October 25, 1949: Patent issued on Ductile Iron pipe. On this day, patent Number 2,485,761 was issued to Mr. K. D. Millis and others of the International Nickel Company, for “Gray Cast Iron having Improved Properties.” It has since become known as ductile iron. Gray iron becomes ductile iron through the inoculation of the molten mix with magnesium, changing the graphitic carbon from random flake forms into a more geometrically arrayed and spherical form. The new matrix provides greater yield strength, ultimate strength, and elongation properties.
Cast iron pipe producers had raced International Nickel to the patent office, but International Nickel got there first. Cast iron pipe producers soon began the commercial production of ductile iron pipe, which has supplanted cast iron due to its greater strength and toughness. Cast iron and ductile iron pipes form the backbone of America’s drinking water distribution systems.
Source: Maury D. Gaston, American Cast Iron Pipe Company.
October 25, 1848: First delivery of water from Lake Cochituate into Boston. “Lake Cochituate was created by the construction of Lake Cochituate Damto provide a reservoir for water supply to the City of Boston, via the 14-mile Cochituate Aqueduct. Lake Cochituate was the first major water supply system built for the city, and replaced the previous usage of Jamaica Pond. Developed from 1848 to 1863, it supplied Boston’s water until 1951, when the larger Wachusett and Quabbin Reservoirs replaced it. The surveys and plans for the project were performed by American civil engineer James Fowle Baldwin (1782–1862), the son of Loammi Baldwin who designed the Middlesex Canal, and younger brother of Loammi Baldwin, Jr. (1780–1838) who authored the earlier studies for a Boston water supply. The dam, located on the lake’s former northwestern outlet, formed the headworks of the water supply system, and is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.”
October 25, 1882– San Antonio (California) Water Company, Mutual Water Company, incorporated;natural waters of area part of ‘The Cucamonga Rancho’, 1839 land grant, portion of original territory granted to San Gabriel Mission; statement of purpose: “Acquiring by appropriation, purchase, or otherwise, water, water rights, water privileges and right of way in the Counties of Los Angeles and San Bernardino and to furnish, lease or sell the same for irrigation, milling, manufacturing and other purposes. To own, hold, construct and maintain canals, ditches and all structures, lands, easements and rights appertaining thereto for the purpose of taking and conveying water as herein mentioned to owners of lots and blocks in the Village of Ontario and to stockholders in this Corporation and none others. To make improvements, borrow money and transact any and all business and things connected with the business of the Corporation and relating thereto”; development of water rights, delivery services initiated as migration of people resulted in development of agriculture, business, residency; 1890s– irrigation by Zanjeros (ditch walkers; derived from Spanish words “zanja”, meaning “deep ditch or irrigation ditch”, and “zanjon”, which means, “ditch rider or overseer”; employees who constructed acequias (canals) to provide controlled, dependable water supply to farmers; gave way to automated systems.
October 25, 1987: New York Times headline–The Worlds Beneath Paris. “The great historian of the Paris sewers was, of course, Victor Hugo, who not only has his hero Jean Valjean escape the authorities through the sewers, carrying the wounded Marius Pontmercy on his back, but who also devotes six chapters of ‘Les Miserables’ to a history of the sewers and their peculiarities and dangers. Paris, Hugo wrote, ‘has another Paris under herself: a Paris of sewers, which has its streets, its crossroads, its squares, its blind alleys, its arteries, and its circulation . . . .’
By the time he wrote these words (the book was published in 1862) the city’s ancient sewer system had been considerably modernized. It has been continuously and ingeniously improved since then so that today a 1,305-mile network of canals – one so extensive that if straightened it would reach to Istanbul – carries off, treats and returns to the Seine the city’s daily discharge within the span of a single day. If in a sunny street you have ever paused to wonder at the primitive-seeming phenomenon of Parisian street-cleaning, the gurgling gutter waters directed this way and that by bundles of rags, down here you learn just how sophisticated waste disposal really is.
The tour begins with the smell, which no amount of cleansing can quite eradicate. But once into the small, well-done Musee des Egouts you quickly forget it. Here in documents, engravings, photos, diagrams and models of machinery is a short course in the evolution of the sewer system from the time when chamberpots were dumped into the streets to the present gravity-flow system whose complex network is shown in a map.”
Commentary: I have crawled through my share of sanitary sewers and there is no way that any museum would ever help me forget the smell.