A Short History of Toilet Paper

Yesterday I posted about the benefits of buying recycled toilet paper.  I figured that a good follow-up would be a bit of toilet paper history.  Do you ever wonder how we came to be so dependent on our squeezable rolls of tp?

Previous to the convenience of toilet paper, methods of cleaning oneself included using shells, snow, moss, leaves, corncobs, grass, stones, newspaper, catalog pages, etc.  In short, people used whatever they had available.  Apparently, the Chinese were the first people to develop toilet paper.  By the 6th Century, it was widely used in China.

Mass manufacturing of modern toilet paper didn’t come about until late in the 19th century.  Joseph Gayetty, of New York, was the first to market flat sheets of medicated toilet paper in 1857.  He claimed that his aloe-infused paper could relieve hemorrhoids.  His business wasn’t a huge success.

In 1879, brothers Clarence and E. Irvin Scott founded the Scott Paper Company in Philadelphia.  In 1890, they sold the first toilet paper on a roll.  Their product caught on with the aid of strong marketing to hotels and drugstores.  Still, Americans were embarrassed about discussing their bodily functions, and reluctant to go out and buy toilet paper.  What proper Victorian would want to be caught buying such a personal product in public?  Once indoor plumbing caught on, the sales of toilet paper soon increased.  People were in need of something safe to flush down their modern toilets and newspaper just wouldn’t do anymore.  So began our can’t-live-without relationship with toilet paper.

Not all of the world’s people use toilet paper today.  It is catching on, though, as the desire for western-style living spreads.  As the demand for toilet paper increases, there is an even greater reason to buy recycled paper products in order to conserve our valuable resources (read my previous post for more info on recycled tp).

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One Response to A Short History of Toilet Paper

  1. before actual used proper toilet paper was used, the Chinese used all sorts of stuff like old news papers, telephone directories, lace and wool and some of the poorer folk would use corn cobs and hay etc lol. I am actually surprised we still paper to be honest. After spending years living in South East Asia and returning to the UK, toilet paper just seems…well…wrong!

    Anyway, cheers for the info 🙂

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