Documentary History of American Water-works

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

Technology Disinfection

Disinfection Technology in American Waterworks

Filtration was used throughout the 19th Century in American water works, initially with small water filters used by individual consumers that were eventually replaced by filtration systems that could handle all of the water delivered by a water utility.  Unfortunately, filtration proved unable to prevent diseases such as typhoid and cholera, and although some systems were able to remove infection sources from their watershed (i.e. humans), a better solution was needed.

In the late 1800s, physicians, chemists and public health professionals recognized that chemicals could be used to disinfect water supplies.  Substances containing chlorine showed the most promise and were tested in numerous applications.  The big break for chlorine came in Jersey City, New Jersey, where the city has contracted with a company for a supply of water  that required "that the water delivered should be pure and wholesome and free from pollution deleterious for drinking and domestic purposes."  The city brought suit against the company for failing to deliver water that met this requirement, and the subsequent trail upheld the city on this point, and the company was to ordered  to construct sewers to remove contaminants from the Rockaway River watershed or create "other plans or devices" to produce water of the required purity.  The company chose to construct a chlorination plant, which was accepted in a subsequent trial as  “capable of rendering the water delivered to Jersey City, pure and wholesome, for the purposes for which it is intended, and is effective in removing from the water those dangerous germs which were deemed by the decree to possibly exist therein at certain times." 

After this result, chlorine was widely adopted as a disinfection technology.

Also see the references for Filtration Technology.

1722 The angel of Bethesda, visiting the invalids of a miserable world, by Cotton Mather

1827 An Essay on the Use of Chlorurets of oxide of Sodium and of Lime, as powerful disinfecting agents; and of the Chloruret of Oxide of Sodium, more especially as a Remedy of considerable efficiency in the Treatment of Hospital Gangrene; Phagedenic, Syphilitic, and ill-conditioned ulcers; Mortification; and various other Diseases, by Thomas Alcock | also here | Thomas Alcock |
Pages 29-30:  On the Purification of Putrid Water
Another highly important use of the chloruret of lime has been pointed out by M. Labarraque in the purification of putrid water. For this purpose from one to two ounces will be required for about sixty gallons of the infected water. Mr. L. adds, "what I now advance has been verified at the commencement of the year 1824, by M. Kerauden, inspector general of the service of health of the marine, who at that time was charged by His Excellency the minister of the marine and of the colonies to make a report on my propositions, having for their object, the rendering healthy the vessels of the king, &c.; propositions which were adopted, and which I shall make known elsewhere. Dr. Marc, titulary member of the Royal Academy of Medicine, (who in 1823 was delegated by the Council of Health to assist in my experiments on animal substances, privies, &c, and was one of the first who had a glimpse of all-the applications of the chlorurets) was kind enough to be present at this disinfection of the water.
"The chloruret of lime is previously dissolved in water, and added gradually, stirring the vessel of putrid water till the disinfection be complete. If the chloruret predominate, it is sufficient to expose the chlorureted water for some moments to the air, and to filtrate it or leave it to settle, in order that it may become drinkable.
"We may readily conceive of what utility this process may be, whether at sea, or in marshy countries where the water is insalubrious, or even where persons are obliged to drink the water of cisterns, which is often altered."

1827 "An Essay on the Use of Chlorurets of oxide of Sodium and of Lime; and of the Chloruret of Oxide of Sodium, more especially as a Remedy of considerable efficiency in the Treatment of Hospital Gangrene; Phagedenic, Syphilitic, and ill-conditioned ulcers; Mortification; and various other Diseases," by Thomas Alcock, The Lancet 11:643-647 (February 17, 1827)

1829 A Treatise on the nature, cause and treatment of contagious typhus, by Johann Valentin von Hildenbrand, translated by S.D. Gross

1832 Facts regarding the disinfecting powers of chlorine : with an explanation of the mode in which it operates, and with directions how it should be applied for disinfecting purposes, by Chester Averill.

1842 The History, Diagnosis and Treatment of Typhoid and of Typhus Fever, by Elisha Bartlett

1847 The History Diagnosis and Treatment of the Fevers of the United States, by Elisha Bartlett

1849 On the Mode of Communication of Cholera, by John Snow, M.D.

1850 "Report of a general plan for the promotion of public and personal health," by Lemuel Shattuck, Presented April 25, 1850, commonly referred to as the Report of the Sanitary Commission of Massachusetts  |1948 reprint |

1850 On the Identity or Non-Identity of the Specific Cause of Typhoid, Typhus and Relapsing Fever, by William Jenner

1852 Clinical reports on continued fever, based on analyses of one hundred and sixty-four cases, by Austin Flint

1854 "Osservazioni microscopiche e deduzioni patologiche sul cholera asiatico" (Microscopic observations and pathological deductions on Asiatic cholera), by Fillipo Pacini, Gazzetta Medica Italiana: Toscana, 2nd series, 4(50):397-401 (December 17, 1854); 4(51):405-412 (December 19, 1854)

