As with most historical matters, there appears to be some dispute. Birdsill Holly — an American inventor — has been given credit for a 1869 design. However, there are many patents for similar fire hydrants filed ahead of his, and some were even successfully produced. The development of the first above-ground fire hydrant in the US has been traced back to Philadelphia in 1803. Underground hydrants had been in use since the 1700s.
According to http://www.firehydrant.org/pictures/hydrant_history.html “the inventor of the first device that we’d recognize today as a fire hydrant can’t be told, because the hydrant was developed over a period of many years by many people.” In ancient China and colonial America, cauldrons and cisterns were placed in strategic locations to be used in the event of a fire. With the advent of a pressurized municipal water supply came technological advances, such as Frederick Graff Sr.’s pillar shaped hydrant circa 1801. Only a year later, orders for cast iron hydrants began to be placed. The website explains that “it is said that Mr. Graff held the first U.S. patent for a fire hydrant, but this cannot be verified: the patent office burned to the ground in 1836, destroying all the U.S. patent records!”
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