Tag Archives: common cup

November 15, 1910: New York Abolishes Common Cup

November 15, 1910New York Times headline—Would Abolish Common Cup. “Albany, Nov. 15—“There is no excuse for a public drinking cup, on the train or anywhere else, now that penny-in-the-slot machines serve out paper cups and that metal collapsible cups can be purchased for a dime,” says a circular sent out by the State Department of Health. The Health Department is co-operating with the railroads to do away with the public drinking cup on trains and in railroad stations. It is stated that there is great possibility of the transmission of disease by the use of the common drinking cup….”

CommentaryOn October 30, 2012, we observed the 100th anniversary of the first drinking water regulation, which was adopted by the U.S. Treasury Department that prohibited the use of the common drinking cup on interstate carriers. Individual states like New York and Kansas led the way by raising awareness of this serious public health problem. Seven articles in my blog safedrinkingwaterdotcom provided a countdown to the anniversary date.

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October 30, 2012: 105th Anniversary of Regulation Banning the Common Cup

October 30, 1912. At the turn of the 20th century, public health professionals were still struggling to incorporate the precepts of the germ theory into all of their protocols. The general population was even further behind and, in many cases, resisted the momentum for change. One popular custom during this period was the use of a single cup or dipper for a pail of water or water cooler aboard trains—the common cup. Disease transmission as a result of using a common cup in public places was a serious problem far longer than imaginable. In 1902, the MIT professor and noted author William T. Sedgwick recognized the danger of the common drinking cup, cautioned against its use and noted that the public was not concerned, possibly due to the familiarity of its use.

“It not infrequently happens that the same persons who complain loudly and rightly enough, perhaps, of dirty streets, and are quick to blame public officials for their laxity in this respect will, nevertheless, at fountains, in railway trains or in theatres, apply their own lips to public drinking-cups which a few minutes before have been touched by the lips of strangers, possibly suffering from infectious diseases, such as tuberculosis or diphtheria.” (Sedgwick 1902)

Ten years later, the further spread of sanitary knowledge did not solve the continuing problem with the common cup. By 1912, the germ theory of disease was well established. Transmission of disease from one person to another was well understood. Isolation and quarantine were routinely practiced for those diseases transmitted from person to person. All the tools were in place to eliminate the problem of the common cup as a disease vector.

Apparently not. In a report from the New Jersey State Board of Health, it was noted that a state law prohibiting the use of a common cup aboard trains and boats had been passed prior to 1912. However, there was significant opposition to the law, because the operators of the trains and boats were not providing individual drinking cups (because they did not have to) and the public was unaware that they had to bring their own cups. The law had been attacked because no evidence had been presented proving disease transmission by the common cup and the regulation banning the common cup was an interference with individual rights—presumably New Jersey was interfering with the right of people to get sick. The following passage from the New Jersey report needs no explanation.

“One of the representatives of this Board [New Jersey State Health Board] while traveling on a railroad train noted that a family of children [was] afflicted with whooping-cough. As the children had spasmodic attacks, after each attack had passed they would go to the water cooler and take a drink from the glass which was used in common by all the passengers. After this had been repeated several times the inspector took occasion to go to the cooler, and holding the glass to the light found that it was smeared with the infected mucous from the mouths of these children.” (Board of Health, 1913)

Voices representing the railroad company interests added to this bizarre conversation in 1912.

“In 1912, an editorial in Railway and Locomotive Engineering lamented the passing of what it saw as a humane and democratic custom, complaining, ‘The cranks whose senseless agitation has eliminated the public drinking cup, even in the Pullman cars, have inflicted much discomfort upon ordinary people and have largely increased the business of saloon keepers.’” (Tomes 1998)

Sedgwick noted a “technological” solution to the common cup problem that we take for granted today. “A sanitary fountain has been devised, and is in use in many places, to do away with the public drinking-cup, and in so far as it is successful in doing this, it deserves the warm commendation of sanitarians…any one who wishes simply leans over and drinks from a little fountain [small jet of water] provided for the purpose.” (Sedgwick 1902) Bubblers are still in use today with, perhaps, the best known (and most beautiful) being the public water fountains in Portland, Oregon.

