Who Invented Plumbing and Sewage System?

Learn about who invented plumbing & sewage system - from Romans aqueducts & cesspools to modern day septic tanks & single-lever faucets.

Who Invented Plumbing and Sewage System?

In 1826, Isaiah Rogers, an architect, designed the interior plumbing system for his hotel, The Tremont Hotel in Boston. The Romans were renowned for their aqueduct system, an incredible feat of engineering that still influences the way drinking water is supplied in modern urban life. Sadly, when Roman civilization fell, many of its plumbing innovations were lost and societies returned to much cruder ways of supplying water and disposing of waste for hundreds of years. A major advancement was the construction of a sewerage network to collect wastewater.

In some cities, such as Rome, Istanbul (Constantinople) and Fustat, old networked sewage systems still function today as collection systems for those cities' modernized sewage systems. Instead of flowing into a river or sea, pipelines have been redirected to modern sewage treatment facilities. Just a century ago, you couldn't call a professional plumber to your house because you'd be lucky to have a toilet, let alone a working one and plumbing. Forms of plumbing have existed for thousands of years, but plumbing as we know it was not common in American homes until the 20th century.

Sir John Harrington invented a cistern toilet in 1596 for his godmother, Queen Elizabeth I. Legend has it that Queen Elizabeth did not use the bathroom because she was afraid of sounds. The United States Patent and Trademark Office issued the first patent for a flush toilet in 1775 to Alexander Cummings. It wasn't until the 19th century that people understood the relationship between poor health practices and diseases.

Until the 1840s, indoor plumbing only existed in the homes of the rich. However, in 1829, Isaiah Rogers built eight toilets at the Tremont Hotel in Boston, making it the first hotel to have indoor plumbing. In 1833, the White House was equipped with running water on the main floor. In the mid-1930s, legislators and medical professionals agreed that sanitary piping was necessary for public health. Hygienic guidelines and plumbing codes helped guide the installation of hygienic systems throughout.

In 1937, Alfred Moen invented the single-lever faucet after burning his hands several times with hot water from his two-hand faucet. This single-lever faucet still exists today. Due to wartime restrictions on iron, steel and copper in the 1940s, American manufacturers had to evolve. These restrictions ended up introducing cast iron and plastics into the manufacturing industry, resulting in better plumbing materials. Drinking fountains have been developed over the past hundred years or so.

Halsey Willard Taylor and Luther Haws invented the first modern drinking fountain in the early 20th century. Halsey Willard Taylor wanted to develop a drinking water source after her father died of typhoid fever caused by contaminated water. Haws was a plumber and contractor in California who developed his version of a drinking water fountain after seeing children drinking water from the same tin cup tied to a faucet at school. He was afraid that a public health hazard was developing as a result of sharing drinking water in that way. Plumbing installation and repair work in residences and other buildings should generally be performed in accordance with plumbing and building codes to protect building inhabitants and ensure safe, quality construction for future buyers. The forerunner of the modern septic tank was invented by L., which sealed water to prevent contamination and slowly liquefied solid waste due to anaerobic action. Today you can resolve your plumbing problems with a quick call to your local merchant and a quick service call when it's most convenient for your schedule.

But just like the toilet, it took until the 1850s for reliable interior plumbing to make showers more common. While many simple plumbing tasks can be completed with some common hand tools, other more complex jobs require specialized tools specifically designed to make the job easier. The historical approach to wastewater treatment focused on transporting untreated wastewater to a natural body of water. It was these rudimentary methods of plumbing that accompanied Europeans to the Americas and remained with them for the first two centuries of settlement there, including in New Amsterdam which later became New York City. Much of the plumbing work in populated areas is regulated by government or quasi-governmental agencies due to its direct impact on public health, safety and welfare. The Egyptians developed copper pipes to build sophisticated bathrooms with irrigation and sewerage systems inside pyramids.

Each government at state level has its own authority and regulations to license plumbers.

Angelia Padmanabhan
Angelia Padmanabhan

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