Tag Archives: Moses N. Baker

#TDIWH-February 7, 1982: Death of Samuel S. Baxter; 1955: Death of Moses N. Baker

Samuel S. Baxter

February 7, 1982:  Samuel S. Baxter dies one day after his 77th birthday. Sam Baxter was the long-time Commissioner of the Philadelphia Water Department. “With the exception of military service during World War II, Sam Baxter spent his entire life living and working in Philadelphia. He was born in the city on February 6, 1905, attended public school, and graduated from high school in January 1921, just before his sixteenth birthday. He obtained a job with a sporting goods firm, but spent his evenings at Drexel Institute (now Drexel University) studying municipal engineering. One of his instructors was Thomas Buckley (APWA President, 1937), who was a senior engineer for the city. Buckley encouraged Baxter to take a civil service examination for a surveying position, and the young man became a chainman in a district field office in February 1923. Thus began a 49-year career of service to the city of Philadelphia….

He was an individual of exemplary ability, character, and charm. The roll of his accomplishments is long and enviable, but perhaps his most lasting and memorable legacy was his rare personal qualities. Sam Baxter was truly a public works “man for all seasons,” who, in the conduct of his professional and personal life, served as a paradigm for other engineer-administrators. He was self-effacing, bold, creative, competent, and adhered unwaveringly to the canons of his church and profession. Furthermore, he displayed a high degree of sensitivity to people, political acumen, ethical courage, and level-headedness under pressure that few public works leaders possess.”

Commentary:  Sam Baxter is the man who convinced me that public service, especially serving customers safe drinking water, was one of the highest callings an engineer could have. In a town that was slimed with patronage and dirty politics he was special. He had the highest moral principles and he told any Mayor that tried to control him where he could go—in the most gentlemanly fashion. I met him at a seminar at Columbia University for senior engineering students. Here was the guy running the Philadelphia Water Department taking an entire day off to hang out with undergraduates. He intrigued me.

I decided to write a senior project paper on wastewater reuse. That’s right, sewage to drinking water. I took a chance and asked Mr. Baxter (that’s what everyone called him; never “Commissioner”) if I could interview him. He agreed and was very kind to a kid who knew nothing about nothing having to do with wastewater reuse. In the course of my two interviews with him, I was impressed with him as a man and as a leader of this field of water and wastewater services. When the time came to choose among my job offers, I accepted a position with the Research and Development Unit of the Philadelphia Water Department.

I owe him a lot. I will never forget what he did for me and for the drinking water community.

February 7, 1955:  Moses N. Baker dies in Upper Montclair, New Jersey. “Moses N. Baker (1864–1955) was a noted editor and author in the field of drinking water history and technology. His most important book is still used today: The Quest for Pure Water: The History of Water Purification from the Earliest Records to the Twentieth Century. He was also active in the field of public health holding several positions on boards of health at the state and local levels….

Baker started his long career as author and editor in November 1887 when he was hired as the Associate Editor of Engineering News. This publication and the consolidated weekly Engineering News-Record which began on April 1, 1917 were the definitive sources of news about advances in the control and treatment of drinking water and sewage for decades in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He retired in 1932 after 45 years of service.

Baker collected a large library of books and source documents that he used to write his most important book, The Quest for Pure Water: The History of Water Purification from the Earliest Records to the Twentieth Century, which was first published in 1948. It was reprinted and published in 1981. He donated his collection to the American Water Works Association which transferred it to the Engineering Societies Library in New York City in 1945 for safe keeping. Unfortunately, the Engineering Societies Library went out of business in 1998 and his entire collection was dispersed….”

Moses N. Baker and Ella Baker at their 50th Anniversary celebration

Baker was a member of a number of professional organizations and societies including the New England Water Works Association, American Water Works Association and the American Economic Association. He was Chairman of the Executive Committee of the National Municipal League from 1911 to 1918. He was a member of the Montclair, New Jersey Board of Health for 20 years and served as its president from 1904 to 1915. Baker was a member and vice president of the New Jersey Department of Health in 1915-16. He served as President of the New Jersey Sanitary Association in 1904 following the term of John L. Leal.”

