Remember Pat Graham? Brickbat Book’s Benches? Showing Pat, decades ago, a small sculpture made from bits of castoff brass culled from discarded plumbing fixtures, he immediately named the piece Little Chap. Pat went further to suggest a whole series of Little Chap figures, made progressively larger. A project still in developmental stage.
The discarded plumbing fixtures were not sinks and toilets from the alley. These 19th century parts came from The Newport in Philadelphia. When indoor plumbing was a new thing, pieces that made up plumbing fixtures were designed to last generations. Sand-cast brass components, finished by a skilled hand. Engineering to allow decades of function with no maintenance.
The Newport was once the tallest building in Philadelphia. At five stories, the most luxurious residence available with indoor plumbing. Five story buildings remain common in older neighborhoods. Water will not flow higher without pumps. Height is limited by elevation of a reservoir. After pumps became widespread, The Newport went to nine stories. A century later, I was replacing someone’s tub drain.
Maintenance plumbing in older buildings gave me an appreciation for quality components of the late 1800s. Parts too nice to scrap were collected, shared, and occasionally refashioned into something new. Little Chap was assembled and shaped in a c.1905 garret apartment, on a door serving as a workbench. Year later a mold was made, wax copy produced, and Little Chap was cast in sterling silver. – jim s.