History of Toilet Paper
It's amazing how often we get some variation of the questions, "When was toilet paper
invented?", "Who invented toilet paper?", and "What did people use before toilet paper
was invented?" Here are a few of the highlights in the evolution of toilet paper that
we've compiled from various sources. Some links to more comprehensive articles follow.
Here are the more comprehensive articles we promised you. They will open in new browser windows.
- What did people use before toilet paper? Well, just use your imagination: grass,
leaves, fur, mussell shells, corncobs, stinging nettles... okay, maybe not that last,
at least not more than once. The ancient Greeks used stones and pieces of clay; ancient
Romans used sponges on the ends of sticks, kept in jugs filled with salty water. Mideasterners
commonly used the left hand, which is supposedly still considered unclean in the Arabian region.
- "Official" toilet paper - that is, paper which was produced specifically for the
purpose - dates back at least to the late 14th Century, when Chinese emperors ordered
it in 2-foot x 3-foot sheets.
- Corncobs and pages torn from newspapers and magazines were commonly used in the early
American West. The Sears catalogue was well-known in this context, and even produced such
humorous spinoffs as the "Rears and Sorebutt" catalogue. 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 and was
named "Gayetty’s Medicated Paper". Gayetty's name was printed on every sheet.
- Rolled and perforated toilet paper as we're familiar with today was invented around 1880.
Various sources attribute it to the
Albany Perforated Wrapping (A.P.W.) Paper Company in 1877, and to the Scott Paper company
in 1879 or 1890. On a side note, the Scott Company 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... hence the Waldorf Hotel became a big name in toilet paper.
Here's an 1886 Albany Perforated Wrapping (A.P.W.)
Paper Company ad for perforated, medicated, rolled toilet paper.
- In 1935, Northern Tissue advertised "splinter-free" toilet paper. Yep, you read that right;
early paper production techniques sometimes left splinters embedded in the paper. And you thought
you had it tough!
- In 1942, St. Andrew's Paper Mill in Great Britain introduced two-ply toilet paper
- Amnerica experienced its first toilet paper shortage in 1973.
- The Virtual Toilet Paper Museum opened its virtual doors in 1999.
Back to Exhibit Hall
** Disclaimer: this is a humor site and the material presented here is intended for amusement.
We believe it to be accurate, however we have not researched it rigorously. If you are going to use
anything here in a research paper, project, etc. please validate it with your own research, or
include a disclaimer such as this. In layman's terms: don't blame us if it's wrong! **