Commentary:  Baker is one of my heroes. It was quite a thrill to make a connection with his great grandson, Peter Varlien, who is Norwegian-American. Peter provided several photos from Moses’ and Ella’s 50th wedding anniversary for which I am very grateful. Ah, the Internet is an amazing thing.

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#TDIWH-January 26, 1864: Moses N. Baker is Born; 1788: Tank Stream Water Supply for Sydney, Australia; 1907: Letter to New York Times by Rudolph Hering

January 26, 1864:  Birth of Moses N. Baker. “Moses N. Baker (1864–1955) was a noted editor and author in the field of drinking water history and technology. His most important book is still used today: The Quest for Pure Water: The History of Water Purification from the Earliest Records to the Twentieth Century. He was also active in the field of public health holding several positions on boards of health at the state and local levels….

Baker started his long career as author and editor in November 1887 when he was hired as the Associate Editor of Engineering News. This publication and the consolidated weekly Engineering News-Record which began on April 1, 1917 were the definitive sources of news about advances in the control and treatment of drinking water and sewage for decades in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He retired in 1932 after 45 years of service….

Baker was a member of a number of professional organizations and societies including the New England Water Works Association, American Water Works Association and the American Economic Association. He was Chairman of the Executive Committee of the National Municipal League from 1911 to 1918. He was a member of the Montclair, New Jersey Board of Health for 20 years and served as its president from 1904 to 1915. Baker was a member and vice president of the New Jersey Department of Health in 1915-16. He served as President of the New Jersey Sanitary Association in 1904 following the term of John L. Leal.

He was elected an Honorary Member of the American Water Works Association and he was elected to the Water Industry Hall of Fame by the same organization in 1974.”

Commentary:  Baker is one of my heroes. It was quite a thrill to make a connection with his great grandson, Peter Varlien, who is Norwegian-American. Peter provided several photos from Moses’ and Ella’s 50th wedding anniversary for which I am very grateful. Ah, the Internet is an amazing thing.

The Old Tank Stream, Sydney, Australia

January 26, 1788: Tank Stream. Sydney, Australia is the site of the original New South Wales Colony founded on this day in 1788. Fed by local groundwater, Tank Stream served as the water supply for the first 40 years until it became too polluted to use. An excellent source of information on the history of groundwater development in Australia can be found in Chapter 7 of a free, online book about the geology of the continent that has astonishing pictures, maps and graphics.  “The [New South Wales ] colony had originally been planned for Botany Bay, on the recommendation of Sir Joseph Banks who had visited the area with Captain James Cook 17 years earlier, but when no fresh water was found there, Phillip sought a better site, and found it in the previously unvisited Port Jackson. Sydney Cove was chosen for settlement as it ‘was at the head of the cove, near the run of fresh water which stole silently along through a very thick wood.’

During a drought in 1790 three storage tanks were constructed in the sandstone beside the Tank Stream and it is from these that the stream gets its name. The Tank Stream could not meet the needs of the growing colony. It was abandoned in 1826, though it had been little more than an open sewer for the preceding two decades.”

Rudolph Hering

January 26, 1907:  Letter to the Editor, New York Times, by Rudolph Hering.  “Mr. Hering of the firm Hering and Fuller criticized the proposal to create sewage farms in the New York City area to receive the sewage generated by the City.  Mr. Poultney Bigelow proposed using the “Berlin method” to apply sewage to the land so that it would be rendered harmless and not poison fish.  Mr. Bigelow thought that the Hackensack meadows which were “useless barren waste[lands]” would be perfect for the application.  Mr. Hering noted that one acre of land would be need to dispose of the wastes from 156 people.  He suggested that a simple calculation would make it obvious that there was not enough land available to receive the flow from the City.  Besides, Mr. Hering noted, there was an enormous mass of water floating by New York–The Hudson and East Rivers.”

Commentary:  Gulp! Guess what alternative was chosen?

