M999.31.1 | Water pump

Water pump
1850-1900, 19th century
107 cm
Gift of Mme R. V. Pager
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Water pump (1)
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Keys to History

This hand pump, which was used to draw water from a well, was used in Quebec at the end of the 19th century.

At the beginning of the 19th century, very few houses had running water. As a general rule, families had two choices: go fetch water from the river, from a well, at the common pump or tap - a chore at most often fell to the women - or get their supply from a water carrier.

Indoor plumbing gradually made its appearance during the second half of the 19th century, after the construction of a water supply system. This advance permitted the richest people to have running water, and working-class families to have access to common pumps and taps. In spite of these advances, supplying water was still a big chore since you had to pump the water before transporting it home. What is more, this chore had to be repeated several times a day, since water was essential to performing many household tasks.

  • What

    This pump is made of cast iron, a material that quite quickly replaced lead in water distribution equipment. Unlike lead, cast iron did not affect the quality of the water.

  • Where

    This pump was manufactured by the John McDougall - Caledonian Iron Co. Ltd., an Ontario company that had a sales office in Montreal.

  • When

    By 1880, many Montrealers had access to running water. Some of the more privileged ones had taps installed inside their houses, while the others got their supply from outside pumps or taps.

  • Who

    Before the advent of running water in homes, daily water consumption was 10 to 17 litres per person. In comparison, today we consume an average of 20 litres of water every time we flush the toilet.