Monday, June 10, 2013

The History of Toilet Paper

Joseph Gayetty is a man you’ve likely never heard of, but he is the person you should thank every time you go to flush. Gayetty did not invent toilet paper, per se, but he is responsible for making it commercially available to the masses. If it were not for him, we would still be wiping with – well, there are a few things people have used through the ages.

Pre-Paper Period

In the days before toilet paper, or even paper as we know it, was invented, people took care of business in a variety of ways. Of course leaves, grass and furs would be natural choices to use. How about mussel shells, though? Perfect for scooping, when wiping just won’t do.
In Rome, sponges on a stick were the preferred utensil. Just rinse them off with a little salt water, and they’re ready for the next person! Who cares about hygiene anyway, when everyone’s taking a bath together?
In the dry regions of the Middle East, where sea sponges were hard to come by, people just used their left hand. No wonder it’s still considered unclean to this day.

Paper Period

In the 14th century, someone in China had a brilliant idea. An unknown person introduced the Chinese emperor to toilet paper, and we can only assume the emperor treated him favorably from that day on. Conveniently, sheets were 2 feet by 3 feet, which let them double as a pillow case if not used.
By the time people started moving West, Americans caught onto this idea of using paper. On the frontier, corn cobs still had to be used at times when paper was scarce. The Sears Catalogue and Farmer’s Almanac were favored over nature’s supplies, though.

Toilet Paper Period

Since Gayetty made toilet paper commercially available in 1857, there have been a few innovations. It was put on rolls and perforated in 1877, and by 1935 people finally could get splinter-free toilet paper. Thankfully, today it is found in virtually every modern restroom – even portable restrooms! There is no need to bring your own paper, even when portable toilets will be the only ones available.

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