December 9, 1785: Albert Stein Born; 1832: William J. Magie Dies

December 9, 1785: Birth of Albert Stein in Dusseldorf, Prussia.  In Richmond, Virginia, Albert Stein was responsible for building the first slow sand filter in the U.S. for municipal supply. “Albert Stein was born in Dusseldorf, Prussia, December 9, 1785. After being educated as a civil engineer, he began work on a topographical survey of the Rhenish Provinces. In 1807, he was appointed hydraulic engineer by Murat, then Grand Duke of Berg by the favor of Napoleon I, whose cavalry had been led by Murat. After the fall of Napoleon and the cession of the duchy to Prussia, Stein resigned his position and came to America. He reached Philadelphia in 1816, where he seems to have had some relation with Frederic Graff, Chief Engineer of the Philadelphia Water Works. In 1817, Stein submitted plans for a water works at Cincinnati. About that time, also, he made surveys for a canal from Cincinnati to Dayton. For a few years beginning in 1824 he was engineer for deepening the tidal section of the Appomattox River at and below Petersburg, Va. He was engineer for water works at Lynchburg, Va., in 1828-30. While building the Richmond [filtration] works, Stein designed for Nashville, Tenn., a water works which was completed in 1832. In the period 1834-40, Stein was at New Orleans, building a reservoir for the water works there, a canal from the city to Lake Pontchartrain, and making a survey and plan for the improvement of the Southwest Pass of the Mississippi. In 1840 he leased a small, privately owned water works system at Mobile, Ala., which he improved and operated. He died July 26, 1874, on his estate at Spring Hill near Mobile.”

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, 130.

Jersey City Chlorination Facility at Boonton Reservoir

December 9, 1832:  Birth of William J. Magie. William J. Magie was selected by Vice Chancellor Frederic W. Stevens to hear the second part of the Jersey City trials.  In 1899, Jersey City, New Jersey contracted for the construction of a new water supply on the Rockaway River. The water supply included a dam, reservoir and 23-mile pipeline and was completed on May 4, 1904. City officials were not pleased with the project as delivered by the private water company and filed a lawsuit in the Chancery Court of New Jersey. The second trial was devoted, in part, to a determination of whether chlorine could be used to make the water pure and wholesome before it was delivered to Jersey City.

One might assume that someone relatively junior might be appointed as the Special Master to hear the highly technical and excruciatingly long arguments from both sides of the case.  Not so.  William Jay Magie was one of the most revered judges of this time period.  He took the role of Special Master in 1908 after completing 8 years as Chancellor of the Court of Chancery.  Prior to that, he was a member of the New Jersey Senate (1876-1878), Associate Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court (1880-1897) and Chief Justice of the same court from 1897 to 1900.

“As a trial judge his cases were handled with notable success, as he had ample experience in trying causes before juries and a just appreciation of the worth of human testimony…” Judge Magie needed all of his powers of appreciation of human testimony in the second trial, which boiled down to which of the expert witnesses could be believed when both sides marshaled some of the most eminent doctors and engineers in the land.

Judge Magie was born on December 9, 1832 in Elizabeth, New Jersey and lived his life in that town.  He graduated from Princeton College in 1852 and studied law under an attorney in Elizabeth.  He was admitted to the bar of New Jersey in 1856.  At the time of the second trial in 1908 he was 76 years old and near the end of his distinguished career.

Magie’s key ruling in the second trial was captured in the following quote:  “I do therefore find and report that this device is capable of rendering the water delivered to Jersey City, pure and wholesome, for the purposes for which it is intended, and is effective in removing from the water those dangerous germs which were deemed by the decree to possibly exist therein at certain times.”

References:

McGuire, Michael J. 2013. The Chlorine Revolution:  Water Disinfection and the Fight to Save Lives. Denver, CO:American Water Works Association.

Magie, William J. 1910. In Chancery of New Jersey: Between the Mayor and Aldermen of Jersey City, Complainant, and the Jersey City Water Supply Co., Defendant. Report for Hon. W.J. Magie, special master on cost of sewers, etc., and on efficiency of sterilization plant at Boonton. (Case Number 27/475-Z-45-314): 1–15. Jersey City, N.J.: Press Chronicle Co.

