Documentary History of American Water-works

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Middle Atlantic States Pennsylvania Reading

Reading, Pennsylvania

Reading was established in 1748.   

The Reading Water Company was incorporated in 1819 with John Spayd, Frederick Heller, John Addams, George D. B. Heim and John Berkenbine appointed as commissioners to sell stock.  The company contracted in December 1820 with Jesse Kersey to supply earthen conduits between the Hampden springs and a reservoir.  This pipeline was completed in July 1821 and the company began installing cast iron distribution piping, with individual customers responsible for connecting their own premises using cast iron, lead, or earthen pipes.  The system was delivering water to customers by 1821 or 1822, but the earthen conduits supplying the reservoir began to fail in the summer of 1824 and were replaced with wooden logs.

The City of Reading bought the Reading Water Company on April 1, 1865 for $300,000.  A Worthington steam pumping engine with a capacity of 5 million gallons per day was added in 1889 to provide reserve capacity from Malden Creek.

Water service is provided by the Reading Area Water Authority, which was created on May 20, 1994.  The authority web site has a history page.

References
1819 An Act authorizing the Governor to incorporate the Reading Water Company, March 16, 1819

1820 Village Record (West Chester PA), March 8, 1820, page 3.
The Subscribers Inform, that they are now provided with a handsome stock of
EARTHEN PIPE
For the conveyance of water underground.  These pipes are connected with a a durable cement, and are capable of sustaining a considerable pressure.  They have been proved in several different places, and are preferred by all who have tried them.  It is presumed, that they will obtain a general preference, as their durability is greater than can be expected from bored logs; and the water passing through them is more pure.  We might refer the public to a number of persons who have tried them, but we need that unnecessary.
They also continue the Earthenware business, on a scale sufficient extensive to afford a liberal supply to Store keepers.  All orders sent by mail to the Downington post office, will be promptly attended to; and ware of the first quality delivered.
JESSE KERSEY, & Co.  2d month 29, 1820

1820 Memorandum of Agreement, December 28, 1820, printed in Reading Times, March 18, 1873, Page 4.
Earthen Water Pipes.--The Eagle has unearthed a copy of the "memorandum of the agreement" for the laying of pipe for conveying the Hampden spring into the city--the first water brought in by the "Reading Water Company."  In enlarging the Penn street reservoir, last year, some of the earthen pipe was dug up, and it was found in as perfect a condition as when first laid, over fifty years ago.  Jesse Kersey was a preacher, and a prominent member of the Society of Friends, in Chester county.  The original document is on file in the office of the City Engineer, where it is kept with other rate and valuable papers in a fire-proof safe.  It reads as follows:
"Memorandum of agreement made and concluded upon this 28th day of December, Anno Domini 1820, between Jesse Kersey, of the township of East Cain, in the county of Chester, and State of Pennsylvania, of the one part, and Gabriel Hiester, Jr., and John Ritter, a committee appointed by the Water Company of the Borough of Reading, of the other part: Witnesseth that the said Jesse Kersey has agreed to furnish to the said Water Company such quantity of earthen pipe as will be necessary to convey the water of a certain spring to a reservoir at the head of the main street in said borough, and to lay them completely cemented togher in a ditch to be opened by said company.  The pipes are to be of two and a half inches bore or calibre, and the said Jesse Kersey engages to be at the expense of any repair which the pipes may require in seven years from time they are laid if they should in that time fail to deliver the water, provided such failure can be fairly alleged to be owning to any defect in the pipes or cement, or laying.  And the said Gabriel Hiester, Junior, and John Ritter, on the behalf of the said Water Company, to pay to the said Jesse Kersey, or to his lawful representative, twenty-five cents per foot for every foot of pipe laid for the above mentioned purpose when the whole is completed.  And the said Jesse Kersey agrees to have the whole of the pipes laid before the end of July next.  In testimony whereof the parties to these presents have set their hands and seals the day and year above written.
Jesse Kersey [Seal]
Gab. Hiester, Jun. [Seal]
Jno. Ritter, [Seal]
Witness present, William Frame.

1821 Berks and Schuylkill Journal, July 21, 1821, page 3.
On Thursday last, the water intended for the use of the borough, was conducted from the spring to the reservoir situated at the eastern end of the town, a distance of one mile and sixteen perches.  This spring throughout the year, discharges about sixty gallons of soft water, entirely free from earthy and saline matters, per minute, and is lead to the reservoir through earthen pipes 2 1/2 inches in calibre, laid about three feet below the surface of the ground, with a fall of 116 feet.  The reservoir is built of stone, of the capacity of one thousand hogsheads, and intended to be covered up with a frame building.  The water will be conducted through the principal streets by means of iron pipes; and it is confidently expected that in the month of October, this important work will be so far completed as to have a number of fire plugs ready for use.  From the reservoir to the court-house there will be fall of 88 feet.
The earthen pipes were manufactured by Jesse Kersey of Chester county, an enterprising mechanic, who is the first person to use them any considerable distance.  They are about 12 inches long and are cemented together with a composition peculiarly his own.  From the experience he has had of their utility, he is satisfied they can be used to convey water any distance, where they undergo no counter pressure, and that they are more durable than any other pipes that are now in use.
The managers of the water company deserve the thanks of their fellow citizens for prosecuring this noble work with so much diligence, enterprize and expedition.

