Documentary History of American Water-works

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Biography Albert Stein

Albert Stein

Albert Stein was born in Düsseldorf, on December 9, 1785.  He trained and worked as a hydraulic engineer before coming to Philadelphia in 1816, where he may have known Frederick Graff, superintendent of that city's water works..

Stein built water works in several cities before settling in Mobile, where he bought the existing water works system.  He was also involved in numerous river and harbor projects.

He died July 26, 1874 on his estate at Spring Hill near Mobile.

Albert Stein's Water Works Experience
City State Years Projects
Philadelphia PA 1816-1817? Stein may have known Frederick Graff?
Cincinnati OH 1817-1820 Built water works.
Lynchburg VA 1827-1830 Built water works pumping water into a reservoir 245 feet higher.
Richmond VA 1830-1832 Built water works, first attempt at filtration (apart from early Spanish mission)
Nashville TN 1832-1833 Built water works.
New York City NY 1833
Surveys, stream gauging, and estimates for Croton Aqueduct
New Orleans LA 1833-1840 Built water works.
Mobile AL 1838-1874 Bought and improved water works system in 1841.

1820 Cincinnati Advertiser, June 17, 1820, Page 3.
Cincinnati Water Works
In our last number we promised some account of the new water works, erected for the purpose of supplying the inhabitants of this city with a regular supply of good water.  We have, for some time, been desirous of obtaining such information, on this important subject, as might be relief upon, and we can now assure our readers that the following account and description of the same is substantially correct.
By an ordinance of the Town Council, of the 31st of March, 1817, the Cincinnati Manufacturing Company were granted the "exclusive privilege, for an during the term of ninety-nine years, of conducting water by tubes, or otherwise, from the Ohio river, thro' the streets, lanes, alleys, and commons of the Town of Cincinnati, for the purpose of supplying the inhabitants thereof," on certain conditions and requisitions therein named.
The said Cincinnati Manufacturing Company, in March last, after expending large sums of money in erecting a very solid and permanent stone building, on the bank of the river, for the foundation of said water works, were apprehensive of a failure in completing the same by the time limited in said ordinance, and the difficulty of raising sufficient funds for that purpose, appeared so great, they assigned, for a valuable consideration, the said exclusive privilege and all their right and interest in the same, to Col. Samuel W. Davies, by whose enterprize and perseverance, directed by the great skill and experience of Mr. Albert Stein, the chief engineer, the said water works have progressed & been brought to their present state of perfection.  The said stone building, on the bank of the river, extends 130 feet, by a front on the river of 60 feet.  In the front of this stone work is sunk, in the solid rock, a well several feet lower than the lowest water, and from said well has been excavated, in the solid rock, and covered with stone, a canal, extending 210 feet, to the channel of said river.  Upon the stone building has been erected a lifting pump which raises the water from the well, and with the aid of pipes, conveys the same to a small reservoir on the north side of the Columbia road.  In this reservoir is placed a forcing pump with propels the water through iron pipes, to the main reservoir on the hill, elevated about 180 feet above the river, at low water.  In addition to a larger filtrating reservoir, which it is intended soon to erect on said stone work, all the reservoirs will contain partitions and apartments of stone and gravel, through which the water will pass and filtrate before it reaching the leading pipes that convey it to the city.  The pumps, reservoirs, and all the pipes for conveying the water from the river to the main reservoir, across Deer creek, through Fifth street to Sycamore street, and down Sycamore to Market street together with all the necessary buildings and machinery, are completed and now in successful operation.  The pipes from the main reservoir, across Deer creek to Fifth street, are of large white oak logs, and from thence they are of yellow pine.  Each log is twelve feet long, banded at both ends, with heavy iron bands, and connected to each other with iron tubes, on a plan the most approved, by experience, both in Europe and America.  the water may be conveyed from the pipes, by hose, over the roof of almost every building in the city, and hydrants may be so constructed, with the use of hose, as to supersede the necessity of fire engines, on the bottom, in case of fires.  The main reservoir will contain 100,000 gallons, and is so constructed as to be enlarged as necessity may require, to almost any extent, with great ease and facility.  Its present capacity can be filled by the operation of the pumps in eight hours.  The pumps are of cast iron, and the whole works are of the most solid construction, while no pains or expense has been omitted to render them as perfect and durable as possible.  The whole has been planned and directed by Mr. Stein, whose great skill in Hydraulics and Hydrostatics entitle him to the highest confidence.  The very short time allowed him to complete the works, thus far, forced upon him the adoption of some plans of minor importance, which he did not entirely approve, but which when time permits, can be exchanged for others more perfect, without any inconvenience to the public, or much expense to the proprietor.
The great benefits which the public must derive from a constant and plentiful supply of pure water, in contributing to the health and cleanliness of the city, and to the comfort, and convenience of the inhabitants, together with the incalculable advantages in cases of fire, we have no doubt will insure to these works the prompt and liberal patronage of all classes of our citizens.  Too much credit cannot be given to the persevering enterprise and indefatigable exertions of the present proprietor, when we consider the distressed and embarrassing circumstances of the times, and that some years must certainly elapse before he can expect to realize a clean annual income beyond the interest on his very heavy expenses.  It is to the wealthy and enterprising of our citizens we must look for works of great public utility and convenience.
We understand the present proprietor of these works, some few weeks since made application to the City Council for the appointment of a committee from their body, who together with an equal number of citizens to be appointed by himself, should examine the works, together with the expenses of the same, and report what in their opinion would be a fair price for the inhabitants to pay for the use of the water, to which application no reply has been made.  We do not think any blame can be attached to the present Council for not adopting any measures upon this application.  The subject is placed on the most proper ground in the ordinance granting the exclusive privilege.  No person is obliged to take the water from these works, but at such prices and on such terms as may be voluntarily agreed upon.  It must, therefore, be the interest of the proprietor to furnish the inhabitants at as low a rate as they can procure it any other way.
We cannot close this article without congratulating the citizens of this city, upon the fair prospect, now presented, of soon being supplied with one of the most healthful and necessary articles of domestic and public use, good, and wholesome water; and at the same time we indulge a hope the proprietor of these works will receive a reward, equal to his expenses and a patronage liberal as his exertions.    

