Documentary History of American Water-works

Introduction Historical Background Chronology Geography Biography Technology Ownership and Financing General Bibliography
Middle Atlantic States
Maryland Baltimore

Baltimore, Maryland

Baltimore was founded in 1729.  

The State of Maryland chartered the Maryland Insurance Fire Company on December 23, 1792.  The charter included the right for the insurance company to open subscriptions for a separate company to be called the Baltimore Water Company.  It does not appear that the water company was ever established, and on December 19,1800 the state passed "an act to enable and Mayor and City Council to introduce water into said City."  Attempts by the city to develop a water system were stymied by local landowners, so local residents formed that committee in 1804 to open a subscription book for the Baltimore Water Company.  This was eventually successful and the company petitioned the state legislature for a charter.  This was granted on December 24, 1808, after the company had started supplying water in May 1807 using a combination of cast iron and wooden pipes.  Water was distributed by gravity, with the higher sections of town served from elevated reservoir filled using water power. 

The company remained in business until it was sold to the City of Baltimore in 1854 for $1,350,000.

The City of Baltimore installed a high pressure fire system that began service on April 23, 1912.

Water is currently supplied by the City of Baltimore, which has a water system history page.

1792 An act supplementary to an act, entitled, An act to erect and establish an insurance fire company in Baltimore-town, in Baltimore county, and for other purposes, December 23, 1792.
Authorized opening of a subscription book "for the purpose of supplying the town with water, by pipes," the resulting shareholders to be known as The Baltimore Water Company.  No evidence has been found that this was done.

1799 An ordinance to authorize a lottery to raise a sum of money to be applied to the defraying of the expences of conveying pure and wholesome water into the city of Baltimore, and of distributing it into the different parts thereof,  February 26, 1799
Note. Commissioners were appointed to carry this ordinance into effect, and the sum of 4381 dollars and 70 cents was raised for the purpose of introducing pure and wholesome water into the city.

1799 An ordinance to preserve the health of the city, February 26, 1799

1799 Water Works Lottery Advertisement Federal Gazette, March 2, 1799, Page 2

1800 An act to enable the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore to introduce Water into the said City, December 19, 1800.

1805 An act for introducing a copious supply of wholesome water into the city of Baltimore, December 19, 1805.

1806 A Supplement to an act, entitled, An act for introducing a copious supply of wholesome water in the city of Baltimore, January 25, 1806.

1806 An Ordinance to encourage the introduction of water into the city of Baltimore, February 14, 1806.  Also includes supplemental ordinances from 1808 and 1810.

1808 "Notice. Baltimore Water Company," North American and Mercantile Daily Advertiser, June 16, 1808, Page 3.

1808 An act to incorporate the president and directors of the Baltimore water company, December 24, 1808.

1809 An Ordinance to secure to the city a supply of water for the extinguishment of fires.  March 11, 1809.  Transferred all existing fire plugs to city ownership and authorized up to 30 additional fire plugs.

1811 Baltimore City Council, Proceedings of the 1st Branch, 5/31/1802-4/4/1817 (bca m0345)
Page 354:  February 11, 1845.  Agreeably to a resolve of the City Council at their last session the number of fire plugs has been augmented to forty and by an annual appropriation for this object, and a careful distribution of them throughout the City, they will certainly afford such a supply of water as to enable the many well regulated fire companies already established to arrest the progress of any fire that may take place.

1853 An act for supplying the city of Baltimore with pure water.  May 27, 1853.

1853 Report upon a Supply of Water for the City of Baltimore, August 31, 1853.  Page 17+ includes water rates for the Baltimore Water Company and several other large cities.

1859 Chicago Daily Tribune, March 25, 1859, Page 1.
Terrible Riot Near Baltimore.  The Baltimore Patriot of Friday says that the day before, being St. Patrick's Day, the hands employed in the new water works three miles from the city, suspended their labors to engage in the festive scenes that are generally observed by the sons of Erin on that day.

1862 "Water Rates," from Baltimore City Code

1881 "History of Baltimore Water Works," from History of Baltimore City and County by John Thomas Scharf.
Page 216:  Under the direction of John Davis, an engineer of Philadelphia, the company proceeded to complete the work, and, it is said, contracted in June, 1805, with Samuel Hughes, of Harford County, for a supply of cast-iron pipes ranging from two and a half to six inches, at from sixty-five dollars to eighty dollars per ton. 

