Documentary History of American Water-works

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North Central States
Ohio Cincinnati

Cincinnati, Ohio

Cincinnati was founded in 1788.

On March 24, 1817, the common council of the town of Cincinnati formed a committee to confer with agents of the Cincinnati Manufacturing Company, who had proposed to build a water works.  The committee reported favorably on the proposal and an ordinance was drafted. (1881 history)

The resulting ordinance gave a 99-year water-works franchise to the Cincinnati Manufacturing Company in 1817, which required that the first portion of the works be complete by July 1, 1819 and an annual payment of $100.  The town in November, 1818 agreed to extend the completion date to July 1, 1820.  The company engaged recent German immigrant Albert Stein to design and build the work, which would pump water from the Ohio River through iron pipes to an elevated wooden reservoir using two pumps that could be driven by horses or oxen.  Water from the reservoir would be distributed through wooden logs.  In March, 1820, the company transferred the rights to Samuel W. Davies, who was one of the owners of the manufacturing company.  The works were in operation by late June 1820 as required by the ordinance. A schematic of the first pumping system from the 1881 history is shown below (click on image for larger pdf version):

Increasing water consumption required more pumping capacity, so Davies replaced the horse-driven pumps early in 1824 with a 40 horsepower steam engine taken from the steamboat Vestas, which could pump 1.2 million gallons per day.  The cost of the pump led Davies to offer the entire system to the city for $30,000, but local voters on March 3, 1824 refused the offer by a vote of 294 to 25. 

Having been rebuffed by the voters, Davies obtained a charter for the Cincinnati Water Company in early 1826 with a capital stock of $75,000.  In 1827, Mr. Davies sold his interest in the water works to Messrs. Ware, Foote, Greene and others for $30,000, and they successfully raising sufficient funds to improve and expand the system, including installation of cast-iron distribution pipes to replace some of the original wood pipes. 

In 1832, the company offered to sell the system to the city for $150,000, but the voters again declined by offer in March by a vote of 617 to 303.  The company installed a second steam engine, "Old Betsy," that year, and a law gave the city the right to distribute water from the Miami Canal for fire protection.  The city also  tried to impose onerous conditions on the company's operation, resulting in a lawsuit by the company against the city which the company won.

Samuel W. Davies was elected mayor of Cincinnati in 1833, a position he held for ten years.

A law passed in 1836 allowed the city to borrow money to purchase the water works, and a vote that year to buy the system for $275,000 went down to defeat by a vote of 1,274 to 956.  After the city blocked an attempt to raise the company's capital stock in 1832, the legislature agreed to increase it to $300,000 in 1838.  

The company raised water rates 20% in 1838, prompting renewed agitation to buy the works.  The voters approved the purchase in October 1838 by a vote of 1,573 to 512, but the city sought a new law to confirm their rights to purchase and operate the system as well as to borrow money.  This law was passed in March, 1839 and required a new vote, which was taken on May 3, 1839 and again the voters approved the purchase by a margin of 728 to 553.  The city paid $300,000 for the system and took possession of the works on June 25, 1839.  The city engaged Theodore R. Scowden to design and build new works, which were completed in 1853.  The city send Scowden and engine builder Anthony Harkness on a two-month trip to Europe to study public docks, drainage, paving and water works.

Water is currently provided by the Greater Cincinnati Water Works, which provides water to most of Hamilton County and parts of Butler and Warren Counties in Ohio, and since 2003 to Boone County in Kentucky using a pipeline under the Ohio River. 


References
1817 An ordinance for supplying the town of Cincinnati with Water, March 31, 1817, from Charter and Code of Ordinances of the City of Cincinnati, 1835.  This document includes other water works ordinances.

