History of Buckets

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Buckets are among the most versatile tools in the world.
Buckets are among the most versatile tools in the world. (Image: champagne bottle in ice bucket image by Paul Retherford from Fotolia.com)

Open-ended containers with flat bottoms have existed since ancient times. Vessels commonly referred to as buckets, typically with a handle, or bail, across the top, are medieval inventions. Numerous materials have been used in the manufacture of buckets.

Etymology

The word bucket appeared in the 13th century. It possibly derives from the Old English word "buc," meaning pitcher, bulging vessel or belly. Animal organs may have constituted the earliest buckets.

Firefighting

Leather buckets, made from animal hides, became standard household items in Colonial America. Men and boys attended fires with buckets personally marked for easy retrieval after the confusion.

Leather buckets appeared in most early American homes.
Leather buckets appeared in most early American homes. (Image: on the peg image by mark smith from Fotolia.com)

Wooden Buckets

Coopers fashioned wooden buckets by fitting wooden staves inside metal rings in the Middle Ages. Wet coopers specialized in watertight buckets, while dry coopers made buckets that could not hold water.

Wooden buckets elicit notions of simpler times.
Wooden buckets elicit notions of simpler times. (Image: seau et bouclier image by Jacques PALUT from Fotolia.com)

Galvanized Iron

Stanislas Sorel patented galvanization in 1837. The metallurgical process shielded iron or steel with a zinc-coating. For buckets, the process promised sturdy construction without fear of rust. Galvanized iron buckets replaced leather buckets as the firefighting buckets of choice.

Iron trumped wood for sturdiness.
Iron trumped wood for sturdiness. (Image: bucket image by MLProject from Fotolia.com)

Plastic

The first plastic buckets hit the market in 1967, but the first plastic pail covers did not follow until 1971. Until that time, metal covers sealed plastic buckets.

Plastic buckets range from utilitarian tools to toys.
Plastic buckets range from utilitarian tools to toys. (Image: bucket image by Aleksandr Ugorenkov from Fotolia.com)

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