1854 Osservazioni microscopiche e deduzioni patologiche sul cholera asiatico, by by Fillipo Pacini

1855 On the Mode of Communication of Cholera, Second Edition, Much enlarged, by John Snow, M.D.

1855 Clinical reports on continued fever, with supplemental reports, by Austin Flint

1855 Treatise on the Cause of Cholera:  An Interesting Discovery, J. Franklin Reigert

1855 Discovery of the Cause, Nature, Cure and Prevention of Epidemic Cholera, by M.L. Knapp

1859 Proceedings and Debates of the Third National Quarantine and Sanitary Convention, April, 1859

1859 On Malaria and Miasmata and their Influence in the Production of Typhus and Typhoid Fevers, Cholera, and the Exanthemata:  Founded on the Fothergill Prize Essay for 1859, by Thomas Herbert Barker

1860 Proceedings and Debates of the Fourth National Quarantine and Sanitary Convention, June, 1860.

1861 Die Aetiologie, der Begriff und die Prophylaxis des Kindbettfiebers, by Ignaz Philipp Semmelweis | also here | and here |

1865 Sulla Causa Specifica del Colera Asiatico, by Filippo Pacini

1866 "Authorities on Cholera," British and Foreign Medico-chirurgical Review 38:128-161 (July, 1866)

1866 "A Treatise on the specific Cause of Cholera, its Pathology and Cure," British and Foreign Medico-chirurgical Review 38:167-168 (July, 1866)

1873 Typhoid Fever: Its Nature, Mode of Spreading, and Prevention, by William Budd

1875 The Cholera Epidemic of 1873 in the United States  43d Congress, 2d Session, H. Ex. Doc. 95

1876 "Preventing the spread of contagious disease," Franklin D. Clum, M.D. thesis, Yale University

1876 "Medical and Sanitary Progress," by Austin Flint, Harper's Magazine 53(313):70-84 (1876)
It is, indeed, claimed by some that the causation of certain diseases by specific organisms of microscopical minuteness has been demonstrated' by the majority of medical thinkers, however, the demonstrative evidence is not considered as complete.

1876 "An essay on the inoculability and infectiousness of tuberculosis," by Edwin B. Bertolet," M.D. thesis, University of Pennsylvania

1876 "The present condition of the evidence concerning 'disease germs'" by Thomas E. Satterthwaite, M.D., Transactions of the International medical congress of Philadelphia, 1876, 1101-1028.

1876 A History of Asiatic Cholera, by Nottidge Charles Macnamara

1876 The Germ Theory: Applied to the Explanation of the Phenomena of Disease : the Specific Fevers, by Thomas J. MacLagan, M.D.

1877 “The Nascent State as Affecting Chemical Action,” by Edward Davies, The Pharmaceutical Journal and Transactions. 8:485-486 (December 22, 1877)

1880 Water Analysis for Sanitary Purposes: With Hints for the Interpretation of Results, by Edward Frankland

1880 Grundlagen zur Beurtheilung des Trinkwassers, zugleich mit Berücksichtigung der Brauchbarkeit fuer gewerbliche Zwecke und der Reinigung con Abfallwasser, nebst Anleitung zur Pruefung des Wassers. Von Dr. Eduard Reichardt

1881 "Translation of an address on the Germ Theory," by Professor Pasteur, The Lancet 118(3024):271-272 (August 13, 1881)

1881 "Ueber Desinfection," von Regierungsrath Dr. Robert Koch, Mittheilungen aus dem Kaiserlichen Gesundheitsamte 1:234-282 (1881)

1881 "Beiträge zur Lehre von der Antisepsis," von Fr. Boillat, Journal für Praktische Chemie 25:300-309 (December 30, 1881)
Die unmittelbare Veranlassung zu den in Folgendem zu beschreibenden Versuchen war eine kürzlich erschienene Abhandlung von Regierungsrath Dr. B,. Koch über Desinfection. Gegenüber den in der letzten Zeit so zahlreich auftauchenden, hoch angepriesenen, dann allerdings meistens sehr rasch vom Schauplatz wieder verschwindenden antiseptischen Mitteln vertritt Koch die entgegengesetzte Ansicht, dass nämlich von allen den bis jetzt als fäulnisswidrig bekannten Materien blos Chlor, Brom, Jod, Sublimat und allenfalls noch übermangansaures Kali und Osmiumsäure den Namen eines Desinfectionsmittels verdienen.

1882 "The Germ Theory," by Professor Louis Pasteur, Popular Science Monthly 20:801-806 (April 20, 1882)

1882 "Die Aetiologie der Tuberkulose," von Dr. Robert Koch, Berliner Klinische Wochenschrift 19(15):221-230 (April 10, 1882)

1882 "Determination of Organic Matter in Potable Water," by Prof. J.W. Mallet, American Chemical Journal 4(4):241-263 (October, 1882)

1882 "Disinfectants," American Chemical Journal 4(4):324-325 (October 1882)
In an article on disinfection, Dr. R. Koch remarks that the only substances worthy of the name of disinfectants are chlorine, bromine, iodine, mercuric chloride, and perhaps potassium permanganate and osmic acid.