1829 "Lynchburg Water Works," Columbian Centinel (Boston, Massachusetts), August 1, 1829, Page 2.
Lynchburg, (Va) July 23.- This important work has so far progressed, that on Saturday last the machinery was put in motion, and a column of water, nine inches in diameter, was propelled through the main pipes from the pump house to the reservoir, a distance of 2200 feet with an elevation of 245 feet.  We know of no works in Europe or America, where water is raised to so great an elevation.  The machinery was again put in motion on Monday last, and operated about one hour.  The experiment made is highly satisfactory.  The machinery operates with great regularity and trueness -- and the labour of lifting so great a column of water is performed with apparent ease -- by these experiments the pump and pipes have been subjected to all the pressure they are designed to sustain -- and the fact that in all the range of pipes not a leak is discoverable, and the water was raised to its distant point on the first application of the power, without the occurrence of the last casualty -- a circumstance no in the history of any work of similar kind, reflects great praise on our able and persevering Engineer, Mr. Albert Stein.

1833 "City Water Works," Richmond Enquirer (Richmond, Virginia), October 25, 1833, Page 4.
Nashville, October 1.  On yesterday, for the first time, the Water Works which have been in the course of construction for the last two years, were put in operation, and a fair experiment made, fully testing the excellence and capacity of the works, as far as completed.
Too much credit, in truth, cannot be accorded to Mr. Stein, for the skill, industry, and success with which he has accomplished this important work, amidst difficulties, as we understand, of no ordinary kind.

1834 "Report from the Watering Committee, May 10, 1834," Richmond Whig, May 16, 1834, Pages 2-3.
Your Committee avail themselves of this opportunity, to express their high opinion of the skilled displayed by Mr. Stein, in the plan and of his integrity in the execution of the works.

1835 Board of Aldermen, February 16, 1835: the following report was received from the Commissioners appointed, pursuant to a law passed by the legislature, on the 2d of May 1834, in relation to supplying the City of New-York with pure and wholesome water, which was referred to the Committee on Fire and Water | Also here |

1836 Report of the water works committee of the Commercial Bank of New Orleans. Presented February 18, 1836, and published by order of the board of directors
Pages 3-4:  Doubts and difficulties existed until the autumn of 1833, when the Board was so fortunate as to secure the services of an engineer very eminent in his line, and whose entire success in works of the kind elsewhere, gave assurance of a similar result here. Mr. Albert Stein had constructed water works at Richmond and Lynchburg, Va., and also at Nashville, Tenn.  From gentlemen of the highest respectability in those cities, we received accounts, that those works had been completed by Mr. Stein entirely to the satisfaction of the watering committees, and within the estimates as first made.  That distinguished engineer, the late Mr. Telford of London, had given his opinion of his abilities, and the Board, judging what Mr. Stein could do, by what he had done, authorized his engagement.

