|Introduction||Historical Background||Chronology||Geography||Biography||Technology||Ownership and Financing||General Bibliography|
Madison was founded in 1829 and incorporated as a city in 1848.
A bill was introduced in 1845 to incorporate the Madison Hydraulic Company.
The Madison Hydraulic Company was incorporated in 1854 with Simeon Mills, Leonard J. Farwell, Levi B. Vilas, N. W. Dean, H. A. Tenney, F. G. Tibbitts and J. C. Fairchild were appointed commissioners to sell stock and were given "the exclusive right and privilege of building waterworks in the village of Madison, for supplying water to said village and its inhabitants, to be taken from the Fourth Lake."
Madison civil engineer and surveyor John Nader proposed a water supply in the Wisconsin State Journal on April 27, 1880. He suggested that two artesian wells would be sufficient for the city's needs. Nader was later involved in the design and construction of Madison's sewage system.
|Wisconsin State Journal, July 7, 1882, Page 3.||The Sanitary Engineer 6(13):249 (August 24, 1882)|
University of Wisconsin Geology and Mineralogy Professor Roland Irving supported Nader's proposal, pointing out the poor sanitation of Madison's well, which were in close proximity to cesspools and privies. One of Irving's students, Magnus Swenson, wrote his 1880 bachelor's thesis on "The Chemical Analysis of Madison Well Waters." Swenson's view on the state of Madison's well water was strongly opposed by Dr. James J. Brown, a local physician who prided himself on his knowledge of science. The city backed Swenson, however, and on May 7, 1881, Hoffman, Billings & Co., of Milwaukee presented a proposal to the city council to build water works. This was blocked by new alderman John B. Heim, who had recently been elected to the council. Another proposal by a local company using the Holly Water system was likewise defeated as the council and residents firmly supported city ownership. The state legislature gave the city permission to build works in March, 1882, and work progressed rapidly. The system began operating on December 7, 1882 with approximately 150 customers.
John B. Heim's efforts in guiding the project to successful completion were rewarded by his appointment as superintendent of the water works, a position he held with one short break from 1882 until he was elected mayor Mayor of Madison in 1911.
Water is provided by the City of Madison, which has a nice history page that includes an excellent video, Madison Water Utility: Building on History. | Unearthing Madison's History | Bidding farewell to Madison’s “legacy” main |
1845 Wisconsin Argus, January 28, 1845, Page 4.
Council, January 20, 1845. Mr. [John] Catlin introduced a bill to incorporate the Madison Hydraulic Company. Referred to the committee on incorporations.
1854 An act to incorporate the Madison Hydraulic Company. February 22, 1854.
1855 "Notice! Madison Hydraulic Company," Weekly Wisconsin Patriot, February 5, 1855, Page 3.
1855 "Madison Hydraulic Company," Wisconsin Free Democrat, February 14, 1855, Page 4.
1855 "Madison Hydraulic Company," The Weekly Wisconsin, August 8, 1855, Page 1.
1855 "Madison Water Works," Weekly Wisconsin Patriot, November 17, 1855, Page 2.
the Capital of Wisconsin by Lyman C. Draper
Page 39: Madison Hydraulic Company.—This Company is chartered and fully organized—Hon. H. A. Tenney, President. To obtain permanent wells in the elevated portions of the City, it is necessary to dig about seventy feet: this renders wells expensive to dig, costly to keep in repair, and . troublesome to raise the water. To obviate all these, this company proposes to raise water from Lake Mendota, at a depth of at least twenty-five feet, forced by steam or other power into a reservoir upon the hill in the rear of the University buildings—which hill is about forty feet higher than the Capitol Park; and thence to convey water into the third stories of every building about the Park, and much higher on the lower grounds, and thus furnishing our citizens a full and certain supply, at all times, of pure fresh water. It is proposed to have two or more fountains in the University Park, facing the City, four within the Capitol Park, having jets from thirty to thirty-five feet high. While this would prove an inestimable convenience to our citizens, it would also prove vastly useful in case of fires, and the fountains would prove a crowning ornament to our City. Its cost would not exceed $40,000, while nearly half that amount is yearly expended for wells and cisterns. This noble improvement the Hydraulic Company are resolved to make at an early day.
