Why a bubbler? History of the drinking fountain

Kohler, WI was the birth place of the infamous bubbler. Invented in 1888 by the Kohler Company (then known as Kohler Water Works), this model of drinking fountain shot an inch of water straight up. Imagine a mini version of a traditional fountain, but with the intent of offering a drink. Over time, the ability to shoot at an angle for increased drinking ease appeared as well as competing products with other names. The name bubbler is still owned by the Kohler Company, and they still sell an improved version of the original today.

Bubbler is commonly used today in Wisconsin to refer to a standard drinking fountain of any kind. The term is also used in some of the North East including parts of Rhode Island, Boston or Worcester, and also in New South Whales, Australia. Though it may not be understood in other areas, it has become such a novelty in WI that the state Historical Society (WHS) has created T-shirts to sell that on the front state “It’s a bubbler” and on the back say “Fountains are where you throw coins.”

Photo credit: Amy De Simone

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About amy de simone
Amy is an active volunteer, traveler and photographer. She is interested in art, libraries, museums and nonprofits. She holds an M.A. in Library & Information Studies and a B.A. in Italian Language & Literature from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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