Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Morality of Water:

"The connection between urban fountains and social reform was of recent vintage. Traditionally, fountains had played utilitarian, aesthetic, and civic roles in Western culture. They brought water to thirsty people, beautified cities, and celebrated the power of the government that had commissioned them. No one expected a fountain's water to improve the morality of a city's residents. That changed when romanticism's vision of a benevolent nature provided reformers with a new set of ideas that they could apply to fountains."
-- Michael Rawson, Eden on the Charles, 97

Rawson's discussion looks at the way advocates of public water works seized on both Christian themes (under the influence of the Second Great Awakening, during which the public water works debate took place), and romantic philosophical themes to forward their cause, which expected public water to not only improve health, cleanliness and safety (by supplying fire hydrants), but also morality and culture (bless the Victorians...).
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