Indoor Plumbing History Guide


It was the ancient Egyptians who first introduced plumbing to mankind, thanks to a ruler named Menes who built a series of ditches and canals to help train water towards farms and city dwellings.

Around the same time in India, rudimentary straw and clay pipes delivered water from the Indus River Valley towards farms to help irrigate crops.

However, two more centuries would pass before the Egyptians invented copper water delivery systems and built the first toilets from stone.

Five hundred years later after that, King Minos of Crete built the first simple flushing toilets, but the fact that the Minoan culture was so isolated from the rest of the world prevented the sharing of their indoor plumbing knowledge with other cultures.

As the civilized world entered the Iron Age, Romans learned from what they saw during their many invasions of Egypt and built aqueducts and pipes. These simple structures of often used the natural pull of gravity to supply homes, public baths and fountains with local river water.

However, after Visigoths invaded Rome in 365 AD, the city was demolished and stalled the evolution of indoor plumbing. The world regressed back to the days when there was no running water at all for almost a thousand years.

The Invention of Running Water and Flush Toilets


Before the invention of running water and flush toilets, even kings and queens had to put up with less than sanitary conditions, which inspired Marie Antoinette to invent a special strong smelling perfume in order to cover up the smell of 17th-century day-to-day living.

Things were even worse in the streets, where pails of human waste were sloshed onto the streets in all of the big cities in Europe, with no readily available water to rinse it away. In the eighteenth century, King Louis the XIV did build a series of lead pipes to water his garden, but living without bathing or days had become so common, that it did not occur to him to add bathrooms to the palace.

However, cast-iron bathtubs had been invented by then and water warmed in pots heated over a stove was used to fill them. Only European royalty enjoyed the privilege of being clean and most commoners living in cities such as Paris and London only bathed once a year. The godson of Queen Elizabeth 1st, a man named Sir John Harrington, invented the first European prototype for a toilet.

As it was not connected to a sewage system, it was very much a novelty. By 1775, the modern toilet is invented by Alexander Cumming and then later improved upon in 1891 by Thomas Crapper, however outhouses still predominated all over the world because sewage and plumbing systems had yet to be built. The first comprehensive operating sewer system was completed in 1885, and many other cities all over the world quickly followed suit.

Advancing Towards Contemporary Indoor Plumbing and Fixtures

By 1910, the contemporary closed toilet bowl and tank that is used by citizens of South Windsor, CT today had been invented and the basic design has not really changed since then.

However, as common as flush toilets came to be throughout the twenties and thirties, two-ply toilet paper was not invented until 1942.

Other innovations that have been added to indoor plumbing include sensor-flushing toilets, low-flow toilets that conserve almost two gallons of water per flush and toilets with inbuilt jets and dryers that forgo the need to use any toilet paper because technology takes care of your every need.