1820 "Cincinnati Water Works," Cincinnati Advertiser, June 12, 1820, Page 3.
In our last number we promised some account of the new water works, erected for the purpose of supplying the inhabitants of this city with a regular supply of good water.  We have, for some time, been desirous of obtaining such information, on this important subject, as might be relief upon, and we can now assure our readers that the following account and description of the same is substantially correct.
By an ordinance of the Town Council, of the 31st of March, 1817, the Cincinnati Manufacturing Company were granted the "exclusive privilege, for an during the term of ninety-nine years, of conducting water by tubes, or otherwise, from the Ohio river, thro' the streets, lanes, alleys, and commons of the Town of Cincinnati, for the purpose of supplying the inhabitants thereof," on certain conditions and requisitions therein named.
The said Cincinnati Manufacturing Company, in March last, after expending large sums of money in erecting a very solid and permanent stone building, on the bank of the river, for the foundation of said water works, were apprehensive of a failure in completing the same by the time limited in said ordinance, and the difficulty of raising sufficient funds for that purpose, appeared so great, they assigned, for a valuable consideration, the said exclusive privilege and all their right and interest in the same, to Col. Samuel W. Davies, by whose enterprize and perseverance, directed by the great skill and experience of Mr. Albert Stein, the chief engineer, the said water works have progressed & been brought to their present state of perfection.  The said stone building, on the bank of the river, extends 130 feet, by a front on the river of 60 feet.  In the front of this stone work is sunk, in the solid rock, a well several feet lower than the lowest water, and from said well has been excavated, in the solid rock, and covered with stone, a canal, extending 210 feet, to the channel of said river.  Upon the stone building has been erected a lifting pump which raises the water from the well, and with the aid of pipes, conveys the same to a small reservoir on the north side of the Columbia road.  In this reservoir is placed a forcing pump with propels the water through iron pipes, to the main reservoir on the hill, elevated about 180 feet above the river, at low water.  In addition to a larger filtrating reservoir, which it is intended soon to erect on said stone work, all the reservoirs will contain partitions and apartments of stone and gravel, through which the water will pass and filtrate before it reaching the leading pipes that convey it to the city.  The pumps, reservoirs, and all the pipes for conveying the water from the river to the main reservoir, across Deer creek, through Fifth street to Sycamore street, and down Sycamore to Market street together with all the necessary buildings and machinery, are completed and now in successful operation.  The pipes from the main reservoir, across Deer creek to Fifth street, are of large white oak logs, and from thence they are of yellow pine.  Each log is twelve feet long, banded at both ends, with heavy iron bands, and connected to each other with iron tubes, on a plan the most approved, by experience, both in Europe and America.  the water may be conveyed from the pipes, by hose, over the roof of almost every building in the city, and hydrants may be so constructed, with the use of hose, as to supersede the necessity of fire engines, on the bottom, in case of fires.  The main reservoir will contain 100,000 gallons, and is so constructed as to be enlarged as necessity may require, to almost any extent, with great ease and facility.  Its present capacity can be filled by the operation of the pumps in eight hours.  The pumps are of cast iron, and the whole works are of the most solid construction, while no pains or expense has been omitted to render them as perfect and durable as possible.  The whole has been planned and directed by Mr. Stein, whose great skill in Hydraulics and Hydrostatics entitle him to the highest confidence.  The very short time allowed him to complete the works, thus far, forced upon him the adoption of some plans of minor importance, which he did not entirely approve, but which when time permits, can be exchanged for others more perfect, without any inconvenience to the public, or much expense to the proprietor.
The great benefits which the public must derive from a constant and plentiful supply of pure water, in contributing to the health and cleanliness of the city, and to the comfort, and convenience of the inhabitants, together with the incalculable advantages in cases of fire, we have no doubt will insure to these works the prompt and liberal patronage of all classes of our citizens.  Too much credit cannot be given to the persevering enterprise and indefatigable exertions of the present proprietor, when we consider the distressed and embarrassing circumstances of the times, and that some years must certainly elapse before he can expect to realize a clean annual income beyond the interest on his very heavy expenses.  It is to the wealthy and enterprising of our citizens we must look for works of great public utility and convenience.
We understand the present proprietor of these works, some few weeks since made application to the City Council for the appointment of a committee from their body, who together with an equal number of citizens to be appointed by himself, should examine the works, together with the expenses of the same, and report what in their opinion would be a fair price for the inhabitants to pay for the use of the water, to which application no reply has been made.  We do not think any blame can be attached to the present Council for not adopting any measures upon this application.  The subject is placed on the most proper ground in the ordinance granting the exclusive privilege.  No person is obliged to take the water from these works, but at such prices and on such terms as may be voluntarily agreed upon.  It must, therefore, be the interest of the proprietor to furnish the inhabitants at as low a rate as they can procure it any other way.
We cannot close this article without congratulating the citizens of this city, upon the fair prospect, now presented, of soon being supplied with one of the most healthful and necessary articles of domestic and public use, good, and wholesome water; and at the same time we indulge a hope the proprietor of these works will receive a reward, equal to his expenses and a patronage liberal as his exertions.    

