American homes did not have elaborate indoor plumbing systems until after the mid-19th century. The adaption of indoor plumbing followed the development of efficient water and sewage systems. Most American homes have indoor plumbing today. Historically, however, the indoor water supply was a privilege only enjoyed by kings and queens, and the wealthy.
The Flushing Toilet
The first flushing toilet belonged to King Minos of Crete. This water closet was made of wood. Crete had an elaborate water supply system at the time. That was over 2,800 years ago. In 1594, the idea of creating a flushing toilet returned. For Queen Elizabeth I, Sir John Harrington designed a flushing water closet.
After installing it at the Richmond Palace, he built another unit for his family to use at home. Because she feared the noises it would make, the queen never used the closet. The toilet was ridiculed by Sir Harrington as well, so he never built another one.
The toilet was not invented until two hundred years later. Thickets were used by the poor, whereas chamber pots were used by the better off. People had outhouses with holes when the 1800s began. There was a challenge in creating a sanitation area without creating a mess and an odor in the house.
The indoor privy was designed by Thomas Jefferson, an architect. To keep the chamber pots from overflowing, he created a system of pulleys his servants would use. At the top was a pot. There were also two outhouses in different residences. However, the Central Park designers in New York City said the system was unhealthy and ugly.
The Case of Tremont Hotel
A Boston architect named Isaiah Rogers designed the indoor plumbing system for his hotel, The Tremont Hotel, in 1826. Tremont Hotel had some of the best indoor plumbing in the country.
On the ground floor of the hotel, there were eight closets. Basement bathrooms were supplied with cold water from the same source as the kitchen and laundry. A gas furnace heated the water in the tin or copper bathtubs attached to one side. The system was inefficient, as the water had to circulate inside the tub until it warmed up.
Even before 1800, bathhouses were common in the Northeast. However, bathtubs only appeared in hotels and city dwellings much later. A water supply and waste system were needed in order to create bathtubs.
The Tremont hotel had a metal storage tank on its roof that provided water. Water was pumped to the roof tank by a steam pump. The sewage was then removed by a carriage.
After five years, Rogers wanted to improve his work at the Tremont Hotel, but this time in a different hotel. He designed the Astor House, which rose six stories and had 17 rooms with water closets. These closets could serve up to 300 guests. The Astor House and the Tremont became the first hotels to offer water closets, which were considered modern features.
The Statler Hotel in Buffalo competed with these two hotels. The hotel offered a bath room, which became a sensation.
The Indoor Bathroom
Bathing wasn’t always as easy as it is today. Before the 1800s, bathing was considered a health hazard, as well as a difficult task. Since there were no elaborate systems for heating water, many people only bathed on special occasions or in accordance with their health.
People had to use a hand pump to fill and empty the bathtub when bathing. It was not until 1845, however, that sanitary sewers made it possible for people to create indoor bathrooms. Bad plumbing and open sewers were still a challenge. No one knew how to size the pipe in the early 1900s, which caused a venting problem. A solution was found in 1874.
The systems worked in hotels and homes of the wealthy, but the pipes were ineffective. Before iron and lead pipes, they used wooden pipes. The best type of wood for them would be elm or hemlock.
As a result of the wooden pipes, the water tasted like wood. Insects would also infest them, and they would break frequently, especially if used underground.
The popularity of cast iron pipes began to grow in 1804. These pipes were first used in Philadelphia. Additionally, it was the first city to rely on the Schuylkill River as a source of water.
Following Philadelphia’s example, Chicago built an extensive sewer system. Chicago Waterpower provided water to the entire city through a twin tunnel system. Water from Chicago Waterpower reached the shores of Lake Michigan. A coal-fired steam engine was used to draw water from the lake and return it to the city.
In 1885, Edward S. Chesbrough designed Chicago’s first comprehensive sewer system.n Chicago.
In the United States, water closets were of lower quality than those in Europe. In the early 19th century, most closets in the United States were imported from Europe. People also used cast iron pipes a lot during this time.
The Need for Sanitation Systems
Modern toilets were invented in 1910. The toilet was not the first type of water closet, but it was the one that changed the world. Unlike today’s toilets, it had an elevated water tank and a bowl and lid. It was the first modern toilet attempt.
The outbreak of diseases such as cholera and typhoid led to the invention of better sewerage systems to direct wastewater away from the house. With better sewer systems, more homes could have indoor plumbing systems.
The plastic pipes in use today came up in 1966. At that time, there was a shortage of copper. Manufacturers had to adapt, and that is how plastic pipes came to be. By that time, most homes in the U.S. had indoor plumbing installed during construction.
The invention of indoor heating systems, better plumbing materials, and sewage treatment plants, has made indoor plumbing a reality.