems
On the Greek Island of Crete, the clever engineers of the civilization designed a series of manholes, lavatories, and sinks along the steep terrain from 2000 to 1000 BC. This is the first record of a sewage and drainage system. Pipes were made from terra cotta and designed to minimize a buildup of sediment. The queen benefitted from the invention by having a five-foot bathtub installed in her quarters. The tub was filled by hand and drained through an opening that fed into the Kairatos River. Another structure at the archaeological site is a toilet that is flushed by collecting rainwater in cisterns.
Although the first known shower pales in comparison with what you’ll find in a modern home, it was still a wondrous invention. More akin to a bucket shower on safari, the earliest shower was used by a king in 710 BC. Over the next several thousand years, showers continued to evolve to include mechanical parts.
When in Rome
From 500 to 476 BC, the Romans made their contribution to modern indoor plumbing. What began as basic flow ways for water evolved into a series of large systems that brought water into homes. The Romans also designed the first bathtubs, showers, drains, sinks, and toilets. The Roman water system was so effective that it carried more than 1 billion gallons of water along a 57-mile route every single day. Much of that water was used to feed the glorious fountains that are still found in the city today. The wealthiest of the civilization had systems for removing sewage as well as delivering hot and cold water to their houses. Years later, public bathrooms were installed around the city. Despite their advancements in plumbing, the Romans did make some mistakes. At one point, sections of the water system were replaced with lead pipes, and the city lost hundreds of children and unborn babies to lead poisoning. Some scientists believe that the Romans continue to have certain medical conditions that can be linked to the use of lead pipes.
In 1596, a small structure was installed in Richmond Palace for Queen Elizabeth I, and it has become the most used structure in any Glendale home. The toilet was designed by Sir John Harrington, and this is why we often refer to it as the “John.”
City Water in the US
It wasn’t until 1652 that the first city water system was installed in Boston, Massachusetts. It began as a conduit for firefighting and some household use. The intriguing design included hollow logs to move water.
Back in France
In 1664, King Louis XIV of France had a water main constructed of cast iron that stretched 15 miles from a water station to his palace in Versailles. The water main remained in place for more than 300 years, feeding homes and the beautiful palace fountains.
A Better Shower
From 710 BC to 1767, very little was done to make showers better. The first mechanical shower was designed in England by William Feetham. The English Regency shower had a basin much like a bathtub to hold water, which was fed to a tank. Water was pumped by hand from the basin to the tank and out of a shower head. The downfall of the English Regency shower was that it was not very regal. The same water was circulated through the contraption, and few people wanted to bathe in dirty water.
Indoor Plumbing in the US
Starting in 1804, water systems in the US saw many transformations that led to what is modern-day indoor plumbing. For 11 years, cities replaced the old wooden pipes from 1652 with cast iron. In 1815, the city of Philadelphia introduced the first measures to improve availability and safety, which were used as a blueprint in 1848 from England’s National Public Health Act. They also changed how water was distributed by replacing the steam engine design with the Fairmont Water Works, which was the first to charge businesses and homeowners for water access. In 1829, the Tremont Hotel in Boston became the first with indoor plumbing, yet the White House didn’t have indoor plumbing until 1833 under President Andrew Jackson. Two years later, New York City began construction on the first reservoir in the country, and, in 1955, Chicago constructed the nation’s first large-scale sewer system. Plastic pipes have been around since the 1950s, and plumbers started using PVC pipes three years later.
What About John?
Even though toilets were widespread, toilet paper didn’t come about until 1857, and it was made from aloe and hemp. The paper was sold in sheets, and the rolls that we have today came years later. The first ceramic toilet was invented during the 1870s in England, and this is the same time when water heaters became available for small commercial buildings.
Indoor Plumbing Legislation
As indoor plumbing became more mainstream, the first laws were introduced to regulate and manage safe water for all uses. California led the way in 1978 with the first water conservation laws, and the US adopted the 1992 Energy Policy Act. Eleven years later, the first global standards were defined by the International Code of Conduct Council.
Professional Plumbing for Homes
Would you like to learn more about your plumbing system? The professionals at Christian Brothers A/C, Plumbing, and Electrical offer installation, repair, and maintenance services for your heating, cooling, plumbing, and electrical systems. Call us today to speak with one of our experts and schedule a time for a qualified technician to come by your home.