Residential and Commercial Plumbing: Then and Now

While we often take modern indoor plumbing for granted, it hasn’t always been so convenient.  In fact, it has been down-right terrible at times.  As with all types of innovation, of course, it took time and technology to bring us to what we know (and cherish) today.  So, in order to fully appreciate the most important system in any home or business, let’s take a look at the history behind it! Here’s a peek back at the technology of plumbing as it’s progressed from past to present.  

The History of Plumbing Systems Around the World

10,200 BCE:  Wells

  • The use of wells become prominent in the early ages of plumbing.  Water would be carried in vessels for indoor use.

2,000 BCE:  First Water Closet

  • The world’s oldest water closet was in India when you flushed with a pot of boiled water.  At this time, we also saw the first documented attempts to treat drinking water.  Archaeologists discovered the first water pipes in the Indus River in India, dating back to 4000-3000 B.C.

691 BCE:  First Aqueduct

  • The Greeks created the first known aqueduct in Assyria.  The first shower was invented around this time as well, but it wasn’t anything like what we know today – to simulate a modern shower, someone had to pour a bucket of water over the person’s head while in the bathtub.  

5000 BCE:  First Water Filter

  • The Roman Empire developed complex ancient plumbing systems along with aqueducts, underground sewers, public baths, bronze and lead piping systems, and even marble fixtures.  At this time, the first cloth water filter was also invented by Hippocrates in Greece.

312 BCE:  First Roman Aqueduct

  • Roman aqueducts were usually built as open troughs, covered with a top, then covered with soil.

312 BCE:  First Public Toilets

  • Instead of toilet paper, everyone used the same piece of sponge fixed onto a wooden handle.  The Romans had 144 public toilets like this.  

Medieval Times (1066 – 1485):  Chamber Pots

  • Most people used chamber pots that were kept inside of their homes.  Then, most streets had open drain channels that ran down the street so that when you emptied your pot out the window, it (in theory) flowed down the drain.

13th Century:  Washing Bats

  • These bats were used in running bodies of water to wash laundry.  You did so by beating your clothing on nearby rocks.

1596:  First Flush Toilet

  • Sir John Harrington invented the first water closet with a flush. The prototype for the modern toilet was later developed (in 1775) by Scottish inventor Alexander Cummings.  While Harrington’s water closet was able to flush, it didn’t have a water trap. 

1700’s:  Wash Boards

  • The washboard was invented.

1800’s:  Pipes

  • Most large cities in Europe and the United States began to build pipe systems for personal use inside of homes.  

1804:  Water Treatment

  • The first large municipal water treatment plant in Scotland provided treated water for residence.

1830’s:  Sewer Systems

  • Sewer systems were widely used, but they opened into local rivers that caused cholera epidemics resulting in over 10,000 deaths.

1870:  The Brahman

  • Thomas Twyford created the Brahman.  It was the first step toward a one-piece toilet.

1880:  The Chain Pull

  • The chain pull toilet was invented and used in England.

1890:  New Toilet

  • Flush toilets were introduced, but it wasn’t until the 1920’s that they became common in middle and working class homes.  

1890:  Soft Water

  • Most waterborne diseases turned to the creation of softer, less-mineralized water.  Water softeners were introduced in 1903.

1886:  First Sensor Flush

  • The first sensor flushing toilet was created in Japan.

The Modern Era:  Save Water

  • With the need for more portable water, toilets are becoming more efficient.

We’ve certainly come a long way with our technology and plumbing systems. It’s safe to say that this is something we are all incredibly thankful for, and there’s never a time that the value of plumbing is more obvious than when something goes wrong. If your plumbing is malfunctioning or needs an update, give us a call today at 815-515-4062

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