1826 An act to incorporate the Cincinnati Water Company. January 7, 1826

1827 Cincinnati in 1826, by Benjamin Drake and Edward Deering Mansfield
Pages 30-32:  CINCINNATI WATER WORKS.
The city is supplied with water from the Ohio river. The water is raised by a steam engine of about forty horse power, into a reservoir on the adjacent hill, at an elevation of 158 feet above low water mark, and about 30 feet above the upper plain of the city. Two lines of wooden pipes conduct the water from this reservoir into the city, and from these, smaller pipes, amounting to about 40,000 feet, are laid along the principal streets, supplying at this time about 500 families, besides many manufacturing establishments. A new and enlarged reservoir has just been commenced, capable of containing upwards of 300,000 gallons, and during the ensuing summer iron pipes, of 8 and 10 inches in diameter, will be laid. from the engine house, which stands just above Deer-creek bridge, to the reservoir, and from thence into the city. The distributing pipes will be extended as fast as they are needed.
In 1817, the Town Council granted,by ordinance, to the "Cincinnati Manufacturing Company," the exclusive privilege of supplying the city with water, for the term of 99 years, upon the condition of their paying annually to the corporation the sum of 100 dollars, and furnishing in all cases of fire, the necessary supplies of water. To accomplish this, they were bound.to place a fire plug at each block along which the water should be introduced; and to fill all such cisterns or reservoirs, free of expense, as might be constructed in future by the corporation; the water from which to be used only in cases of fire. The Cincinnati Manufacturing Company, in 1820, transferred to Samuel W. Davies this privilege, --he refunding to the company its expenses incurred in the commencement of the work. On the first day of July, of the same year, the water was introduced on the upper and lower plains of the city, as required by the ordinance.  Subsequent to this, the proprietor made repeated, but fruitless efforts to engage the citizens in the undertaking; and with scarcely a. hope of being enabled to complete the necessary works. he offered the whole establishment to the Council at a price stated to be below the actual cost. The proposition was submitted to the voters of the city; who decided against the purchase of a privilege, which ought never have been granted away, and which sound policy required should,be regained by the corporation at the earliest opportunity. As a last resort, the proprietor obtained, during the winter of 1825-6, an act incorporating the "Cincinnati Water Company." Stock was immediately taken by a few individuals of the city, to an extent sufficient to make all the improvements and additions necessary for completing the establishment. It is to be regretted, that the corporation should have bartered away, for a small annuity, a privilege, which, if properly managed, would in time have almost exempted the city from taxation: and that such an exclusive grant should have been made, without any restrictions, as to the charges thereafter to be imposed by the company, for the use of the water, is perhaps not less surprising than that the citizens should have decided against the purchase of the works, when recently offered.

1829 Weekly Eastern Argus (Portland, ME), December 29, 1829
Great Fire at Cincinnati ... It happened, unfortunately, that there was no supply of water in the city, the water works being stopped from operating by an accident that a day or two before obstructed the pumps. ...

1832 Charleston Courier, January 11, 1832
Fire at Cincinnati.--on the night of the 26th ult. a fire broke out in a large building belonging to the Cincinnati Water company, situated on the bank of the river, and which contained their engine and pumps, for raising water.  Before it could be got under, the combustible parts of the building and contents were nearly consumed.  The engine, it is supposed, has been sondierably injured.  There had been no fire used in the building for some hours previously, and it was not known in what manner to account for the accident. [The city was without water for three weeks due to this fire.]

1832 An act to provide for an adequate supply of Water for the extinguishment of Fires in the City of Cincinnati. February 11, 1832

1832 Cincinnati Water Company v. City of Cincinnati, Condensed Reports of Decisions in the Supreme Court of Ohio, Volume 1

1836 An act Vesting the city council of the city of Cincinnati with powers to borrow money for the purpose of purchasing the Cincinnati Water Works, and to manage the same. March 14, 1836

1838 An act to amend the act entitled "An act to incorporate the Cincinnati Water Company." March 15, 1838.  Increased capital stock to $300,000.

1838 "Cincinnati Water Works," The Baltimore Sun, October 31, 1838, Page 2.
Voters approve purchase of water works for $300,000 by a majority of 1,061 votes.

1838 Sketch of the civil engineering of North America: comprising remarks on the harbours, river and lake navigation, lighthouses, steam-navigation, water-works, canals, roads, railways, bridges, and other works in that country, by David Stevenson
Page 290-291: The following account of the water-works which have lately been established at Cincinnati, on the Ohio in the State of Ohio, is given by Mr Davies the Superintendent.
"The Cincinnati water-works were constructed in 1820. The water was taken from the Ohio river, by a common force-pump, worked by horse-power, placed upon the bank of the river, sufficiently near low water mark to be within the usual atmospheric pressure, and thrown from that point to the reservoir, 160 feet above low water-mark, from which it was conveyed to the town in wooden pipes. The town at that time afforded no inducement for a larger supply of water than could be brought through wooden pipes of three inches and a half in diameter, consequently the works at the river were only calculated to supply a pipe of that size. Only a short time, however, was necessary, to prove the necessity of an increase, and a change from horse power to steam.
"The works now consist of two engines, one propelling a double force-pump of ten inches in diameter, and four feet stroke, throwing into the reservoir about 1000 gallons a minute ; the other propelling a pump
of twenty inches in diameter, eight feet stroke, and discharging about 1200 gallons per minute. The reservoirs are built of common limestone ; the walls are from three to six feet thick, and grouted. The water is conveyed immediately to the town, without being permitted to stand or filter. Iron pipes of eight inches in diameter convey it through the heart of the town,from which it branches in wooden pipes of from one
and a half to three and a half inches in diameter. From these it is conveyed into private dwellings in leaden pipes at the expense of the inhabitants, who pay from eight to twelve dollars per annum, according to the purposes for which it is used. Each family, of course, use any quantity they choose, their hydrants communicating freely with the main-pipes. The iron-pipes are made in lengths of nine feet each, and connected together by the spigot and faucet joint run with lead, which occupies a space round the pipe of three-eighths or half an inch in thickness."