History of Madison, the Capital of Wisconsin: Including the Four Lake
Country ; to July, 1874, with an Appendix of Notes on Dane County and
Its Towns, by Daniel S. Durrie
Page 242: 1854. In the month of February, the Madison Hydraulic Company was chartered, and was fully organized. Its object was to furnish the inhabitants a full and certain supply at all times of pure fresh water. In doing so, arrangements were to be perfected to take water from Lake Mendota of a depth of at least twenty feet, and, by steam or other power, force it into a reservoir upon a hill in the rear of the University buildings— this hill being about forty feet higher than the Capitol park. A six or eight inch pipe to convey the water east — the whole length of State street—sending off smaller branches at the intersection of streets. It was supposed that water could be conveyed into the third stories of every building about the park, and much higher on the lower grounds. It was also proposed to have two or more fountains in the University grounds, facing the village, and four Within the Capitol park. The whole expense not to exceed $40,000. The officers of the company were, H. A. TENNEY, President; WM. A. WHITE, Secretary, and LEONARD J . FARWELL, Treasurer.
It is to be regretted that the company did not succeed in carrying out their plans. There was not a sufficient amount of stock subscribed to warrant the undertaking, and the project was abandoned.
Dane County and Surrounding Towns.
Page 129: The Madison Hydraulic Company, to supply water from Lake Mendota, was a failure; there was difficulty in procuring capital.
Supply," by John Nader, Wisconsin State Journal, April 27,
1880, Page 2.
Proposed distributing water throughout the city from two artesian wells. The volume required is obtained from a knowledge of what is required in other cities. Only a few of many cities are using to exceed 60 gallons per day per capita, and by a fair comparison it is safe to say that Madison will never require to exceed this quantity; estimating for a population of 12,000 which may not be exceeded for some time to some, we would require 720,000 gallons per day. [Note: Madison was using 144 gallons per day per capita by 1886. See page 11 of 1886 Water Works Report.]
Supply. Upon Captain Nader's Plan," Wisconsin State
Journal, April 29, 1880, Page 4. Article in response to
Nader's proposal by UW Geology Professor Roland Irving.
No words can exaggerate the terrible condition of a large number of our wells, nor the evils that are likely to come on the place in the future from faulty drainage and vitiated water supply. Nor are the bad wells restricted to the poorer parts of the city. The general system is, cesspool, privy and well, all in the rear of the house. Since the lots back against each other, this arrangement is constantly repeated in the same neighborhood.
1880 "The Chemical Analysis of Madison Well Waters," Magnus Swenson, Senior Thesis, University of Wisconsin, read June 18, 1880. No copy of the thesis has been found, but it was reprinted (apparently in full) in the Wisconsin State Journal, July 19, 1880, Page 2. link below)
Well Waters," by Wisconsin State Journal, June 19, 1880,
The following Honor Thesis was read at Assembly Hall, Friday morning, by Magnus Swenson, of Janesville, a member of the State University Senior Class - metallurgical course.
1880 "Madison Well
Waters," Wisconsin State Journal, June 19, 1880, Page 4.
We publish to-day, upon the second page, the honor thesis read Friday Morning at Assembly Hall, by Mr. Magnus Swenson of the University Senior Class, upon the fertile subject of Madison well waters. Mr. Swenson carefully analyzed 52 specimens from representative wells in this city, and found that only 3 fulfilled the conditions of a good water, while 10 were pernicious and 30 bad, of the 30, there were 19 that proved absolutely filthy; 45 out of the 52 waters were more or less contaminated with sewage. This is rather an unpleasant condition to reflect upon but the trust must be told.
State Journal, July 7, 1880, Page 4. Rebuttal to
Swenson's thesis by local physician Dr. James Jackson Brown. [Obituary]
The idea that wells are contaminated from privy-vaults is simply absurd and ridiculous. Anybody ought to know better than to advance such a nonsensical theory. If these writers had investigated their subject, they would have found in the first place that a privy vault by the natural laws seals itself as perfectly as could be done with Rosendale cement, built in a wall eighteen inches thick–about the distance that the contents of a privy produce an effect on the earth, which fact can be ascertained better by the spade then by chemistry. The idea of starting waterworks may have found its way into some man's brain.
Water Everywhere, but Seldom Fit to Drink," Wisconsin
State Journal, July 19, 1880, Page 4.
How the Analysis of the City Wells is Progressing. Of 191 Wells thus Far Examined Nearly all are Bad.
