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As we celebrate the momentous 50-year milestone of Plumbing Engineer magazine, we turn our attention to another remarkable anniversary in the industry as Murdock Mfg. celebrates its 170th anniversary this year. Murdock Mfg. has been a pioneering force in public drinking fountains and potable water hydrants for nearly two centuries, leaving a legacy of innovation and reliability. The Murdock commitment to providing safe and accessible drinking water solutions to communities worldwide started in Cincinnati in 1853.
“My great-great-grandfather, John G. Murdock Sr., and his friend Lacey started the business as plumbers, or tinners as they were called back then,” says Bob Murdock, president of Murdock Mfg. representing the fifth generation. “They did all kinds of plumbing, including gas lighting, steam supply and whatnot. They were basically contractors who ran a small supply house on the side.”
He explains the pivotal moment that launched the company into what it is today: when it was granted a patent for the first frost-free hydrant a few years after the business started.
“You must remember, that was when most people gathered drinking water from communal wells,” Bob Murdock notes. “The hydrant allowed the public access to drinking water year-round in environments with cold winter temperatures. Soon those hydrants became part and parcel of America’s farmlands. Murdock hydrants also were an integral part of railroads.”
A Period of Hardship and Growth
The company grew throughout the second half of the 19th century and survived several financial panics in the United States. The Murdock reputation for high-quality, well-made products led to the company’s inclusion in high-profile Depression-era projects by the Tennessee Valley Authority (1933), the Civilian Conservation Corps (1933), and the Works Progress Administration (1935).
The Murdock M-1776 Old Style was one of the first water fountains, and it’s still manufactured in the factory today.
After World War II, when the soldiers returned home with unbridled enthusiasm to create something bigger, Murdock Mfg. experienced another critical milestone. Those were the days when the travel trailer business grew, and train travel was more popular than ever.
“If you had a camper behind you, you had to find a place to camp. Well, Murdock was at the campground,” Bob Murdock explains. “If you were going to travel on the train, you know what? Murdock put fresh water on board the train, much like we did in the late 1800s and early 1900s. If you had an opportunity to picnic with your family in a park, Murdock was at the picnic shelter. So, having that long history of involvement with the public is the main reason the Murdock brand remains strong.”
Innovate or Die
For Plumbing Engineer magazine, the last 50 years have been a testament to its resilience and ability to adapt to evolving industry trends and technological advancements. It will undoubtedly continue to be at the forefront of disseminating knowledge and insights that drive the plumbing industry forward.
Similarly, Murdock Mfg.’s rich 170-year history sets a strong foundation for the company to build upon. As it looks to the future, embracing sustainable practices, leveraging cutting-edge technologies and anticipating the changing needs of communities will be vital to maintaining its position in providing access to clean and safe drinking water.
“I can tell you that we’re going to innovate or we’re going to die,” Bob Murdock says. “As we continue the innovation with bottle fillers, new drinking fountains and water coolers with sensor operation, we’re making them much better products. We’re building on a legacy of innovation that’s been there from the very beginning of the company.”
In 2006, Murdock joined Morris Group International, which is in its second generation of Morris family leadership. Murdock is one of Morris Group’s numerous divisions also run by its founding families.
Regarding being a family-owned company, Bob Murdock notes: “We are proud to be a U.S. manufacturer, engineering and building our products from the ground up every day. We are an independent company, meaning we do not answer to private equity or outside investors; we answer only to our employees, sales teams and customers.”
The Murdock Maintenance Advantage
He adds that the company gets its best ideas from the field — from manufacturers’ reps and the maintenance people who work with the product daily.
“Operations and maintenance teams innovate daily to keep systems running,” Bob Murdock explains. “I listen to their needs and what they do to make their jobs easier. It’s how we develop products and features that will work for the people maintaining them. And it’s how we came up with the Murdock Maintenance Advantage.”
Murdock Maintenance Advantage products simplify and streamline maintenance, making it easier for maintenance staff to ensure everything runs as it should be. For example, an integral stop push button has been added to new Murdock Mfg. water coolers. One key tool removes the push button, which automatically stops the water. Maintenance can easily remove and clean the strainer, remove and replace the valve cartridge and replace the filter — without getting down on the floor to remove the shroud.
Another recent innovation is the EZ Door filter. This feature came about to aid understaffed maintenance departments that may not change the filter as often as needed. The filter requires only four simple steps to change: unlatch the door, remove the old filter, insert the new filter and relatch the door.
Again, this entire operation can be performed without the need to get down on the floor to remove the shroud. It’s a faster, simpler approach that eliminates excuses for not performing maintenance.
Looking to the company’s future, Bob Murdock notes: “We will continue to move forward and innovate. One area we are looking at further is design; we want to make more architectural products that match today’s building design styles. Accessible drinking water is needed everywhere, and Murdock Mfg. will continue to be at the forefront of the industry.”
With 170 years of excellence under its belt, Murdock Mfg. is a shining example of how dedication to quality, ingenuity and customer-centricity can pave the way for sustained success and positive impact. Together, let us celebrate this historic milestone and look forward to a future filled with even more groundbreaking advancements from Murdock Mfg. l
Traci Browne is a freelance writer specializing in manufacturing, engineering and emerging technologies.