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The history of plumbing in America: 4 facts you might not believe

History of plumbing in America

The Native Americans may have lived in surprisingly big cities and had complex cultures, but they didn’t have plumbing. Public Domain image according to https://no.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fil:Native_American_Chiefs_1865.jpg

These days, we might be annoyed if we have a leaky faucet.  We might be especially annoyed if our sewer line needs repairing. But what about if we had no plumbing at all? Or we had to use outhouses? Or if the city didn’t even have a sewer for our sewer line to connect to?

We’ve got it pretty good, if you think about it. So let’s get a little perspective with our history of plumbing in America.

The history of plumbing in America: plumbing isn’t as old as you think

You might already know, or may have assumed, but the Native Americans had no plumbing system whatsoever. But what’s more remarkable is that they still lived in cities of up to 40,000 people! The city of Cahokia grew to be one of the biggest in pre-Columbian America, and existed for up to eight hundred years between around 600 and 1400 AD.

In cities like Cahokia, archeological evidence suggests that some communities even lived in condo style apartments over a number of stories. But even so, they never invented or considered inventing running water or plumbing. Instead, the people would collect water from the rivers, lakes and wells in the area.

In fairness to the Native Americans, what you might not realise is that nowhere in the world had plumbing at that point! Not in Europe, not in China. In fact, the first running water systems were only re-invented in the last few hundred years. Why do we say re-invented? Because the Romans actually had running water for heating, washing and waste. It only took us almost two thousand years to think that running water might have been a good idea.

The history of plumbing in America: The pilgrims used hollowed out logs for sewerage

So, before we began to use true running water plumbing systems, what did we use? Well, we relied on nature instead. People would connect their houses to nearby streams using hollowed out logs. Each home would have an individual system, just like how each house was built by hand for (or by) the people who lived there. It’s actually a fairly good system, if you compare it to the alternatives: basic cess pits and dumping waste in rivers and lakes by hand.

The logs would work with simple gravity and a bucket of water. Plumbers- or just general handymen, back then- would install logs at an angle so that any waste could easily run off. The idea was so popular that during Andrew Jackson’s presidency, they plumbed the entire White House with hollowed out logs. The only problem was when it was difficult to achieve the necessary grade for the waste to flow out. The logs would begin to stink fairly quickly, as you can imagine, and would become a haven for germs and all sorts of other nasty things.

History of plumbing in America

They aren’t a myth, or a joke: two story outhouses were used in some places in the U.S. Unforutunately, we couldn’t find any photos of one to share. Free photo: Outhouse, Country, Dry Toilet – Free Image on Pixabay – 1411137 : taken from – https://pixabay.com/en/outhouse-country-dry-toilet-toilet-1411137/ https://creativecommons.org/licenses/publicdomain/

The history of plumbing in America: The two story outhouse isn’t a myth

You will have definitely seen two story outhouses in cartoons like the Simpsons and Looney Tunes. You probably assumed that they were a joke: how could someone sit in the lower stall without… Well, you get the picture. But they were real, and people really used them. Any ‘waste’ from the top stall would go back behind the first stall through a separate compartment. It would then join the cess pit underneath, just like a normal outhouse. So you never had to plunge your toilet!

You might ask why- the reason is actually simple. Outhouses like these weren’t necessarily just used by one family living in one house. They might be used by two, three or four houses. Anybody who lives at home with their family knows the pain of waiting for the bathroom while someone shaves or does their hair; well, people back then knew all about that too. But with a two story outhouse, you could both see to your business at the same time.

There are still two story outhouses that you can visit across America. One town called Gays, Illinois is particularly proud of theirs.  So proud, in fact, that they composed a rhyme for a nearby billboard:

In England they have urinals
In Paris bidets
But nowhere on earth
Has an outhouse like Gays.

The history of plumbing in America: Salt Lake City had a population of 45,000 before they built a sewer

Salt Lake City, out in the mid west, sits on the Great Salt Lake basin- hence the name. It was built to order in 1847 by Brigham Young, the spiritual head of the Church of Latter Day Saints, and lies next to what was christened the Jordan River. Unfortunately for Brigham Young, and unfortunately for the people of Salt Lake City, the town planners didn’t think to install a sewerage system before they began building the city!