#TDIWH—February 7, 1982: Death of Samuel S. Baxter; 1955: Death of Moses N. Baker

Samuel S. Baxter

Samuel S. Baxter

February 7, 1982: Samuel S. Baxter dies one day after his 77th birthday. Sam Baxter was the long-time Commissioner of the Philadelphia Water Department. “With the exception of military service during World War II, Sam Baxter spent his entire life living and working in Philadelphia. He was born in the city on February 6, 1905, attended public school, and graduated from high school in January 1921, just before his sixteenth birthday. He obtained a job with a sporting goods firm, but spent his evenings at Drexel Institute (now Drexel University) studying municipal engineering. One of his instructors was Thomas Buckley (APWA President, 1937), who was a senior engineer for the city. Buckley encouraged Baxter to take a civil service examination for a surveying position, and the young man became a chainman in a district field office in February 1923. Thus began a 49-year career of service to the city of Philadelphia….

He was an individual of exemplary ability, character, and charm. The roll of his accomplishments is long and enviable, but perhaps his most lasting and memorable legacy was his rare personal qualities. Sam Baxter was truly a public works “man for all seasons,” who, in the conduct of his professional and personal life, served as a paradigm for other engineer-administrators. He was self-effacing, bold, creative, competent, and adhered unwaveringly to the canons of his church and profession. Furthermore, he displayed a high degree of sensitivity to people, political acumen, ethical courage, and level-headedness under pressure that few public works leaders possess.”

Commentary: Sam Baxter is the man who convinced me that public service, especially serving customers safe drinking water, was one of the highest callings an engineer could have. In a town that was slimed with patronage and dirty politics he was special. He had the highest moral principles and he told any Mayor that tried to control him where he could go—in the most gentlemanly fashion. I met him at a seminar at Columbia University for senior engineering students. Here was the guy running the Philadelphia Water Department taking an entire day off to hang out with undergraduates. He intrigued me.

I decided to write a senior project paper on wastewater reuse. That’s right, sewage to drinking water. I took a chance and asked Mr. Baxter (that’s what everyone called him; never “Commissioner”) if I could interview him. He agreed and was very kind to a kid who knew nothing about nothing having to do with wastewater reuse. In the course of my two interviews with him, I was impressed with him as a man and as a leader of this field of water and wastewater services. When the time came to choose among my job offers, I accepted a position with the Research and Development Unit of the Philadelphia Water Department.

I owe him a lot. I will never forget what he did for me and for the drinking water community.

0126 Moses N BakerFebruary 7, 1955: Moses N. Baker dies in Upper Montclair, New Jersey. “Moses N. Baker (1864–1955) was a noted editor and author in the field of drinking water history and technology. His most important book is still used today: The Quest for Pure Water: The History of Water Purification from the Earliest Records to the Twentieth Century. He was also active in the field of public health holding several positions on boards of health at the state and local levels….

Baker started his long career as author and editor in November 1887 when he was hired as the Associate Editor of Engineering News. This publication and the consolidated weekly Engineering News-Record which began on April 1, 1917 were the definitive sources of news about advances in the control and treatment of drinking water and sewage for decades in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He retired in 1932 after 45 years of service.

Baker collected a large library of books and source documents that he used to write his most important book, The Quest for Pure Water: The History of Water Purification from the Earliest Records to the Twentieth Century, which was first published in 1948. It was reprinted and published in 1981. He donated his collection to the American Water Works Association which transferred it to the Engineering Societies Library in New York City in 1945 for safe keeping. Unfortunately, the Engineering Societies Library went out of business in 1998 and his entire collection was dispersed….”

