Documentary History of American Water-works

Introduction Historical Background Chronology Geography Biography Technology Ownership and Financing General Bibliography

Biography Moses Nelson Baker

Moses Nelson Baker

Moses Nelson Baker was in Enosburgh, Vermont on ,January 26, 1864.  He attended the University of Vermont, where he decided not to study Greek but to take additional work in Latin, English, French, German on either the literary-scientific and the general science curricula, and therefore received a Bachelor's of Philosophy degree in 1886.   After graduation he work for the Union Pacific Railroad at Pocatello, Idaho, where he was elected a school trustee.  He then moved to Fitchburg, Massachusetts where he worked in an architect's office before taking a job as assistant editor of Engineering News in New York City in November, 1887, a position he held until his retirement in 1932.  He edited four volume of the Manual of American Water Works between 1888 and 1897 and wrote other books on sanitation.  He received a degree in Civil Engineer degree from the University of Vermont in 1899.

After his retirement he spent nearly a decade researching and writing The Quest for Pure Water, the history of water purification from the earliest records to the twentieth century, which represents an incredible amount of research using a wide range of primary documents and was published in 1948 by the American Water Works Association..  

Baker married Ella S. Babbit in Burlington, Vermont in 1889 and they lived in Montclair, New Jersey where they raised a family.  Baker died on February 7, 1955 at the age of 91 and his wife died five weeks later..

Moses Nelson Baker
From The quest for pure water; the history of water purification from the earliest records to the twentieth century, by Moses Nelson Baker, page (1948)

Moses Nelson Baker, Wikipedia page

1886 Catalogue of the Officers and Students of the University of Vermont, November, 1886
Page 14:  The completion of any of the Scientific Courses entitles him to the degree of Bachelor of Philosophy.
Page 52:  Degrees Conferred in 1885-86.  Bachelor of Philosophy.  Moses Nelson Baker.

1888 The Manual of American Water Works, Volume 1, Edited by Moses Nelson Baker | Another copy. This volume included a Partial List of Stand-pipes of the United States which is not included in any of the electronic versions of the volume.

1890 The Manual of American Water Works, Volume 2, Edited by Moses Nelson Baker, July, 1890 | copy | HathiTrust copy |

1891 The Manual of American Water Works, Volume 3,  Edited by Moses Nelson Baker, December, 1891 | Another copy, | copy | December, 1891

1893 Sewage Purification in America: A Description of the Municipal Sewage Purification Plants in the United States and Canada, by Moses Nelson Baker

1894 Sewage Disposal in the United States by George W. Rafter and Moses Nelson Baker

1896 Sewerage and Sewage Purification by Moses Nelson Baker | Fifth Edition, Revised and Enlarged (1913)

1897 The Manual of American Water Works, Volume 4, Edited by Moses Nelson Baker, April, 1897 | Another copy, April, 1897.

1899 Catalogue of the Officers and Students of the University of Vermont, 1899-1900
Page 118:  Degrees Conferred in 1898-99.  Civil Engineer.  Moses Nelson Baker, Ph.B. 1886

1899 Potable Water and Methods of Detecting Impurities, by Moses Nelson Baker | Second Edition, Revised and Enlarged (1906) |

1901 Municipal Engineering and Sanitation, by Moses Nelson Baker and Ella Babbit Baker

1904 British Sewage Works: And Notes on the Sewage Farms of Paris and on Two German Works, by Moses Nelson Baker

1905 Notes on  British Refuse Destructors: With and Introductory Comparison of British Refuse Destructors and American Garbage Furnaces, by Moses Nelson Baker

