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 on October 14, 1854 for $1,350,000.  The city built a reservoir at Swann Lake (renamed Lake Roland) and water was brought to the city in a 3.62 mile eliptical brick conduit.  Another reservoir (Loch Haven) was built on the Gunpowder river in 1871, which was delivered through a tunnel seven miles long.

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.

References
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.

1830 Memorial of the Water Company, to the City Council of Baltimore, Baltimore Water Company.

1832 Picture of Baltimore: Containing a Description of All Objects of Interest in the City; and Embellished with Views of the Principal Public Buildings, by John Hazlehurst Boneval Latrobe
Page 71-72:  Supply of Water. 
The most efficient aid to the fire companies is the apparatus of the Water Company.
This Company was incorporated in 1808, having been organized some years before that time. The water of Jones’ Falls is conveyed by a canal of perhaps a quarter of a mile in length, to the Company’s works in Calvert street, from whence it is pumped by water power, into reservoirs of sufficient elevation, to distribute it over the various parts of the city, through pipes laid for the purpose through the streets.  Fire plugs, as they are termed, are placed at convenient distances along the pavements, to afford a supply in case of fire, and most of the private dwellings of the city are furnished with a hydrant. New arrangements are in progress of execution, by which the number and efficiency of the reservoirs will be increased.
Among the peculiar ornaments of Baltimore, are its public fountains, in different parts of the city. The site of the town abounded in springs. Many of these have disappeared before the progress of improvement: others again have been carefully preserved, and contribute no small portion to the convenience, health and beauty of their respective districts. In addition to the artificial supply afforded by the water works, the springs in question furnish a sweet and abundant store, of a pleasant temperature, at all seasons of the year.

1833 A Complete View of Baltimore: With a Statistical Sketch, by Charles Varle
Page 40:  Water Works.
Besides the preceding fountains, the city is plentifully supplied with the water of Jones's Falls, taken from the stream a short distance north of the prison, and brought in an open canal to the S. E. corner of E. Centre and Calvert streets, where it is elevated by water power to a reservoir, situate at the corner of Cathedral and Franklin streets, 94 feet above tide water. The same power which works the forcing pumps, operates also on two pair of stones in a neat mill, the property of the same joint stock association, who under the name of the Water Company, own the works and extensive grounds in the neighborhood. This company, has been some time engaged in building a reservoir, on the corner of Calvert and Madison streets, which is now nearly finished. It is 200 feet square and 16 feet deep, and will supply the lower part of the city. This water is conveyed nearly on a level from the dam at Keller and Forman's mill, about half a mile from the present works, and is 42 feet above tide.
In order to have a reservoir higher than the one on Cathedral street, for supplying the more elevated parts of the city, the company has bought Keller and Forman's mill, (which with 6 pair of stones, manufactured on an average 20,000 barrels of flour annually,) for $75,000.
The level here, being higher than where the present power is, will enable them to raise the water to an eminence between St. Paul and Biddle streets, 35 feet higher than the Cathedral reservoir, which will then be abandoned and the ground sold to build upon.

1835 "Report of the Joint Committee on Water," March 2, 1835  Journal of Proceedings of the First Branch City Council of Baltimore .  Recommended the purchase of the Baltimore Water Company.

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, by James Slade, Civil Engineer, June 18, 1853. 

1853 Report of the Commissioners Appointed by authority of the Mayor and City Council to examine the sources from which a Supply of Pure Water may be obtained for the City of Baltimore, August 31, 1853.   Includes the June 18, 1853 report by James Slade
Pages 16-17 include water rates for the Baltimore Water Company, New York City, Boston, and Philadelphia.

1854 Communication in relation to a supply of water for the city of Baltimore, from the Gunpowder River, by Alfred Duvall.  March 21, 1854.  This copy is missing pages 20 and 21.

1854 Report of the Joint Standing Committee on Water : made in the first branch of the City Council of Baltimore, on the subject of a proposed purchase of certain rights, privileges and franchises, and of portions of the property of the Baltimore Water Company. In first branch, June 14, 1854.