Baker was a member of a number of professional organizations and societies including the New England Water Works Association, American Water Works Association and the American Economic Association. He was Chairman of the Executive Committee of the National Municipal League from 1911 to 1918. He was a member of the Montclair, New Jersey Board of Health for 20 years and served as its president from 1904 to 1915. Baker was a member and vice president of the New Jersey Department of Health in 1915-16. He served as President of the New Jersey Sanitary Association in 1904 following the term of John L. Leal.”

Commentary: I have been in touch with his great grandson, Paul Vaerlien, who was kind enough to send me photos of a 1939 Baker Family reunion centered around the 50th wedding anniversary of Moses and Ella Baker. I hope you enjoy them.

 

Moses N. Baker 50th

 

Moses N. Baker 50thb

Moses N. Baker 50th anv

#TDIWH—January 26, 1864: Moses N. Baker is Born; 1788: Tank Stream Water Supply for Sydney, Australia; 1907: Letter to New York Times by Rudolph Hering

0126 Moses N BakerJanuary 26, 1864: Birth of Moses N. Baker. “Moses N. Baker (1864–1955) was a noted editor and author in the field of drinking water history and technology. His most important book is still used today: The Quest for Pure Water: The History of Water Purification from the Earliest Records to the Twentieth Century. He was also active in the field of public health holding several positions on boards of health at the state and local levels….

Baker started his long career as author and editor in November 1887 when he was hired as the Associate Editor of Engineering News. This publication and the consolidated weekly Engineering News-Record which began on April 1, 1917 were the definitive sources of news about advances in the control and treatment of drinking water and sewage for decades in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He retired in 1932 after 45 years of service….

Baker was a member of a number of professional organizations and societies including the New England Water Works Association, American Water Works Association and the American Economic Association. He was Chairman of the Executive Committee of the National Municipal League from 1911 to 1918. He was a member of the Montclair, New Jersey Board of Health for 20 years and served as its president from 1904 to 1915. Baker was a member and vice president of the New Jersey Department of Health in 1915-16. He served as President of the New Jersey Sanitary Association in 1904 following the term of John L. Leal.

He was elected an Honorary Member of the American Water Works Association and he was elected to the Water Industry Hall of Fame by the same organization in 1974.”

Commentary: Baker is one of my heroes. It was quite a thrill to make a connection with his great grandson who is a Swedish citizen. Ah, the Internet is an amazing thing.

The Old Tank Stream, Sydney, Australia

The Old Tank Stream, Sydney, Australia

January 26, 1788: Tank Stream. Sydney, Australia is the site of the original New South Wales Colony founded on this day in 1788. Fed by local groundwater, Tank Stream served as the water supply for the first 40 years until it became too polluted to use. An excellent source of information on the history of groundwater development in Australia can be found in Chapter 7 of a free, online book about the geology of the continent that has astonishing pictures, maps and graphics. “The [New South Wales ] colony had originally been planned for Botany Bay, on the recommendation of Sir Joseph Banks who had visited the area with Captain James Cook 17 years earlier, but when no fresh water was found there, Phillip sought a better site, and found it in the previously unvisited Port Jackson. Sydney Cove was chosen for settlement as it ‘was at the head of the cove, near the run of fresh water which stole silently along through a very thick wood.’

During a drought in 1790 three storage tanks were constructed in the sandstone beside the Tank Stream and it is from these that the stream gets its name. The Tank Stream could not meet the needs of the growing colony. It was abandoned in 1826, though it had been little more than an open sewer for the preceding two decades.”

Rudolph Hering

Rudolph Hering

January 26, 1907: Letter to the Editor, New York Times, by Rudolph Hering. “Mr. Hering of the firm Hering and Fuller criticized the proposal to create sewage farms in the New York City area to receive the sewage generated by the City. Mr. Poultney Bigelow proposed using the “Berlin method” to apply sewage to the land so that it would be rendered harmless and not poison fish. Mr. Bigelow thought that the Hackensack meadows which were “useless barren waste[lands]” would be perfect for the application. Mr. Hering noted that one acre of land would be need to dispose of the wastes from 156 people. He suggested that a simple calculation would make it obvious that there was not enough land available to receive the flow from the City. Besides, Mr. Hering noted, there was an enormous mass of water floating by New York–The Hudson and East Rivers.”

