It’s easy to take indoor plumbing for granted in the 21st century. It’s not something the average person has to give a lot of thought to most of the time. But with all of the wonders of modern plumbing — from hydro jetting to outdoor kitchens — it’s worth remembering that things weren’t always so easy. When we look at history, it’s clear that plumbing has been considered an essential service even stretching back to Pre-Roman times. But here are a few things you probably never heard about the history of indoor plumbing and how far it has come.
So First Things First… When Was Plumbing Invented?
Plumbing in its most primitive form dates back to the period between 3000 and 4000 B.C. Archaeologists uncovered water pipes in a river in India that are believed to be the first evidence of the roots of indoor plumbing as we know it today.
Thankfully, things have come quite a ways since then, but it’s been a journey. And it hasn’t always been a pleasant one…
5 Shocking Facts From the History of Indoor Plumbing
1. A Hotel Had Plumbing Before the White House
In 1829, The Tremont Hotel located in Boston, Massachusetts installed indoor plumbing. Chances are that John Quincey Adams, who was president at the time, would have liked to stay there himself. Because according to the article linked above, it took the White House until 1833 under Andrew Jackson — that’s four years later or the length of a full term of office — to get indoor plumbing for themselves. Even then it would take another two decades before that plumbing reached beyond the first floor!
2. Europeans Could Get Fined For Not Bathing
Yep, you heard right. Every ten-year-old boy’s nightmare was a reality in ancient Europe where certain towns enforced once-a-week bathing. Those who didn’t comply could be fined. Not sure my nose could tell the difference between a five-day stench and a full week of nasty, but I guess the powers that be had better noses than me.
3. Egyptians Built Bathrooms For the Dead
When you gotta go, you gotta go. The Egyptians buried their kings with everything they needed in life… and I do mean everything. King Suhura’s tomb included impressive toilets, which were discovered in walls and stone basins with copper piping and a closing stopper controlled by a ring and chain. To be fair, King Suhura definitely would have been furious had he come to in the afterlife with nowhere to pee.
4. The Romans Poisoned Themselves For Luxury
The Roman Empire may have led civilization for a time, but Roman led piping systems were contaminated almost beyond belief. Sometimes the price of innovation and luxury is that you make all of your upper class sick with led poisoning… apparently.
5. One Plumber Soiled His Own Name
A European man named Thomas Crapper played a significant role in the evolution of the modern-day toilet. Crapper had a long list of plumbing patents and a plumbing company called Thomas Crapper & Co. The gentleman’s name drew the attention of American servicemen in the 1920s, leading to the term “crapper” as a mainstay in stateside toilet slang.
Thank Goodness For Modern Indoor Plumbing
It’s easy to forget how good we have it. But when you think about where humanity has been, well… we’re pretty lucky. So the next time your crapper is clogged just remember… the first six presidents didn’t even have one.