The need to clean sewers led in the nineteenth century to a number of designs to flush sewers (see Flush Tank section), but in many cases, other methods were needed. “Pills” (round wooden balls pushed downstream by the sewage) were an early method. Larger sewers were cleaned by a bucket on wheels or a disk pulled through the pipe.

When a sewer was entirely stopped up, a “sewer rod” was pushed into the obstruction. Early rods used short lengths of pipe or wood, which were assembled together and forced through the obstruction. Several tools were developed to be attached to the front end — to remove roots, create an opening in the blockage, scrap out grit, etc.

See Tracking Down the Roots of Our Sanitary Sewers for more information.

“Tools Used in Cleaning Sewers,” Engineering News and American Railway Journal (22 May 1880), pp. 176-177.

PDF version (printer-friendly).

“Cleaners for the Large Outfall Sewer at Salt Lake City, Utah,” Engineering News and American Railway Journal, Volume XXXIX, No. 18 (5 May 1898), p. 291.

PDF version (printer-friendly).

“The Turbine Sewer Machine for Cleaning Difficult Sewer Stoppages,” Municipal Engineering, Volume XLIX (July-December 1915), p. 37.

PDF version (printer-friendly).

“Kuhlman Sewer Cleaning Machine,” Municipal Engineering, Volume LI, No. 1 (July 1916), pp. 30-31.

PDF version (printer-friendly).

George A. Carpenter, “Design and Cleaning of Sewer Catch Basins,” Municipal Engineering, Volume LIV, No. 4 (April 1918), pp. 147-148.

PDF version (printer-friendly).

26 July 1917 article from the Engineering News – Record (Vol. 79, No. 4) entitled “Zinc Balls Clean Sewers”  Author: J. C. Keeley, Assistant Engineer, Engineering Dept., Owensboro, Kentucky. Source:  Jon C. Schladweiler

 PDF version

A series of articles and/or advertisements from the 1940’s regarding different procedures/tools for the cleaning of sewers and, how to use them properly.

PDF version (printer-friendly)

Late 1930’s edition of a sales advertisement/document for the O.K. Champion Power Sewer Cleaner machine. The basic concept for this sewer cleaning machine was developed by John Kuhlman in 1916.  That same year is was manufactured for sale by the then Champion Potato Machine Co. … owned by Otto Knoerzer.  The company was later renamed to the O.K. Champion Co. ( O.K. being the initials of Otto Knoerzer).   Kuhlman’s invention continued to be a prime element of the sewer cleaning business for the next 3 to 4 decades. Source:  Jon Schladweiler

PDF version (printer-friendly)

U.S. Patents

Patent for device for clearing conduits and water closet pipes, 1858. Patented by James Ingram on January 5, 1858. U.S. Patent No. 19,030, pp. 1-3.

Source: United States Patent and Trademark Office at http://www.uspto.gov.

PDF version (printer-friendly).

Patent for an improvement in sewer cleaners, 1873. Patented by Jefferson H. Jenings on August 26, 1873. U.S. Patent No. 142,238, pp. 1-3.

Source: United States Patent and Trademark Office at http://www.uspto.gov.

PDF version (printer-friendly).

Patent for sewer cleaning device, 1878. Patented by Erastus M. Chapin on April 16, 1878. U.S. Patent No. 202,519, pp. 1-3.

Source: United States Patent and Trademark Office at http://www.uspto.gov.

PDF version (printer-friendly).

Patent for sewer cleaning, 1883. Patented by J. T. Dougine on Nov. 6, 1883. U.S. Patent No. 287,811.

Source: United States Patent and Trademark Office at http://www.uspto.gov.

PDF version (printer-friendly).

Patent for rod joint or coupling used in cleaning sewer pipes, 1885. Patented by Harvey C. Lowrie on May 5, 1885. U.S. Patent No. 317,154, pp. 1-3.

Source: United States Patent and Trademark Office at http://www.uspto.gov.

PDF version (printer-friendly).

Patent for sewer cleaning apparatus, 1885. Patented by Harvey C. Lowrie on May 5, 1885. U.S. Patent No. 317,156, pp. 1-4.

Source: United States Patent and Trademark Office at http://www.uspto.gov.

PDF version (printer-friendly).

