The Toilet

The History of Bathroom Tissue

In 1880, the British Perforated Paper Company manufactured the first paper used especially for personal hygiene. Before bathroom tissue (also known as toilet paper), people used a variety of useful and sometimes unusual items. When paper was scarce, leaves, sand and sticks were usually plentiful. People used items that were nearby and disposable, even resorting to stones and shells when they couldn’t find anything better. Later, reusable sponges were sometimes used too. After paper became more commonplace in the late 15th[/sup]century, recycling was the order of the day. Privies, water closets and chamber pots were equipped with old letters, newspapers and old paper bags.

Although attempts at developing a plumbing system can be traced to Mesopotamia around 2,500 B.C., it was the Romans who implemented a broad plumbing plan [source: Behar]. Under Roman supervision, outhouses were strategically placed over a network of sewers equipped with running water. It was a great idea, but it didn't catch on very quickly. By the Middle Ages, Europeans were still pitching waste out of their windows, and the humble chamber pot was a staple in every home. The stench in London's streets from the lack of sanitation was awful, and after a devastating cholera epidemic, a comprehensive system for sewage disposal became a priority [Source: Behar].

This roughly coincided with the manufacture and distribution of a new luxury item, the flush toilet. The indoor facility that housed this wondrous device was called a water closet. Although aborted attempts at indoor waste disposal have been discovered as far back as 2,500 B.C., it wasn't until Sir John Harrington created an inspired water closet design in the 16th century that indoor plumbing became a practical reality. An upgraded version consisted of a bowl with a hole at the bottom that was fitted with a valve. Water was fed to the bowl from a cistern, and gravity was used to flush the waste after use [source: Castleden].

­Thomas Twyford is the man to thank for the manufacture and distribution of what would become the modern toilet. He took the water closet concept, refined it and mass-produced it. By 1885, the clumsy and unhygienic water closet had morphed into a sleek all-china closet. This was a clean and efficient precursor to the modern commode.

Now, we'll move from the bathroom to the kitchen and look at the refrigerator.