News, 7:274 (August 14, 1880)
Nearly two hundred wells in the city of Madison, Wis., have been analyzed, and nearly all of them have been found to be impure and unfit for use.
of Dane County, Wisconsin, Part 2, by Consul Wilshire
Butterfield | Also here
Pages 765-766: Water Supply. In the month of February, 1855, the Madison Hydraulic Company was chartered, and afterward fully organized. Its object was to furnish the inhabitants a full and certain supply at all times of pure fresh water. In doing so, arrangements were to be perfected to take water from Lake Mendota of a depth of at least twenty feet, and, by steam or other power, force it into a reservoir upon a hill in the rear of the university buildings—this hill being about forty feet higher than the capitol park. A six or eight inch pipe was to convey the water east—the whole length of State street—sending off' smaller branches at the intersection of streets. It was supposed that water could be conveyed into the third stories of every building about the park, and much higher on the lower grounds. It was also proposed to have two or more fountains in the university grounds, and four within the capitol park. The whole expense was not to exceed $40,000. The officers of the company were H. A. Tenney, President; William A. White, Secretary, and Leonard J. Farwell, Treasurer. The company did not succeed in carrying out their plans. There was not a sufficient amount of stock subscribed to warrant the undertaking, and the project was abandoned.
The Legislature of 1878 passed an appropriation for a water supply for the State house. The Regents of the University of Wisconsin had constructed a supply for the university buildings in 1876 and 1877, of which the State now took advantage by enlarging the works and placing a duplicate pump of large capacity to assist the one already in place. The water was obtained from Lake Mendota, through a pipe extending down 300 feet into the lake, where the water is deep and pure. From here it is elevated to a large iron supply tank in the dome of university hall; thence, by means of a system of pipes, it is distributed to the various buildings and hydrants upon the university grounds. Proper connections being made, a ten-inch pipe was laid along State street to the State house. At the several depressions and elevations along the line the pipe was tapped for blow-offs of mud and air, and the same terminated in fire hydrants. In the capitol there is a stand-pipe extending ten feet above the roof, which gives sufficient pressure for fire streams. The line is nearly one mile long and is susceptible of extension at any time that necessity calls for it. Provisions were made for branch pipes at important points.
The State house is provided with a very complete system of fire protection from basement to attic. The latter can be deluged by spray at a moment's notice by the tank pressure from the university, so as to extinguish any fire that may there originate. The water is soft, and there has been no complaint from scaling of the heating-boilers since its use began. A number of hydrants about the capitol and park are abundantly provided with water; also the Centennial fountain, which was erected in 1878, and throws off its cooling spray during the sultry season of the year. The city has no water works. Most of the private business houses are abundantly supplied from wells of very pure water.
Madison May Secure Water Works," Wisconsin State Journal,
May 7, 1881, Page 4.
What a Milwaukee Firm offers to do for the City.
Works," Wisconsin State Journal, May 11, 1881, Page 4.
A public meeting has been called.
News, 8:199 (May 14, 1881)
Madison, Wis., May 6.- A well-attended meeting of prominent citizens was held here last evening to take into consideration the establishment of water-works in the city. To-day the committee appointed to decide on the matter reported in its favor, and the works will be established during the coming summer.
Water Question," Wisconsin State Journal, May 14, 1881, Page
Discussed by Several of our Leading Citizens at a Meeting at the Court House Last Night.
1881 "A Water war at Madison," Green Bay Advocate, May 19, 1881, Page 2.
News, 8:209 (May 21, 1881)
The water-works question at Madison, Wis. is now the prominent one in that city. Mr. C. F. Billings, of Milwaukee, who first submitted a proposition to build works and operate them, on account of opposition, has withdrawn his proposition; the Holly Manufacturing Co. are advocating the merits of their system it will probably be some time before the question is fully settled.
News, 8:230 (June 4, 1881)
After the first burst of water-works enthusiasm in Madison, Wis.
News, 8:240 (June 11, 1881)
Water-works article from Madison Democrat reprinted.
News, 8:249 (June 18, 1881)
The water ordinance recently introduced before the Common Council of Madison, Wisconsin, provides for the establishment of the Madison Water Company for the term of 20 years for the purpose of supplying the city with water. The system will be that of direct pumping into the main, by the quadruplex compound condensing pumps of the Holly Company.
News, 8:300 (July 30, 1881)
The Madison City (Wisconsin) water company has been organized with the following officers: President, L. S. Hanks, Vice President, Simeon Mills, Secretary, W. A. P. Morris; Treasurer Frank G. Brown. The amount of stock taken is $25,500.
1882 An act to
consolidate and amend chapter 322, laws of 1880, an act to consolidate and
amend an act to incorporate the city of Madison and the several acts
amendatory thereof. March 6, 1882.
Chapter IX. Water Works
1882 "Madison City Water Works," Wisconsin State Journal, April 11, 1882, Page 4.