1882 The Bacteria: An Account of Their Nature and Effects, Together with a Systematic Description of the Species, by Thomas Jonathan Burrill

1882 Eleventh Annual Report of The Local Government Board 1881-1882.  Supplement Containing the Report of the Medical Officer for 1881
Pages xviii- Auxiliary Scientific Investigations
It is worth while to regard these chemical experiences in their application to an actual case, for the sake of a better understanding of such figures. In an outbreak of enteric fever at Caterham two years ago, nearly 200 earlier attacks were traced, upon evidence that did not admit of question, to the use throughout a particular fortnight, of water that had been pumped from a well in which a man having enteric fever had been at work. Some excremental matters from him had by accident got into the well.  Now I learn through the Chairman of Directors of the Caterham Waterworks Company that 1,861,000 gallons of water were pumped from the well during the fortnight. If the water had for the whole fortnight contained one grain of excremental matter per gallon, this would have meant that 19 lbs. of excrement had been added to each day's supply of water. It is of course out of the question that the man evacuated any such quantity; neither is there any reason to suppose that every gallon received the same amount of contaminating matter; but the story may serve to show that in speaking of one grain in the gallon, we speak of a very large amount of polluting matter present in the water. It may be thought of as an amount not likely to have been exceeded in the particular samples of Caterham water that did actually produce disease in the individuals who drank it.
Pages 127-165:  APPENDIX B. No. 1.  On the Results of Examination of certain Samples of Water purposely Polluted with Excrements from Enteric Fever Patients, and with other Matters, by Dr. Robert Cory.

1883 "Cholera and our Water Supply," by Percy F. Frankland, M.D., Nineteenth Century 14(68):346-355 (August, 1983)
In the case of two zymotic diseases, and these the most fatal and destructive of the entire class, namely, Asiatic cholera and typhoid fever, it is proved beyond all doubt that water contaminated with drainage which has been infected by patients suffering from these diseases, is capable of inducing the same diseases in persons drinking of this infected water.

1883 "Cholera and Water Supply," Engineering News 10:434-435 (September 15, 1883)

1883 Bacteria and the Germ Theory of Disease, by Henry Gradle

1883 Water Supply Considered Mainly from a Chemical and Sanitary Standpoint, by Prof. William Ripley Nichols of MIT

1884 "Sechester Bericht der deutschen Wissenschaftlichen Commission zur Enforschung der Cholera," Dr. Koch, Kalkitta, des 2. February 1884, Deutsche Medizinische Wochenschrift 10(12):191-192 (March 20, 1884)

1884 "Cholera disinfection," The Medical News 45:127 (August 2, 1884)
If we can only preserve the drinking water from contamination, it is impossible for cholera to become epidemic.

1884 "A British Cholera Mission," The British Medical Journal 2(1232):292 (August 9, 1884)
Two distinguished British pathologists are now on their way to India to investigate the nature of cholera as seen in that country. On August 6th, Dr. Klein, Lecturer on Histology at St. Bartholomew's Hospital, and Dr. Heneage Gibbes, who holds a similar appointment at the Westminster Hospital, left England in the Peninsular and Oriental steamship Ancona. These well-known histologists and pathologists are associated in a commission from the British Government, and also work for a similar commission in India, but quite untrammelled, in the investigation of cholera, its pathology, propagation, and habitat. Drs. Klein and Gibbes are bound for Bombay, whence they will start for a scientific tour all over our Indian empire.  Every possible facility will be afforded to them by the Indian authorities in this, the most important commission that has ever been sent to India; and it is fortunate that two such able men have been chosen for the purpose, the reputation of Dr. Klein having long been recognised, whilst Dr. Gibbes is not only a high authority on bacteria and the proper manner of detecting them and preparing them for microscopical demonstration, but, we are informed, has already travelled in the East. They take with them, as skilled assistant, Mr. Alfred Lingard, who has for some weeks been engaged in the preparation of a large number of cultivating tubes, and they are provided with a complete set of apparatus, so as to be able to carry out their researches as completely and perfectly as though they were conducted in an European laboratory.

1884 "Die Conferenz sur Eröterung der Cholerafrage," Deutsche Medizinische Wochenschrift 10(32):499-507 (August 7, 1884); 10(32A):519-332 (August 11, 1884)

1884 Report on the Prevention of Epidemic Cholera in America, adopted by the American Public Health Association and the Conference of State Boards of Health
The cause of cholera is contained in the discharges from persons affected by the disease, or in things infected by such discharges.

