The Beginning of Orangeburg Pipe
Orangeburg pipe, also called fiber conduit, is a fiber pipe made from wood pulp and pitch. It was a brittle material that could be cut using a handsaw. The first known usage of Orangeburg pipe was in 1867 as an experimental water delivery system in Boston. This first pipe was a mile and half long and it would be in use until around 1927.
Orangeburg pipe was a lightweight material and compared to metal pipes, it was much cheaper to produce. During times of war all metal was given to war efforts, so a non-metal alternative was needed for piping. Orangeburg was easy to work with and adhesives weren’t needed to bind two pipes together, making it safe for household use. Because of these traits, Orangeburg took off in popularity.
Growth in Popularity
In 1893 Stephen Bradley Sr. founded the Fiber Conduit Company in Orangeburg, New York (to which the pipe got its name). Fiber conduit pipes popularity grew in the late 19th century when it was used as electrical conduit.The Fiber Conduit Company was the largest producer of Orangeburg pipes during the 20th century. Its use only grew due to the metal shortages of World War II and the post war housing boom. In 1948, the name of the Fiber Conduit Company officially changed to the Orangeburg Manufacturing Company.
In the 1900s there was massive growth in electrical and telecommunications wiring for which fiber conduit was the main used pipe. Because of this growth fiber conduit pipe was used all around the country in new buildings including the Empire State Building. Fiber conduit pipe was also adopted for use in the oil industry to take waste to disposal areas.
Adoption of Water Pipe
During and after World War II, Orangeburg pipes popularity grew as it was used for wiring conduit in airfields and military bases along with new houses. After World War II, metal was expensive and scarce so there was a need for cheap material for the post war housing boom. To take advantage of this boom the Orangeburg Manufacturing Company started to make a thicker-walled, sturdier, round version of its fiber conduit. It was this version of fiber conduit that became known as Orangeburg Pipe for drain and sewer use. This version of Orangeburg was widely used until the 1970s when it was replaced with the more reliable PVC piping.