1839 An act authorizing the city council of Cincinnati to purchase and conduct the Cincinnati Water Works, March 16, 1839

1841 "Water-Works," from Cincinnati in 1841: Its Early Annals and Future Prospects, by Charles Cist

1842 Digest of the laws and ordinances of Cincinnati, of a general nature, now in force

1843 Maine Cultivator and Hallowell Gazette, January 28, 1843
Distress in Cincinnati.--A fact is mentioned in the report made to the City Council by the officers of the water works, which shows the amount of embarrassment and distress in that community.--Five hundred families have had their supply of water stopped, because they could not pay the rent!

1847 An act to authorize a loan of two hundred thousand dollars by the city of Cincinnati, for the use of the water works. January 29, 1847.

1847 An act to provide for a better management of the water works of the city of Cincinnati. February 3, 1847.

1851 An act to authorize the Council of the City of Cincinnati to borrow one hundred thousand dollars for the use of the Water Works.  March 7, 1851.

1851 Sketches and Statistics of Cincinnati in 1851, by Charles Cist
Pages 102-105:  CITY WATER WORKS. E. Hinman, Superintendent. Theodore R. Scowden, Engineer. J. R. Baldridge, Secretary. Charles Balance, and Charles Munroe, Collectors. TRUSTEES. J. C. Hall, N. W. Thomas, and Wm. McCammon. The first settlers of Cincinnati drank from the spring in the hillside, along and below the present line of Third street, and did their washing in the Ohio river.
As the population increased, individuals, for their greater private convenience, sank wells. Still a large portion of the inhabitants obtained their supply from the river, and there are many still living who associate "toting" water by ]oop and buckets with their reminiscences of a washing day.
The summer of 1802 was very dry, and most of the springs failed. Among the rest, the one which supplied "Deacon Wade's" tan-yard. Without water the business could not go on-not a dray in the settlement. - What was to be done? An inventive genius, James McMahan, came to their relief; with an ax and auger repaired to the adjoining fields, cut a couple of saplings, pinned cross-pieces, and upon them secured a cask. To this "drag," by aid of a yoke, or wooden collar, he geared his bull, and with this fixin' the water was furnished, and the business of the yard kept in operation.
In 1806, when the citizens numbered seventeen hundred, the first move for supplying them with water was made by William, better known as " Bill" Gibson, rigging a cask upon wheels, and undertaking the furnishing of water as a part of his business. The facility this water-cart afforded, was as great a desideratum, and as marked an epoch in the history of the progress of the comforts of the town, as any subsequent improvement for furnishing the city with water.
In 1817, Jesse Reeder built a tank on the bank of the river, near Ludlow street. By means of elevators, worked by horse power, he lifted the water into this tank, and thence sold it to the water carts.
In 1816, the Town Council of Cincinnati granted the "Cincinnati Woolen Manufacturing Company the exclusive privilege of laying pipe in the streets, lanes, and alleys of the town, for the purpose of supplying the citizens thereof with water," conditioned, "That on or before the 4th day of July, 1819, the pipe should be laid, and water conveyed to that part of the town lying south of Third street, commonly called the " Bottom," and to that part of the town called the "Hill," so that it may be delivered three feet above the first floor of James Ferguson's kitchen, in said town, on or before the 2d day of July, 1823."
In 1818, the Woolen Manufacturing Company, with the assent of the Town Council, transferred all their right, interest and privilege of supplying the inhabitants of the town of Cincinnati with water, to S. W. Davies; and the legislature granted said Davies, and his associates, an Act of Incorporation by the name of the "Cincinnati Water Company," with the privilege of creating a capital not exceeding $75,000. Mr. Davies purchased the property now occupied by the Engine House and Reservoir, and commenced preparing for furnishing the city with water.
A reservoir 40 by 30, and 6 feet deep, bottom and sides planked, was excavated on the hill side, a little south and west of the present site. Two frame buildings were erected on the bank, one on the north, and the other on the south of Front street. A lifting-pump, placed in the building south of Front street, lifted the water from the river into a tank in the building on the north of Front street. From this tank the water was forced up the hill, into the reservoir. The pipes, pumps and machinery were of wood, and worked by horse, power.
In 1820, there being at the time no improvements between Broadway and the reservoir, the wooden pipes leading into the town were laid along the hill side, through Martin Baum's orchard, down to Deer creek; on the west side of the Creek, through what at the time was Baum's fields, now Longworth's garden, and other lots to Broadway; thence along Fifth street to Sycamore, and down Sycamore to Lower Market. Here the first fire-plug, a wooden pentstock was placed, and from it the first water lifted by machinery from the Ohio river, and passed through pipes for the use of the citizens, flowed on the 3d day of July, 1821.
