Documentary History of American Water-works

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

Ownership and Financing of American Water-Works

Hydrant Contracts

Many cities contracted with private water works companies to pay an annual charge for each fire hydrant.  Baltimore, Maryland decided to install its own fire plugs in 1809, with water provided at no charge by the company.  Buffalo, New York was paid $50 per hydrant per year in 1852, but in 1858 demanded an annual payment of $20,000.   Hydrant contracts became widespread after the Civil War.  This list includes some early systems for which relevant information has been found. 

# of Hydrants
Proposed $/Hydrant/ Year
Contracted $/Hydrant/ Year
Term (years)
1805 Baltimore MD Baltimore Water Company

City bought existing fire plugs and paid for installation of new ones.  Company provided water at no charge.
1846 Madison WI T. S. Godman


1852 Buffalo NY Buffalo Water Works Company

$50 5 In 1858 the Company demanded an annual payment of $20,000, plus interest on the cost of extending the system.
1861 Rochester NY Rochester Water Works Company 400 $50 $50 10 System was not built.  Hydrants to be Ketchum's Improved Fire Hydrant, or some other one of equally approved character, and to be kept and maintained by said Water Works
1861 New Haven CT New Haven Water Company
City provided and install its own hydrants, water for hydrants and city purposes provided for an annual payment, which increased over time.
1865 Auburn NY Auburn Water Works Company 150 $40 $75 Perpetual?
1867 Erie PA Akron Water Works Company 50 $180

City decided to build its own system.
1871 Glens Falls NY Glens Falls Waterworks Company >30 $150
30 Terms set in legislative charter, but village built their own system
1880 Akron OH Erie Water and Gas Company 150 $50 $45 Perpetual Term modified to 25 years in 1893.
1881 Jamestown NY Jamestown Water Supply Company 100 $60 $60 25

1910 Statistics of Cities Having a Population of Over 25,000 Includes fire hydrant rental rates for many cities

2016 Morris A. Pierce