George Warren Fuller was, quite simply, the greatest sanitary engineer of his time, and his time was long—lasting from 1895 to 1934. In truth, we have not seen his like since. How did he reach the pinnacle of his field? What early influences led him on his path? There is a biography of Fuller on Wikipedia that I wrote which summarizes his life from a “neutral point of view.” The material below is taken in part from Chapter 7 of The Chlorine Revolution: Water Disinfection and the Fight To Save Lives. By design, it gives more of a personal flavor to his life.
George Warren Fuller was born in Franklin, Massachusetts on December 21, 1868—ten years after the death of Dr. John Snow and ten years after the birth of Dr. John L. Leal. He was the son of George Newell Fuller and Harriet Martha Craig. There is not much known about his father who was simply described as a farmer. His father was born on the Fuller family property in Franklin, Massachusetts on November 22, 1819.
Harriet Martha Craig was born on February 2, 1841, grew up near Leicester, Massachusetts, and attended Mount Holyoke College, but she did not graduate. Her final year at the institution was 1865. They were married on November 15, 1866 when he was 46 and she was only 25. They settled down in the Franklin-Medway area of rural Massachusetts for a quiet life of farming on the ancestral Fuller family property. They had two children, George W. and Mabel B. who was born in 1876. We know that George kept in touch with his younger sister in later years. She married Carl W. DeVoe and moved to Jerome, Idaho. George owned a ranch in Idaho and must have visited her there.
Place names in Massachusetts have changed over the past several hundred years as the land area covering certain towns changed due to the expansion and contraction of town boundaries or as a result of new towns being carved off from old ones. Towns that figured prominently in Fuller’s history, Dedham, Franklin and West Medway, all describe the same general area, which is about 10-25 miles southwest of Boston.
We know only a little about his early education. One report observed:
“George Warren Fuller was at the head of his class when he attended the Dedham schools. His scholarship was, of course, a source of great satisfaction to his mother. At sixteen he passed the examination for entrance at MIT but, his father having died a few weeks before, it was thought best for him to have a fourth year in high school….”
After his father’s death on May 3, 1885, his mother moved 2,500 miles away to Claremont, California where she lived until she died in 1915. George must have felt that he had lost both parents at the same time. We do not know if he was looking for a stable family life to replace the one he had lost, but we do know that he married when he was only two years out of high school, in 1888. His first wife, Lucy Hunter was born in October 1869 and died far too young on March 18, 1895. Lucy came from a family who immigrated to America from New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. Her father was born about 1830 and listed his occupation as farmer. Her mother, Sarah, was born about 1845. The farming family had seven children, three boys and four girls. They must have moved to Boston from New Brunswick sometime between 1877 and 1880. The youngest boy, Harry, was born in New Brunswick about 1877.
In 1880, the U.S. census showed that her family lived in Boston at 218 Bennington Street, which is now near Boston Logan International Airport and was located near cultivated land in the late 1800s. The address is about three miles from the MIT campus, as the crow flies.
Lucy was 18 years old and Fuller was 20 years old when they were married. Fuller was only in his second year at university (1886-1890). They had one son, Myron E. Fuller who was born in Boston on June 4, 1889. We do not know much about the marriage, but we do know that George W. Fuller was issued a passport on May 2, 1890 for his trip to Germany and his continued studies. There is no record that Lucy or Myron applied for a passport or accompanied Fuller to Germany. Massachusetts death records listed her cause of death as “enteritis” which was a general term used for diseases caused by the ingestion of pathogens from food or water. The death records listed her as “married” which meant that her marriage to Fuller was not dissolved prior to her death. There is no evidence that George W. Fuller lived with her and their son after 1889.
From a 1910 census report, it is clear that Myron lived with his father in Summit, New Jersey. One recorded connection we know of between Myron and his father was mentioned in the preface of Fuller’s 1912 book, Sewage Disposal. Fuller acknowledged Myron (who was 22 years old at the time) for creating the index to the book. One source showed that Fuller and McClintock employed Myron from 1911 to 1916 and again from 1919 until at least 1922. In 1918, Myron registered for the draft and listed his occupation as civil engineer. The same reference showed Myron working for the City of Philadelphia in the Bureau of Surveys—the same occupation as his great-great-great-great grandfather, Ensign Thomas Fuller. He lived in Philadelphia with his wife and one child.
While Fuller was in Louisville working on the filtration investigations, he met Caroline L. Goodloe who came from a fine, old Louisville family. In November 1899, Fuller married her in Louisville. They were both 31 years old when they were married. In May of 1900, husband and wife went on a trip to Europe—a somewhat delayed honeymoon. Their son, Kemp Goodloe Fuller, was born on March 10, 1901. On November 11, 1903, while living in New York City, their second son, Asa W. Fuller was born.
We know from records published in the annual report of the APHA and other sources that Fuller had his offices in New York City at 220 Broadway for many years beginning in 1899, which was the same address given by Allen Hazen for his offices for a short period of time.
Tragically, Caroline Goodloe Fuller died in June 21, 1907, while George W. Fuller was most heavily engaged in numerous water and sewage disposal projects all over the U.S. At her death, George W. Fuller was living at 309 West 84th Street in New York City with his wife and their sons. She was 38 years old.
The 1910 Census form showed that Fuller was living at 160 Boulevard, Summit, New Jersey with Alice C. Goodlow (sic) who was identified as his sister-in-law, Mary L. Goodlow (sic) identified as his mother-in-law and his three sons Myron, Kemp G. and Asa. George’s in-laws had come up from Louisville to help him raise the boys. Also listed at the same residence was an interesting guest, Grace F. Thomson, 43, born in China of English ancestry and claiming a trade of metal working. In addition, there were three servants (two Irish and one Greek) making it a full and busy household. The census form showed him as widowed, so by 1910 he had not remarried.
We know from several accounts, that George Warren Fuller was, in many ways, a big man. Physically, he was tall. An account by a colleague said that he was over six feet tall, but passport application forms that Fuller filled out showed that his height was 5 feet 10 inches. Pictures of him from 1903 until at least 1928 showed that he was, to use a descriptor from the time, stout. One description had him at 285 pounds with a size 18 collar.
His hair was dark brown and, in the style of the day, slicked down and parted in the middle. As time marched on, he began to gray at the temples and then the gray seemed to take over his thinning head of hair. He was clean-shaven except for his days in Louisville during the filtration studies, when he sported a bushy mustache. He had blue eyes that could bore into someone who did not please him and twinkle when he was trying to charm a lady. The round spectacles that he always wore did not detract from the intensity of his blue eyes.
George Warren Fuller Comes to California…in 2012
On April 3 of this year, I gave a talk at the California Nevada Section Conference of the American Water Works Association. I teamed up with John Marchand who gave a talk on Dr. John Snow of Broad Street Pump fame. We made a pact to give our talks in costume, which incredibly we both followed through on. Below are links to my talk broken up into three parts (YouTube restrictions). It describes Fuller’s life and the first use of chlorine on the Jersey City water supply in 1908.
Part 1: http://youtu.be/37WZkp5148w
Part 2: http://youtu.be/rsicrBvVMc4
Part 3: http://youtu.be/n6PuOvjjQMI