1838 Letter from Albert Stein to Henry Hitchcock concerning Mobile Water Works, January 29, 1838 (included in 1859 Ordinances, below)

1840 Agreement between the City of Mobile and Albert Stein, December 26, 1840.  (Included in 1859 Ordinances, below)

1843 The Commercial Bank of New Orleans v. Albert Stein, 4 La. 189, March 20, 1843, Supreme Court of Louisiana

1843 A Memoir of the Construction, Cost, and Capacity of the Croton Aqueduct: Compiled from Official Documents : Together with an Account of the Civic Celebration of the Fourteenth October, 1842, on Occasion of the Completion of the Great Work : Preceded by a Preliminary Essay on Ancient and Modern Aqueducts by Charles King
Page 82:  Richmond, the capital of Virginia, derives water from the James river by works planned by Mr. Albert Stein, who was among the engineers originally employed to survey the courses of, and make estimates for, the Croton Aqueduct.
An engine house 56 feet long and 58 wide, built of stone, on the banks of the river, cover two wheel pits and two pumps, constructed like those at the Fairmount works.
The water-wheels are of cast iron, with the exception of the buckets and soling, 18 feet in diameter to the point of the buckets, 10 feet wide between the shroudings, and 14 inches depth of shrouding. The cast iron shaft of the water-wheel is 10 inches in diameter in the journals, and 16 feet 6 inches long.
The head and fall of the water is 10 feet. Each pump is calculated to raise in 24 hours, 400,000 gallons into the reservoir 160 feet above the pump. The reservoir will contain one million gallons, and is divided into four apartments, two of which are for filtering.
Pages 134-135: The Commissioners then proceed to present a synopsis of the report made by Mr. Douglas, Mr. Martineau, and Mr. Cartwright, as well as the results of information obtained by them from Mr. A. Stein, relating to the route, modes of construction, and cost thereof, of an aqueduct from the Croton, that on all hands being adopted as the only advisable plan. As in a subsequent part of this Memoir, we shall have occasion to detail with some minuteness, the particulars, on all these heads, of the route finally adopted and perfected, our readers will feel that analagous details here would be superfluous.
Page 161:  On 5th September, 1833, Major Douglas guaged the river, and found 51,522,486 gallons running; and on 26th of the same month, Mr. Stein found 50,074,044 gallons. These were considered as fair averages of what may be depended on—though at times the Croton rolls to the Hudson several hundred million gallons daily. But over and above the running supply, the Croton lake created by the dam, is estimated to contain 100,000,000 gallons for each foot in depth from the surface, and this may be drawn down five or six feet, yielding as many hundred million gallons. The receiving reservoir will contain 158 millions of gallons, and the distributing reservoir 19 millions—altogether forming an aggregate surplus, in case of excessive and long continued drought, sufficient for any possible emergency.

1859 "Acts, Correspondence and Contracts for the Mobile City Water-Works," from The code of ordinances of the city of Mobile, with the charter and an appendix by Alexander McKinstry

1860 "An Important Decision," The Tennessean (Nashville, Tennessee), April 20, 1860, Page 2.

1860 Daily Confederation (Mobile, Alabama), April 22, 1860, Page 3.
An Important Decision.--The long pending suit of the State of Alabama vs. Albert Stein, accused of "supplying the citizens of Mobile with poisonous water," called in our Court some time ago and venue changed to Baldwin county, was closed before Judge Rapier on Thursday, and the defendant found guilty and fined $2,000--the highest penalty allowed by the statute.  We learn from parties who were in attendance at the trial, that the water of the Mobile Waterworks, of which Mr. S. is the proprietor, along with water taken from a brook in Baldwin county, was subjected to a chemical analysis before the jury, and that the effect produced upon the Waterworks water was exactly the same as upon the brook water after dropping a handful of shot into it.  Proof was also received of the poisonous qualities of lead.  Another point proved, as we learn from the same source, was, that in all cities into which water has been introduced through pipes, iron pipes are used a leading pipes universally, while the Mobile Waterworks have, in a great number of instances, used lead pipes for leads.
Another suit, Same vs. Same, for non-fulfillment of contract to supply a sufficient quantity of water for extinguishing fires, was called and laid over on account of absence of witnesses.
R. H. Smith and R. B. Armistead, Esqs., for the State; Dargan & Taylor for the defense.-- Mobile Advertiser.

