Plumbing their Way to Fame and Fortune: Men Who Changed the World with a Wrench

Plumbing isn’t really the type of profession you enter into with the intention of becoming famous or making a fortune. It’s more of a save-the-world in a quiet, necessary way kind of job. However, there are quite a few famous plumbers, and not just for their toilet-plunging skills! These tradesmen include entrepreneurs, soldiers, gangsters, musicians, and even inventors.

Plumbers have an impact at every level of society. Some of these famous men lived their whole lives as plumbers and installed “thrones” in the homes of royalty. Others had humble beginnings as plumbers and went on to other careers that brought them fame and recognition. What they all have in common is grit, tenacity and work ethic.

Sir John Harrington

Long before running water was a commodity in households, Sir John Harrington had the idea for a system that would rinse toilets after each use. Godson to Queen Elizabeth I, Sir John had his revolutionary toilet installed in his own manor at Kelston, as well as one at the Queen’s palace. Very few houses had access to a water supply that could meet the demands of the flush toilet, which meant that it was nearly 300 years before they became common household accessories.

Sir John wrote a book about his invention, titled A New Discourse Upon a Stale Subject: The Metamorphosis of Ajax. This book, publish in 1596, was a cleverly disguised attack on many of the leading aristocrats of the day. He was banished from court for his work, but Sir John was passionate about revealing the darker side of the aristocracy.

Thomas Crapper

Thomas Crapper is often credited with the invention of the toilet. While Sir John Harrington actually birthed the idea into the world, Crapper did invent a number of improvements to toilet design, including the ballcock which vastly improved the functionality of the modern toilet. His toilet manufacturing company was so well known that he was commissioned by the royal family of England multiple times to supply toilet ‘thrones’ to the water closets in Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, and Westminster Abbey.

Thomas Crapper is the man who sold the modern bathroom to the public. He set up the first ever showroom of bathrooms and convinced members of the aristocracy that water closets could be both convenient and hygienic! Soon after, the practice of installing flush toilets indoors caught on and became popular.

Ozzy Osbourne

Before he became known as “Ozzy,” John Michael Osbourne began his life as a humble plumber. An English songwriter and heavy metal singer, Ozzy dropped out of school at the age of 15 to start working as a plumber. His plumbing profession supported him for several years while he studied music. Going on to become the lead singer of Black Sabbath, Osbourne credits the unique life lessons he gained as a tradesman in helping him accomplish so much in his music career.

Joe the Plumber

His name is actually Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher. Once employed by a small plumbing company in Ohio, Joe the Plumber attended one of presidential candidate Barack Obama’s campaign stops. He quickly rose to celebrity status and his life changed.

He had planned to buy out the company that employed him, but after discussing taxation practices, Mr. Wurzelbacher took what he learned during his plumbing career and became a political activist. His passion for politics came from his frustration over how small businesses are taxed.  

Harry Patch

One of the oldest men in the world, Harry Patch died in 2009 at 111. A British soldier who survived WWI, Patch started his plumbing career as an apprentice at the age of 11. He was conscripted into the army at 16 and served in several roles and regiments. As a machine gunner, Harry Patch always tried to aim at his enemies’ legs, so he would not kill unnecessarily. His humanitarian beliefs influenced many who fought alongside him.

After the war, Harry returned to plumbing, rising in management and eventually running his own plumbing company. When he passed, the Prince of Wales himself gave the address at the aged plumber’s memorial.

Sir Michael Caine

Sir Michael is best known for his role as Batman’s Butler in the Batman Trilogy. Long before his days serving as a famous butler, Caine was a plumber’s assistant. He did the dirty work and learned from it. When he was offered a job as assistant stage manager at a theater in Sussex, Caine left his plumbing work and fledged full speed ahead into acting.

After playing a minor role on stage, his acting career took off and Sir Michael has starred in well over 100 films. While he doesn’t often mention his brief stint as a plumber, the work ethic gained in his early years surely had a powerful impact on his later work.

Each of these plumbers have changed our world in their own way. Home Angels plumbing professionals are making their mark every day as well. If plumbing problems are making your life difficult, give us a call. While you won’t be answering the door to any rockstars or Batman’s Butler we can save your sanity and your home from any toilet-related attacks!