1882 "Bids Received for
Water-Works Construction," Engineering
News, 9:143 (May 6, 1882)
From Chester B. Davis, C. E., Chief Engineer of the Madison, Wis., Water-Works.
1882 "Pipe Contract Let," Engineering News, 9:176 (June 3, 1882)
Pipe," Wisconsin State Journal, July 7, 1882, Page 4.
The men work by the job, that is they receive 75 cents a section, and are able to excavate from two to three per day, thus earning from $1.50 to $2.25 per day.
News, 9:362 (October 14, 1882)
The last of the pipe-laying for the city water-works at Madison, Wis., was completed the other day. The twelve miles of mains will be tested this week by a pressure of 150 to 200 lbs. to the square inch.
News, 9:369 (October 21, 1882)
The Madison City Water-Works, which are being built after the plan of Chester B. Davis, and under his supervision, are approaching completion.
1882 "Analysis of City Artesian Well Water," Wisconsin State Journal, November 21, 1882, Page 8.
1883 "Madison, Wis.," from Engineering News, 10:121 (March 17, 1883)
1883 First Annual Report of the Superintendent of the Madison City Water Works, Published October 6, 1883. | Also includes second through ninth annual reports, 1884 through 1891. |
 Rules and Regulations concerning the Water Works of the City of Madison, Adopted 1882-3
act to amend chapter 36, laws of 1882, entitled "an act to consolidate
and amend an act to incorporate the city of Madison, and the several
acts amendatory thereof." April 1, 1885.
Section 13 amends Section 9 to read: It shall be the duty of the common council, and it is hereby empowered, from time to time, to pass such ordinances as may be deemed necessary and expedient for the management and protection of said water-works, and regulating and controlling the supply and use of water therefrom; and the common council is hereby empowered, when it shall deem it for the best interests of the city, to appoint a board of three water commissioners.
1887 Map of the water works system of Madison, Wisconsin, Wisconsin Historical Society
1888 "Madison," from Manual of American Water Works, Volume 1.
1890 "Madison," from Manual of American Water Works, Volume 2.
1891 "Madison," from Manual of American Water Works, Volume 3.
1892 Map of the water works system of Madison, Wisconsin, Wisconsin Historical Society
1895 "Our Experience with Water Meters," by John B. Heim, Superintendent Water Works, Proceedings of the Annual Convention of the American Water Works Association 15:40-44 (May, 1895)
1896 Map of the water works system of Madison, Wisconsin, Wisconsin Historical Society.
1897 "The Method of Laying Small Sized Water Mains; of Lowering Mains; and the Relief of Violent Fluctuations on the Direct Pressure System at Madison, Wisconsin," by John B. Heim, Superintendent Water Works, Proceedings of the Annual Convention of the American Water Works Association 17:34-38 (June, 1897)
1897 "Madison," from Manual of American Water Works, Volume 4.
1898 “Water Meters and Rates," by John B. Heim, Superintendent Water Works, Proceedings of the Annual Convention of the American Water Works Association 18:46-50 (June, 1898)
1899 "Municipal Ownership of Water-Works," by John B. Heim, Superintendent City Water Works, Madison, Wis., Municipal Engineering 17(2):87-90 (August, 1899)
1899 “Thawing Frozen Water Pipes by Electricity,” Columbus, O., by John B. Heim, Superintendent Water Works, Proceedings of the Annual Convention of the American Water Works Association; 19:83-88 (May, 1899)
1899 Annual Report of the City Water Works | 17th through 23rd reports |
1900 "Artesian Water Supply, City of Madison, Wisconsin," by John B. Heim, Superintendent Water Works, Proceedings of the Annual Convention of the American Water Works Association 20:41-54 (May, 1900)
1902 "Management of Water Works," by John B. Heim, Superintendent Water Works, Proceedings of the Annual Convention of the American Water Works Association 22:81-93 (June, 1902)
1903 City of Madison, Respondent, vs. American Sanitary Engineering Company and another, Appellants, 118 Wis. 380, July 3, 1903 Supreme Court of Wisconsin. Not related to the water works, but an interesting case.
1904 “Meter Rates," by John B. Heim, Superintendent Water Works, Proceedings of the Annual Convention of the American Water Works Association 24:251-267 (June, 1904)
1905 "The History and Management of the Waterworks of Madison," John Henry Sprecher, Bachelor's Thesis, University of Wisconsin. No copy has been found.
of Dane County, Volume 2.
Pages 396-399: John B. Heim, superintendent of the Madison city waterworks.