1919 Scannell's New Jersey's First Citizens and State Guide 2:506-507 (1919)
MOSES NELSON BAKER — Upper Montclair.— Editor, Engineer. Born at Enosburgh, Vt., on Jan. 26, 1864; son of Benjamin Nelson and Sarah Maretta (Wright) Baker; married at Burlington, Vt., on Aug. 22, 1889, to Ella S. Babbit, daughter of Asher Stevens and Emmeline (Jones) Babbit, of Keesville N. Y.
Children: Theta Helen, born in 1890; Will, born 1892 (deceased 1895); Frederick Wood, born 1894; Elizabeth, born 1896; Ruth, born 1902; Dorothea, born 1907.
Moses Nelson Baker was Chairman of the Executive Committee of the National Municipal League, 1911-18; was a member of the Montclair Board of Health for twenty years, serving as its President from 1904 to 1915; was a member and Vice-President in 1915-'16 of the New Jersey Department of Health, and in 1904, served as President of the New Jersey Sanitary Association. He served as a member of the Montclair Township Committee in 1893-'94.
Mr. Baker can trace his American lineage back for many generations. He was educated in the Enosburgh district school and at Craftsbury Academy and the University of Vermont, from which latter he received the Ph. B. degree in 1886 and the C. E. degree in 1899. After working on the Union Pacific Railway at Pocatello, Idaho, in 1886-87 and being elected school trustee of Pocatello, he spent a short time in an architect's office in Fitchburg, Mass. In November, 1887, he became Associate Editor of "Engineering News," New York City, continuing in that position until and after consolidation as "Engineering News-Record" April 1, 1917. He was Director of the Engineering News Publishing Company prior to 1911 and of the Hill Publishing Company from 1911 until the formation of the McGraw-Hill Publishing Company in 1917.
Mr. Baker edited "The Manual of American Water Works" of '88-'89'90, "91 and '97, and "The Municipal Year Book" of 1902, and is the author of "Sewage Purification in America," 1893; "Sewage Disposal in the United States" (joint author), 1894; "Sewerage and Sewage Purification," 1896; "Potable Water", 1899; Municipal Engineering and Sanitation" (jointly with Ella Babbit Baker), 1901; municipal engineering articles in the International Year Book, 1898 to date, and likewise in the International Encyclopedia and the American edition of Nelson's Encyclopedia; "British Sewage Works", 1905; "Notes on British Refuse Destructors", 1905, and of numerous articles and addresses on municipal engineering and sanitation and on public health.

1932 "M. N. Baker Retires from Engineering News-Record After Forty-Five Years," The Montclair Times, July 15, 1932, Page 1 | Part 2 |

1934 "Sketch of the History of Water Treatment," by Moses Nelson Baker, Journal of the American Water Works Association 28(7):902-938 (July 1934)

1939 "New Jersey Birthplace of the Filter," by M. N. Baker. Engineering News-Record 122:777 (June 8, 1939)

1941 "The three Jewells: Pioneers in mechanical filtration," by M. N. Baker, Engineering News Record 126:179 (January 30, 1941)

1948 The quest for pure water; the history of water purification from the earliest records to the twentieth century, by Moses Nelson Baker | Second printing (1949) | Republished [without changes?] in 1981 as Volume 1, with Volume 2 compiled by Michael J. Taras.
Table of Contents
Front Material | pdf |
I.   From the Earliest Records Through the Sixteenth Century 1-8 | pdf with references |
II.  Seventeenth Century 9-18 | pdf with references |
III. Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries 19-28 | pdf with references |
IV.  Four Centuries of Filtration in France 29-63 | pdf with references |
V.   British Contributions to Filtration 64-124 | pdf with references |
VI.  Slow Sand Filtration in the United States and Canada 125-178 | pdf with references |
VII. Inception and Widespread Adoption of Rapid Filtration in America 179-247 | pdf with references |
VIII. Upward Filtration in Europe and America 248-252 | pdf with references |
IX.   Multiple Filtration: Seventeenth to Twentieth Centuries 253-264 | pdf with references |
X.    Drifting-Sand Rapid Filters 265-272 | pdf with references |
XI.   Natural Filter: Basins and Galleries 273-285 | pdf with references |
XII.  Plain Sedimentation 286-298 | pdf with references |
XIII. Coagulation: Ancient and Modern 299-320 | pdf with references |
XIV.  Disinfection 321-356 | pdf with references |
XV.   Distillation 357-360 | pdf with references |
XVI.  Aeration in Theory and Practice 361-390 | pdf with references |
XVII. Algae Troubles and Their Conquest 391-414 | pdf with references |
XVIII. Softening 415-439 | pdf with references |
XIX.  Cause and Removal of Color 440-444 | pdf with references |
XX.   Iron and Manganese Removal 445-448 | pdf with references |
XXI.  Taste and Odor Control 449-455 | pdf with references |
XXII. Medication by Means of the Water Supply 456-464 | pdf with references |
Epilogue 465-466 | pdf |
Bibliography 469-510 | pdf |
Index 511-527 | pdf |