In 1824, Mr. Davies purchased the engine and boiler of the steamboat Vesta; and Mr. Joseph Dickinson, after having repaired, and fitted the engine up in the frame building south of Front street, attached by means of crank and lever, two lifting-pumps, of 6-inch cylinder, and two force-pumps of 7-inch cylinder and 4-foot stroke. With these the water was lifted from the river into a tank in the same building, and forced, from this tank, up the hill, 400 feet through 5-inch iron pipe, and 350 feet of gum wood pipe, into the reservoir. The trees for these pipes were cut in Deacon Wade's "woods," near the corner of Western Row and Everett streets.
In 1827, Mr. Davies sold his interest in the water works to Messrs. Ware, Foote, Greene and others, when in accordance with the act of incorporation a company organization took place. At this time, there were about 17,000 feet of wooden pipe, five hundred and thirty hydrants, and less than 5,000 dollars income.
In 1828, the engine was repaired, and the entire pumping apparatus remodeled by Anthony Harkness. After this, the water was thrown through a 12-inch iron pipe into a new stone reservoir, 100 feet by 50, and 12 feet deep. This reservoir was enlarged, from time to time, until its dimensions equaled 350 feet in length by 50 feet in width, and 12 feet deep, containing 1,200,000 gallons of water. This reservoir, having served its day, has now to give way to make room for a new one enlarged to meet the present demand.
In 1833, Mr. Harkness made and put up a new engine and pumping apparatus, which is now in use. In 1839, the water works were purchased of the Company by the City. They consisted, at that time, of the ground on which the engine house is erected, being 300 feet on Front street, running to the river 176 feet of ground fronting on the north side of Front street, running to Congress street-a piece of ground bounding 500 feet on High street, and 350 feet on Morton street, including the reservoir 1,885 feet of 10-inch iron pipe, 7,914 feet of 8-inch, 10,634 of 4-inch iron pipe, and 117,421 feet of wooden pipe with 2639 hydrants, and an income of $31,777.
In 1844, the City Council contracted with Messrs. Yeatman & Shield for new engines and pumps, which were put in operation in 1846.
In 1846, the management of the water works was placed, by an act of the Legislature, in charge of three Trustees, to be elected by the people.
The following account of the pumping power connected with the works, at this time, is from the report of the engineer, Theo. R. Scowden, to the Trustees. "The engine built by Mr. Anthony Harkness is high pressure, slide valves, and is constructed, in its application of power to the pumps, on the principle of direct action.
"The steam cylinder is 25 inches diameter, and works eight feet stroke of piston; the pump barrel is 17 inches diameter, working same stroke of piston as the cylinder, and the centres of bores exactly in the direction of plumb line. Although antiquated in appearance, the simple and durable arrangement admirably adapts it to the pumping of water; operating with much ease and regularity of motion, and capable of forcing into the reservoir 1,500,000 gallons of water each 12 hours.
"The steam engine and pump built by Messrs. Yeatman & Shield were constructed from a design by Mr. Shield, and put in operation in March, 1847. The steam engines are connected at right angles by an arrangement in the main cranks. The steam cylinders are 22 inches bore and 10 feet stroke of piston, and form their connection with the main cranks by means of wrought iron pitmans. The pumps are each 14 inches diameter of bore, and 10 feet stroke of piston. Attached to the pumps are two air vessels, 5 feet diameter and 10 feet long; the pumps throw about 1,800,000 gallons of water into the reservoir each 12 hours."
The engine and pump built by Messrs. A. Harkness & Son, and completed in February, 1851, were from designs furnished by Mr. Scowden, engineer of the water works. "This is a vertical, direct acting, condensing engine, having a cylinder of 45 inches diameter and 8 feet stroke of piston, with double acting vertical forcing-pump, the barrel 18 inches diameter, and 8 feet of stroke of piston; the air vessel attached is 10 feet long and 4 feet diameter.
"For quantity and quality of material, faithful workmanship, and high finish, it is eminently superior, possessing every essential of excellence to give it a high rank as a specimen of American mechanism; likely to give satisfactory results, when thorough trial and experience shall have fully established its practical usefulness."
This machinery is capable of throwing 1,750,000 gallons of water into the reservoir each 12 hours. The efficient pumping power of the works at this time, is equal to 5,000,000 gallons of water each 12 hours. The average daily consumption of water in the city, is about 2,300,000 gallons, equal to a consumption of coal, daily, of 185 bushels.
The walls of the new reservoir now in progress of construction are of common limestone. The entire length will be 368 feet, width 135 feet, and depth 23 feet; calculated to retain water to the height of 20 feet, and holding 5,000,000 gallons of water.
The water was let into the east division of the new reservoir, last December, and since that time the city has been supplied from that source.
At this time there are connected with the works, rather more than 45 miles of pipe, and 5700 hydrants, producing an income, for the year ending 15th December, 1850, of $72,500.
The cost of the water works, including the sum of $300,000 paid to the old water company, amounts to $796,000. The city bonds have been issued, at different times, to the amount of $680,000; the balance, $116,000, has been furnished from the surplus income, after paying the interest on the loans, repairs, and all other ordinary expenses of conducting the works.