1854 "The Water Question.  Report of the Joint Standing Committee of the City Council on Water," The Baltimore Sun, June 20, 1854, Page 1.

1854 Report upon a supply of water for the city of Baltimore, by T. E. Sickels, September 9, 1854.

1854 Communication in relation to a supply of water to the city of Baltimore, by Alfred Duvall | also here |

1854 "The Water Question.  Report upon a Supply of Water for the City of Baltimore," The Sun (Baltimore, Maryland), September 22, 1854, Page 1.

1854 "Deed of Transfer," The Baltimore Sun, October 17, 1854, Page 1.
The large deed from the President and Directors of the Baltimore Water Company to the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, was on Saturday last [October 14, 1854] lodged for record in the office of the Clerk of the Superior Court for Baltimore city.

1854 "The Water Company," The Baltimore Sun, November 23, 1854, Page 2.

1855 Report of the Joint Standing Committee on Water, together with an appendix; made to the City Council of Baltimore, September 3d, 1855.

1855 Report, together with an appendix [sic], made to the City Council of Baltimore, September 3d, 1855, by Baltimore (Md.). City Council. Joint Standing Committee on Water.

1855 "Reports of the Joint Standing Committee Upon the Water Question," The Sun (Baltimore, Maryland), September 4, 1855, Page 1.
There is another source of revenue, however, from which, it is in the opinion of this committee, large receipts will be obtained, which is the sale of the surplus water for power purposes.  The practicability of applying water pressure as a moor the committee consider to be thoroughly and most satisfactorily demonstrated by the working of a water-pressure engine in daily operation in the city of Boston.  This committee examined this subject with great care, and obtained the information they possess by personal examination, fully impressed with the importance of this subject to the interests of the city of Baltimore.  The engine referred to is of four-horse power, and is used for propelling the press of the Evening Traveller newspaper, having a daily edition of 14,000 copies.  The proprietor stated to the committee that water-pressure engines possessed many advantages over steam engines, and that at the rate of one cent per hundred gallons, which is the price paid for the water, he found the cost about twice as great as that of steam.
The Boston City Engineer stated that application has been made by other persons for the use of water as a motor at these rates, but that the supply was not sufficient to admit its further use for that purpose.
The elevation of the water in the Reservoir at Boston is 115 feet above the tide.  In Baltimore the height will be 176 feet, consequently the power to be afforded b any given quantity of water will be greater in the latter named city then in the former by over 50 per cent, and at corresponding valuation could be sold for 1˝ cents per hundred gallons.
If the city should sell surplus water of the Gunpowder for power purposes at one-fourth this price, at which rate it would be greatly cheaper than steam power, there would be required the sale of only 22,000,000 gallons of water daily to afford revenue sufficient, from this source alone, to pay the interest on the cost of the works as herein proposed.  This quantity of water, if expended during twelve hours, would yield 2,000 horse power, or less than half the steam power now used within the city limits.
Reference can be made to cities in Europe where water is sued as a motor; bu without entering into further details, the committee believe they have submitted facts sufficient to demonstrate both the applicability of water for this purpose and the certainty of its extensive use when the opportunity may be presented.  Nor do they deem it necessary in this connection to dwell upon the great advancements of the general prosperity of all interests in this city, which would result from a material diminution of the cost of power for mechanical or manufacturing purposes.

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

1862 A topographical map of the Swann Lake and aqueduct of the Baltimore city water works, 1862

1869 "Report of the Water Department to the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, for the Year 1869," from Mayor's Message and Reports of City Officers.

1870 "Report of the Water Department to the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, for the Year Ending 1870," from Mayor's Message and Reports of City Officers.

1871 "Report of the Water Department to the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, for the Year Ending October 31, 1871," from Mayor's Message and Reports of City Officers.

1872 "Report of the Water Department to the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, for the Year Ending October 31, 1872," from Mayor's Message and Reports of City Officers.

1873 "Report of the Water Department to the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, for the Year Ending October 31, 1873," from Mayor's Message and Reports of City Officers.

1874 "Report of the Water Department to the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, for the Year Ending October 31, 1874," from Mayor's Message and Reports of City Officers.