1955 “Moses N. Baker,” The New York Times, February 7, 1955, Page 21.
Upper Montclair, N.J., Feb 6. - Moses N. Baker, retired editor of Engineering News and a former president of the Montclair Board of Health, died at his home here today at the page of 91.
As an editor and as a public health official, Mr. Baker had specialized in municipal engineering and sanitation.  In 1904 he made a study of sewage disposal in England.
Surviving are his window, the former Ella Babbit, a son, three daughters and eleven grandchildren.

1955 “Mrs. Moses N. Baker,” The New York Times, March 15, 1955, Page 26.
Upper Montclair, N.J., March 14. - Mrs. Ella Babbit Baker, an author, died yesterday at her home, 53 Oakwood Avenue, after a long illness.  She was 89 years old and the widow of Moses N. Baker.
Mrs. Baker was a founder of the Woman's Club of Upper Montclair and of the College Women's Club of Montclair.  She formerly wrote for Building, Country Life and Babyhood magazines.
A son, Frederick W., and three daughters, Miss Theta Baker, Mrs. B. Bonnell Powell and Mrs. H. Walter Shaw, survive.

1955 “Moses N. Baker,” Percolation and Runoff, in Journal of the American Water Works Association 47(3):86, 88 (March 1955)

1980 "Hospital seeking information about mysterious contributor," The Daily Sentinel (Grand Junction, Colorado), May 13, 1980, Page 1.
Who is, or was, Moses Nelson Baker? The Lower Valley Hospital in Fruita, Colorado, received an anonymous $50,000 contribution to the hospital's building fund in his name.

1991 The University of Vermont: the first two hundred years, by Robert Vincent Daniels
Page 104:  That catalog was the first to state that students omitting Greek and taking additional work in Latin, English, French, German, and "certain of the sciences" would earn the degree of "Bachelor of Philosophy."
Page 334:  The consolation prize was the Ph.B. (Bachelor of Philosophy), conference on students in the literary-scientific and the general science curricula.  but even these students were expected to satisfy a requirement in Latin.

2013 "Moses N Baker," from This Day in Water History, by Michael J. McGuire
"January 26, 1864:  Birth of Moses N. Baker.“ Moses N. Baker(1864–1955) was a noted editor and author in the field of drinking water history and technology. His most important book is still used today: The Quest for Pure Water: The History of Water Purification from the Earliest Records to the Twentieth Century.He was also active in the field of public health holding several positions on boards of health at the state and local level.
Baker started his long career as author and editor in November 1887 when he was hired as the Associate Editor of Engineering News. This publication and the consolidated weekly Engineering News-Record which began on April 1, 1917 were the definitive sources of news about advances in the control and treatment of drinking water and sewage for decades in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He retired in 1932 after 45 years of service….
Baker was a member of a number of professional organizations and societies including the New England Water Works Association, American Water Works Association and the American Economic Association. He was Chairman of the Executive Committee of the National Municipal League from 1911 to 1918. He was a member of the Montclair, New Jersey Board of Health for 20 years and served as its president from 1904 to 1915. Baker was a member and vice president of the New Jersey Department of Health in 1915-16. He served as President of the New Jersey Sanitary Association in 1904 following the term of John L. Leal.
He was elected an Honorary Member of the American Water Works Association and he was elected to the Water Industry Hall of Fame by the same organization in 1974.”
Commentary:  Baker is one of my heroes. It was quite a thrill to make a connection with his great grandson, Peter Varlien, who is Norwegian-American. Peter provided several photos from Moses’ and Ella’s 50th wedding anniversary for which I am very grateful. Ah, the Internet is an amazing thing.

© 2020 Morris A. Pierce