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Improper sanitation and clean water distribution have been major contributors to plagues and epidemics throughout human history. Fun little bugs like typhoid, dysentery and cholera were fairly common in the 18th and early 19th century.
It wasn’t until 1880 the year George E. Waring wrote his Sanitary Drainage of Houses and Towns that safe plumbing came to the forefront and prompted many municipal reforms for the removal of human waste and the safe distribution of drinking water.
The Birth of the First Licensed Plumbers
It was at this time that major municipalities began to enact all encompassing codes to govern how to install sanitary and water distribution systems. One year later in 1881 New York State began requiring the registration of plumbers and shortly there after the rest of the country followed suit.
Plumbing in general was synonymous with unprofessionalism the public referred to them as jacklegs. Some of the criticisms were warranted and some not. At the time the early plumbers had no knowledge of the relationship between health and sanitation, they were mechanics first. Even the products they used to install plumbing systems had no consistency or standards in manufacturing.
The consumer/home owner drove the industry to rethink the way it represented and educated itself. The growing demand and the need to educate and organize led to the formation of The National Association of Master Plumbers (NAMP) in 1883; the Master Steam and Hot Water Fitters Assoc. (MCAA) in 1888 and the United Association of Journeymen Plumbers, Gas Fitters, Steam Fitters or the United States and Canada or the UA in 1889. All three are still in existence today. The UA was and still is at the forefront of journeyman and apprenticeship programs around the country and tradesman could finally call themselves plumbers with some pride.
So after 120 years or so of professional plumbing and education it is amazing how many consumers fail to check whether or not the plumbing service company they hire has a valid business license and more importantly a valid plumbing license and that the plumber doing work in their home is licensed.