Refreshing Water

Drink of the fountain, bubbling free;
‘Twas good for Samson, and ‘tis good for thee. -Billy Martin

In the early days of drinking fountains, a mechanical pump supplied water from a well. This access to water was often contaminated and wells failed to supply fresh hygienic drinking water.

Sticky_history_refreshing water_Aldgate Pump

1_0_sticky_hevac heritage 1866-1

Potable Water for the Drinking Public

The introduction of drinking fonts was an improvement on pumps; however, sanitation was still lacking. Some models used a spigot which delivered fresh water as a continual stream of free flowing water, and other models used a self-closing tap. Run-off water from the tap was collected in a basin.


A metal cup suspended by a chain hung into a basin and passers-by scooped water from the basin to drink – not the most sanitary of methods. Overflow water from the basin fed into troughs at ground level for smaller animals.

In the late 19th century an understanding of sanitation, and the health risks of this method of providing drinking water, initiated the removal of these tin cups. A spigot  was developed to shoot a jet of water into the air like a miniature geyser. This new innovation was named a bubbler because it produced a flow of bubbling water.  It separated clean water from run-off water, and users were only required to drink from the water jet thereby eliminating bacteria. This model has been refined over the decades, but is basically the same drinking fountain design used today.

A Puro Sanitary Drinking Fountain refers to a water pump which was cut off by a self-acting spring to prevent an overflow of water and the necessity for a ground drain. By squeezing a handle, a single bubble of water was released thereby reducing the spread of disease; hence the name ‘puro’ meaning pure.


Science & Mechanics Magazine, January 1912

O traveller stay thy weary feet
Drink of this fountain pure and sweet
It flows for rich and poor the same
Then go thy way remembering still
The wayside well beneath the hill
The cup of water in his name. -Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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