first toilets

History of Plumbing

When we wash our hands in the sink, or put our clothes in the washer we don’t normally think about how lucky we are. So where and when did plumbing actually start? Well the earliest reports are from 1700 BC on the isle of Crete where “plumbers” created a drainage system that emptied into sewers constructed of stone. Pretty cool, huh? It provided water for fountains and faucets that were made of marble, gold and silver.

It is believed that hot and cold water systems were created by the Greeks. An individual skilled worker came up with the idea of the bathtub. He developed it to be made out of marble and 30” in height. People would stand in the tub and have a slave dump water over his body. It was supposed to be a quick rinse because the water was so cold!

The Romans, on the other hand, had public baths in the city that were centers of enjoyment and places of gossip. In 312 BC, Roman aqueducts were known to carry over 1 billion liters of water a day a distance of about 57 miles in order to bring fresh water to Rome.

So how did the toilet get its nickname “the John”? Well in 1596, Queen Elizabeth I installed the first flushing toilet in England that was invented by her godson Sir John Harrington. The patent for the flushing toilet didn’t come until 1775.

In the United States, Boston was the first city to have a waterworks system used by the fire companies. It was created in 1652. Over a hundred some years later Philadelphia became the first city to switch to cast iron pipes instead of pipes built from hallowed out trees. They were then considered a global leader in plumbing. In 1829, Boston’s Tremont Hotel became the first hotel to offer an indoor toilet.

By the mid to late 1800s, countries began adopting the National Public Health Act which notes on water safety that was first started by England. New York Board of Health also started studying into a rapid spread of disease which was believed to be for lack of sanitation. The Father of Microbiology, Louis Pasteaur, had just found a link between bacteria and disease just years earlier.

By 1870, private homes began to see the installations of water heaters. Drinking water treatment systems were then built in Massachusetts to reduce contamination. It wasn’t until the 1970s though that the United States passed the Safe Drinking Water Act and later amended it to expand on the Pollution Control Act. This led the way for other acts and laws to make sure our drinking water is safe!

Plumbing has come so far in thousands of years, but the basic concept has still stayed the same. With today’s society going green and more energy efficient, it should be interesting to see what new ideas inventors come up with in the future!

Image via ThePlumber