States got into the act with regulations on the use of the common cup (or common pail, for heaven’s sake) in schools. A series of articles on the blog safedrinkingwaterdotcom counting down to October 30, 2012, chronicled the efforts of Dr. Samuel J. Crumbine to ban the common cup in Kansas.

Aiding the migration away from the mucous-smeared common cup was the invention of the disposable paper cup in 1907 by Lawrence Luellen. The Dixie Cup was introduced about 1908 and was first called the “Health Kup.” In 1919, the cup was named after a line of dolls made by Alfred Schindler’s Dixie Doll Company. Simple advances in technology such as the paper cup can have big impacts on public health. As one wit stated recently on a Linkedin comment, “That was one small cup for a man….” (Cook 2012)

On October 30, 1912 the federal government established the very first national drinking water regulation that banned the use of the common cup aboard interstate train carriers. (Common Drinking Cups 1912) One author has explained the arc of drinking water regulation extending from the common cup to Cryptosporidium. (Roberson 2006)

Commentary:  Sometimes these customary practices survive long after we think they are gone—especially in other countries. In the summer of 1982, I was riding on a bus in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg). I noticed lemonade vending machines along the sidewalks where for a few kopeks citizens could get a glass of refreshment. It was not until I looked more closely that I saw that everyone was using the same glasses. After a person filled the glass with lemonade and drank from it, the obedient Soviet citizen would carefully put the glass on top of the machine for the next person to use. In the attached photo, note the glasses on top of the lemonade machines. Photo taken without Soviet government permission.

References:

Board of Health of the State of New Jersey. Thirty-Sixth Annual Report 1912. Trenton:State of New Jersey, 1913.

Cook, John B. “RE: October 30, 2012.” Email to Alan Roberson and Mike McGuire. October 22, 2012.

“Common Drinking Cups, Amendment to Interstate Quarantine Regulations (dated October 30, 1912).” Public Health Reports. 28:44 (November 1, 1912): 1773.

Roberson, J. Alan. “From Common Cup to Cryptosporidium: A Regulatory Evolution.” Jour. AWWA. 98:3 (March 2006): 198-207.

Sedgwick, William T. Principles of Sanitary Science and the Public Health: With Special Reference to the Causation and Prevention of Infectious Diseases. New York:McMillan. 1902, p. 119-20.

Tomes, Nancy. The Gospel of Germs: Men, Women, and the Microbe in American Life. Cambridge, MA:Harvard University, 1998.

July 29, 1911: Common Cup on New Jersey Trains

July 29, 1911: New York Times headline. Stops Fare Advance on Jersey Roads. “As soon as the rate matter had been disposed of the commission, sitting in the Essex County Court House, Newark, NJ went into a hearing on the question of the railway drinking cup, which the Jersey Legislature recently legislated out of existence. Practically every railroad in New Jersey was represented, and all the roads are fighting the suggestion that individual cups of paraffin or any other like substance be substituted at the railroad’s expense for the outlawed common drinking cup.

State Senator H. V. Osborne was present to urge that the roads be required to meet the situation promptly and practically so that the honest thirst of the traveling public will not go unslaked.

For the Lehigh Valley it was stated that while the public drinking cup had been taken away promptly when the law became effective, no substitute had been found. The company was considering the matter, but had not determined what could be done. The company, however, is still supplying ice water in its coaches.

At this point State Senator Osborne said the roads could very well afford to furnish individual drinking cups since they had not long ago raised the passenger rates, and were now proposing to raise them again. The suggestion did not seem to meet with instant favor from the railway representatives. Mr. Osborne stuck out, though, that the suggestion was entirely reasonable and the plan practicable. The most radical position against the roads’ doing anything seemed to be taken by W. G. Besler of the Jersey Central. At one time he argued so earnestly against giving the public anything to drink from that some present thought he was arguing on the other side. He said he had rarely seen any one drink out of the common cups as if to prove that people didn’t get thirsty on trains whether the weather was hot or not. Some who heard him at once suggested that the reason people didn’t drink was because they preferred to go thirsty rather than drink from the common cup, with its attendant risks of catching disease.

