Skip to main content


Samson Mine Reversible Waterwheel & Man Engine
Society: ASME Main Category: Mechanical Sub Category: Minerals Extraction & Refining Era: 1800-1829 DateCreated: 1824 Samson Pit Sankt Andreasberg State: Lower Saxony Zip: Country: Germany Website:, Creator:

This silver mine preserves two features of bygone practice. One is the reversible waterwheel of the ore-hoist, which originally was installed in 1565 and currently dates back to 1824. The present wheel is 9 meters in diameter and reaches a depth of 700 meters.

Image Credit: Public Domain (Author's Choice) Image Caption: Samson Mine Reversible Waterwheel & Man Engine Era_date_from: 1824
Society: ASME Main Category: Mechanical Sub Category: Food Processing Era: 1850-1859 DateCreated: 1852 Salt Creek Oak Brook State: IL Zip: Country: USA Website: Creator: Graue, Friedrich , Asche, William
Designed and built by Fred Graue, a German immigrant, together with William Asche, the Old Graue Mill began operating around 1852 and served the village of Brush Hill (Hinsdale) until World War I. Its undershot waterwheel, wooden gearing system, belt power transmission, bucket elevators, and related bolters and sifters were representative of an ancient technology that began with Roman engineer Vitruvius. It ground wheat, corn, oats, and buckwheat in an era that was on the threshold of the Industrial Revolution.
Image Credit: Public Domain (Historic American Buildings Survey) Image Caption: Graue Mill Era_date_from: 1852
Fairmount Water Works
Society: ASME Main Category: Mechanical Sub Category: Pumping Era: 1800-1829 DateCreated: 1815 Schuylkill River Philadelphia State: PA Zip: 19130 Country: USA Website: Creator: Graff, Frederick , Latrobe, Benjamin

At a time when steam power was finding its first uses in America, Philadelphia opened two steam pumping stations, January 1801, to lift water from the Schuylkill River and distribute it through the city's wooden pipes and mains. By 1811 a new water power works was begun on the river near Morris Hill, and the Fairmount Water Works opened September 7, 1815. These water works represented the first large-scale application of steam pumping to water service in the country.

Image Credit: Public Domain (National Park Service) Image Caption: Fairmount Waterworks, East bank of Schuylkill River, Aquarium Drive, Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, PA View looking northeast at waterworks from across Schuylkill River. Photo taken December, 1984.
Era_date_from: 1815
Society: ASME Main Category: Mechanical Sub Category: Minerals Extraction & Refining Era: 1700-1749 DateCreated: 1742 94 Rexmont Rd Lebanon State: PA Zip: 17042 Country: USA Website: Creator: Grubb, Peter
When erected by Peter Grubb to smelt the rich iron ore of the nearby Cornwall ore banks, this stone-built blast furnace was typical for its time, producing about 20 tons of pig-iron and cast-iron products a week. A major reconstruction in 1856 to 1857 produced important changes: the furnace itself was enlarged; the blast-air bellows were replaced by a pair of wooden cylinder "blowing tubs"; the waterwheel that had powered them was replaced by a 20-horsepower steam engine; and a pair of waste-heat boilers to supply the engine was built into the open stack of the furnace.
Image Credit: Courtesy Wikipedia/Wherring (CC BY-SA 3.0) Image Caption: Cornwall Iron Furnace Era_date_from: 1742
Society: ASME Main Category: Mechanical Sub Category: Manufacturing Era: 1800-1829 DateCreated: ca. 1810 10017 Colvin Run Road Great Falls State: VA Zip: Country: USA Website: Creator: Unknown
Colvin Run Mill is an early 19th century operating gristmill, closely modeled on the principles developed by Oliver Evans (1755-1819). Powered by a waterwheel, the restored mill was probably built on or after 1811 on the site of an older mill. Originally, the site was the property of George Washington, who identified it as ideal for a mill site. The first verifiable documentation of gristmill business was made by Philip Carter, who purchased a 90-acre property about 1811 from William Sheppard, who probably built the original mill based on Evans' design.
Image Credit: Courtesy Flickr/Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce (CC BY 2.0) Image Caption: Colvin Run Mill Era_date_from: ca. 1810
Saugus Ironworks
Society: ASME Main Category: Mechanical Sub Category: Minerals Extraction & Refining Era: 1600s DateCreated: 1647 Ironworks National Historic Site Saugus State: MA Zip: 01906 Country: USA Website:, Creator: Winthrop the Younger, John

The Saugus Ironworks, the first commercial ironworks in North America, was an impressive technological achievement for an early colony. The same basic processes are used today: reducing iron oxide with carbon to produce metallic iron that can be cast in a mold, producing wrought iron by puddling cast iron, and fabricating wrought iron with power hammer and rolls.

Image Credit: Courtesy Flickr/Kristin Shoemaker (CC BY-ND 2.0) Image Caption: One of the Saugus Ironworks' water wheels in motion Era_date_from: 1647
Noria al-Muhammadiyya
Society: ASME Main Category: Sub Category: Era: 1000-1600 DateCreated: 1361 Orontes River Hamah State: Zip: Country: Syria Website:, Creator: Mamluks, Most likely

The Noria al-Muhammadiyya is the most famous of many norias in Hama. This giant operating noria is unique in both size and age.  Built in 763 AH, or 1361 CE, and still in use today, it is a stand-alone water pump. The river that provides the water it raises also serves as its sole source of energy.

Image Credit: Courtesy Flickr/Neil and Kathy Cary (CC BY-SA 2.0) Image Caption: Noria al-Muhammadiyya Era_date_from: 1361
Subscribe to Waterwheel

We hope you enjoyed this essay.

Please support this 70-year tradition of trusted historical writing and the volunteers that sustain it with a donation to American Heritage.


Stay informed - subscribe to our newsletter.
The subscriber's email address.