Friday, October 10, 2008

1391?: first toilet paper

Behinds have needed to be cleaned since human beings started living in groups. Our ancestors used grass, leaves, fur, moss, seashells, corncobs, stones and pieces of clay. Ancient Roman public toilets had a stick with a sponge attached to its end that soaked in a bucket of brine.

Using a wet hand is common in India and Muslim countries, where people use their left hand to clean themselves and their right hand for eating or greeting. In parts of Africa, though, the reverse is true, and a right-handed handshake could be considered rude. Some Indians and Middle Eastern people are disgusted by dry toilet paper because they feel washing is absolutely necessary.
  • In the court of Henry VII of England, the Groom of the Stool was given the job of cleaning the royal anus by hand.
  • Real toilet paper, made specifically for butt wiping, goes back at least to the late 14th Century, when Chinese emperors ordered it in large sheets.
  • Pages torn from newspapers and magazines were commonly used in outhouses in the early American West. The Sears catalogue was well-known for this purpose, and the Farmer's Almanac had a hole in it so it could be hung on a hook and the pages torn off easily.
  • Joseph C. Gayetty of New York started producing the first packaged toilet paper in the U.S. in 1857. It consisted of pre-moistened flat sheets medicated with aloe.
  • Modern rolled and perforated toilet paper was invented around 1880. Various sources attribute it to the Albany Perforated Wrapping Paper Company in 1877, and to the Scott Paper company in 1879 or 1890. Scott was too embarrassed to put their name on their product, as the concept of toilet paper was a sensitive subject at the time; so they customized it for their customers. Waldorf (Hotel) became a big name in toilet paper.
  • In 1935, Northern Tissue advertised "splinter-free" toilet paper. Early paper production techniques sometimes left splinters embedded in the paper.
  • In 1942, St. Andrew's Paper Mill in Great Britain introduced two-ply toilet paper.
  • The Great Toilet Paper Shortage occurred in 1973 after Tonight Show host Johnny Carson joked that there was an acute shortage in the US. The next morning, 20 million people bought all the toilet paper they could find. By noon, most stores were sold out. (info from Great Northern, Wikipedia, Nobody's Perfect)

1 comment:

The Resurrectionist said...

Another great article. Thanks. Would it be to obvious to say I laughed my butt off?