Mr. Besler further argued that while there had been an outcry when the roads first removed the cup little or no grumbling was now heard, and he thought the people were becoming satisfied either to go thirsty or carry individual cups. He said he had heard no complaints from immigrants at all, though he had suspected that this class of travelers would suffer the most. The absence of complaints from immigrants, he thought, was due to the fact that they usually carried all their possessions with them, and found it easy to fish out a cup of some sort when one was needed.”

Commentary: Interesting picture of customer service at the turn of the 20th Century. The paper Dixie Cup would ultimately replace the metal common cup in all public spaces.

July 19, 1911: Home-Made Sanitary Drinking Cup and New York’s Filtration Plant and Park

July 19, 1911: Municipal Journal articles.

Home-Made Sanitary Drinking Cup. “With a view to eliminating the dangers of infection from the use of public drinking cups, a set of “plans and specifications” for the manufacture of a sanitary drinking vessel has been prepared. All that is necessary is a piece of paper, seven inches square, which, if folded properly, will form a drinking cup that will be sufficiently sanitary for any one. The diagram shows the method of folding the paper so as to make the cup ready for immediate use. There are no sharp edges of paper at the edge of the cup, and hence no danger of cutting the lips. A cup made from an ordinary grade of book paper will keep its shape and hold water for five or ten minutes. If a hard manila wrapping paper is used the cup will be much more- durable. A convenient size cup for general use is made of a piece of paper seven inches square.

Pupils of the fourth grade at the Grant School, Trenton, N. J., did some excellent work in making paper drinking cups during the last week of the school session, and are making them at their homes for daily use at public drinking fountains. Agitation concerning the uncleanliness of public drinking cups has impressed these children with the advantage of using individual cups. It is the intention of Supervisor William R. Ward, of the manual training class, to introduce the making of cups as a regular feature in the lower grades of all the schools next September. The cups are made of manila paper, folded in such a manner that they keep their shape without any pasting, and can be conveniently carried in pockets of coats or trousers.”

Commentary: The national movement to end the common cup and the disease risks associated with its use reached down into the schools. There were numerous grass-roots efforts to impress on everyone just how dangerous it was to use a common cup. As has been noted in this blog before, individual states banned the common cup and in 1912, the common cup was banned by federal regulation on interstate modes of transportation. By the way, if you want to try the home-made cup, start out with very clean paper.

New York’s Filtration Plant and Park. “New York, N. Y.-The illustration is a sketch of the Jerome Park reservoir, for which Commissioner Thompson has been allowed an appropriation of $8,690,000 showing how it will look when half of it is roofed over and a park laid out on top of it. It is estimated that it will take about four years to complete the work, by which time the reservoir park will be made accessible by one of the new transit lines. The filter will be of the mechanical type and will have a capacity of 400,000,000 gallons a day.”

Commentary: 1911? What ever happened to the filtration plant planned for the Croton water supply? Plans for it were shelved when chlorination appeared to solve many of the bacteriological problems with this supply. Now, 100+ years later, filtration of this water supply has become a reality. The modern plant is now operational.

July 14, 1954: Death of Dr. S.J. Crumbine

Samuel J. Crumbine

July 14, 1954: New York Times headline-S.J. Crumbine Dies; ‘Frontier Doctor.’ Dr. Samuel J. Crumbine, a physician known as the “frontier doctor,” whose efforts resulted in the outlawing of a common drinking cup in trains, hotels and schools, died Monday, after a brief illness in his home at 35-37 Seventy-eighth street, Jackson Heights, Queens. His age was 91.

Dr. Crumbine is given credit for putting the phrase ‘swat the fly’ into the American vocabulary. The story is told that he hit upon it while attending a baseball game and became confused with the two expressions, ‘swat the ball’ and ‘get the fly.’

From 1923 to 1936 he served as general executive of the American Child Health Association. In 1930, at the direction of President Herbert Hoover, he made a three-month survey of children’s health conditions in Puerto Rico.

