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History of Indoor Plumbing

While most of us can’t imagine a modern world without indoor plumbing, there was a time where toilets, showers, and sinks did not exist. We’re going back in time to see a world with no running water to figure out just how we got to our current plumbing.

4000 - 710 B.C.

Water pipes were first discovered along the Indus River in India and around this same time evidence of canals, irrigations ditches and water basins were discovered, dating back to the Menes reign. Around 2500 B.C. it is believed that the Egyptians began using copper pipes in order to build bathrooms with irrigation inside of pyramids. Plumbing within the pyramids was the priority because of their belief that the dead needed food, clothing, and other essentials in the afterlife.

In Crete, between 1500 and 1000 B.C., King Minos created sewage disposal and drainage systems using underground channels. About 300 years later, Sargon the Great invented the first shower by having his slaves stand on a ladder and pour buckets of water over his head.

500 - 1775 A.D.

This is the era that we usually recognize with the invention of modern plumbing. The great Roman Empire was known for its development of complex plumbing systems including their expansive aqueducts (nearly 220 miles), public bathhouses, and lead piping systems.

Plumbing progressed even further with the design and invention of the first flushing toilet. Sir John Harrington created this “water closet” for his godmother, Queen Elizabeth 1 in 1596. His invention included a seat, a bowl, and a water tub behind the seat.

Sir John’s invention was improved upon by Alexander Cummings, who included an S trap in the design that allowed some water to stay in the bowl resulting in better smelling water.

1804- 2019 A.D.

At this time, the consequences of lead pipes in plumbing were becoming more well known and the industry began the slow process of switching to cast iron and copper pipes. Philadelphia was the first city to make this switch.

In 1829, the Tremont Hotel of Boston introduced indoor plumbing for their guests with eight water closets. Until 1840, indoor water closets were most commonly found in the homes of the rich.

By 1833 The White House had included indoor plumbing into its infrastructure, but only on the main floor, it took a few more years for them to introduce plumbing to the upstairs.

The modern toilet that’s in most homes today was invented in 1910; this toilet has the elevated water tank, bowl, and lid that we all recognize. Non-metal pipes were invented in 1966 when there was a shortage of copper and other metals due to wartime needs.

Today, plumbing improvements are mostly focused on increasing the efficiency of our fixtures and appliances, but that’s not to say that there isn’t more room for growth.

If you have encountered recent issues with your plumbing, or you think there are pipes from the 1600s running throughout your home, don’t hesitate to contact the experts at S&D Plumbing!

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