The first cities to install sewers, like London and Paris, faced the unhappy dilemma of having to build underneath the city that was already there. Salt Lake City had it easy, but still decided it was best to let everything drain into the River Jordan instead. By 1890, the city grew to the population of 45,000. At this point, the sights, sounds and smells of open sewage clogging the river were becoming too much to bear, so the town council decided to finally install a sewerage system.

The only problem with their new system was that it still ran into the Jordan River, which still flowed into the Great Salt Lake. The Great Salt Lake, big as it was and still is, is what’s called a terminal lake: it doesn’t flow anywhere. That’s why it’s so salty. All the collective sewage of 40, then 50 and then 80,000 people was flowing into the lake with nowhere to go. Not good if you were planning a boating trip.

5 Things You Should Do Before Remodeling a Bathroom

Has your bathroom seen better days? Outdated tile floors, worn out bathtubs, and peeling wall paint are just some of the problems that arise in aging bathrooms. If you foresee a remodeling project in your not-so-distant future, make sure to do these five things before putting a sledgehammer through your drywall.

architectural drawing series

  • Decide what needs renovation – Not all bathroom remodels are created equal. Some remodeling projects could only require a new paint-job and shower head, while others need to be gutted and built from the ground up. Deciding which fixtures need upgrading is the first step to a successful remodel.
  • Set a budget – Setting a budget is an important step in any home improvement project. After determining exactly how much work needs to be done, you can begin to develop a realistic budget.
  • Measure, remeasure, and measure again – Few things can set a bathroom renovation back quicker than improper measurements. Measure how big your bathroom is, as well as your current tub, toilet, and sink. When shopping for new fixtures, always account for their physical dimensions and consider if they will fit comfortably in your bathroom.
  • Draft your new bathroom – This is where your dream begins to come to life. Whether by hand or using a computer program, lay out the floorplan for your new bathroom. This will give you a feel for the look and flow of your new bathroom, and if you don’t like something, it’s easier to change it now than it will be in the future.
  • Contact a professional – Even if you plan on renovating the bathroom yourself, it is always a good idea to consult a professional plumber or bathroom remodeling specialist before starting a project. They can help ensure that the renovation is completed correctly, safely, and efficiently, plus they could warn you of potential problems you could run in to with your plumbing system.

If you are planning a bathroom remodel for your Colorado home, contact Patterson Plumbing first. Our certified professionals will be there for you through every step of the process; from idea conception to the finished project. Our bathroom remodeling division, ReBath of Pueblo, is a one-stop shop for all of your remodeling needs. For more information about Patterson Plumbing, call us at 719-544-4922 or connect with us on Facebook.

5 Cleaners You Never Knew You Had

You may not know it, but some of the products lying around your house actually double as cleaners! Whether you’ve run out of commercial cleaner or simply want to go a more natural route, you’re going to love this list. Below you’ll find five cleaners you never knew you had:

1. Cornstarch

There’s nothing worse than spilling a tasty treat on your brand new sofa. Fortunately, with a bit of cornstarch and some water, you can effectively eliminate greasy stains. Pure Wow recommends mixing equal parts cornstarch and water to form a paste. Spread it over the stain, let it sit overnight, and sweep it away with a dry towel in the morning.

2. Grapefruit and salt

Grapefruit contains citric acid which breaks down grime, and salt’s texture lends itself to scrubbing away stains. That’s what makes the combination ideal for bathtub cleaning!  Sprinkle a generous amount of salt onto half a grapefruit, wet your tub, and add another 1/4 cup of salt around the edges. Scrub down your bathtub with the grapefruit for a thorough clean.

3. Vinegar

Vinegar is underrated as a cleaner. According to Good Housekeeping, it can be used for everything from window washing to laundry. There are so many benefits to using vinegar as a cleaner, including:

  • Inexpensive
  • Widely available
  • Non-toxic
  • Long shelf life

4. Olive oil

If you’re tired of paying for expensive wood polishers, use olive oil instead. Mix together 2 cups of the oil and 1 cup of lemon juice for an easy way to make your wood furniture shine.

5. Cinnamon

The composition of citron, cinnamon and cloves

The hard-to-believe truth is that most air fresheners contain chemicals that aren’t exactly good for your home’s air quality. For a cleaner alternative, allow cinnamon sticks, cloves and the peel of an orange to simmer together in a pot of hot water. Your entire home will smell like just-baked pie!

For more tips, contact Patterson Plumbing & Heating at 719-544-4922. Plus, don’t forget to share your natural cleaner recipes with us on Facebook and Twitter!