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The Invention of Toilet Paper

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Roll of toilet paper

Roll of toilet paper

People go to use the bathroom daily, and they depend on toilet paper being there to meet their needs. Few individuals realize there was a time when toilet paper, as we know it, did not exist. Like how many things throughout time begin, a desire for better hygiene was common. This is when different societies answered the call to bring us toilet paper. It is now a very standard item that most people can't live without.

Pre-Toilet Paper

Before the invention of toilet paper, many other methods were utilized for bathroom hygiene. Historians have determined that people in Ancient Rome used a sponge on a stick. This device would be placed back into a pail of vinegar when it was done being used. There is a record of the ancient Jewish practice involving the use of small pebbles as well as dry grass. Other items used for bathroom hygiene throughout history have included plant husks, hemp, rags, leaves, moss, ferns, corncobs, and more. During the 1800s, it was common for people to use pages from the Sears Roebuck Catalog. The wealthy in different societies always had different products to use for bathroom hygiene. Wealthy Romans would use wool soaked in rose water for their bathroom hygiene. The Royal families in France and other European countries only used silk and lace.

Chinese invent paper

Chinese invent paper

2nd Century BC China

This is the time and place in human history when a padding and wrapping material known as paper was invented. Historians have been able to discover sufficient evidence that confirms that Chinese people during this time used their invention of paper as toilet paper. It is also known that by the 6th Century CE, toilet paper was something commonly used by most people in China.

14th Century China

It was recorded by the court of the Ming dynasty (138-1644 AD) that a supply of over 70,000 sheets of paper used as toilet paper was provided for royalty during this dynasty. It was intended to be used in the capital of Nanjing by members of the imperial court. In a single year, it was recorded that over 14,000 sheets of soft-fabric toilet paper had been manufactured. Each of the sheets of toilet paper was carefully perfumed.

Joseph Gaetty

Joseph Gaetty

Gayetty Firm

By the time the 15th century had begun, the use of paper in many ways was common around the world. It was approximately 300 years later that commercial toilet paper was made available in the western world. In 1857, a man named Joseph Gaetty from New York began marketing a product he called “Medicated Paper for the Water closet. For 50 cents, Gaetty made it possible for people to purchase a package containing 500 sheets. They were loose, flat, sheets of paper. The Gayetty Firm was founded in New Jersey and invented a method for the production of toilet paper. Initially, this new firm's product was labeled “Therapeutic Paper.” They were medicated with aloe. Joseph Gayetty had his name on every sheet of toilet paper made by his company. This invention failed to become popular with the general public and the firm began to sell other items.

Scott Paper

In 1867, a different type of toilet paper company started selling their products in Philadelphia. This was done by Clarence Wood Scott, Thomas Seymour, and Edward Irvin. These were the brothers who created the Scott Paper Company. This was the first company to provide toilet paper in rolls. The Scott paper company provided its customers with Waldorf brand toilet paper in rolls starting in 1890.

Seth Wheeler patent

Seth Wheeler patent

Seth Wheeler Company

The rolled and perforated toilet paper was patented in 1871 by Seth Wheeler. The Albany Perforated Wrapping Paper Company was started in 1877 by Wheeler. This is when the company started marketing and selling standard perforated toilet paper on a roll.

Key Dates in Toilet Paper History

*A patent for the manufacturing process to make packages of toilet paper was awarded to Oliver Hewlett Hicks in 1885.

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*The Waldorf brand represents over 60% of the total annual sales for the Scott Paper Company. This resulted in the company becoming the leading provider of toilet paper in the world in 1921.

*The first seller of toilet paper rolls in Europe was German, Hans Klenk in 1928.

*Northern Tissue invented splinter-free toilet paper in 1935.

*The first two-ply toilet paper started being sold by St. Andrew's Paper Mill in England in 1942. Two-ply toilet paper has become the standard in most places around the world.

*Over seven billion rolls of toilet paper are purchased each year in the United States. It is estimated that each American uses over 23 rolls of toilet paper each year.

Current Toilet Paper Variations

The plain colored toilet paper with no pattern has been largely replaced by toilet paper with patterns and is normally white. It is commonly embossed with decorative patterns. Many types of toilet paper now come in different colors and sizes depending on the brand.

In 1973, Johnny Carson made a joke about there being a possible shortage of toilet paper. He did this during his opening monologue on the “Tonight Show.” Many Americans didn't find it funny. Most of them immediately went to their local stores and bought as much toilet paper as they could. This is proof of how much toilet paper has become an integral part of life in the United States.


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