Historical Achievements That Shaped Modern Plumbing

May 1, 2017

At Bishop-Thiem Septic Services, we believe it’s important to understand the history behind our business, not only because it’s something that we find central to everyone’s daily life, but also because it’s so darn interesting! These are only a few of the greatest historical achievements that have shaped modern plumbing.

Indus River Terracotta Toilet

Historical Achievements That Shaped Modern PlumbingThe first evidence of plumbing was discovered in the Indus River region of India. Back in 3500 B.C., the Indus Valley civilization developed indoor plumbing and stacked bricks that could allow for public baths and very simple toilets. Small holes and pipes made of terracotta were crafted for the water within homes and public establishments to be washed out into the streets. In order to prevent any leaking from these pipes, they were insulated by limestone.

Egypt’s Plumbed Pyramids

Historical Achievements That Shaped Modern PlumbingIn 2660 B.C., Egypt completed its construction of the earliest known pyramids. Although these temples were built as tombs, they included some of the most advanced construction techniques and elements for the period. Of these advancements, was the use of drainage systems. By 2500 B.C., Egyptians had become quite skilled at creating these systems with copper pipes, and as a result of their belief that the dead required the same amenities as the living, these systems were inserted into their pyramids. Not only did they include plumbing to ensure the dead received water, but some of these tombs have even been discovered to also contain bathrooms.

Crete’s Early Sewage System

Historical Achievements That Shaped Modern PlumbingIn 1500 B.C., King Minos of Crete ordered his people to create elaborate, underground drainage and sewage systems, as well as aqueducts that began at the palace and branched out through the rest of the town, distributing fresh water through terracotta pipes powered by gravity and connected to terracotta spigots. However, what may have been the civilization’s greatest plumbing achievement was the invention of the first flushing toilet. It was a seat placed over an open drain that could be flushed out by pouring a jug of water into the bowl. Unfortunately, the seat is believed to have been made of wood… Can you imagine the splinters!?

Rome’s Mighty Aqueduct

Historical Achievements That Shaped Modern PlumbingBy 455 A.D., the Roman Empire had created the famous aqueducts, as well as various underground sewers, baths, and plumbing systems made of bronze and lead pipes. It’s true that Crete had established the use of aqueducts over 1000 years previous, but Rome took it to a whole new level. By 52 A.D., Rome had nearly 220 miles of plumbing and aqueduct systems supplying water to public baths, homes, and public wells. Additionally, these systems contributed to the wealth of the empire by supplying much needed water to mining projects and farms.

The Elizabethan Commode

Historical Achievements That Shaped Modern PlumbingIn 1596 AD, Sir John Harrington, godson of Queen Elizabeth I, developed for her the flushing toilet that most resembles what we know today. It included a seat, bowl, and water cistern behind the seat. However, Sir John Harrington’s invention did not include a water trap to hold some water in the bowl, thus allowing the stench of sewage to regularly rise out of it. In 1775 AD, Alexander Cummings of Scotland remedied this unseemly fault in the Harrington toilet by adding a S trap, which allowed some water to remain in the bowl to keep it clean and stink-free.

Today’s Toilet Trappings

Historical Achievements That Shaped Modern PlumbingOf course, we could not leave out one of the most prominent figures in the establishment of modern plumbing standards. This man was not only responsible for the promotion of sanitary plumbing, but in 1880 A.D., he also established the concept of the bathroom fitting showroom, further spreading the widespread adoption of the bathroom amenities we most cherish today. Of course, the name of this individual may be the most famous in the industry not only for his historical achievements, of which he held nine patents, but for the colloquial use of his name: Thomas Crapper.

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