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City Water

"View of the Water Celebration, on Boston Common, October 25th 1848." Lithograph by P. Hyman and David Bigelow.

“View of the Water Celebration, on Boston Common, October 25th 1848.” Lithograph by P. Hyman and David Bigelow.

On October 25th, 1848, Bostonians gathered on Boston Common for a spectacular moment in the city’s history. Mayor Josiah Quincy Junior gave the signal, and workers opened the valve — and a gush of water shot toward the sky — towering about the trees and buildings, reflecting the crimson rays of the setting sun.

Boston’s public water supply was born.

Guests

Carl Smith, professor of English and American Studies and history at Northwestern University. He’s the author of City Water, City Life: Water and the infrastructure of ideas in urbanizing Philadelphia, Boston, and Chicago.

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Boston Globe “It is easy to see such a massive piece of hydraulic engineering—a complex system of bridges and tunnels, reservoirs and pipes—as a great technological feat. But infrastructure is also the expression of an idea about how we should live. And supporters of a publicly owned waterworks for Boston took a strong position in a key debate that is no less fraught today.”

Excerpt


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