1851 Report of the City Civil Engineer on the subject of Sewerage in Deer Creek Valley, by James Stewart, May, 1851.

1851 Annual Report of the Trustees of the City Water Works for the Year Ending December 31, 1851.

1852 Annual Report of the Trustees of the City Water Works for the Year Ending December 31, 1852.

1853 Annual Report of the Board of Water Commissioner of the City of Detroit. In 1853, the new Board of Water Commissioners of the City of Detroit sent superintendent Jacob Houghton, Jr. to visit and report on water works in other cities, including Cincinnati.
Pages 20-21: Cincinnati - The city of Cincinnati is supplied with water from the Ohio river, from which it is elevated, by means of steam engines, to a height of one hundred and seventy-five feet into a stone reservoir, containing 5,000,000 gallons. There are three engines, one condensing, and two non-condensing. The pumping or rising mains are eight hundred feet in length.
These works were originally owned by a company, from whom the city purchased them for $300,000. To April, 1853, they had expended about $700,000 in improvements, making a total cost of $1,000,000. Further extensive improvements are in contemplation.
Nine years ago these works were in a very bad condition, the water being distributed principally through wooden logs, which have been entirely replaced with iron pipes.
Cincinnati contains upwards of 160,000 inhabitants.

1853 Analyses of the waters in the vicinity of Cincinnati : reported to the trustees of the city water works, by John Locke, M. D., and Joseph Morris Locke

1855 Annual Report of the Trustees of the City Water Works for the Year Ending December 31, 1855.

1859 Annual Report of the Trustees of the City Water Works for the Year Ending December 31, 1859.

1860 Annual Report of the Trustees of the City Water Works for the Year Ending December 31, 1860.

1861 "Water-Works of America. Cincinnati, Ohio," American Gas-Light Journal 2:347 (May 15, 1861).
Annual Report.  There are in the city thirty-six water meters, as follows:

1862 Annual Report of the Trustees of the City Water Works for the Year Ending December 31, 1862.

1863 Annual Report of the Trustees of the City Water Works for the Year Ending December 31, 1863.

1865 Report of the commission appointed by authority of the City Council to take into consideration the best method of obtaining an abundant supply of pure water for the city of Cincinnati, together with the report of the engineer, James P. Kirkwood, by Thomas Jefferson Whitman, Henry Flad, Cincinnati Water Supply Commission.

1869 Annual Report of the Trustees of the City Water Works for the year ending December 31, 1869, includes water rates for several cities.

