What's Their Story? Faucet Handles
Learn the history of this period plumbing feature
Bathroom technology was pretty much perfected in the late 19th century. So why'd we have to mess with it? Case in point: the porcelain cross-style faucet handle. To crank up the heat—and water pressure—in your shower, you just turned the handle marked hot. These days, it can require a manual to navigate high-tech digital control panels.
Luckily for Luddites like me, those old-timey handles were built to last and still grace many a well-preserved bathroom. Their debut coincided with the widespread use of compression faucets, which gave bathers variable control over water flow with the twist of a handle. Earlier ball-valve faucets relied on beer-tap-like levers that had just two settings: on or off.
Compression faucets remain the most popular and easiest to maintain—great news for fans of the old cross-handles.