The Story of Plumbing

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Modern day plumbing has a come a long way and has had a heroic background being credited with eradicating many diseases and reducing the mortality rate. Over thousands of years billions of people have enjoyed the convenience of plumbing and here is how the story of plumbing began.

 Free standing tub

Ancient Crete, Egypt, and India–4,000-3,000 BC

Ancient Plumbing


The earliest of record of an advanced plumbing system featuring underground clay-based pipes and the very first flushing toilets was on Crete in ancient Minoan civilization.


During the same time, Egyptian ruler Menes was sustaining a thriving civilization through the construction of basins, canals, and ditches. Archaeologists unearthed the water pipes which dated back to this period in the Indus River—India

Pyramids of Egypt and ancient Harrappa–2,500- 1000B.C

Pyramids of Egypt

During the time the pyramids were being built in ancient Egypt, the Egyptians fashioned pipes from copper so as to build complex plumbing features. These include remarkable bathrooms with sewer and irrigations systems in the pyramids.


They went as far as to build bathrooms in tombs since they strongly believed the dead required the necessities—food, clothing. Around the same time, in Harrappa civilization—now India, sitting toilets made their debut.




ancient bathtub Plumbing

Archaeologists unearthed a bathtub that has a striking similarity to an American cast iron bathtub from the end of the 19th century.


Sargon the Great–710 B.C

Invention of Shower

You can all thank Sargon the Great—the guy who invented the shower. He was an Assyrian King who had slaves pour water over him as he bathed from a ladder.


Ancient Rome–500B.C-455 A.D


It was the time of the Romans, and they were busy bees creating sophisticated plumbing systems. They made everything from underground sewers, lead and bronze piping, aqueducts, and marble fixtures.

At around 52.AD they were the proud owners of 220 miles—estimated, pipes, aqueducts, water channels used to supply public wells, baths, and homes. They used gravity to power the channels and supplied approximately 300 gallons to Romans.


The middle ages–1596


Now, back to England. It was the time of her Majesty Queen Elizabeth I and her godson; Sir John Harrington built a flushing toilet for his queen and godmother. It was Richmond Palace’s first and he then designed and built a flushing water closet.

The contraption had a bowl, a seat and water cistern.


King Louis XIV–1645

France’s King Louis XIV decreed the construction of main plumbing line from cast iron. The line was to carry water from a plumbing station to the fountains in the palace and the rest of the area.

The first prototype of the modern toilet 1775



Alexander Cummings, a Scottish inventor, designed and built the first prototype of the modern toilet. Sir John Harrington’s toilet could flush water but couldn’t trap water—he called it a water closet too.

Cumming’s design featured an S trap—a sliding valve between the trap and bowl which allowed water to collect in the bowl. Consequently, the water stopped smelling like the sewers and you could easily clean the bowl.


Philadelphia’s switch–1804

Philadelphia became the first city to switch to cast-iron pipes for their new water delivery system.


The English Regency Shower–1810

In 1810, the English Regency Shower made its debut. Water was being pumped via a nozzle and sprayed at about your shoulder height, and it would then be collected and repumped.




The first hotel to feature indoor plumbing was the Tremont Hotel in Boston. Isaiah Rogers was the genius behind this, and he built a total of 8 toilets—water closets. Until around 1840, toilets were for the rich and five-star hotel.

Soon after, soap was introduced and quickly catches on because of hygiene.


The white house gets an upgrade–1833 A.D.

The main floor of the white house got its first plumbing features added—running water, and the rest of house later on.



Chicago became the first city in the US to get a comprehensive sewer system.


Thomas Crapper–1891

The modern toilet got an upgrade when Thomas Crapper patented the valve and siphon design.


The time of the elevated water tank–1910

It was the time of the elevated water tank toilet, and people loved it. You could find it in almost every contemporary bathroom.


Plastic piping is introduced–1966

Because of the war, there was a shortage of copper, so plastic and other non-metallic piping systems were introduced

Plastic piping 1966

The first sensor-flushing toilet makes its debut–1986

Japan introduced the first flushing toilet to be activated by a sensor.


The International Code Council is formed–2003


Three building code agencies united to form the International Code Council—ICC. It was formed to ensure that future advancements followed strict standards.

Plumbing has come a long way, and this is a brief highlight of the story of plumbing. But with the advancements in technology, the story has taken a different turn. Social media is everyone’s friend and an even greater source for interesting plumbing stories.



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