Commentary: Gulp! Guess what alternative was chosen?

December 9, 1785: Albert Stein Born; 1832: William J. Magie Dies

1209 Albert SteinDecember 9, 1785: Birth of Albert Stein in Dusseldorf, Prussia. In Richmond, Virginia, Albert Stein was responsible for building the first slow sand filter in the U.S. for municipal supply. “Albert Stein was born in Dusseldorf, Prussia, December 9, 1785. After being educated as a civil engineer, he began work on a topographical survey of the Rhenish Provinces. In 1807, he was appointed hydraulic engineer by Murat, then Grand Duke of Berg by the favor of Napoleon I, whose cavalry had been led by Murat. After the fall of Napoleon and the cession of the duchy to Prussia, Stein resigned his position and came to America. He reached Philadelphia in 1816, where he seems to have had some relation with Frederic Graff, Chief Engineer of the Philadelphia Water Works. In 1817, Stein submitted plans for a water works at Cincinnati. About that time, also, he made surveys for a canal from Cincinnati to Dayton. For a few years beginning in 1824 he was engineer for deepening the tidal section of the Appomattox River at and below Petersburg, Va. He was engineer for water works at Lynchburg, Va., in 1828-30. While building the Richmond [filtration] works, Stein designed for Nashville, Tenn., a water works which was completed in 1832. In the period 1834-40, Stein was at New Orleans, building a reservoir for the water works there, a canal from the city to Lake Pontchartrain, and making a survey and plan for the improvement of the Southwest Pass of the Mississippi. In 1840 he leased a small, privately owned water works system at Mobile, Ala., which he improved and operated. He died July 26, 1874, on his estate at Spring Hill near Mobile.”

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, 130.

Jersey City Chlorination Facility at Boonton Reservoir

Jersey City Chlorination Facility at Boonton Reservoir

December 9, 1832: Birth of William J. Magie. William J. Magie was selected by Vice Chancellor Frederic W. Stevens to hear the second part of the Jersey City trials. In 1899, Jersey City, New Jersey contracted for the construction of a new water supply on the Rockaway River. The water supply included a dam, reservoir and 23-mile pipeline and was completed on May 4, 1904. City officials were not pleased with the project as delivered by the private water company and filed a lawsuit in the Chancery Court of New Jersey. The second trial was devoted, in part, to a determination of whether chlorine could be used to make the water pure and wholesome before it was delivered to Jersey City.

One might assume that someone relatively junior might be appointed as the Special Master to hear the highly technical and excruciatingly long arguments from both sides of the case. Not so. William Jay Magie was one of the most revered judges of this time period. He took the role of Special Master in 1908 after completing 8 years as Chancellor of the Court of Chancery. Prior to that, he was a member of the New Jersey Senate (1876-1878), Associate Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court (1880-1897) and Chief Justice of the same court from 1897 to 1900.

“As a trial judge his cases were handled with notable success, as he had ample experience in trying causes before juries and a just appreciation of the worth of human testimony…” Judge Magie needed all of his powers of appreciation of human testimony in the second trial, which boiled down to which of the expert witnesses could be believed when both sides marshaled some of the most eminent doctors and engineers in the land.

Judge Magie was born on December 9, 1832 in Elizabeth, New Jersey and lived his life in that town. He graduated from Princeton College in 1852 and studied law under an attorney in Elizabeth. He was admitted to the bar of New Jersey in 1856. At the time of the second trial in 1908 he was 76 years old and near the end of his distinguished career.

Magie’s key ruling in the second trial was captured in the following quote: “I do therefore find and report that this device is capable of rendering the water delivered to Jersey City, pure and wholesome, for the purposes for which it is intended, and is effective in removing from the water those dangerous germs which were deemed by the decree to possibly exist therein at certain times.”

References:

McGuire, Michael J. 2013. The Chlorine Revolution: Water Disinfection and the Fight to Save Lives. Denver, CO:American Water Works Association.

