Drinking fountains for the thirsty — even dogs and horses

By Jay Ferguson, retired Louisville Water Museum Specialist  

Well into the mid-20th century, public drinking fountains offered free water for thirsty horses, dogs, and humans alike. Many of these fountains were installed by the Kentucky Humane Society.

Some were public works of art with ornate bronze figures and stone drinking bowls; however, these were expensive to make and maintain.

During the first decade of the 20th Century, Dr. Bernard J. Lammers, prominent in the Humane Society, invented a new type of sanitary drinking fountain. It was a less ornate design, made of cast iron, and could be used four ways. People could use the bubbler on top to get a drink of water; this flowed into a bowl that stuck out for a horse to drink; in the back was a faucet to fill buckets; and at the bottom dogs could also get water.

Dr. Lammers installed the first fountain with his own money. The Humane Society later installed others while making appeals to Louisville Water Company officials for free water. The fountains were then given over to the city to maintain.

This promotional postcard shows the multiple uses of Dr. Lammers’ fountain. The forceful flow of water with both its bubbler and faucet wide open is a wonderful testament to the water pressure that Louisville Water supplied.

At least three of Dr. Lammers’ sanitary fountains remained in use into the 1960s. One, located at the Haymarket, was featured in the Louisville Times in 1961 with Louisville Water President Neil Dalton taking a drink.