From the lame business history files, Part I: the water cooler


It's been a staple of office history longer than the staple: the water cooler.

It may not be the most pressing topic on you or your co-workers minds, but the next time you're standing around the water cooler in your office, and you want to waste some time, you could start spouting out interesting facts about our inanimate but invaluable friend.

According to my admittedly casual trip through the newspaper archives, the water cooler itself has been around at least since the mid-19th century, and my guess is that it was around long before. However it worked, mostly throughout the 19th century and early part of the 20th, it was in the form of an overturned glass jug with a block of ice inside. Occasionally, there were modifications. Petersburg, Virginia's paper of record had a few enthusiastic stories of T.J. James, their inventor hometown boy making good; he had come up with a new type of water cooler, where there was a separate container for the block of ice, cooling the water below.