Magie, William J. 1910. In Chancery of New Jersey: Between the Mayor and Aldermen of Jersey City, Complainant, and the Jersey City Water Supply Co., Defendant. Report for Hon. W.J. Magie, special master on cost of sewers, etc., and on efficiency of sterilization plant at Boonton. (Case Number 27/475-Z-45-314): 1–15. Jersey City, N.J.: Press Chronicle Co.

The Chlorine Revolution Cover Final

#TDIWH—January 26, 1864: Moses N. Baker is Born; 1788: Tank Stream Water Supply for Sydney, Australia; 1907: Letter to New York Times by Rudolph Hering

0126 Moses N BakerJanuary 26, 1864: Birth of Moses N. Baker. “Moses N. Baker (1864–1955) was a noted editor and author in the field of drinking water history and technology. His most important book is still used today: The Quest for Pure Water: The History of Water Purification from the Earliest Records to the Twentieth Century. He was also active in the field of public health holding several positions on boards of health at the state and local levels….

Baker started his long career as author and editor in November 1887 when he was hired as the Associate Editor of Engineering News. This publication and the consolidated weekly Engineering News-Record which began on April 1, 1917 were the definitive sources of news about advances in the control and treatment of drinking water and sewage for decades in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He retired in 1932 after 45 years of service….

Baker was a member of a number of professional organizations and societies including the New England Water Works Association, American Water Works Association and the American Economic Association. He was Chairman of the Executive Committee of the National Municipal League from 1911 to 1918. He was a member of the Montclair, New Jersey Board of Health for 20 years and served as its president from 1904 to 1915. Baker was a member and vice president of the New Jersey Department of Health in 1915-16. He served as President of the New Jersey Sanitary Association in 1904 following the term of John L. Leal.

He was elected an Honorary Member of the American Water Works Association and he was elected to the Water Industry Hall of Fame by the same organization in 1974.”

Commentary: Baker is one of my heroes. It was quite a thrill to make a connection with his great grandson who is a Swedish citizen. Ah, the Internet is an amazing thing.

The Old Tank Stream, Sydney, Australia

The Old Tank Stream, Sydney, Australia

January 26, 1788: Tank Stream. Sydney, Australia is the site of the original New South Wales Colony founded on this day in 1788. Fed by local groundwater, Tank Stream served as the water supply for the first 40 years until it became too polluted to use. An excellent source of information on the history of groundwater development in Australia can be found in Chapter 7 of a free, online book about the geology of the continent that has astonishing pictures, maps and graphics. “The [New South Wales ] colony had originally been planned for Botany Bay, on the recommendation of Sir Joseph Banks who had visited the area with Captain James Cook 17 years earlier, but when no fresh water was found there, Phillip sought a better site, and found it in the previously unvisited Port Jackson. Sydney Cove was chosen for settlement as it ‘was at the head of the cove, near the run of fresh water which stole silently along through a very thick wood.’

During a drought in 1790 three storage tanks were constructed in the sandstone beside the Tank Stream and it is from these that the stream gets its name. The Tank Stream could not meet the needs of the growing colony. It was abandoned in 1826, though it had been little more than an open sewer for the preceding two decades.”

Rudolph Hering

Rudolph Hering

January 26, 1907: Letter to the Editor, New York Times, by Rudolph Hering. “Mr. Hering of the firm Hering and Fuller criticized the proposal to create sewage farms in the New York City area to receive the sewage generated by the City. Mr. Poultney Bigelow proposed using the “Berlin method” to apply sewage to the land so that it would be rendered harmless and not poison fish. Mr. Bigelow thought that the Hackensack meadows which were “useless barren waste[lands]” would be perfect for the application. Mr. Hering noted that one acre of land would be need to dispose of the wastes from 156 people. He suggested that a simple calculation would make it obvious that there was not enough land available to receive the flow from the City. Besides, Mr. Hering noted, there was an enormous mass of water floating by New York–The Hudson and East Rivers.”

Commentary: Gulp! Guess what alternative was chosen?