1884 Cholera disinfection : what to use and how to do it.  Collection of articles

1884 "Die Aetiologie der Tuberkulose," von Dr. Robert Koch, Mitteilungen aus dem Kaiserlichen Gesundheitsamte 2:1-88 (1884)

1884 "Zur Aetiologie des Abdominaltyphus" (On the etiology of abdominal typhus), by Georg Gaffky, Mittheilungen aus dem Kaiserlichen Gesundheitsamte 2:372-420. (1884)

1885 The sanitary needs of Toledo, in view of the probable approach of cholera: read before the Social Science Club, Feb. 28th, 1885, by William W. Jones, M.D.
My observation and experience with cholera in this country has convinced me that it is not contagious, as that term is used in connection with small-pox, measles, pumps, and, perhaps, whopping couch in children, but that its spread is greatly due to that undefined and undetermined influence of mind upon mind, which is more felt than seen, and which disturbes that individual by its depressant action upon his mental and nerve force.

1885 "Cholera," by Dr. Max Von Pettenkoffer, Popular Science Monthly 26:503-516 (February, 1885) | 26:621-632 (March 1885)

1885 "The Epidemic of Typhoid Fever at Plymouth, Pennsylvania," The Medical News 46(20):541-543 (May 16, 1885)

1885 "The cholera and the comma bacillus," The British Medical Journal 1(1273):1076-1077 (May 23, 1885)

1885 "The Etiology of the Plymouth Epidemic," by William Stone Torrey, M.D., Medical Record 27(23):626-627 (June 6, 1885)

1885 "The Plymouth Epidemic," by Hermann M. Biggs, M.D., Medical Record 27(26):715-716 (June 27, 1885)

1885 "An Epidemic of Typhoid Fever at Plymouth, Pa. (Second Paper)," by Lewis H. Taylor, M.D.,  The Medical News 46(25):681-686 (June 30, 1885)

1885 "The Typhoid Fever Epidemic at Plymouth, Pa.," by Cyrus Edson, M.D., The Sanitarian 14:530-537 (June, 1885)

1885 Report Upon the Epidemic of Typhoid Fever at Plymouth, Luzerne County, Pa, by Morris Stroud French and Edward Oram Shakespeare

1885 Disinfection and Disinfectants.  Preliminary Report made by the Committee of the American Public Health Association, by George M. Sternberg, M.D., Surgeon, U.S. Army | Also here |

1885 Cholera: inquiry by Doctors Klein and Gibbes and Transactions of a committee convened by the Secretary of State for India in Council 

1885 Report on the cholera-bacillus, by William Watson Cheyne

1886 "Water Purification: Its Biological and Chemical Basis," by Frankland Percy, Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers 85:197-220 (January, 1886)

1886 "The Official Refutation of Dr Robert Koch's Theory of Cholera and Commas," Quarterly Journal of Microscopical Sciences 26:303-316 (February, 1886)

1886 "Report upon the Epidemic of Typhoid Fever at Plymouth, Pennsylvania," by Lewis H. Taylor, M.D., First Annual Report of the State Board of Health of Pennsylvania.

1886 "Versuche über die Desinfection des Kiel-oder Bilgeraums von Schiffen," von Geh. Med.-Rath Dr. Koch und Reg.-Rath Dr. Gaffky, Arbeiten aus dem Kaiserlichen Gesundheitsamte 1:199-221 (1886)

1886 "The Bacteria in Asiatic Cholera," by Emanuel Edward Klein, M.D., The Practitioner 37(4):241-258  (October, 1886); 37(5):334-350 (November, 1886); 37(6):414-425 (December, 1886)

1886 Report and papers on cholera. Submitted by the Medical Office of the Local Government Board, 1886 | also here |

1886 "Report on Cholera by the Medical Officer of the Local Government Board," The Practitioner 37(5) 385-397 (November, 18886)

1886 "Typhoid fever, Gaffky (Dr.), The aetiology of enteric fever. Translated by Dr. J.J. Pringle," New Sydenham Society 115:203-257

1887 "Von Pattenkofer's latest views on cholera," The Lancet 130(3337):339-340 (August 13, 1887)

1887 "Untersuchungen über die desinficirende Wirkung des Kalkes," by Paul Liborius, Zeitschrift für Hygiene, 2:15-51 (1887)

1889 "Sanitary Works at Munich," by Prof. Dr. Max Von Pettenkofer, Weekly Abstract of Sanitary Reports 4(43):337-351 (October 25, 1889)

1889 "Desinfection der Typhus- und Choleraausleerungen mit Kalk," by E. Pfuhl, Zeitschrift für Hygiene, 6:97-104 (1889)

1889 The Bacteria in Asiatic Cholera, by Edward Klein

1890 "Ueber die desinficirende Eigenschaft des Chlorkalkes," by Dr. med. Franz Nissen, Zeitschrift für Hygiene und Infectionskrankheiten, 8:62-77 (1890)

1890 Water Analysis for Sanitary Purposes: With Hints for the Interpretation of Results, Second Edition, Revised, by Edward Frankland

1892 "First Report to the Water Research Committee of the Royal Society, on the Present State of Our Knowledge concerning the Bacteriology of Water, with Especial Reference to the Vitality of Pathogenic Schizomycetes in Water," by Percy F. Frankland and Marshall Ward, Proceedings of the Royal Society of London 51:183-279 (1892)

1893 "Einfaches Verfahren Wasser in grossen Mengen keimfrei zu machen," by Moritz Traube, Zeitschrift für Hygiene und Infectionskrankheiten, 16:149-150 (1894)

1894 “The Electrical Purification of Water,” by Thomas M. Drown, Journal of the New England Water Works Association 8(4):183-187 (June, 1894)
Page 185: the idea itself of chemical disinfection is repellent.

