The Complete History of Plumbing

The History of Plumbing – From Ancient Egypt to Today

Dean’s Home Services has a log history of Plumbing in Minneapolis – St. Paul, MN. We’ve been here for over 25 years which is NOTHING compared to the long and fascinating history of plumbing. There’s a lot more to plumbing than the copper or PVC pipes you’ve seen behind walls and underneath sinks. If you stop to think about it, modern plumbing is nothing short of a miracle: With a simple turn of a knob or press of a lever, germs from your hands and body are sent down the drain, or your body’s wastes are flushed away, leaving you and your bathroom clean and healthy. Modern plumbing advances have long been credited with boosting human hygiene and eliminating a number of diseases. The story of plumbing begins

A Brief History of Plumbing

The Indus people built a system of underground drains and toilets that became known as “the Great Baths.” These are thought to be the earliest examples of indoor plumbing systems in human history. 

Did you know that the Ancient Egyptians were the first to construct a drainage system because of the significance that water plays in the rituals of their culture? It started way back between 4000 – 2500 B.C. and has evolved tremendously over the years all the way up to modern plumbing practices today!

The Industrial Revolution brought about a new era of plumbing, which was used to bring water into the home and workplace. Plumbing also made its way into the streets, mines, and other places where humans worked.

The Minoan Palace of Knossos featured four separate drainage systems that empty into the great sewers in 1700 B.C.

In 800 B.C. the first sewers of Rome were built and in 312 B.C. the first aqueducts were built in order to transport water to Roman baths. It wasn’t until 4th Century A.D. that Rome had 11 public baths, 1,352 public fountains, and 856 private baths. Can you imagine what it was like bathing in public back then?

In Ancient Egypt, aluminum sulfate, iron sulfate, or a mix of the two was used to remove suspended solids. Different water purification methods had also been created by ancient people living in other countries. For example, in Greece, a fabric bag, called the Hippocrates Sleeve, was used to strain water before boiling it. In India, sand and gravel were used to filter water before boiling it. This method was found in the Sanskrit manuscript called the Susruta Samhita. 

Ancient Egypt Water Engineering: University of Wisconsin- Madison

Plumbing Into Modern Times

Plumbing is the science, art, and practice of designing, building, and maintaining systems that transport water for domestic use and wastewater away from homes and commercial buildings. And plumbing fixtures which include sinks, bathtubs, toilets, showers, bidets, and urinals. These devices are installed in a building’s plumbing system to provide water for human consumption or for industrial processes.

Inscripted lead pipe from the Roman Empire

The development of modern sanitation systems began in ancient times in Egypt but was not widespread until the Roman Empire. Romans used lead pipe inscriptions to prevent people from siphoning off clean drinking water through their private drains. Lead was also used for piping in aqueducts, as it could endure high pressures while remaining soft enough to bend into curves without bursting. This way they managed to transport running water over long distances by using pressurized pipes made out of lead.

A long, rich history of innovation.

Plumbing is a long, rich history of innovation. Tracing the origins of modern plumbing back to Ancient Egypt and Rome, we find that plumbers have been around for thousands of years. They’ve used their skills to improve life and society in countless ways:

  • The Romans installed lead pipes in homes across Europe as early as 27 B.C., but this technology was abandoned when lead became known to be both toxic and not very effective at carrying water through clay pipes.
  • In 1851, New York City mayor George Opdyke oversaw the construction of an underground sewer system for Manhattan Island—the first such system in America.
  • In 1889, inventor Thomas Crapper invented one of his most famous inventions: the toilet flush valve (which came in several models with different features such as automatic flushing).
  • It’s hard to declare the modern inventor of the water heater, but a few names come to mind, including Benjamin Waddy Maughan and Edwin Rudd.

The Invention of the ‘Modern Day’ Water Heater

Benjamin Waddy Maughan patented a device in 1868 that was used to heat water. He called it the “gas geyser,” as it used natural gas to heat the water as it flowed into the tub. He had a great idea for a residential water heater system, but the idea fell short when his heater relied on natural gas, and this made it a little too dangerous to use as intended. It did not have a system set up to vent the gas vapors, therefore it did not last very long as a method for heating water.

Edwin Ruud was another innovator that created an updated model 21 years later after Maughan that had many safety features added. This device is generally considered the first true home water heater, for both its usability and safety features. He created a gas-heated, cast iron appliance with a valve turned by a person that activated on the heater’s burners.

From Water Closet to Modern Toilet

It wasn’t until 1596 that Sir John Harrington invented a water closet. Sir Harington’s invention was a hit with the elite, Including Queen Elizabeth I. The water closet had a pan with an opening at the bottom, sealed with a leather-faced valve. A system of handles, levers, and weights poured in water and opened the valve.

water basin image

In 1738 JF Brondel introduced the valve-type flush toilet which eventually evolved into. Believe it or not, the first ever packaged toilet paper was invented by Gayetty’s Medicated Paper. Finally, in 1870, Thomas Twyford comes up with an improved version of the Bramah with no metal parts and is credited with the revolutionary redesign of a one-piece toilet.

Today’s Plumbers and the Future of Plumbing

Plumbing is a growing industry that will continue to be needed for quite some time. Plumbers are needed to install and maintain plumbing systems, including pipes, drains, and toilets. They also work on green building projects, as well as homes, businesses, and schools.

The future of Plumbing is focused on water conservation, smart technology, sensors and much more.

There are nearly 500,000 plumbers and pipefitters working in the United States. As the plumbing industry continues to grow, so do modern advancements in plumbing systems and plumbing technology. Dean’s Home Services is proud to have some of the best Plumbers in Minnesota.

If you’re looking for a plumber in Minneapolis, contact the Professional Plumbers at Dean’s Home Services.

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