1877 "Condition of the work on September 1, 1877," from Mayor's Message.

1878 "Annual Report of the Water Department to the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, for the Year Ending December 31, 1878," from Mayor's Message and Reports of City Officers.

1879 "Annual Report of the Water Department to the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, for the Year Ending December 31, 1879," from Mayor's Message and Reports of City Officers.

1880 "Annual Report of the Water Department to the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, for the Year Ending December 31, 1880," from Mayor's Message and Reports of City Officers.

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

1881 "Annual Report of the Water Department to the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, for the Year Ending December 31, 1881," from Mayor's Message and Reports of City Officers.

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. 

1882 "Report of the Water Department to the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, for the Year Ending December 31, 1882," from Mayor's Message and Reports of City Officers.

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

1883 "Annual Report of the Water Department to the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, for the Year Ending December 31, 1883," from Mayor's Message and Reports of City Officers.

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

1884 "Annual Report of the Water Department to the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, for the Year Ending December 31, 1884," from Mayor's Message and Reports of City Officers.

1885 "Annual Report of the Water Department to the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, for the Year Ending December 31, 1885," from Mayor's Message and Reports of City Officers.

1886 "Annual Report of the Water Department to the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, for the Year Ending December 31, 1886," from Mayor's Message and Reports of City Officers.

1887 "Annual Report of the Water Department to the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, for the Year Ending December 31, 1887," from Mayor's Message and Reports of City Officers.

1888 "Annual Report of the Water Department to the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, for the Year Ending December 31, 1888," from Mayor's Message and Reports of City Officers.

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

1889 "Annual Report of the Water Department to the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, for the Year Ending December 31, 1889," from Mayor's Message and Reports of City Officers.

1890 "Annual Report of the Water Department to the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, for the Year Ending December 31, 1890," from Mayor's Message and Reports of City Officers.

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

1891 "Annual Report of the Water Department to the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, for the Year Ending December 31, 1891," from Mayor's Message and Reports of City Officers.

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

1892 "Annual Report of the Water Department to the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, for the Year Ending December 31, 1892," from Mayor's Message and Reports of City Officers.

1893 "Annual Report of the Water Department to the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, for the Year Ending December 31, 1893," from Mayor's Message and Reports of City Officers.

1894 "Annual Report of the Water Department to the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, for the Year Ending December 31, 1894," from Mayor's Message and Reports of City Officers.

1895 "Annual Report of the Water Department to the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, for the Year Ending December 31, 1895," from Mayor's Message and Reports of City Officers.

1896 "Annual Report of the Water Department to the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, for the Year Ending December 31, 1896," from Mayor's Message and Reports of City Officers.

1897 "Annual Report of the Water Department to the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, for the Fiscal Year Ending December 31, 1897," from Mayor's Message and Reports of City Officers. | part 2 |

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

1898 "Annual Report of the Water Department to the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, for the Fiscal Year Ending December 31st, 1898," from Mayor's Message and Reports of City Officers.

1899 "Annual Report of the Water Department to the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, for the Fiscal Year Ending December 31st, 1899," from Mayor's Message and Reports of City Officers.

1900 "Annual Report of the Water Department to the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, for the Fiscal Year Ending December 31st, 1900," from Mayor's Message and Reports of City Officers.

1901 "Annual Report of the Water Department to the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, for the Fiscal Year Ending December 31st, 1901," from Mayor's Message and Reports of City Officers.

1902 "Annual Report of the Water Department to the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, for the Fiscal Year Ending December 31st, 1902," from Mayor's Message and Reports of City Officers.

1904 "Annual Report of the Water Board to the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, for the Fiscal Year Ending December 31st, 1904," from Mayor's Message and Reports of City Officers.

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)

1908 Annual Report of the Water Board to the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, for the Fiscal Year Ending December 31, 1908

1909 Annual Report of the Water Board to the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, for the Fiscal Year Ending December 31, 1909

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

1910 Annual Report of the Water Board to the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, for the Fiscal Year Ending December 31, 1910

1912 Annual Report of the Water Board to the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, for the Fiscal Year Ending December 31, 1912

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. | 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