Indoor Plumbing


The Fascinating History of Indoor Plumbing

No flushing toilets? No touch-on-touch-off faucets? We can’t imagine it either. Click through this timeline of indoor plumbing highlights and thank your lucky stars you were born after Thomas Crapper.

1500 B.C.

The people of Crete create elaborate sewage disposal systems, including early flush toilets. It takes another 1,000 years for lead-lined bathtubs to be introduced in northern Greece.

52 A.D

Roughly 220 miles of water channels, aqueducts and pipes deliver water to Roman homes, public wells and baths. After the fall of the Roman Empire, Europe abandons its pursuit of cleanliness. In 300 A.D., a pilgrim to Jerusalem writes that she had not washed her face for 18 years so as “not to disturb the holy water” used at her baptism.


The godson of Queen Elizabeth, Sir John Harrington, designs the first flushing toilet, calling it a “prive in perfection.” Due in part to an absence of sewage lines, it does not catch on.


The English Regency shower is invented. Water is pumped through a nozzle and onto the occupant’s shoulders before being collected and pumped back into the overhead basin to be used again. And again.


The Tremont Hotel in Boston opens as the world’s first hostelry with indoor plumbing. Soon thereafter, soap is recognized as an important part of the bathing routine.


The White House gets running water—on the first floor. It isn’t until President Franklin Pierce takes office 20 years later that plumbing makes its way upstairs.


Louis Pasteur discovers the perils of bacteria. Running water becomes more prevalent, and kitchens begin to feature large cast-iron sinks, engendering the phrase “everything but the kitchen sink,” as this is the one household item that will never be moved.


Chicago becomes the first city in the U.S. to boast a comprehensive sewage system. Still, private homes rarely have indoor bathing facilities. In large towns, adults pay 5 cents to bathe in a public bath; it’s 3 cents for kiddos.


Thomas Crapper patents a valve-and-siphon design, and the modern toilet is born.


Alex Manoogian, a young entrepreneurial immigrant, envisions the first single-handle washerless ball valve faucet; the product he develops is named Delta™ . His sales team sells it from the trunks of their cars in Detroit.


Recreational bathing becomes part of American culture when the Gold Seal Co. introduces Mr. Bubble and makes bubble bath an affordable luxury. Ten years later, Sesame Street’s “Rubber Duckie” is nominated for a Grammy.


The disco ball isn't the decade's only stylistic achievement; Delta develops a high-arc kitchen faucet and hardware becomes part of the interior design conversation.


Seinfeld’s “low-flow” episode (The Shower Head) airs in which Kramer, frustrated by weak water pressure, installs a Commando 450 showerhead, meant to wash circus elephants. In 2005, Delta introduces H2Okinetic Technology®, which gives the feeling of a high-flow shower without the waste.


Delta Faucet makes a splash with the debut of Touch2O® Technology, which allows a user to activate a faucet with the tap of a wrist. Dirty hands have never been happier.


To celebrate five years of Touch2O®, Delta invites Glenn Kotche, the drummer of Wilco, to a percussion session that stars the precision technology. Check it out here.

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