The forefathers of this organization rallied around the issue of “trade protection.” They sought to restrict the sale of plumbing products by manufacturers and dealers to certified tradesmen. From today’s perspective, that may seem like nothing more than economic protectionism. Back then, antitrust laws were just being formulated to combat the common practice in various industries of companies banding together for trade protection.
Along with their interests in trade protection, NAMP’s founders were motivated to
promote sanitation that was very much in the public’s interest. NAMP stood for trade education. From its earliest days, and ever since, this organization has worked to foster honest and sound business practices, along with plumbing codes and product standards that protect the health of the general public.Familiar plumbing products such as water closets, bathtubs and faucets are nothing but useless hunks of material unless connected to a properly configured piping and drainage system. Proper configurations are the skill of the plumbing trade, and are crucial to the protection of the public’s health, safety and sanitation. It’s what separates the professional plumber from the tinkerers and jacks-of-all-trades (“jacklegs” in traditional industry jargon).
Here’s how it was stated by one of the early pioneers of the industry in an essay delivered at the 1884 NAMP convention:
“No plumber can keep abreast of his trade if he educates his hand alone. The
skilled hand is a good thing in its place, but without the educated eye, it will not permit the plumber to keep pace with the age. A knowledge of joint-wiping and trap and pipe-fixing is good so far as it goes, but it is not of much avail apart from a knowledge of sanitation in plumbing. The principles of hygiene, the subject of hydraulics, and so forth are of the first importance if you would be a sanitary plumber.”
From the earliest days of this proud trade association, a distinction could be made
between plumbing professionals and those who did hack work. The professionals not only knew how to connect plumbing components, they understood the why behind the how. They knew that drainage pipes need to be pitched, venting placed at proper intervals, and trap seals are required to keep sewer gases out of dwelling spaces.
Most importantly — they cared about such things. This is why PHCC’s forerunners
took the lead, starting in the late 19th century, to pioneer codes, examinations, licensing and inspection laws throughout the land. The national association always stood ready to lend assistance, but the real impetus for these laws could only come from the grassroots level where different jurisdictions applied. Locally and nationally, what united these efforts was the common purpose of promoting public health and trade professionalism.