Tag Archives: common cup

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

April 4, 1912: Common Cup, Typhoid Warning and Electric Purification

April 4, 1912: Municipal Journal articles.

“Wage War on Public Drinking Cups. Topeka, Kan.-To prevent the spread of epidemic diseases the State Board of Health has issued an order that public drinking cups must be removed from all the cities of Kansas. City officials were notified the order must be enforced rigidly and business men were requested to remove common drinking cups from their places of business.” Commentary: Samuel J. Crumbine about whom I have often written over the last seven months was responsible for the ban in Kansas.

“Typhoid Warning at Logansport. Logansport, lnd.-The city’s supply of drinking water is practically cut off owing to the condition of the water following the flood in Eel river, which is the source of the city’s water supply. The high water swept away barns and outbuildings for miles above the city, and seeping back into the river was pumped into the mains. Dr. John Bradfield, secretary of the city health board, has issued a warning to citizens to refrain from drinking the water. The Cass County Medical Society has supplemented the action of the city health board by publishing a statement declaring that an epidemic of typhoid will follow the flood unless the use of city water for drinking purposes is stopped. The three artesian wells which were recently drilled by the city have been surrounded by crowds and water carts are supplying hundreds of homes with water from the wells.”

“Electric Purification To Be Tried. Eldorado, Kan.-Sewage at Eldorado will be disinfected by electricity. The engineers of the State university, are making a test of a system by which waste is disintegrated and all organic matter destroyed by an electric current.” Commentary: Everyone was fascinated by electric power at the turn of the 20th century. Unfortunately, destroying wastes by electrical current was not one of the successful applications.

Reference: Municipal Journal. 32:14(April 4, 1912): 525.

#TDIWH—February 23, 1893: Interstate Quarantine Act Becomes Law

0223 Interstate Quarantine RegulationsFebruary 23, 1893: Interstate Quarantine Act becomes law. “In 1893 Congress passed the Interstate Quarantine Act to reduce the spread of communicable diseases through interstate commerce. The act gave the Department of the Treasury broad powers to establish regulations preventing the spread of disease from one state to another in the following clause (Cumming 1932; Kraut 1994):

‘The Secretary of the Treasury shall, if in his judgment it is necessary and proper, make such additional rules and regulations as are necessary to prevent the introduction of such diseases (communicable) into the United States from foreign countries, or into one State or Territory or the District of Columbia from another State or Territory or the District of Columbia ….’

This clause was not immediately perceived as requiring any regulations relating to drinking water. In fact, methods of bacteriological analysis and water treatment were not sufficiently developed at this time for the establishment of quantitative standards.”

Reference: Fischbeck, Paul S. and R. Scott Farrow eds. Improving Regulation: Cases in Environment, Health and Safety. Washington, DC:Resources for the Future. 2001, p. 52.

Commentary: However, in 1912 the common cup was banned on interstate carriers using this law as the basis for regulation by the Treasury Department. In 1914, the first microbiological drinking water regulations were adopted under the Interstate Quarantine Act that governed the quality of water served aboard interstate carriers (trains, riverboats and Great Lakes steamers).

#TDIWH—January 28, 1912: Common Cup Banned in 24 States

1030 Common CupJanuary 28, 1912: New York Times headline—The Drinking Cup Law: It is Now in Force in 24 States. “The fact that in one year the common drinking cup has been abolished by law in twenty-four States is commented upon as follows in the Journal of the American Medical Association:

Public sentiment is a strange and illusive force. It sometimes fails to respond, in spite of every effort to arouse its interest in a worthy case. Again, it suddenly asserts itself without any known reason. One of the strangest of recent manifestations of this force of public sentiment is the present crusade against the common drinking cup. For years physicians and sanitarians have urged the danger and the filthiness of common drinking utensils. With few exceptions their words seemed to fall on deaf ears. The public, apparently, was not interested. But suddenly, without any manifest reason, the point of saturation seemed to be reached. Crystallization of public opinion began. States began to enact laws, and cities to pass ordinances abolishing the common drinking cup in all public places. State after State took it up. There was no concerted movement; there was scarcely any organization behind it; there was little special effort needed.

The people evidently had made up their minds that common drinking cups were bad and must go. So they have abolished them in at least twenty-four States in a little more than one year’s time. These States are California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, and Washington. Doubtless the other States will act as soon as they have an opportunity.

The moral is: Saturate the public with facts, and when the people are convinced, they will act.”

Commentary: I wish it were that easy. Generally, the public resists hearing about facts related to public health. However, clearly a “tipping point” of some sort had been reached in the public’s consciousness. The action of the states clearly led to the federal action later in 1912. On October 30, 2012, we observed the 100th anniversary of the first federal drinking water regulation, which was adopted by the U.S. Treasury Department that prohibited the use of the common drinking cup on interstate carriers. Seven articles in my blog safedrinkingwaterdotcom

December 11, 1913: Interesting Water Articles from Over 100 Years Ago

December 11, 1913: Municipal Journal Articles. Below are some interesting articles from over 100 years ago about water supply and water safety.

1211 Skull Common CupAbolish Common Towel and Cup. Harrisburg, Pa.-Common cups and towels have been banished by the State Board of Health. Anyone violating the new regulation is liable to a fine of $100. Glasses that have been used must be washed in boiling water, and towels must always be freshly laundered. Dr. Dixon, State Commissioner of Health, states that many communicable diseases can thereby be avoided.

Open Water System. South Orange, N. J.-The Village of South Orange, with its 6,000 inhabitants, is obtaining 1ts water supply from its new municipally-owned artesian wells and pumping plant. The ceremonies marking the opening of the system were in charge of Village President Francis Speir, Jr….The plant includes a number of artesian wells in the valley below First Mountain, from which the water is carried by large pipes to a reservoir on top of the mountain. The reservoir is hewn out of solid rock and holds 50,000,000 gallons.

Reservoir Dam Breaks. Abilene, Tex.-A break has occurred in the dam at Syth Lake Reservoir, effecting a great gap through which 600,000,000 gallons of water escaped. A large section of the land bordering on the reservoir was badly flooded. The city of Abilene had to go without water and for that reason the electric power plant was forced to shut down its boilers. The manufacturing plants were also unable to operate.

1211-1913-fire-hydrantHydrants to be Standardized. Oak Point, Cal.-An important improvement was ordered for this district by Commissioner of Public Works E. M. Wilder. Wilder has directed that all hydrants be standardized so that the same size wrench or spanner may open any of the hydrants in this district. Recently many complaints have been filed on account of broken nuts on the hydrants, caused by the use of different kinds of wrenches.

Reference: Municipal Journal. 1913. 35:24(December 11, 1913): 800.

November 15, 1910: New York Abolishes Common Cup

1211 Skull Common CupNovember 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.

October 30, 1912: 104th Anniversary of Regulation Banning the Common Cup

1030 Common CupOctober 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 glass. 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.

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.