1894 "Einfaches Verfahren Wasser in grossen Mengen keimfrei zu machen," von Moritz Traube, Zeitschrift für Hygiene und Infectionskrankheiten 16:149-150 (1894)  | Moritz Traube |

1895 “Sand Filtration of Water, with Special Reference to Results Obtained, at Lawrence, Massachusetts,” by George W. Fuller, from American Public Health Association, Public Health Papers and Reports 20:64-71 (1895).
Page 64:  While chemicals have been of much aid in surgery by bringing about antisepsis and asepsis, it is very improbable that people would allow their drinking water to be drugged with chemicals, even with the view of removing dangerous bacteria – indeed, such a method might prove very dangerous in many cases.

1895 "Zur Herstellung keimfreien Trinkwassers durch Chlorkalk," by Marine-Stabsarzt Dr. Bassenge, commandirt zum Institute für Infectionskrankheiten, Zeitschrift für Hygiene und Infectionskrankheiten, 20:227-244 (December, 1895)

1895 "Die Gewinnung von keimfreiem Trinkwasser durch Zusatz von Chlorkalk (Verfahren von M. Traube)," von Dr. Alois Lode, Archiv für Hygiene 24:236-264 (1895)

1896 "The Preparation of Germ-free Drinking-Water by means of Calcium Chloride," by Dr. Bassenge.  From Zeitschrift für Hygiene, 1895, p. 227.  Minutes of Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers, 123:493

1896 "Water Purification in New Jersey," by Moses Nelson Baker, C. E. of Upper Montclair, N. J. (Associate Editor, "Engineering News," New York), Twentieth Annual Report of the Department of Health of the State of New Jersey. 20:229-266 (1896)

1896 Water and Water Supplies, by John C. Thresh

1897 "The Typhoid Epidemic at Maidstone," Journal of the Sanitary Institute 18(3):388 (October, 1897)
Under the personal supervision of Dr. Sims Woodhead, acting on behalf of the water company, the reservoir and mains of the Farleigh area of water supply at Maidstone were on Saturday night disinfected with a solution of chloride of lime. About ten tons of the lime were mixed in the reservoir with 200,000 gallons of water, and afterwards the mains throughout the town were charged at full pressure with the solution. At a certain hour the liquid was allowed to flow through the whole of the house connexions in the districts concerned, and eventually the solution left in the mains was got rid of through the various fire hydrants in the streets.

1897 Waterborne typhoid: a historic summary of local outbreaks in Great Britain and Ireland, 1858-1893 (with a tabular analysis of 205 epidemics). A report prepared for the Parliamentary Bills Committee of the British Medical Association by Ernest Hart

1898 "The History of Enteric Fever in Munich," The Lancet 151(3884):377-378 (February 5, 1898)

1898 "The History of Typhoid Fever in Munich," by Christopher Childs, Read January 21, 1898, Transaction of the Epidemiological Society of London 17:41-59 (1898)

1898 The Purification of Public Water Supplies, by John Willmuth Hill

1899 "Ueber Sterilisation des Wassers mittels Ozon," by Dr. Th. Weyl. 71. Versammlung deutscher Naturforscher und Aerzte zu München

1899 "Keimfreies Trinkwasser mittels Ozon," von Th. Weyl," Centralblatt für Bakteriologie, Parasitenkunde und Infektionskrankheiten 26:15-32 (1899) | also here |

1900 Abstract of report on the origin and spread of typhoid fever in U.S. military camps during the Spanish War of 1898, by Walter Reed, Victor C. Vaughan, and Edward O. Shakespeare

1901 Typhoid fever and Typhus Fever, by Heinrich Curschmann; edited with additions by William Osler, M.D.; Translated under the direction of Alfred Stengel, M.D.

1901 "Chlorinated Lime (Trauabe's Method)," Public Water-supplies: Requirements, Resources, and the Construction of Works, by Frederick Eugene Turneaure and Harry Luman Russell

1902 Principles of Sanitary Science and the Public Health: With Special Reference to the Causation and Prevention of Infectious Diseases, by William Thompson Sedgwick

1903 Typhoid outbreak at Cornell University in Ithaca.

1903 “A Chemical Method of Sterilizing Water Without Affecting its Potability.” by Vincent B. Nesfield, Public Health. 15(7):601–3 (July, 1903)

1903 Contagious and Infectious Diseases: Disinfection and Disinfectants. An Introduction to the Subject, by Carl L. Barnes, M.D.

