6 Fun Facts About Plumbing Through The Ages

You may recall learning about the Industrial Revolution, the 100 Years War and the colonization of America in school. But nowhere in the curriculum is there a section on one of the most ancient industries known to man: plumbing!

Can you imagine life without running water? This means no tap water, no flushing toilets and no showers. Check out these fascinating facts about how the plumbing industry flourished into the advanced field it is today.

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How it Began: Archeologists found an ancient plumbing system in a palace located on the island of Crete, which was estimated to be over 3,000 years old! Though the system was ancient and worn, scientists found the remains of a clay bathtub which was similar in shape to those of American bathtubs in the late 19th century. Even more impressive was the discovery of a simple toilet, which included a seat and very basic flushing mechanism.


From Clay to Bronze: The Romans revolutionized the history of plumbing by creating an extremely advanced system including aqueducts and below-ground sewers. Personal baths, as well as bronze pipes were installed that contained marble and gold fixtures to hold the system together. The Romans used lead pipes which, while malleable and sturdy, would later pose major health issues and are no longer in use.


All in a Name: Due to the Romans’ use of lead to construct their piping system, the word plumbing was born. Plumbing is derived from the Latin word ‘plumbum,’ meaning lead, which is also why lead is abbreviated as Pb on the periodic table of elements!


Rush to the Flush: A man by the name of Alexander Cummings was awarded the first patent for a functioning flush toilet in 1775, though he was not the first to come up with the idea. In 1596 John Harrington was the first to invent flushing technology, which is also why we sometimes refer to the bathroom as “the john.”


The First Water Heaters: The very first water heaters were established in private homes and smaller buildings in the 1870s. This was done by placing circulation pipes in between heating systems and tanks storing hot water in order to make warm, pressurized water accessible in large amounts.


Accessible Plumbing For All: In 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed the ADA, or the Americans with Disabilities Act. Thanks to the passage of the ADA, laws have been passed all over the nation that require buildings and facilities to have plumbing fixtures that are accessible and functional for the physically handicapped.

Did you know that Albert Einstein once said that if he could have a do-over he would be a plumber? We can’t blame him! If you want to learn more great facts about the plumbing industry and its impact on the world, just give us a call at (773)-724-9272!