Photo By Evgeny Gromov at istock
The story behind your neighborhood plumber is more interesting than you think.
Residents of Mansfield, TX, may be asking why. Benjamin Franklin Plumbing can tell you that the reason stretches even further back than the time of one of the original founding fathers himself.
So sit back and read about the evolution of the humble “plumbum.”
The evolution of the “plumbum”
The plumber got its name from the Latin word for lead – plumbum – because that is what pipes were made of in Roman times.
Strictly speaking, plumbing systems have dated back even further to previous ancient civilizations. The oldest structure to have a sewerage and pipe network standing is The Minoan Palace near the north coast of Crete, which was abandoned between 1,380 – 1,100 BC. And an earlier recollection has cited the use of earthen pipes for plumbing in populous settlements of the 2,700 BC Indus Valley civilization. Back then they would use that sticky black petroleum type substance asphalt to block up any leaks.
When we talk about plumbing systems, what we mean is the system of pipes along with the drains and fixtures that help channel safe water for either drinking or washing or a system to extract waste.
These systems span more than just domestic use and there are industrial and commercial plumbing, water cleansing and purification and plumbing for rainwater and drainage and sewer networking. Large networks and systems of these pipes and fixtures exist.
It was the Romans though who was the first to embark on building these elaborate structures and systems and their arrangements help transport water into and out of Roman cities through aqueducts and water bridges. The lead was engraved with the manufacturer and owner details to help stop people from stealing the water. Lead was used heavily at this time, on roofs and as the bathtubs, for instance.
Advanced as they were, the Roman Empire did fall and so did standards in sanitation and water use. That lapse lasted for over 1,000 years.
Progression back to a comprehensive plumbing system was slow until cities started to build up, around the 1800s. Governing bodies in these densely populated hubs then started to push for better waste disposal systems to curb the spread of disease. If you remember, cholera, tuberculosis, measles, and influenza were all in epidemic stages back then. There needed to be something that would harness less contagion than the open sewer systems that were prolific then.
Around this time the ideas kept coming and in the Elizabethan era, the design for the first flushable toilet came into ideation. This revolutionary piece of plumbing evolved over the years, and soon after the bathtub followed in 1883, designed by the American John Michael Kohler by refashioning a cast-iron horse trough by adding four ornamental feet to it. This contraption was then covered in enamel. The plumber was well and truly now back in business.
It was the end of the road for lead, but the plumber’s job lived on
When it came to the systems carrying water in ancient times, most of their system brought water to them through the use of gravity. They did use pipes to channel water as well, which, as well as lead in Roman times, were made of clay, wood, and stone as well.
In China, people would use hollow bamboo reeds as instruments to transport freshwater, as well as natural gas, to and from salt mines during ancient times.
And in 16th and 17th century London, the English would use wooden pipes – hollow logs sealed together with animal fat.
For lead, its final days came as instruments in evolved plumbing systems after the Second World War as lead poisoning started to cause sickness among the general population.
This wasn’t such an issue during Roman times because the water they used was rich with calcium, so there was a thick layer of plaque that formed a protective barrier between the pope and the water. After the war, there was some concern over cases of poisoning. Particularly vulnerable were those for whom piped water was more accessible. Lead was also used as cookware and it was found to be present in processed food and drink.
At this time copper came into the fore. Copper piping was thought of as a safer alternative. It had been trialled by the Egyptians in earlier times as well before being revived in the second half of the twentieth century.
Unfortunately, as prices in copper rose, its demand fell.
In any case, the war spurred restrictions in the use of copper, and steel, which was also used from time to time.
Plastics became the piping dream then and it became a well-used material for domestic water supplies and to drain waste. PVC was particularly popular after 1940, widely used to reconstruct post-war Germany and Japan.
Other versions of plastic are popular as well and it remains versatile to be used with various fittings and fixtures. Some materials are only used for cold water, however, like PVC.
Throughout the U.S., including Mansfield, TX, plastic pipes are being employed. Back in the 1800s, like in London, wooden pipes were used in several cities, including Philadelphia, Boston, and Montreal. Wood was also used as a tubing material within plumbing systems in the 20th century. An astounding 100,000 feet of these wooden structures were put in place during the second world war.
Galvanized iron piping was also popular and copper was used as well. Durable plastic has remained strong in the plumbing and piping game, however.
Einstein Was an Honorary Plumber
The history of plumbing shows that the plumber and their job was no easy course. It’s no wonder then that esteemed physicist and genius Albert Einstein held the plumber in such high regard.
“If I would be a young man again and had to decide how to make my living, I would not try to become a scientist or scholar or teacher,” starts one famous quote. It goes on to say, “I would rather choose to be a plumber in the hope to find that modest degree of independence still available under present circumstances.” He said this in The Reporter on Nov. 18, 1954.
