August 3 is National Garden Hose Day

by Hardly Waite, Gazette Senior Editor

Everyone knows that Leonardo Da Vinci invented the lawn mower and Pure Water Annie invented the water softener, but information about the origins of one of the world’s most useful devices, the humble water hose, is hard to come by.

Here is one theory, from an article by Marion Owen:

The year is 1652.
The place: Amsterdam.

A 12-year old boy, named Jan Van der Heiden, watches in awe as the city’s town hall burns to the ground. The event makes a lasting impression.

Twenty years pass. Van der Heiden and a group of men, standing on ladders along a canal, fill a watersack which is supported in a trestle, with buckets. From the trestle, water flows in a linen hose down to the fire engine tank below. And the first fire hose is born.

The linen hoses are soon replaced by leather, which are hand-stitched, a trade that was common in Holland’s seafaring industry. It isn’t long, though before more uses are found for Van der Heiden’s invention and the first garden hose is born.

There is also talk that in the pre-Christian era,  as early as 400 BC, people were using animal intestines as primitive hoses to move water about. There is no mention of garden hoses in the Bible. I have a theory that hollowed out snakes were also among the early hoses, but these may not have been widely used until the late Middle Ages.

What is certain is that by the nineteenth century, water hoses were in use. The “hose bath” was a popular item in pre-Civil War Water Cure facilities, as indicated by this 19th century magazine picture:

When uses of the hose are discussed,  the fire hose usually tops the list, and it’s true that fire fighters’ effectiveness increased exponentially when they gained the ability to get water from Place A (the water source) to Place B (the fire) without having to resort to the bucket brigade.

The common garden hose is one of those things we take for granted.  The hose is pretty amazing, though, when you think of it for what it is–a very inexpensive portable pipe that can bend around corners, roll up for storage,  and carry high volumes of water quickly over great distances.

The only thing better than a garden hose is a garden hose with a filter.

Garden Hose Day, August 3, 2012. Minneapolis fans cheer on their favorites at the popular Garden Hose Pull.