1861 Stein v. The State, 37 Ala. 123, February 23, 1861, Supreme Court of Alabama. "The indictment charges, however, that the poisonous water was supplied to all the citizens of Mobile, and to those who might visit the city.  Such as act is sufficiently general and extensive in its effects to constitute a nuisance; and the poisoning of the water consumed by an entire community, and by all who might go that way, would certainly possess the quality of injuriousness to the community, requisite to constitute a nuisance.  If then, the indictment shows that the defendant is criminally guilty of inflicting the public injury alleged, it is a good accusation of nuisance.  The indictment does not charge that the defendant knowingly or intentionally supplied water of unwholesome or poisonous quality; nor that he poisoned the water, or imparted to it its unwholesome quality; nor that the same was done by his agents or servants. The defendant may, therefore, have done all that is alleged, and yet have been guilty or no known or intentional wrong."
"The theory of the law is, that a criminal intent is a necessary ingredient of every indictable offense.  The furnishing of poisoned water is not, of itself, a crime:  the criminality of the act depends upon the question, whether it was furnished with a knowledge of the poisonous quality; knowledge is an ingredient of the offense, and must be averred."

1874 Albert Stein Grave

1887 Stein v. Bienville Water-Supply Co., 32 Fed Rep 876, Circuit Court, S.D. Alabama (December 3, 1887)

1888 Stein v. Bienville Water-Supply Co., 34 Fed Rep 145, Circuit Court, S.D. Alabama (March 7, 1888)

1891 Stein, et al. v. Gordon et al., 92 Ala. 532, Supreme Court of Alabama (April 16, 1891)

1891 Stein v Bienville Water Company, 141 U.S. 67, United States Supreme Court, (May 11, 1891)

1897 Stein, et al. v. McGrath, 116 Ala. 593, November Term, 1897, Supreme Court of Alabama

1906 McGrath, et al. v. Stein, et al., 148 Ala. 370, 42 So. Rep. 454,  November 22, 1906, Supreme Court of Alabama

1973 History of Water Supply of the Mobile Area, Alabama, by Joseph F. Ricco and Conrad A. Gazzier, Circular 92, Geological Survey of Alabama | Text enabled pdf |
Pages 16-17:  The proposition was accepted by the city. And as a result, [Henry] Hitchcock engaged an engineer, Albert Stein of New Orleans, who submitted a report to him dated January 29, 1838, concerning the introduction of water from Three Mile Creek into the city of Mobile.
It was 1840 before the city met with any success with its public water system. On December 26, 1840, the city of Mobile entered into a contract with Albert Stein which, in effect, gave him a franchise to supply the city with water for 20 years. Further, the contract provided that Stein deliver water to the city within 2 years. Also, that at the expiration of the 20 years, the value of the works constructed should be detennined by 6 arbitrators and the amount determined paid Stein by the city or any time thereafter when the works would become the property of the city of Mobile. All pipe on hand and that already installed were to be purchased by Stein from the city at the price they could be delivered at Mobile at the time of purchase.
On January 7, 1841, the agreement between the city of Mobile and Albert Stein was confirmed by the State legislature.
Stein, born in Dusseldorf, Germany, in either 1785 or 1786, was employed by Napoleon as a hydraulic engineer. He came to Cincinnati in 1817 and founded the water works for that city, and in the ensuing years established systems in Lynchburg· and Richmond, Virginia; Nashville, Tennessee; and "engineered" the canal construction from Dayton to Cincinnati, Ohio. He arrived in New Orleans in 1832 and established their public water system and served as an engineer on channel improvements until he moved to Mobile in the latter part of 1840.

1996 Pipe Dreams: Commercial Bank of New Orleans v. Albert Stein, Waterworks Engineer, by Carolyn Kolb

2001 Water for Gotham: A History, by Gerard T. Koeppel
Page 166:  The over-abundant and expensive Croton could hardly be needed with the cheap and ample Bronx close at hand, argued the Mirror, fearful of heavy new taxes on its wealthy readers. The commissioners' only response was consulting with Albert Stein, a German-born engineer who had just completed a water supply for Nashville; with the commissioners in tow, Stein conducted gauges of the Croton in September and prepared a brief supportive report.

2006 At the Confluence of Science and Power: Water Struggles of New Orleans in the Nineteenth Century, by Carolyn Kolb, University of New Orleans, Dissertation in Urban History

2011 "Albert Stein," by Greg O'Brien, from the Encyclopedia of Alabama

© 2018 Morris A. Pierce