As the result of the report Dr. Crumbine made, President Hoover established a six-year plan for the rehabilitation and relief of children in Puerto Rico.

Dr. Crumbine set up his first practice in 1885 in Dodge City, Kan. when that city had many outlaws. He remained there until 1904, when he moved to Topeka and became executive officer of the Kansas Board of Health. He held this post until 1923. In addition, from 1911 to 1919, Dr. Crumbine was dean of the School of Medicine of Kansas University….

In 1907, after seeing persons drinking from a common cup on a railroad train—a cup that sick persons also had used—Dr. Crumbine began a drive to abolish the common cup and the roller towel. Two years later the Kansas Legislature voted to outlaw both. It was said that the ruling out of the common cup led to the invention of the paper drinking cup.”

Commentary: As a direct result of Dr. Crumbine’s efforts, the first national drinking water regulation outlawing the common cup on interstate carriers was passed in 1912.

May 24, 1911: Common Cup Banned in Chicago and New Jersey

May 24, 1911: Municipal Journal articles.

Drinking Cup Outlawed. “Chicago, Ill.-Chicago physicians are united in praising the action of the Council in outlawing the common drinking cup. Under the terms of the ordinance, public drinking cups must disappear by August 8. All cups and glasses found in schools, office buildings, department stores, physicians’ reception rooms and all public places will be seized.”

Water Cups to Go. “Plainfield, N. ].-The use of the common drinking cup in public places in Plainfield will be a thing of the past after July 4, according to the provisions of the new law enacted by the Legislature, and persons violating the act will be liable to a fine of $25 for each offense. There are a number of places in this city where the law will be effective, such as railroad stations, stores, shops, factories, etc. After July 4 paper cups in slot machines, or some other approved method will have to be adopted, not only here, but all over the State.”

Reference: Municipal Journal. 1911. 30:21(May 24, 1911): 748.

Commentary: The laws passed to ban the common cup had some teeth. They seized any common cups that they found in Chicago and there was a $25 fine in New Jersey. Wait a minute. Common cups were banned in physician waiting rooms? Doctors’ offices? Where people are sick? Gee, that seems kind of harsh.

April 21, 1859: First London Drinking Fountain; 2012: Kirkwood Memorial Dedicated

April 21, 1859: London’s Oldest Drinking Fountain. “A rather humble looking fountain set into the railing outside the Church of St Sepulchre-without-Newgate at the corner of Giltspur Street and Holborn Viaduct, it’s easy to overlook this important part of London’s historic fabric.

But this free water fountain is London’s oldest and was installed here on 21st April, 1859, by the then Metropolitan Drinking Fountain Association. Established by Samuel Gurney – an MP and the nephew of social reformer Elizabeth Fry, the organization aimed to provide people with free drinking water in a bid to encourage them to choose water over alcohol.

Within two years of the fountain’s creation, the organization – which later changed its name to Metropolitan Drinking Fountain and Cattle Trough Association in reflection of its expanded role in also helping animals – had placed as many as 85 fountains across London.

Such was the need for a clean water supply that, according to the Drinking Fountain Association, as many as 7,000 people a day used the fountain when it was first installed.

The fountain on Holborn Hill was removed in 1867 when the nearby street Snow Hill was widened during the creation of the Holborn Viaduct and the rails replaced but it was returned there in 1913. Rather a poignant reminder of the days when water wasn’t the publicly available resource it is today, the marble fountain still features two small metal cups attached to chains for the ease of drinking and carries the warning, ‘Replace the Cup!’”

April 21, 2012: Memorial to James P. Kirkwood dedicated by the St. Louis Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers. Kirkwood was the civil engineer hired by St. Louis, MO to investigate filtration of their water supply. He wrote the classic book Report on the Filtration of River Waters, which was the first book in any language to focus on the filtration of municipal water supplies. The book summarized his investigation covering 1865-69 where he described the filters and filter galleries he visited in 19 European water works. Kirkwood died on April 22, 1877.

Kirkwood Aqueduct, St. Louis, MO