July 1, 1861: Birth of Charlotte Blair; 1997: Death of Holly Cornell; 1853: Paris Water Prices; 1818: Birth of Ignaz Semmelweis; 1912: Omaha Buys Its Waterworks

Charlotte Blair

Charlotte Blair

July 1, 1861: Charlotte Blair was born in Camden, South Carolina. Miss Blair began an effort in 1905 to build a new iron pipe factory in Birmingham, Alabama, where there were extensive deposits of iron ore, limestone, and coal. She recognized the need for water and sewer pipes for the rapidly growing cities in the midst of the Industrial Revolution. She approached John J. Eagan, a wealthy Atlanta businessman who sought to invest in what he termed “a noble cause” and run the business according to the Christian principle of the Golden Rule. This was the founding of AMERICAN Cast Iron Pipe Company, who 109 years later makes iron and steel pipe for water service from 4-inches through 12-foot diameters, valves, and two lines of fire hydrants. Mr. Eagan and Miss Blair knew that clean water would be the greatest advancement in public health in the history of the world. Miss Blair was AMERICAN’s first corporate Secretary and Sales Manager, and the first female corporate Director in the state of Alabama and among the first in the nation.

Source: Nomination to Alabama Women’s Hall of Fame and AMERICAN Cast Iron Pipe archives.

Holly A. Cornell

Holly A. Cornell

July 1, 1997: Holly A. Cornell dies. Co-founder of CH2M Hill. Corvallis, Ore. – “Holly A. Cornell, one of four founding partners of the worldwide engineering firm CH2M Hill, has died. Mr. Cornell, who suffered from Parkinson’s disease and pancreatic cancer, died July 1 at his home in Wilsonville. He was 83. He was remembered at a memorial service Monday as a hard-working, focused and even-tempered man who brought out the best in company employees. Mr. Cornell, born in Boise, Idaho, graduated from Grant High School in Portland in 1932. He earned his bachelor’s degree in engineering from Oregon State College and his master’s degree from Yale. Mr. Cornell managed CH2M Hill’s Seattle office from 1970 to 1980. He served as president and chief executive officer of CH2M Hill before retiring in 1979.”

Notre Dame de Paris

Notre Dame de Paris

July 1, 1853: Prices paid to Parisian water companies for filtered water delivered in casks by porter was 0.9 francs per cubic meter. Do-it-yourselfers could buy a bucket full (18-20 liters) of filtered water for 0.025 francs. Best of all, you could water your horse with filtered Seine River water for only 0.05 francs.

Reference: ‘Baker, Moses N. 1981. The Quest for Pure Water: the History of Water Purification from the Earliest Records to the Twentieth Century. 2nd Edition. Vol. 1. Denver, Co.: American Water Works Association, 54.

0320 Ignaz SemmelweisJuly 1, 1818: Ignaz Semmelweis born in Buda, Hungary. Semmelweis was a physician who introduced antiseptic procedures into obstetrical clinics. Handwashing with a chlorine solution was found to dramatically decrease the death rate of new mothers from “childbed fever.”

0701 Omaha ReservoirJuly 1, 1912: Omaha buys the waterworks. The history of water development in Omaha before the Florence Waterworks was open was colorful and rocky. “For thirteen years after Omaha was founded there were no street cars, water mains, gas, or electric lights in the new but growing town….For several years after being founded Omaha was a town without a bath tub. [In later years,] Saturday night ablutions in the old wooden tub in the center of the kitchen floor were no uncommon thing. Or the hardy seekers after cleanliness took a dip in the river. The Saturday bath was an institution not lightly given over to modern changes.

Women carried water from well or cistern, except when they could induce their husbands to carry it for them, and the old wood cook stove…were to be found in every home. The first agitation for a city water works system was started as early as 1857. Several times in the following 20 years the question of a water system was brought up without any action being taken. An artesian well system was the favorite with the early settlers. They looked askance at the Missouri river water.

Before the water plant was built, large cisterns were constructed in the middle of the street intersections in the business district. Water was pumped from those cisterns when a business building caught fire. They proved better than nothing, but at that were far from satisfactory….

The [first water] system was opened in 1881 with 17 miles of pipe. Omaha’s first big municipal scandal developed in connection with the waterworks agitation. A prominent citizen was charged with bribing a councilman, but the charge was not substantiated. On August 1, 1889, the Florence waterworks was opened and a big day it was. Speeches were made and a banquet was served at what is still called the Minne Lusa pumping station.

Service given by the old Omaha waterworks company was not the best in the world and agitation for municipal ownership of the plant started as early as 1896. United States Senator R.B. Howell was the prime mover in the fight to take over the water plant. The city eventually bought the plant on July 1, 1912, for $6,319,000, a rather stiff price.”

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