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Some plumbing Heating History

StetStet Posts: 17Member

On this day in Arlington history, January 4, 1930: Lillian Baumbach is born. Raised in Arlington, she will become the first woman master plumber in the US. Lillian graduated from Washington-Lee High School in 1947. She learned details of the trade working summers in her father's Arlington plumbing business started in 1928 and tagging along on service calls. She made well-known her father’s family plumbing business Baumbach Plumbers of Arlington.

The idea of a diminutive figure wielding a large, cast-iron pipe wrench in the labor-intensive world of plumbing was treated as a novelty. Women plumbers were so unusual at the time that the Washington Evening Star dubbed her ``the pretty plumber." The Arlington native attracted national attention that led to newspaper (including this cartoon from the Boston Herald) and magazine articles and radio and television appearances including “What’s My Line.” She was said to have “scorned dolls for monkey wrenches when she was six years old and by the time she was 12 she was a regular plumber’s helper on jobs with her dad.” Her story and picture were carried by wire services, and soon, she received hundreds of letters from around the world. The correspondences, some simply addressed "Pretty Plumber," contained marriage proposals and queries on technical plumbing problems. A U.S. Army infantry company stationed in Korea during the Korean War elected her as its pinup girl. She sent them the photo (above) of herself holding a wrench over her shoulder)

She married George W. “Bill” Jacobs and lived with him and their two daughters for 26 years. She became President of her father’s plumbing business until her retirement in 1989 when she moved to North Carolina. She died in 2000.

Lillian Baumbach Jacobs, an Arlingtonian, broke new ground for women by opening up a traditional man’s field. Her story was used for years by the industry to recruit new plumbers.


  • Intplm.Intplm. Posts: 684Member
    A great story.
    With the lack of help disappearing from our ranks and little to no new help committing to our craft in this day in age. I cant help but to think that this business we are in can be such a great opportunity for women. Maybe more so now than ever.
  • EBEBRATT-EdEBEBRATT-Ed Posts: 5,631Member
    Really great story!
  • Erin Holohan HaskellErin Holohan Haskell Posts: 999Member, Moderator, Administrator
    Way to go, Lillian! Thanks for sharing, @Stet.
  • IronmanIronman Posts: 4,965Member
    My first full time job as an apprentice was with Baumbach Plumbing when I was 16.

    It was there that the service manager, Terry McCumber, indued me with the handle of "Ironman".

    He took me to a job where an old squatty radiator had to be carried and loaded onto a truck. It was something like 20" X 7 tubes X 20 or more sections. Two behemoth plumbers were on the front end and Terry and I were on the back. They took off before I had a grip on it and they kept going before I really ever got a good grasp of it. Terry spent the next few days riding me about being weak and that I couldn't cut it. Finally one morning, I had enough and challenged him to put his arm up on the counter to see just how strong he really was. He outweighed me by 60 pounds. He accepted and after about five seconds, he was done with the back of his hand on the counter. He shook his head and said "you must have had a bad grip on that radiator the other day".

    He then began to call me "Ironman" and it just stuck from there.

    I never really got to know Mrs. Baumbach, as I soon moved on to another company, but her reputation was well known.
    Bob Boan

    You can choose to do what you want, but you cannot choose the consequences.
  • EBEBRATT-EdEBEBRATT-Ed Posts: 5,631Member
    so you were originally a New Englander? So you came up to do that "volunteer work party" to see if anything had changed?

    Well it has not MA still sucks. LOL Glad you got out.
  • EBEBRATT-EdEBEBRATT-Ed Posts: 5,631Member
    Your radiator story remind me of taking out and old Arco boiler in the "rich" town Longmeadow, MA about 40 years ago. Me and two others we were all dumb in our 20s.

    So we get this thing apart and we wanted to carry the sections up the stairs straight flight a little steep right out into the back yard. Sections were heavy but we didn't want to break them up.

    No hand cart we just lugged them. So we heaved and struggled and with every section we would try something new too see if we could make it easier. One guy on top, two on the bottom ...two on top 1 on the bottom etc etc Of course the front and back were murder.

    After one difficult trial up the stairs I was about all done, huffing and puffin when one of the guys said "that way was pretty good I didn't have nothin"

    We all just burst out laughing
  • IronmanIronman Posts: 4,965Member
    Ed, we all had strong backs and weak minds back then.
    Bob Boan

    You can choose to do what you want, but you cannot choose the consequences.
  • Solid_Fuel_ManSolid_Fuel_Man Posts: 1,458Member
    Now its weak backs and weak minds I'm afraid.
    Master electrician specialising in boiler and burner controls, multiple fuel systems, radiant system controls, building controls, and universal refrigeration tech.
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