1904 A Method of Destroying or Preventing the growth of Algae and Certain Pathogenic Bacteria in Water Supplies, by George Thomas Moore and Karl Frederic Kellerman.  U.S. Department of Agriculture. Bureau of Plant Industry - Bulletin No. 64.

1905. “A Simple Chemical Process of Sterilizing Water for Drinking Purposes for Use in the Field and at Home,” by Vincent B. Nesfield, The Journal of Preventive Medicine. 8: 623-32.

1905 "Discussion on Purification of Water for Domestic Use” by George C. Whipple, from Transactions of the American Society of Civil Engineers 54 Part D:192-106 (1905).
Page 199:  George C. Whipple - Thus in St. Louis the popular prejudice against the use of alum in clarifying the water is said to be so intense that a local engineer has said "it is very doubtful if alum could be used, no matter how excellent the results which might be obtained."  One reason for this prejudice was well illustrated by the following expression used in an editorial in one of their local papers: "We don’t want to drink puckered water."

1906 “Disinfection as a Means of Water Purification, with discussion,” by George C. Whipple, Proceedings of the American Water Works Association 26:266-288 (1906)
Page 266:  George C. Whipple - The idea of adding poisonous chemicals to water for the purpose of improving its quality for drinking purposes has generally been considered as illogical and unsafe, and unfortunately most of the substances which have the power of disinfecting are oisonous to a greater or less extent.
Page 282:  William P. Mason - I very much question if the public at large would be willing to disinfect water to-day. We are scarcely driven that far yet.
Page 286:  P.A. Maignen - Among the so-called "disinfectants" tried may be cited copper, chlorine and oxalic acid.  All these substances are poisonous.

1907 “Pure Water,Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene 10:30 (January 15, 1907).  Discussion of the Nesfield system of water purification.

1908 Typhoid Fever: Its Causation, Transmission and Prevention, by George Chandler Whipple

1909 "Typhoid fever: infection and prevention," by Mary Hinman Abel, The Journal of Home Economics 1(2):125-130 (April, 1909)

1909 Proceedings of the Twenty-Ninth Annual Convention of the American Water Works Association | Also here |
The Sterlization of the Jersey City Water Supply Company at Boonton, N. J., by Dr. J. L. Leal
Description of the Process and Plant of the Jersey City Water Supply Company for the Sterilization of the Water of the Boonton Reservoir, by George W. Fuller
Description of Methods of Operations of the Sterilization Plant of the Jersey City Water Supply Company at Boonton, N. J., by George A. Johnson
Discussion on papers by Messrs, Leal, Fuller and Johnson

1909 The Disinfection of Sewage and Sewage Filter Effluents, by Earle Bernard Phelps, USGS Water-Supply Paper 229

1910 "The Disinfection of Polluted Water," by Clyde Potts, C.E. '01, The Cornell Civil Engineer 18(9):342-348 (June, 1910)

1910 "Hyperchlorite Treatment of Public Water Supplies; Its Adapability and Limitations," A paper by George A. Johnson, New York, presented before the Milwaukee Convention of the American Public Health Association. The Engineering Record 62(12):321-323 (September 17, 1910)

1912 "The Development of the Hypochlorite Treatment of Drinking Water," by H. A. Whittaker, Meeting of March 19, 1912 Transactions of the Minnesota Pathological Society 1:64-70.

1912 "The Present Status of the Anti-Typhoid Campaign in Germany," by William W. Ford, M.D., Bulletin of the Johns Hopkins Hospital 23(259):269-274 (September, 1912)

1913 The Purification of Public Water Supplies, by George A. Johnson, USGS Water-Supply paper 315

1913 Chloride of Lime in Sanitation, by Albert H. Hooker

1914 "Practical Talk on Water Purification," The Water Chronicle: Devoted to All Water Utilization, 4:(3): 125-132 (September, 1914) Good description of the Jersey City chlorination plant.

1916 "Water Purification Plants in Large American Cities," Municipal Journal (July 13, 1916) 41(2):39 (July 13, 1916)

1916 "Sterilizing Water and Cleaning Mains," Municipal Journal 41:153-156 (August 10, 1916)

1917 Water Purification, by Joseph W. Ellms

1917 State Sanitation: A Review of the Work of the Massachusetts State Board of Health, Volume 1, by George Chandler Whipple | Volume 2 |

1918 Chlorination of Water, by Joseph Race

1918 Typhoid Fever Considered as a Problem of Scientific Medicine, by Frederick Parker Gay

1920 "The natural history of typhoid fever in Baltimore, 1851-1919," by William Travis Howard, Johns Hopkins Hospital Bulletin 31(354-355):276-334 (August-September, 1920)

1920 “Water Supply: For Municipal, Domestic and Potable Purposes, Including Its Sources, Conservation, Purification and Distribution,” by Henry Wayland Hill, The Encyclopedia Americana, 29:39–65.

