Documentary History of American Water-works

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

Timeline of Significant Events in American Water-Works

These are some of the most notable events in the history of American Water Works.

1649 Boston MA William Tyng granted James Everill and Joshua Scottow the right to install pipes and use water from a spring on his property to supply nearby buildings.  The owners were granted a charter by the Massachusetts General Court on June 1, 1652.  The company operated until being authorized by the state to sell their property in 1817.
1750 Schaefferstown PA Alexander Schaeffer founded Schaefferstown in 1743.  He built The King George hotel around 1746, which still stands as The Franklin House, and constructed a water system from a spring on a nearby hill sometime before 1750.  Schaeffer and his wife deeded the water system to local residents on July 16, 1763.  The entity is owned and operated by local water consumers who received a corporate charter for the Schaefferstown Water Company on April 16, 1845
1754 Pittsfield MA The first water supply system was a two-mile aqueduct of wooden pipes constructed in 1754 by Charles Goodrich to serve buildings around Wendell Square.  It was unsuccessful either due to faulty construction or being torn up by a landowner unhappy that the pipes were installed on his property. 
1754 Bethlehem PA Hans Christopher Christiansen built a system that pumped water to an elevated tank in 1754, which he demonstrated on June 21st of that year when it threw a jet of water "as high as the adjoining houses."
New York City
The city contracted with Christopher Colles to build a system using a steam engine to pump water into an elevated reservoir where it would be distributed through wooden pipes through 14 miles of streets.  The steam engine was completed and demonstrated, but the British occupation of Manhattan in September, 1775 halted the work, which was destroyed..
Luther Emes petitioned the Massachusetts House of Representatives on June 16, 1794 for a company to be incorporated to supply water to the city of Boston, which was granted and signed by the governor on February 17, 1795.  The Aqueduct Corporation built a gravity system distributing water from Jamaica Pond that began service in August, 1798. 
New York City
The Manhattan Company was incorporated on April 2, 1799 to supply the city with water under a very broad charter that the company used to engage in banking.  The company built a system that used a horse (and later a steam engine) to pump water into an elevated tank and reservoir, and began delivering water in November, 1799.  
The Albany Common Council advertised for bids in November, 1794 to construct, own, and operate a water works taking water from a spring near the Five-Mile House,  They contracted with Benjamin Prescott, but the initial system was not satisfactory and Prescott built another system taking water from the Maezlant Kill north of the city, which began service in early 1800.
1801 Philadelphia
The city engaged Benjamin Latrobe to design and build water works that pumped water from the Schuylkill River using two steam engines in series pumping water to a small tank above the Centre Square engine.  Water was first supplied on January 21, 1801.
1815 Philadelphia PA The city abandoned the inefficient and unreliable 1801 works and built a new steam-powered pumping station at Fairmount that began service on February 17, 1815.
1816 York PA The York Water Company was incorporated February 23, 1816 and began service later that same year, making it the oldest investor-owned public utility in the United States.
1822 Philadelphia PA The steam engines at Fairmount proved to be more expensive than anticipated, and the city built a dam across the Schuylkill River and installed the first of several water-powered pumps that began operating on October 25, 1822.
1813 Albany NY The Albany Water Works Company installed three miles of six-inch cast iron pipes made by Holley & Coffing in Salisbury, Connecticut.  This was the first large-scale installation of cast iron pipes in the U.S.
1829 Lynchburg VA Albert Stein built a system for the city that pumped water into a reservoir 245 feet above the river.  A celebration was held upon its completion on August 18, 1829.
1842 New York City NY The 41 mile long Croton Aqueduct opened with a grand celebration on October 14, 1842.  It could deliver 95 million gallons of water daily.
1848 Boston MA The 14.5 mile long Cochituate Aqueduct opened on October 24, 1848 and could deliver 10 million gallons daily.
1851 Germantown PA The first "standing column" or standpipe was erected by H.P.M. Birkinbine on August 13, 1851.  It was 120 feet high and 60 inches in diameter. A photograph was taken of the event.
1852 Buffalo NY The Buffalo Water Works Company built a 360-foot tunnel to bring water from Lake Erie to its pumping station, which began service on January 5, 1852.
Water from the 11 mile long Washington Aqueduct reached the city on January 3, 1859.  It could deliver 68 million gallons daily.   
1860 Mobile AL Albert Stein, owner of the Mobile Water Works Company, was convicted on April 19, 1860 of poisoning his customers by using lead pipes.  The conviction was overturned the following year by the Alabama Supreme Court.
1867 Chicago IL A two-mile long lake water tunnel opened on March 23, 1867 to bring cleaner water into the city.

2018 Morris A. Pierce