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History

History

Plumbing is not a modern-day invention

Archaeologists have discovered water pipes in the Indus River in India that date back to 4000-3000 B.C. Sir John Harrington, godson to Queen Elizabeth I, designed the first flushing toilet for his godmother. Alexander Cummings improved the first flushing toilet. His prototype included a S trap and allowed some water to stay in the bowl. This resulted in the water no longer smelling like sewage and the bowl could easily be cleaned. These inventions pathed the way for what we now use as modern plumbing.

We now know that plumbing has been around for thousands of years. However, did you know that the hierarchy and standards for plumbing, as a craft, has been around for almost as long?  The Medieval Period lasted from the 5th to the 15th century. During this period, a group of skilled craftsmen in the same trade would form a guild. The guild would make sure that anything made by a guild member was up to standard and was sold for a fair price. Membership to a guild was an honor, this was a sign you were a skilled worker who had respect in society.

Apprentices to a guild could be as young as 12 years old. They were taught trades by a Master. Apprentices spent on average five to nine years in the company of their Masters, training in all aspects of their craft. This was not paid labor, but they did receive food and lodging. Once their apprenticeship was completed, they were promoted to Journeyman status.  During this time, their ultimate success in the craft was established.

Journeyman received pay for their labor while continuing to hone their skills. Their aim, during this time, was to create a masterpiece. The guild would judge the masterpiece based on the Journeyman’s skills, technique, and creativity to determine whether they should remain a Journeyman or become a Master.

If you compare medieval guilds to the modern plumbing trade, you can see they follow the same line. When starting your journey in the plumbing trade you start as an Apprentice. During this period, you will learn from a Master. Before you can become a Master yourself, you must complete several thousand hours of work and complete an exam, including showing your craft. For example, in the State of Texas, plumbers will take their exams with the Texas State Board of Plumbing Examiners at 929 East 41st Street in Austin Texas.

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