1921 "Water Supply and Water Purification, a Symposium," Proceedings of the American Society of Civil Engineers 47:653-682 (1921)

1921 A half century of public health: jubilee historical volume of the American Public Health Association, in commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary celebration of its foundation, New York City, November 14-18, 1921
Pages 161-180:  Fifty Years of Water Purification, by George C. Whipple, C.E.

1922 Annual Report of Ohio Conference on Water Purification, Issues 1-8

1927 Max von Pettenkofer: his theory of the etiology of cholera, typhoid fever & other intestinal diseases : a review of his arguments and evidence, by Edgar Erskine Hume

1927 Evolution of preventive medicine, by Sir Arthur Newsholme

1928 "Modern Aspects of Chlorination of Water," by Norman J. Howard, Journal of the American Water Works Association 19(5):546-552 (May, 1928)

1931 "The Significance of Waterborne Typhoid Fever Outbreaks, 1920-1930," By Abel Wolman and Arthur E. Gorman, Journal of the American Water Works Association 23(2):160-201 (February, 1931)

1933 "Chlorination of Water, with special reference to the Cheltenham Supply," by Donald E. Morley, M.D., Perspectives in Public Health 54(9):446-446 (September, 1933)

1934 "Sketch of the History of Water Treatment," by Moses Nelson Baker, Journal of the American Water Works Association 26(7):902-938 (July, 1934)

1934 "Sir Alexander Cruikshank Houston, 1865—1933," Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society 1(3):334-344 (December, 1934)
Houston may be said to have devoted a large portion of the remainder of his life to perfecting the analysis of water by the application of bacteriology on thoroughly scientific lines with the result that to-day at any rate as regards the chief danger, namely, pollution from sewage, the purity and safety of water can be guaranteed; provided the methods of analysis elaborated by him are applied.

1935 Sedgwick's Principles of sanitary science and public health.  Revised and Enlarged by Samuel Cate Prescott, and Murray Philip Horwood | also here |

1939 "Water-borne Outbreaks in the United States and Canada and Their Significance," by Arthur Gorman and Abel Wolman, Journal of the American Water Works Association 31(2):225-373 (February, 1939)

1939 Water-borne Outbreaks in the United States and Canada and Their Significance, by Arthur Gorman and Abel Wolman.  Reprint of the above article.

1944 “Destruction of Micro-Organisms,” Shih Lu Chang, Journal of the American Water Works Association 36(11):1192-1207 (November, 1944)

1947 "Etiological theory in America prior to the Civil War," by Phillis Allen, Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences 2(4):492-498 (Autumn, 1947)

1949 The quest for pure water; the history of water purification from the earliest records to the twentieth century, by Moses Nelson Baker

1949 "Americans and the Germ Theory of Disease," by Phillis Allen, PhD thesis, Unversity of Pennsylvania

1950 “Forty Years of Chlorination: 1910–1949,” by Joseph Race, Journal Institution of Water Engineers and Scientists. 4:479–505.

1954 "Some Variant Theories in Opposition to the Germ Theory of Disease," by Phyllis Allen Richmond, Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences 9(3):290-303 (July, 1954)

1954 "American Attitudes toward the Germ Theory of Disease (1860-1880)," by Phyllis Allen Richmond, Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences 9(4):428-454 (October, 1954)

1954 Water Supply and Waste-water Disposal, by Gordon M. Fair and John C. Geyer

1971 "Reception of the Germ Theory of Disease in The American Journal of Pharmacy," by Robert A. Buerki, Pharmacy in History 13(4):158-168 (1971)

1972 Public Health and the State: Changing Views in Massachusetts, 1842-1936, by Barbara Gutmann Rosenkrantz

1973 "Pettenkofer revisited: the life and contributions of Max von Pettenkofer (1818-1901)," by Alfred S. Evans, Yale Journal of Biological Medicine 46(3):161-176 (June, 1973)
Page 169:  Pettenkofer's interest and research extended to almost all aspects of the environment: air, drinking and ground water, soil, sewage, river pollution, heating, clothing, and the urban environment. He established a clean water supply for the city of Thalkirchen as a model for other cities. He influenced the burgomaster of Munich and the city architect to design and provide a clean water supply from the mountains.

1977 Pragmatic environmentalist, sanitary engineer George E. Waring, Jr., by Martin V. Melosi

1984 "Robert Koch and the cholera vibrio: a centenary, by N. Howard-Jones, British Medical Journal 288(6414):379-381 (February 4, 1984)

1985 "Two errors in enteric epidemiology: the stories of Austin Flint and Max von Pettenkofer," by Alfred S. Evans, Reviews of Infectious Diseasess 7(3):434-440 (May-June, 1985)

1987 Death in Hamburg: Society and Politics in the Cholera Years 1830-1910, by Richard J. Evans
Pages 490-508: Pettenkofer's Last Stand.

