The history of the watercooler

If I visited your office and requested a glass of water, chances are, your first destination would be your office water cooler. We take this ingenious device for granted, allowing it to refresh us as and when we require. Today, we’ll be delving into the history of the humble water cooler, and how it came to be the office essential we know today.

The invention

In 1906, plumber, Luther Haws, visited a public school in Berkeley, America. He witnessed children drinking water from a shared tin cup. Typhoid in the 1900s was rampant, and originated from drinking contaminated water. Haws believed that by providing the school children with a drinking water device, he could reduce the incidence of typhoid in school children. Haws drew upon his plumbing know-how, and created the very first drinking fountain. These were installed in the Berkeley School Department.

In 1909, Haws created the Haws Sanitary Drinking Faucet company, and patented his water cooler in 1911. The early water coolers stored water in a sealed glass container, and used large blocks of ice to chill water. This combination of glass and ice would have made for a very heavy install.

Electricity became increasingly widespread during the 30s and 40s, and in 1938 the world’s first ‘self-contained electric water cooler’ was patented, allowing ease of dispense and utilising the newest technology of the time. With electricity in its early stages, we can’t imagine this combination of water and wires was the safest device in the world!

Increasing modernisation

As the world adapted increasingly for ease of access and disability, The Haws Corporation invented the ‘Barrier free’ electric water cooler in 1972, a wall mounted device without a base unit that allowed users to freely access the underside of the faucet device.

During the 1980s, the use of plastic bottles took off exponentially and the water cooler because a plastic bottle fed device, this reduced costs and increased ease of installation and maintenance. Up until this point the water cooler had been a device mainly utilised in America, but the accessibility of the product enabled it to spread across the ocean, and a healthy water cooler market developed in the UK.

The popularity of filtered water in the 1990s spread into the water cooler market, and devices were increasingly installed with water filters for a purer taste and composition. With the introduction of computers into the workplace, employees increasingly worked within an office environment. This switch to the office environment called for a higher level of office refreshment, and the water cooler market in the UK continued to expand and develop.

Up to date

The water cooler continued to develop and grow throughout the noughties, with plumbed in water coolers entering the fore and becoming the ultimate in workplace hydration. With the increase of plumbed in coolers, the familiar blue bottle dispenser with a white base became increasingly dated, and design and invention allowed water coolers to become a key feature in any well-designed office. The steady march of technology has allowed water cooler manufacturers to provide sparking, hot, chilled, and ambient water at the stroke of a button.

The humble water cooler has come a long way from the glass and ice contraptions of the Victorian era, offering hydration, design, and choice. Discover which Borg & Overström dispenser is ideal for your office here

Our drinking water dispensers are available through selected partners