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Wooden Water Pipe
Wooden Water Pipe
Resource Typeimage
TitleWooden Water Pipe
Coverage / Yearc. 1836 to 1860
DescriptionThis water pipe is two sections of hollowed-out wooden logs connected by a smaller wooden tube that bisects the center of each log. The dimensions of the two large wooden logs are ten inches in diameter. The smaller connecting tube is five inches in diameter.
InterpretationFort Dearborn was built in 1803 on the site where the Chicago River flowed into Lake Michigan (now Michigan Avenue at Wacker Drive). At the beginning of the nineteenth century, settlers used the river to supply their water needs. Chicago had only 350 residents when the town was first chartered in 1833. Within a year Chicago's population mushroomed to over 2, 000 residents. The village trustees arranged for the construction of a public well at Hubbard Street and Wabash Avenue. Residents carried water home in buckets from this well. Peddlers carried water in mule-drawn carts, selling it door to door for ten cents a barrel. In 1842 the Chicago City Hydraulic Company, a private organization, started a water distribution system with a pumping station and several thousand feet of wooden water pipes. The system cost approximately $24, 000. The intake pipe for the system extended 150 feet into Lake Michigan off Lake Street. The water was conveyed by means of a steam driven twenty-five horsepower pump in a station at Michigan Avenue to an elevated tank from which it flowed by gravity through wooden pipes beneath the streets. There were problems with fish clogging the pipes, filthy water after storms, and ice during the winter. In 1852 the Chicago Hydraulic Company was purchased by the City of Chicago. By 1861 the Chicago Water System consisted of about six hundred feet of wooden intake pipes extending from Lake Michigan to the suction wells of the pumping station. The wooden intake pipes released water into elevated wrought iron reservoirs, each with a capacity of one-half million gallons. 4, 842, 000 gallons were pumped daily from these reservoirs, providing water for 120, 000 residents. These wooden pipe sections are typical of those that made up urban plumbing systems in the United States during the late nineteenth century. They were unearthed at North Clinton and Kinzie Streets on June 2, 1902.
Lesson Plans / ThemesHow we learn about communities;
Learning Standards16 History; 10-12 Science; 13 Science, Technology and Society;
Author or CreatorChicago City Hydraulic Company
Other ContributorsCity of Chicago Water Department
SourceChicago Department of Water. Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago, Accession File #1994.1.
Subject / KeywordsWater; Pipes; Water supply; Water system; Plumbing; Chicago, Illinois;
Collection PublisherMuseum of Science and Industry, Chicago;
Further InformationFor any further information related to this record, please contact the Collection Publisher. See for more information about this project.
Rights Management Statement
Resource Identifier1994.1
CONTENTdm file name154181982002_WATERPIP.jpg
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