1821 Berks and Schuylkill Journal, December 8, 1821, page 3.
NEW ESTABLISHMENT
Pots, Pans, Dishes, Basins, Jugs, Pitches, &c. &c.
For sale, wholesale and retail, on the most reasonable terms at the
READING POTTERY,
In North Callowhill Street, a few doors above the Post Office, under the undersigned will also shortly be ready to supply
EARTHEN PIPES
For the conveyance of water under ground, an article that for cheapness, cleanliness and durability is unequaled.  All orders in their line will be thankfully received and punctually attended to, by Ziba Vickers and Benjamin Valentine, trading under the firm of VICKERS & VALENTINE

1822 Berks and Schuylkill Journal, October 19, 1822, page 3.
Water Works
To the Inhabitants of Reading.
In consequence of the recent establishment of the Water Works in the town of Reading, the subscriber respectfully informs the inhabitants thereof, that he has a quantity of lead and iron pipe of small calilbre, suitable for the introduction of the water from the main pieps in the street into their dwellings; he can put his pipes, hydrants, &c in at so low a price as to make it an object of attention to them.  When several neighbors join, there will be much economy, particularly in the iron pipes, and to those who are at a distance from the main pipe--his prices are as follows:
To those who do their own diggint he will superintend the same, and furnish:
    Strong 1/2 inch lead pipe at 30 cts. per foot
         do.  3/4     do.      do.     40 do.      do.
Extra do.  3/4     do.     do.     50 do.      do.
Hydrants of different kinds, and all other articles, and all other articles in Plumbing line proportionally low.
All work will be done immediately under the direction of the subscriber, who, when employed, will forthwith repair to Reading with the proper hands and execute the work which will enable him to warrant the same for a certain number of years.  Applications will be thankfully received and promptly attended to by
JOHN PEARCE, Plumber, &c.
No. 12, South 5th street, Philadelpha

1822 Berks and Schuylkill Journal, November 8, 1822, page 3.
We deem it necessary to call the attention of the citizens of this place to the earthen pipes recently produced by Messrs. Vickers and Valentine, for the purpose of conveying water from the main pipes laid in our streets, into the yards and dwellings of those who are desirous of being supplied with water by the Reading Water Company.
Three pieces of earthen pipe, each twelve inches in length, were cemented together, and made subject to the whole pressure of the water contained in the reservoir for upwards of five minutes, without sustaining the lease injury, and without showing the least particle of moisture on their surface.
Messrs. Vickers and Valentine are so confident of succeeding in substituting earthen for leaden pipes, that they are willing to incur all responsibility.
When it is considered that the earthen pipes can be laid for an expense of not more than 12 1/2 cents per foot, and that 30, 40, and 50 cents will be the cost per foot of leaden pipes, it must be a matter of sufficient interest and importance, to give the former a fair trial, particularly as no expense will be risked, should be be found ineffectual or insufficient.
We think it the duty of the maters of the Reading Water Company, who certainly have the interest of the stockholders at heart, to pay immediate attention to the subject, as the reduction of the expenses incident to the conveyance of water into the yards and dewellings of private families, will increase the number of applicants for the same.

1824 Berks and Schuylkill Journal, July 17, 1824, page 3.
Owners of Hydrants in the borough of Reading, are advised to be as saving as possible in their Hydrant water.  Owning to the earthen pipes failing, the supply of water from the spring to the reservoir is at present but small and if by wasting it, the reservoir should become exhausted, they would be deprived of that water for some time altogether.  New pipes are wood are now preparing, which will be laid down with all possible dispatch, and when that is done an abundant and constant supply may be expected.

1840 A Supplement to an Act entitled "An Act authorizing the Governor to incorporate the Reading Water Company," passed the sixteenth day of March, Anno Domini, one thousand eight hundred and nineteen. March 7, 1840.

1841 The Description of the Borough of Reading: Containing Its Population, Institutions, Trade, Manufactures, &c. &c., with a Notice of Its First Settlement, and Many Curious Historical Matters, by William Stahle
Page 50:  The Reading Water Company

1848 An act concerning Election of Managers of the Reading Water Company, April 11, 1848

1849 An act authorizing the Reading water company to increase their capital stock, and to borrow money, March 12, 1849

1853 An act to empower the city authorities of Reading to widen certain streets; supplementary to an act entitled "An Act authorizing the Governor to incorporate the Reading Water company," approved March sixteenth, eighteen hundred and nineteen ; and supplementary to the poor laws of the city and districts of Philadelphia.  April 14, 1853

1864 An act revising the municipal charter of the city of Reading.  April 24, 1864.  Section 38 authorized the city to supply water and to purchase the Reading Water Company.

1865 A supplement to an act, entitled "An act revising the charter of the municipal corporation of the city of Reading," passed April sixty-sixth, Anno Domini one thousand eight hundred and sixty-four.  March 21, 1865

1986 "Commons Water Works Opened in 1821," from The Passing Scene, Volume 4, by George M. Meiser and Gloria Jean Meiser.












2015 Morris A. Pierce