1990 A Science of Impurity: Water Analysis in Nineteenth Century Britain, by Christopher Hamlin

1990 The Sanitarians: A History of American Public Health, by John Duffy
Page 201-202:  The conquest of typhoid came in part from the sanitarians' quest for pure water and in part from the findings of bacteriology. In 1886, before the American medical profession was convinced that typhoid resulted from a specific bacillus, the Massachusetts State Board of Health established the Lawrence Experimental Station, essentially an engineering laboratory to measure water quality and study methods for improving it. In 1890 the town of Lowell requested the state bacteriologist, William T. Sedgwick, to investigate an outbreak of typhoid. Although he was unable to isolate the bacillus from the town's various water supplies, he systematically traced the epidemic to its source and thus pointed up the need to purify drinking water. Sedgwick's findings and the work already done by Hiram Mills, head of the Lawrence Engineering Laboratory, paved the way for the construction of the first open slow sand filter in 1893, an effective method for producing safe drinking water.
Almost at the same time, studies in Providence, 1893-94, and Louisville, 1895-97, demonstrated that the addition of coagulants to a mechanical filtration system could remove bacteria. The net effect of this and other research was that filtration of water was rapidly adopted in European and American cities, with most American cities relying· upon mechanical systems. By 1911 about 20 percent of America's urban population was using filtered water.  The next major step was the treatrnent of water with chlorine. It was used fairly extensively in Europe in the treatment of sewage in the late nineteenth century, but it was not until the early years of the twentieth century that it was used to purify water. In 1908 Jersey City, New Jersey, began treating its water supply, and within a few years chlorination was adopted by many cities. Chicago, which had one of the highest typhoid rates in the country, solved itS problem, first, by draining its sewers away from Lake Michigan, its water source, and, second, through chlorinating its entire water supply by 1916. In consequence, the typhoid rate, which had averaged 67 cases per 100,000 people in the 1890s, fell to 14 by 1910, and to 1 per 100,000 by 1919, the lowest rate in the country.

1992 “Searching for a water supply connection in the Cabool, Missouri disease outbreak of Escherichia coli 0157:H7.” by E. E. Geldreich, Water Research 26(8):1127-37 (August, 1992)

1992  “A waterborne outbreak in Missouri of Escherichia coli O157:H7 associated with bloody diarrhea and death,” by D.L. Swerdlow, et al.,  Annals of Internal Medicine 117(10):812-819 (November 15, 1992)

1997 "American Attitudes toward the Germ Theory of Disease:  Phyllis Allen Richmond Revisited," Nancy J. Tomes, Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences 52(1):17-50 (January, 1997)

1997 "The Maidstone typhoid outbreak of 1897: an important centenary," by R Stanwell-Smith, Eurosurveillance 1(29) (November 13, 1997)

1998 "A rivalry of foulness: official and unofficial investigations of the London cholera epidemic of 1854," by Nigel Paneth, Peter Vinten-Johansen, Howard Brody, and Michael Rip, American Journal of Public Health, 88(10):1545-1553 (October, 1998)

1999 "Typhoid Rates and the Public Acquisition of Private Waterworks, 1880-1920," by Werner Troesken, The Journal of Economic History 59(4):927-948 (December 1999)
Progressive-Era reformers claimed typhoid, a waterborne disease, was more prevalent in cities with private water companies than in cities with public water companies. This article tests this claim for the 1880 to 1920 period. The evidence suggests private companies invested in water filters more often than public companies, and that switching from private to public provision of water did little to improve typhoid

1999 Robert Koch: A Life in Medicine and Bacteriology, by Thomas D. Brock

1999 Contagion and the State in Europe, 1830-1930, by Peter Baldwin

2000 "Uneasy Bedfellows: Science and Politics in the Refutation of Koch's Bacterial Theory of Cholera," by Mariko Ogawa, Bulletin of the History of Medicine 74(4):671-707 (Winter, 2000)

2001 The Advent and Use of Chlorination to Purify Water in Great Britain and the United States,

2002 Species and Specificity: An Interpretation of the History of Immunology, by Pauline M. H. Mazumdar

2008 "Water and Chicago's Mortality Transition, 1850-1925," Explorations in Economic History 45(1):1-26 (January 2008)

2009 "Crediting his critics' concerns: Remaking John Snow's map of Broad Street cholera, 1854," by Tom Koch and Kenneth Denike, Social Science and Medicine 69(8):1246-1251 (October, 2009)

2010 "1885 Cholera Controversy: Klein versus Koch," by Bruno Atalic, Medical Humanities 36(1):43-47 (June, 2010) | also here |

2011 The Epidemic:  A Collision of Power, Privilege, and Public Health, by David DeKok | Also here (subscription required)| Ithaca typhoid patients and victims, 1903, by address  |

2013 The Chlorine Revolution: Water Disinfection and the Fight to Save Lives, by Michael J. McGuire | Also here (subscription required) | Everything you need to know about chlorination in Jersey City.

2016 Typhoid Fever: A History, by Richard Adler and Elise Mara

2018 Causality, Probability, and Medicine, by Donald Gillies

Cholera online, 1817 to 1900, National Library of Medicine

Also see the general bibliography page, which includes links to several lists of waterworks with information about pipes.


© 2016 Morris A. Pierce