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Smith Sanitary Bubbler Fountain, circa 1950

A bubbler fountain. Even better, a sanitary bubbler fountain. What thirsty student or teacher could resist that!?! This particular bubbler fountain was used in one of Morrison County’s many small schools before consolidation closed the vast majority of them. Manufactured by the Smith System Heating Company of Minneapolis, Minnesota, a company that is still in business today as the Smith Foundry Company, this device would have been hard for any self-respecting school board to resist after reading ads such as the one found in the journal, School Education. The ad labels the bubbler as The Fountain of Health, protecting students and teachers from disease by doing away with shared water pails and drinking cups (Minneapolis, Minnesota: School Education Publishing Company, September 1914). Other ads describe the fountain as having the amazing ability to ward off all germs, keeping the water fresh, clear, safe and cool (The Nebraska Teacher, Volume 18, 1915).

The Smith Foundry Company was established in 1905 by Leo Smith and two of his cousins. According to the company website (accessed 14 April 2018), it originally manufactured pot belly stoves for one-room schools and town halls. The company’s success allowed it to expand and purchase a small gray iron foundry in South Minneapolis in 1923. After World War II, the company expanded its line in an effort to head off bankruptcy which was threatening due to decreased demand for its signature product, the pot belly stove. Schools were growing larger and heating systems were changing making the stove no longer an essential piece of education infrastructure. The company expansion included a line of sheet metal products for libraries and schools and a short-run jobbing shop, both of which renewed the company’s previous financial success and stability.

Smith Sanitary Bubbler Fountain (detail), circa 1950

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