|Source: Directory of New York Charities, 1900|
You are probably asking yourself, "What on earth is a 'perambulating fountain'?"
|Source: Directory of |
New York Charities, 1900
Before refrigerators, running taps in every apartment and public fountains -- let alone bottled water -- there were horse-drawn wagons that toured the local slums during summer months, offering free ice and water to overheated citizens.
The first cart embarked on June 15, 1891, paid for and organized by the Moderation Society, a temperance-advocating charity organization founded on the Lower East Side in 1879.
It took the Moderation Society eleven years to secure the proper permits and political support to launch the water wagon initiative, which was paid for by donations to the organization.
By the 1910s, pro alcohol-abstinence organizations like the Salvation Army began what were essentially marketing campaigns -- highly publicized "water wagon parades" -- with the goal of recruiting "boozers" to "get on the wagon" (meaning, exchange booze for water).
A new American catch-phrase was adopted from campaigns like these; those who made pledges to quit drinking were considered "on the water wagon." And those who returned to alcohol were said to have "fallen off the water wagon" (since shortened to "on the wagon" and "off the wagon.")