In April, 1881, he was nominated, against his wishes, as alderman in the republican second ward and elected for a term of two years. This was a tuming point in-his career. At the first meeting of the common council, May 1881, an ordinance for a franchise for a system of waterworks by a private corporation was introduced. This he opposed at once and had it referred to a select committee of four citizens and four members of the common council, of which committee he was made a member. The company, fearing the opposition, withdrew, and another company asked for a franchise. Alderman Heim again took the lead, urging municipal ownership, and backed by Mayor James Conklin and the city attorney, R. M. Bashford, succeeded in defeating the ordinance, and legislation was secured by which the city was empowered to construct, own and operate its own waterworks. Mr. Heim, the youngest member of the council, was then made chairman of a committee of construction, which committee rendered most efficient service to the city. On completion of the work Mr. Heim, at the urgent request of the mayor, city attorney, city clerk and members of the committee, after a two weeks deliberation, accepted the management of the waterworks and was so elected by the common council. From a plant, the original cost of construction of which was $95,027.54 with twelve and one-half miles of water mains. it has grown, under the supervision of Mr. Heim, until the plant now represents a valuation of $453,224.51 with forty-six and one-half miles of main and a total indebtedness of only $35,000. Superintendent Heim was always an advocate of the meter system and in his first annual report recommended its adoption by the city. Finally, in 1888, after persistently urging the matter, the general meter system was adopted, Madison as a city, taking the lead in this method of selling water. In May, 1895, Superintendent Heim presented a paper at the national convention of the American Water Works Association at Atlanta, Ga., on his experience with water meters. This gave him a national reputation and was the incentive to a general adoption of the meter system not only in municipalities but by water companies as well. Mr. Heim has also presented the following papers at national conventions: “Laying and Lowering of Water-mains," Denver, Colo., 1897; “Meters and Meter Rates," Buffalo, N. Y., 1898; “Artesian Wells,” Richmond, Va., 1899; “Thawing of Frozen Mains and Services by Electricity,” Columbus, O., 1900; "Management of Water Works," Chicago, Ill., 1901; “Meter Rates,” St. Louis, Mo., 1903. Superintendent Heim has held important positions on committees of the American Water Works Association, being chairman of the publishing committee, through whose hands all papers must pass before they are read at the convention; member of the executive committee; and vice-president for years, which position he now holds. As an expert in his line he has a reputation all over Wisconsin, and his services have been frequently secured by different cities and companies as appraiser in the sale or transfer of water works plants. He has represented as appraiser the cities of Sheboygan, Appleton, Waukesha, Portage, and was the expert to accept plants at Evansville, Wis., and at Jefferson, Wis. He has also been called as expert to Fond du Lac and Monroe, Wis., and was recently appointed as chairman of the commission to appraise the plant of the Water Co. at Monroe, Wis. Mr. Heim‘s long service of twenty-three years as superintendent of the Madison city water works, demonstrates his entire fitness for the position. He has taken an active part in city matters and has served on innumerable committees.
1907 Annual Report of the Board of Water Commissioners | 24th through 26th reports |
1907 "Twenty-Five Years Ago. History of the Construction of the City Water Works of the City of Madison," Twenty-Fifth Annual Report of the Board of Water Commissioners of the City of Madison for the year ending September 30, 1907.
1908 Map of the water works system of Madison, Wisconsin, Wisconsin Historical Society.
1908 Annual Report of the Board of Water Commissioners | 27th through 33d reports |
1912 Annual Report of the Board of Water Commissioners | 30th through 32d reports |
1916 Annual Report of the Board of Water Commissioners | 34th through 47th reports |
1938 "Magnus Swenson, Inventor and Chemical Engineer," By Olaf Hougen, Studies and Records, 10(7):152-175 (1938) Now Norwegian-American Studies.
1920 "Relating to the Death and Public Service of John B. Heim," May 25, 1920, Journal of Proceedings of the Special Session of the Wisconsin Legislature
brief historical sketch of the Madison waterworks, together with
pertinent facts, by Leon Albert Smith; Madison (Wis.). Water
Page 3: On December 7, 1882, the pumps were started for the first time serving approximately 150 takers, which number nearly doubled by the end of 1883.
of American biography: New series, Volume 11
Pages 458-462: Magnus Swenson.
a History of the Formative Years, 2nd Edition, by David V.
Mollenhoff. One of the best urban biographies.
Pages 197-199: Waterworks.
1856-1931, Stuart D. Levitan
Page 101: The Utilities Era, with profiles of Magnus Swenson and John Heim.
© 2017 Morris A. Pierce