It was then that Einstein was given an honorary membership into Washington’s Plumbers and Steamfitters Union, A.F.L.
Einstein reportedly found the admission an honorary indeed. I’m not too proud to say that the plumbing trade would be lucky to have the man who developed the theory of relativity.
Today, in the U.S. and other parts of the world, the whole plumbing system, its infrastructure and maintenance is crucial. The fundamental role of plumbing in society is particularly pertinent as public health is such a concern.
The Tools of the Trade
We’ve spoken a lot about pipes. Pipes alone have a long history behind them and the materials they’re made out of.
Along with pipes, there are fittings like valves. I can spin out some technical equipment names: elbows, tees, and unions. We use all of these within modern-day plumbing systems.
There are pipe hangers and strapping to keep the pipes and pipe fittings firmly in place. Then there are plumbing fixtures, which is why you might call the plumbers at Benjamin Franklin out in Mansfield, TX, or any of our other service areas.
Plumbing fixtures form a good part of our trade. to explain what they are exactly, they’re the exchangeable apparatus that use water, connected to a building’s plumbing system. It forms part of the building so they’re known as fixtures.
You, the homeowner or end-user, most probably care about using these fixtures, which is why they’re often made with you in mind. That is your toilet, bathtub, sink, ice maker, humidifier, even your water fountain.
A little connected is the sealant. That is what we use for sealing pipe joints and also to form a seal between the fixture and the wall. Putty is a common one.
Other equipment ranges from the equipment that’s stored in your house that you can’t see, to the tools we carry with us to get your jobs done.
Some of the equipment in your house includes a water meter, sump pump, water softener, filter, water heating systems and sterilization lights. There are many other devices tucked away and out of sight.
Often some plumbers will bring ordinary tools with us, but we have a few special machines too.
These include pipe wrenches, vises, pliers, pipe bending machines, cutters and soldering torches to help rejoin cut pipes. Crimp tools are another one and there are often new tools in development. We’re always looking at what good do a sold and efficient job for our customers.
Some plumbers even use video cameras. These assist in more complex jobs by identifying more hard-to-see leaks and other issues. Other specialized tools include hydro jets and hydraulic pumps, used more to replace sewer lines. And of course, when floods hit, you need a pumper truck to unclog drains and sewers.
A Pillar for Public Health
Today, in the U.S. and other parts of the world, the whole plumbing system, its infrastructure, and maintenance is crucial. The fundamental role of plumbing and plumbers in society is particularly pertinent as public health is such a concern.
Even in the past, the scourge of disease was lamented, with waterborne disease spread by community water systems. These included typhoid and cholera.
To help stem this, public authorities saw the virtue of advance sanitation mechanisms through better waste-disposal systems and developing arrangements around the plumbing.
Bacteria can grow in areas where sewage is stored or where waste is disposed of. Plumbing premises, which include faucets, showerheads, water heaters and even the walls of the pipes are prone to opportunistic pathogens.
Some rather long and unattractive names of these bacteria include Legionella pneumophila, mycobacterium avium, pseudomonas aeruginosa. While they might sound exotic, they are very common and people with low immunity are especially vulnerable to inhaling these bacteria and getting sick.
They tend to grow in these common areas because they have a large surface-to-volume ratio. There is also less disinfecting action on these particular surfaces and as warm water passes through often, the bacteria grow. The fact that they are living on a relatively large surface means the bacteria can protect itself from disinfection by developing a film on top of itself.
Routine cleaning of this whereas in your household helps as does routine maintenance from a local plumbing company and you can call Benjamin Franklin Plumbing for more information.
Codes of Conduct
Our plumbers are fully licensed and adhere to strict codes as modern-day plumbing is now highly regulated, which helps protect you as homeowners and residents.
In the U.S. there are strict regulations although these vary from state-to-state and also by locality. Benjamin Franklin Plumbing adheres to all codes and licensing requirements.
Federal rules are also relevant and set by the Environmental Protection Agency to ensure all pipes and fittings are free of lead in line with the Safe Drinking Water Act.
Benjamin Franklin and its plumbers know and respect all guidelines to its trade and respect its history.
Some if you are looking for a great plumber at an upstanding plumbing company in Mansfield, TX, for your household needs, whether that is a leak, a fixture fitting or any other kind of plumbing issue, be sure to call Benjamin Franklin Plumbing Company. It will give you a seasoned professional to address all problems, whether for a commercial or residential building. We have years of experience among us.
You can also call us for an emergency job in the wider Fort Worth and Arlington, TX area as it serves these communities and has an astounding reputation among the locale. Call us at Benjamin Franklin of Fort Worth now for more information or to call one of our plumbers out on a job.