Because of the amount and degree of which we enjoy today’s technology, we often times tend to overlook the basic machines or equipment that is necessary to make our daily lives easy to live.
With the boom of smart phones and modernized computers, many would sometimes take for granted the simplest of machines we need in daily living. One of these forgotten things are water heaters. For some, it is just a normal part of their house. But, during the cold and snowy days, how do we often stop and realize how great of an invention it is? Or perhaps, who invented this genius? Well, the story of its creation is quite interesting.
In ancient times and all throughout the 18th century, water was conventionally heated over flames as they were transferred into vessels that were connected in to bathing rooms and kitchen sinks. Indeed, fire was the first water heater.
Because of the growing need and desire for heated baths during that era, someone got the idea to heat bathwater, as well as the tub itself through gas jets under it.
This was the inspiration of Englishman Benjamin Waddy Maughan, who took this inspiration and made the technology advance one step further. In 1868, he devised a system by which water was heated as it poured into the tub—not heating the tub itself which can cause accidents. His invention allowed hot water be poured at will, like the hot water faucet we have today, and called this “Geyser”. He later patented this invention and it was known as the first documented water heater in history.
As this technology advanced, the people wanted more. The majority were willing to pay a little extra for this convenience. Due to this reason, a Norwegian mechanical engineer, named Edwin Ruud, built on Maughan’s version of a water heater to create the first electric, automatic storage heater in 1889. He was an immigrant in the US, specifically in Pittsburgh to work for George Westinghouse at the Fuel Gas and Manufacturing Company. Just a year later, he received a patent for his invention.
For most parts, Ruud just simply added the needed safety features to Maughan’s initial design. His new design also consisted of a cast iron shell, enclosing burners, and thermostat controlling gas-valves. The object of the design improvement was, “to maintain a supply of water at the desired temperature at all times.” Seven years later, he was still making adjustments to improve his invention, and installed a coil to warm the water. The coil replaced the storage tank on his first invention.
Ruud eventually filed a patent separate from the Fuel Gas and Manufacturing Company and established his own: the Ruud Manufacturing Company. In 1897, Ruud began buying the rights to his own inventions. His company was an engineering and manufacturing shop, where he began to manufacture and popularize home, commercial, and industrial size water heaters. Even today, the Ruud Manufacturing is still in operation and is considered to be among the leading water heater manufacturers in the U.S.
His business popularized and improved the idea of instant water heater design. In 1908, Ruud Manufacturing acquired two local heating and plumbing firms in Pittsburg, expanding his reach and assets. James Hay of the James Hay Company, a heating and plumbing company accepted this deal so he could operate as the president of the Ruud Manufacturing Company. Meanwhile, J.H. Folsom of Folsom-Webster Co., a heating and plumbing contracting firm, dissolved his partnership in Folsom-Webster Company to serve as chief of the Cincinnati branch of the Ruud Manufacturing Company. By 1915, the Ruud Manufacturing Company had offices in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Kalamazoo, Michigan; Toronto, Canada; and Hamburg, Germany.
Inventor Edwin Ruud also received the Louisiana Purchase Exposition Gold Medal for his invention in 1904 – the event which is better known as the St. Louis World’s Fair. A year later, The Franklin Institute awarded him the Edward Longstreth Medal of Merit.