1870 Annual Report of the Trustees of the City Water Works for the year ending December 31, 1870

1871 Annual Report of the Trustees of the City Water Works for the year ending December 31, 1871

1872 Annual Report of the Trustees of the City Water Works for the year ending December 31, 1872

1872 Special report on the extension and enlargement of the Cincinnati Water Works, by T.R. Scowden

1872 Cincinnati past and present, or, its industrial history as exhibited in the life-labors of its leading men, by Maurice Joblin and James Landy
Pages 45-46:  George Graham.  One year after commencing the commission business he became an owner of the water-works with J.P. Foote, William Greene, D.B. Lawler and W.S. Johnson as his partners, under the style of the "Cincinnati Water Company," having purchased from S.W. Davies the exclusive right to supply the city of Cincinnati with water for one hundred years.  For ten or twelve days citizens had the privilege of taking stock in the company, without any response; they considered $30,000, the price paid to Mr. Davies, enormous.  At this time the water was supplied through wooden pipes, of two and a half-inch bore, to a few hydrants, and a small engine supplied water to a plank reservoir from the river. The company rebuilt the works, obtained new engines, substituted iron pipes for wood, and enlarged the reservoir to meet the wants of the city.  As soon as an income was derived from the works the people demanded a reduction of rents or a sale to the city. The company offered to sell for a sum which would be produced by the net income of six per cent.  This proposition was several times rejected by votes of the people, until the net in come was $18,000, placing the cost of the works at $300,000, when it was accepted, the company agreeing to manage the works for one year free of charge.  At the time of the sale the rents were little more than half what they now are; a fair price would have made the works worth five or six hundred thousand dollars. Under city management, although nearly double what the company charged, the rents are not considered too high.  Mr. Graham was part owner of the water-works about sixteen years, and was an active fireman thirteen years. He is the only living member of that company, and it is no more than just that the credit of selling six acres of land, seventy miles of iron pipe, engines and charter for a sum which the latter alone was worth, should be given him. According to the last report of the city officer, the works are now worth about three millions three hundred thousand dollars, a profit of over one hundred thousand dollars per year since the company sold to the city.  In connection with the water-works, it is also due to Mr. Graham to state that he took an active part in introducing the first steam fire engine ever used in the United States.
Page 59:  Eden B. Reeder.  Mr. Reeder was the first to inform us of the establishment of the first water-works in this city. It appears that his uncle, Jesse Reeder, built large tanks on Front Street, and had them filled from the river by means of a tread-mill worked by oxen. From thence it was supplied to customers by water carts. Such was the primitive way of supplying water where hundreds of miles of pipe are now laid.
Pages 372-377:  T.R. Scowden

1874 Annual Report of the Trustees of the City Water Works for the year ending December 31, 1874

1875 Report of committee appointed by Common Council to investigate the management of the City Water Works, August 14, 1875.

1875 Annual Report of the Trustees of the City Water Works for the year ending December 31, 1875

1876 Annual Report of the Trustees of the City Water Works for the year ending December 31, 1876

1877 Annual Report of the Trustees of the City Water Works for the year ending December 31, 1877

1879 Cincinnati Water Works.  Report of the Board of Experts on the Test Trial of the Warden Compound Pumping Engine at the Hunt Street Station to the Board of City Commissioners. March, 1879

1879 Annual Report of the Trustees of the City Water Works for the year ending December 31, 1879

1880 "History of the Cincinnati Water Works," by Thomas J. Bell, Assistant Superintendent of the Cincinnati Water Works,  from Annual Report of the Trustees of the City Water Works, for the year ending Dec 31, 1880. Other annual reports are available on Google books and HathiTrust.

1881 "Cincinnati Water Works," from Engineering News 8:153 & 162 (April 16 & 23, 1881)

1881 "An Accident at Cincinnati," from Engineering News 8:278-279 (July 9, 1881).  Account of the collapse of a 2.7 million gallon water tank in Cincinnati.

1881 Historical and statistical account of the Cincinnati Water Department : written for the benefit of the thirtieth meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science held in Cincinnati, August 17th, 1881.

1882 "The Cincinnati Water Works Report," from Engineering News, 9:241 (July 15, 1882)

1882 Forty-Third Annual Report of the Water Department of the City of Cincinnati for the year ending December 31, 1882.

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

1883 Forty-Forth Annual Report of the Water Department of the City of Cincinnati for the year ending December 31, 1883.

1884 Forty-Fifth Annual Report of the Water Department of the City of Cincinnati for the year ending December 31, 1884.

1885 Forty-Sixth Annual Report of the Water Department of the City of Cincinnati for the year ending December 31, 1885.

1886 Forty-Seventh Annual Report of the Water Department of the City of Cincinnati for the year ending December 31, 1886.

1887 Forty-Eighth Annual Report of the Water Department of the City of Cincinnati for the year ending December 31, 1887.

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

1889 Report of the Water Supply Commission of the City of Cincinnati : February, 1889, by Armor Smith, Jr.; W. P. Anderson; T. W. Graydon; Cincinnati Water Supply Commission.

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

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

1892 New water works for Cincinnati : a paper, by John Willmuth Hill

1894 History of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, Ohio

1896 The Cincinnati waterworks : a synopsis of its history, its present management and condition, the necessity for improving and enlarging the system, preliminary steps already taken pertaining thereto, the ampt proceedings, the report of the expert commission, how shall the improvement be made and paid for and by whom, general remarks.

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

1899 Report on investigations into the purification of the Ohio river water for the improved water supply of the city of Cincinnati, by George W. Fuller. Made by the Board of Trustees, Commissioners of water works.