1881 "Baltimore," from Engineering News, 8:151-153 (April 16, 1881)

1882 Baltimore, from "The Water-Supply of Certain Cities and Towns of the United States," by Walter G. Elliot, C. E., Ph. D.

1884 "Water Rates in Baltimore," Engineering News 11:220 (May 3, 1884)

1888 "Baltimore," from Manual of American Water Works, Volume 1.

1890 "Baltimore," from Manual of American Water Works, Volume 2.

1891 "Baltimore," from Manual of American Water Works, Volume 3.

1897 "Baltimore," from Manual of American Water Works, Volume 4.

1907 "Notes on Municipal Government. The Relation of the Municipality to the Water Supply, A Symposium," by Frederic Rex, Chicago, Ill.; Henry Ralph Ringe, Philadelphia, Pa.; Henry Jones Ford, Baltimore, Md.; Edward W. Bemis, Cleveland, O.; Prof. A. C. Richardson, Buffalo, N.Y.; Murray Gross, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pa.; Max B. May, Cincinnati, O.; James J. McLoughlin, New Orleans, La.; Delos F. Wilcox, Secretary, Municipal League, Detroit, Mi.; Daniel E. Garges, Washington, D.C.; Frank E. Lakey, Boston, Mass.; and W. G. Joerns, Duluth, Minn.  The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 30:129-164 (November 1907)

1910 "Baltimore High-Pressure Fire System," Municipal Journal and Engineer, 29(1):3 (July 6, 1910)

1910 Report on the Enlargement and Improvement of the Baltimore Water Supply, by John Ripley Freeman and Frederic P. Stearns

1912 "History of the Baltimore Water Works," by Alfred M. Quick, former Engineer in Charge, from Baltimore: Its History and Its People, Volume 1, edited by Clayton Colman Hall.
Page 414:  The iron pipes first laid by the water company were imported from England, and were of the conical or tapering joint, for which the parallel joint has long since been substituted.  In the fall of 1805 the company was in condition to ascertain if the city would require water and in what quantity, to be delivered for public use for extinguishing fires, so that pipes might be prepared and laid adequate to the demand, the company offering to furnish the necessary fire plugs at the rate of $10 per annum for each.  This proposition was accepted at a general meeting of the city council, but by a subsequent agreement the city undertook to construct the fire plugs at its own expense.

1926 The history of the early water supply of Baltimore by K.F. Spence.

1928 The history of the Baltimore water supply since 1882, by E. C. Paige.

1935 “Autobiography of John Davis, 1770–1864,” from Maryland Historical Magazine 30:11-39 (1935).  Davis was clerk of the Philadelphia Water Works under Benjamin Latrobe and worked with Frederick Graff to design and build the Fairmount works. 

1948 "Baltimore's Water System," Mueller Record 35(2):14-17 (September-October, 1948)

1956 Water for the Cities:  A History of the Urban Water Supply Problem in the United States, by Nelson Manfred Blake. | Also on HathiTrust |  This work includes a lot of information about Baltimore,

1962 "Baltimore," from Public Water Supplies of the 100 Largest Cities in the United States, 1962, US Geological Survey Water Supply Paper 1812, by Charles Norman Durfor and Edith Becker

1970 A Brief History and Physical Profile of the First Baltimore Municipal Water Works, 1852-1862, by Louis F. Gorr. Smithsonian Institution. Cited in Fenton, 2005, page 95.

1976 "Baltimore's first public utility," by Louis F. Gorr, Baltimore Engineer 8-11 (February 1976)

2005 "Baltimore's Water Supply 1787-1854 Meeting the Needs of a Growing City," by Nancy Fenton, Baltimore civil engineering history : October 20-23, 2004, Baltimore, Maryland, 65-100

2013 Baltimore's Water Supply History, by Ronald Parks.  Revised edition of Tidbits: Odds and Ends from Baltimore’s Water Department History

City Ordinances and Proceedings of the City Council, Baltimore City Archives

© 2015 Morris A. Pierce