A Brief History of Toilet Paper in Honor of National Toilet Paper Day

Yesterday was National Toilet Paper Day. I celebrated by changing all the empty rolls in the house. Truthfully, this wasn’t much of a celebration, since I do this on a regular basis because, sadly, no one else seems to know when to do it or how to do it other than me. But just to do things a little differently and honor National TP day, I hung the rolls with the sheets going under instead of over. Call me crazy.

Although I didn’t express it outwardly, I am truly grateful for this invention and decided to honor the inventor by posting a bit about him here. Shockingly though, there is some disagreement over who gets the credit for this act of brilliance.

According to some historians, a New Yorker named Joseph Gayetty invented the toilet paper in 1857. Apparently Gayetty had some pretty bad hemorrhoids and decided something soft like TP would be kinder to his nether regions than the current solutions of leaves and corn cobs. (Not to mention that it would be kinder to the corn cobs, too.)

However, some other sources say it was a British gent named Walter J. Alcock who formulated the idea for toilet paper in England in the 1880’s. Of course, it’s possible that both Gayetty and Alcock came up with the same idea around the same time in different countries. But since neither of them had the good sense to get their invention named for them like the brilliant inventor of the toilet, Thomas CRAPPER, we’ll never know who really gets the credit for the birth of toilet paper.

Of course when it comes to marketing their product, neither of these guys had what it took to get the toilet paper out of the outhouse and into the public eye. Toilet paper was a taboo topic for a long time, because, let’s face it, not only were Victorians woefully unhygenic, they were also a pretty repressed lot.

Around 1879 another pair of Americans came up with their own version of TP, brothers Clarence and E. Irwin Scott (does THAT name ring a bell?), and even though they get credit for creating the stuff, it was Irvin’s son, Arthur, who boldly took toilet paper where no other bathroom tissue had been before… into the supermarket. And with that, the era of modern day toilet paper was born. Of course, as they say, necessity is the mother of invention (and if that’s the case, than why didn’t a mother invent toilet paper? just sayin’) and the real reason toilet paper took off was because of the birth of indoor plumbing. I don’t know a toilet on the face of the earth that wouldn’t overflow if you tried to flush corn cobs down it.

As I mentioned earlier, I am a big fan of toilet paper, not only because it is squeezeably soft and is indeed kind to my nether regions, but also because it has a multitude of uses other than the one for which it is marketed. Because I am such a fan I have written many times about toilet paper… so often in fact, that I am tempted to print out the pages of those posts and have them handy so I could use THEM as toilet paper when I find myself in a situation where there is no TP in the bathroom the next time I need it.

In case you missed some of those awesome stories, you can read them here
and here
and here
and here
and even my top ten rules for knowing when to change a roll of toilet paper.

Wishing all of you a belated Happy National Toilet Paper Day. May there always be a square to spare when you need one.

©2012, Beckerman. All rights reserved.
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Filed under Cleanliness is Next to Impossibleness

7 responses to “A Brief History of Toilet Paper in Honor of National Toilet Paper Day

  1. Order of preference: Toilet paper, Lamb’s ear, magnolia leaves, kudzu, corn cobs, ferns, pine cones, bark, smooth rocks, jagged rocks, poison ivy.

    Coming across patches of Lamb’s ear while hiking is about as good as finding gold. In fact, maybe Lamb’s ear is even better than toilet paper. Just not as efficient. Also, if you can find a little bunny that doesn’t wiggle too much.

  2. I coulda sworn his name was John Crapper….*heading off to google this one* People lie to me all the time. *gsumb*

  3. Kim

    If you ask me, Clarence and E. Irwin Scott are bastards! My husband refuses to buy anything other than that sandpaper (that is apparently meant for reuse). Couldn’t they have taken our delicate feminine areas in consideration like Mr. Charmin? He knows how to treat a lady’s bits.

    • We have the same problem here. He thinks all TP is created equal. I think he would notice though if I started buying that one ply, scratchy stuff that rips off after each square like they have in the baseball stadium bathrooms. Or maybe not. Men!