1904 Centennial History of Cincinnati and Representative Citizens, Volume 1 by Charles Theodore Greve
Page 459: The Water Supply
Page 519: The Water Supply
Page 533: The Hydraulic Water Works
Page 544: Water Works

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)

1909 Report to the Board of Trustees, "Commissioners of Waterworks" of Cincinnati, Ohio, Cincinnati (Ohio). Commissioners of Waterworks, George Henry Benzenberg. Includes a brief history of the old waterworks, leading up to and including the construction of the new waterworks.

1910 "The Cincinnati Water Works," by William Nelson Jones, A thesis submitted for the degree of Civil Engineer, University of Wisconsin.

1915 "The Cincinnati Water Works," John W. Hill, Journal of the American Water Works Association 2(1):42-60  (March 1915)  | Also here |

1915 "The Cincinnati Water Works," by John W. Hill, Water and Gas Review, 25(12):9-13 (June 1915)

1961 "Samuel Watts Davies and The Industrial Revolution in Cincinnati," by Harry R. Stevens The Ohio Historical Quarterly 70(2):95 - 127 (April 1961)
Pages 115-117:  Early in 1817 he seized upon an even greater opportunity, and one that was to prove an embarrassment to him for many years. The water supply of the town was extremely simple.  People got water from private wells and cisterns, from a few springs, and from the river. The chief improvement in the system came when Jesse Reeder built a tank near the river at the foot of Ludlow Street. By means of horse power operating an elevator system he raised water from the river into the tank and sold it to the water carters, William Gibson and Samuel Arthur, who carted it around the town.  Late in the winter Colonel Davies and General James Findlay, as agents of the Cincinnati Manufacturing Company, offered a plan to supply water through pipes. They proposed to build a reservoir on high ground east of Deer Creek, near the factory, and to construct wooden conduits through the streets, lanes, and alleys on the lower level of the town. The town council appointed a committee on March 24 to hold a conference with them on the subject. A  week later the committee reported, proposing an ordinance, which the council adopted. Under its terms the company was vested with the exclusive privilege of laying pipe in the streets on condition that the pipe should be laid to "the bottom" on or before July 4, 1819, so that water might be delivered on or before July 2, 1823.
About the same time, an immigrant from Germany arrived in the town and in April took lodgings in Columbia Street near Broadway. Albert Stein, a young man of twenty-five, had already been in the United States for some months. He knew a good bit about steam engines and hydraulics. He had arrived with his skill, but he was unknown. Like Moses Meeker, the factory superintendent, as well as Moses Dawson, Elijah Slack, and Elijah Bemiss, he was a man whose talents could be usefully employed if he could find someone to engage him. Like them, he found his patron in Colonel Davies.
During the next eight months nothing further was heard of the waterworks proposal; but in the winter of 1817-18 Stein was back in the East looking over steam engines in Philadelphia. At the end of January he wrote a letter to Cincinnati about them. Another delay followed. Perhaps the explanation was, as a critic charged a few years later, that Davies had no money to invest in the project. Not until almost the end of 1818 did he take the next step in this direction.
Pages 119-120:  While he was faced with many problems of the same sort, Davies was at the same time returning to his interest in the water system for the town. After the delay of almost twenty months. the town council on November 27 amended the water ordinance, postponing the deadline for having the first pipe laid from July 1819 to July 1820. Before the end of the year, the woolen manufacturing company, with the assent of the council, transferred all its right, interest, and privilege of supplying the town with water to Davies.  He and his associates obtained a charter of incorporation under the name of the "Cincinnati Water Company." The new company was authorized to create a capital not exceeding $75,000.  Shortly afterward Davies purchased some property and began active preparations. His chief associate in the work was Jacob Wheeler, who was also a director of the Farmers' and Mechanics' Bank and a member of the town council.
Pages 125-126:  One after another of Davies' great projects broke in disaster. In the fall he hired workmen to begin construction of the waterworks. They dug a hole forty feet long, thirty feet wide, and six feet deep. He advertised for a thousand logs of sound timber, either white pine or white oak, to use in the project.82 Suddenly Jacob Wheeler, city treasurer and paymaster at the waterworks, announced that the city treasury, which he kept in a basket under his bed, had been stolen. It was rumored that the funds had been used to pay men at the waterworks. Members of city council demanded Wheeler's resignation and he resigned.  Court action was brought against him, and a judgment given for over $10,000. When it turned out that Wheeler had no resources, action was begun against Colonel Davies, who was his surety

1962 "Cincinnati," 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


Cincinnati Triple Steam has a lot of valuable information about the history of the Great Cincinnati Water Works.




2015 Morris A. Pierce