A familiar sight in every building, home and establishment, steel pipes have long been used for years. Every year, millions of pipes are used for multiple purposes. They can be used in playgrounds, plumbing, architecture and even transportation. Almost every industry uses it, from architecture to construction to even media. How did this useful tube of metal come to be, and how the steel pipe become an essential in every home?
We may not realize it, but pipes have long been a part of our history, dating back even before the time of Christ. It was the Chinese who pioneered the use of modern piping in 2500 BC, with bamboo tubes used to transport natural gas from shallow wells to their then-capital, Peking. Other civilizations used drilled stone, wood and clay for their piping systems. The first recorded use of metal pipes can be traced all the way back to 3000 BC, with pipes made from copper.
Later on, lead pipes became popular in Europe, especially during the Roman Empire, which may be the primary reason for the widespread lead poisoning during the era. Wood became the material of choice for colonial America.
The origin of today’s steel pipes can be traced back to the early 1800s, when a man named William Murdoch bound together barrels to create a tube to transport coal gas, which then created the coal lamp system of London. Demand grew as the system proved to be effective and later on, more innovators set off to develop new pipes. In 1824, James Russell patented a method wherein tubes were heat fused together using the edges of a flat iron strip; however, a more efficient system was developed by Cornelius Whitehouse. With his method, thin iron sheets are heated and pulled through a cone shaped opening. As it goes through the opening, the sides curl up and form a pipe, and the ends fused together. Until today, this is the method primarily used by steel tube manufacturers around the world. Seamless metal pipes were developed in the late 1800s, with the first seamless pipe plant established in 1895.