Plumbing History By Henco Plumbing Services

Now You Can Find Out About Plumbing History

In case you ever thought about plumbing history, here’s some interesting information. We tend to take a lot of our conveniences in stride, with little notice. Unless something goes wrong with our residential plumbing, electricity, or automobile, we pay almost no attention. We mostly take for granted all the background services in out lives. We unconsciously assume that everything will work just fine, until it doesn’t.

So how did plumbing work in the past? How did people get water? Was plumbing installed in ancient cities? What about the early days of the United States; what did the early settlers use for water and sewers?

Here’s and interesting article from the Washington Post by Steve Hendrix about a recent plumbing history discovery.

Discovered: Philadelphia’s high-tech, totally natural plumbing of 1812

By Steve Hendrix

A Water Department crew working May 3 on the 900 block of Spruce Street unearthed this 200-year-old wooden water pipe.
Philadelphia was little more than a decade removed from serving as the nation’s capital when a work gang on Spruce Street began installing the latest in 1812 sanitation technology: a water main made of hollow tree trunks.

The sections of 10-foot pine logs, laboriously drilled to create a 4- to 6-inch center opening and bound together by iron couplings, connected the expanding edge of the city to the water tanks that stood on a hill less than a mile away.

The wooden plumbing supplied timber-tasting water to residents who could either fill their buckets for free at a public standpipe or pay $5 a year to connect directly to faucets in their yards or kitchens. The logs served for two decades until the city replaced them with 12-inch, cast-iron pipes in 1831, according to Adam Levine, resident historian at the Philadelphia Water Department.

The pine pipes lay buried and forgotten for two centuries until a worker sank a backhoe in the 900 block of Spruce Street earlier this week. The utility crew — the public-works heirs of the men who installed the wooden water mains during the James Madison administration — was replacing the old cast piping with what’s known as a ductile iron main. A tree expert spotted the exposed wooden pipes while walking her bike past the construction zone.

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This article really points out how far technology has advanced in the last few hundred years. Basic services that we assume will always be there were a definite challenge in the past. Materials weren’t available despite the advancement of building design and willing workers. Today, we can design, plan, and install these fundamental services, like electricity and plumbing, in just a few days.

What about ancient civilizations? How did they solve these basic needs? We often think of the Roman Empire in terms of war and see the Romans as warriors and conquerors. However, the Romans were highly organized and appreciated engineering. Despite the continuous wars throughout their span of centuries, the Romans were also great inventors.

The Romans recognized that water is the most essential nutrient for life and plumbing was fundamental to the continued well being of their society. As the Roman civilization continued to develop, they built more and more communities. Along with the building and construction, farming flourished and the Romans developed the land by creating water management techniques.

Here’s information from Wavin on the history of plumbing in the Roman Empire.

History of plumbing

Let’s start with the term “plumbing” it’s from the Latin term “plumbus,” meaning “lead,” or “one who works in lead.” Over the centuries, pipe and conduit was also made from earthenware, and even wood. While water systems were constructed in the 9th century BCE by the Assyrian Empire, the most famous water delivery structures are the Roman aqueducts, built some 500 plus years after that. The Roman aqueducts were great architectural achievements, many boasting two or three layers of arches, reaching impressive heights. Many survive today.

Rome’s aqueducts and plumbing engineering supplied the public wells, baths and many homes in Rome, but after the fall of the Roman Empire many conquered countries lost interest in sanitation and cleanliness. Roman standards were viewed negatively as the empire and time moved on, and Roman bath houses were looked at as vain and depraved. This view proved dangerous, and the sanitation conditions that followed helped lead to the Black Plague.

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The Romans’ elegant plumbing solutions have served as the basis for plumbing projects throughout history. Modern plumbing has the advantage of incredible technology resulting in excellent durable and safe materials for the plumbing pipes we use every day. Both copper and chemically inert
plastic pipe provide highly stable plumbing systems allowing for high rise buildings and plumbing systems in remote areas of the earth.

If your modern plumbing is broken or just plain worn out, call us, at Henco Plumbing Services, LLC, at 360-773-8039 so we can schedule a time to meet with you. We’ll inspect your plumbing, locate the problem, then give you an accurate estimate of the services involved. Remember, we always guarantee the plumbing products we use on every job.

Resources: Residential Plumbing Services

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