Patent for self adjusting sewer scraper, 1885. Patented by Michael Fitzsimons on October 27, 1885. U.S. Patent No. 329,034, pp. 1-3.

Source: United States Patent and Trademark Office at http://www.uspto.gov.

PDF version (printer-friendly).

Patent for flushing system, 1899. Patented by H. C. Davis on May 2, 1899. U.S. Patent No. 624,188.

Source: United States Patent and Trademark Office at http://www.uspto.gov. Thanks to Tom Bates for finding and contributing this patent.

PDF version (printer-friendly).

Patent for mode of and means for ventilating and flushing house drains or other drains and sewer, 1902. Patented by I. Shone and E. Ault. U.S. Patent No. 697,369.

Source: United States Patent and Trademark Office at http://www.uspto.gov. Thanks to Tom Bates for finding and contributing this patent.

PDF version (printer-friendly).

Patent for conduit and sewer rod coupling, 1903. Patented by Albert W. Case on June 2, 1903. U.S. Patent No. 730,186, pp. 1-3.

Source: United States Patent and Trademark Office at http://www.uspto.gov.

PDF version (printer-friendly).

Patent for sectional rod for sewer cleaning, 1911. Patented by William H. Stewart on December 5, 1911. U.S. Patent No. 1,010,702, pp. 1-5.

Source: United States Patent and Trademark Office at http://www.uspto.gov.

PDF version (printer-friendly).

Patent for sectional rod for sewer cleaning, 1911. Patented by William H. Stewart on December 5, 1911. U.S. Patent No. 1,010,702, pp. 1-5.

Source: United States Patent and Trademark Office at http://www.uspto.gov.

PDF version (printer-friendly).

Patent for cleaning apparatus, 1916. Patented by G. W. Otterson on January 4, 1916. U.S. Patent No. 1,166,712.

Source: United States Patent and Trademark Office at http://www.uspto.gov. Thanks to Tom Bates for finding and contributing this patent.

PDF version (printer-friendly).

Patent for apparatus for removing sediment from sumps and catch basins, 1916. Patented by G. W. Otterson. U.S. Patent No. 1,166,712.

Source: United States Patent and Trademark Office at http://www.uspto.gov. Thanks to Tom Bates for finding and contributing this patent.

PDF version (printer-friendly).

Patent for settling tank, 1916. Patented by G. W. Otterson on January 4, 1916. U.S. Patent No. 1,166,713.

Source: United States Patent and Trademark Office at http://www.uspto.gov. Thanks to Tom Bates for finding and contributing this patent.

PDF version (printer-friendly).

Patent for portable apparatus for cleaning out catch basins, 1919. Patented by G. W. Otterson. U.S. Patent No. 1,295,056.

Source: United States Patent and Trademark Office at http://www.uspto.gov. Thanks to Tom Bates for finding and contributing this patent.

PDF version (printer-friendly).

Patent for apparatus for removing sediment from catch basins, 1920. Patented by G. W. Otterson. U.S. Patent No. 1,327,211.

Source: United States Patent and Trademark Office at http://www.uspto.gov. Thanks to Tom Bates for finding and contributing this patent.

PDF version (printer-friendly).

Patent for breaking head for pipe and sewer rods, 1927. Patented by Allan J. Coleman on September 6, 1927. U.S. Patent No. 1,641,320, pp. 1-3.

Source: United States Patent and Trademark Office at http://www.uspto.gov.

PDF version (printer-friendly).

Patent for coupling member for conduit rods, pump rods, etc., 1931. Patented by Frederick W. Fuchs of the Turbine Sewer Machine Company on June 2, 1931. U.S. Patent No. 1,807,782, pp. 1-4.

Source: United States Patent and Trademark Office at http://www.uspto.gov.

PDF version (printer-friendly).

Patent for sectional rod and coupling member, 1932. Patented by William H. Stewart on July 26, 1932. U.S. Patent No. 1,868,508, pp. 1-4.

Source: United States Patent and Trademark Office at http://www.uspto.gov.

PDF version (printer-friendly).

Patent for rod connector used in cleaning sewer pipes, 1933. Patented by Auburn E. Wright on August 15, 1933. U.S. Patent No. 1,922,564, pp 1-5.

Source: United States Patent and Trademark Office at http://www.uspto.gov.

PDF version (printer-friendly).