Cover image for All the modern conveniences : American household plumbing, 1840-1890
Title:
All the modern conveniences : American household plumbing, 1840-1890
Author:
Ogle, Maureen.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Baltimore : Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996.
Physical Description:
xii, 191 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm.
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780801852275

9780801863707
Format :
Book

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Library
Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Status
Central Library TH6116 .O36 1996 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
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Central Library TH6116 .O36 1996 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
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Summary

Summary

Until 1840, indoor plumbing could be found only in mansions and first-class hotels. Then, in the decade before mid-century, Americans representing a wider range of economic circumstances began to install household plumbing with increasing eagerness. Ogle draws on a wide assortment of contemporary sources - sanitation reports, builders' manuals, fixture catalogues, patent applications and popular scientific tracts - to show how the demand for plumbing was more by an emerging middle-class culture of convenience, reform and domestic life than by fears abour poor hygiene and inadequate sanitation. She also examines advancements in water-supply and waste-management technology, the architectural considerations these amenities entailed and the scientific approach to sanitation that began to emerge by century's end.


Summary

As any American who has traveled abroad knows, the American home contains more, and more elaborate, plumbing than any other in the world. Indeed, Americans are renowned for their obsession with cleanliness. Although plumbing has occupied a central position in American life since the mid-nineteenth century, little scholarly attention has been paid to its history. Now, in All the Modern Conveniences, Maureen Ogle presents a fascinating study that explores the development of household plumbing in nineteenth-century America.

Until 1840, indoor plumbing could be found only in mansions and first-class hotels. Then, in the decade before midcentury, Americans representing a wider range of economic circumstances began to install household plumbing with increasing eagerness. Ogle draws on a wide assortment of contemporary sources--sanitation reports, builders' manuals, fixture catalogues, patent applications, and popular scientific tracts--to show how the demand for plumbing was prompted more by an emerging middle-class culture of convenience, reform, and domestic life than by fears about poor hygiene and inadequate sanitation. She also examines advancements in water-supply and waste-management technology, the architectural considerations these amenities entailed, and the scientific approach to sanitation that began to emerge by century's end.


Author Notes

Maureen Ogle is former assistant professor of history at the University of South Alabama.


Reviews 2

Choice Review

In five brief chapters, Ogle advances the thesis that mundane material objects--sinks, tubs, and toilets--can serve as keys to the study of cultural history. She directs attention away from the more familiar issue of the impact of innovations and toward the less-examined question of how a particular society shapes and uses technology. For Ogle, the 19th-century American bathroom was a symbol for the new-found prosperity and ideological pretensions of its owners. It embodied values and ideas that included scientific reform, architectural idealism, and the quest for basic comfort and convenience. Its configuration was "determined," not so much by available technology, as by the direction in which society was already going. The book suffers from its brevity and narrow focus. Ogle asserts the importance of the subject matter but does not demonstrate it in a comparative way. Case studies of particular families, neighborhoods, and cities are lacking. So too are gender, class, race, and environmental analyses. Why was there such overreliance on hydraulic systems to the exclusion of composting or incinerating toilets? What was the impact of "modern conveniences" on the contamination of ground and surface waters? How did American sanitary and plumbing practice differ from that of Europe? The author and editors are mutually responsible for these omissions. Recommended for graduate students, faculty, and researchers. J. R. Fleming Colby College


Choice Review

In five brief chapters, Ogle advances the thesis that mundane material objects--sinks, tubs, and toilets--can serve as keys to the study of cultural history. She directs attention away from the more familiar issue of the impact of innovations and toward the less-examined question of how a particular society shapes and uses technology. For Ogle, the 19th-century American bathroom was a symbol for the new-found prosperity and ideological pretensions of its owners. It embodied values and ideas that included scientific reform, architectural idealism, and the quest for basic comfort and convenience. Its configuration was "determined," not so much by available technology, as by the direction in which society was already going. The book suffers from its brevity and narrow focus. Ogle asserts the importance of the subject matter but does not demonstrate it in a comparative way. Case studies of particular families, neighborhoods, and cities are lacking. So too are gender, class, race, and environmental analyses. Why was there such overreliance on hydraulic systems to the exclusion of composting or incinerating toilets? What was the impact of "modern conveniences" on the contamination of ground and surface waters? How did American sanitary and plumbing practice differ from that of Europe? The author and editors are mutually responsible for these omissions. Recommended for graduate students, faculty, and researchers. J. R. Fleming Colby College


Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Introductionp. 1
1 Domestic Reform and American Household Plumbing, 1840-1870p. 8
2 Water Supply and Waste Disposal for the Convenient Housep. 36
3 Convenience Embodied: Midcentury Plumbing Fixturesp. 61
4 The End of Convenience: Science, Sanitation, and Professionalism, 1870-1890p. 93
5 The Sanitarians Take Charge: Scientific Plumbing in the American Homep. 119
Conclusionp. 153
Notesp. 161
Note on Sourcesp. 183
Indexp. 187
Preface and Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Introductionp. 1
1 Domestic Reform and American Household Plumbing, 1840-1870p. 8
2 Water Supply and Waste Disposal for the Convenient Housep. 36
3 Convenience Embodied: Midcentury Plumbing Fixturesp. 61
4 The End of Convenience: Science, Sanitation, and Professionalism, 1870-1890p. 93
5 The Sanitarians Take Charge: Scientific Plumbing in the American Homep. 119
Conclusionp. 153
Notesp. 161
Note on Sourcesp. 183
Indexp. 187

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