Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Invention of Toilet Paper

Have you ever wondered what people used before the invention of toilet paper? I have. The ones in the picture above are pretty well-known, especially the catalogue, usually the Sears and Roebuck fondly tagged "Rears and Sorebutt." My grandparent's farm had an outhouse and as a child I couldn't believe they used pages from the catalogue for toilet paper. According to The Virtual Toilet Paper Museum - Toilet Paper in the News, the Farmer's Almanac had a hole in the corner so it could be hung on a hook. Per this article, other items used were stones, pieces of clay, sponges on a stick kept in a clay pot full of salt water, and the left hand which is still supposedly considered unclean in the Arabian region.

The first actual toilet paper dates back to the late 14th Century in China. Emperors ordered it in 2 foot by 3 foot sheets. The first packaged toilet paperin the United States was produced in New York by Joseph  C. Gayetty. Pre-moistened sheets were medicated with aloe and named Gayetty's Medicated Paper. Rolled and perforated toilet paper arrived around 1880. One source, the Scott Paper Company wouldn't put their name on the product as it was a sensitive subject in Victorian times. They customized it for their customers. The Waldorf Hotel was a big name in toilet paper. In 1942, a mill in England produced the first two-ply paper and the first toilet paper shortage occured in 1973.  I didn't have time to research the reason for the shortage, so if anyone knows why there was one, please share it with us.

One of the things my heroine in My Heart Will Find Yours missed most from the future was indoor plumbing and toilet paper. Well, actually, she missed a lot of things but not enough to go back to the future and leave Marshal Royce Dyson.

You can read chapter one of My Heart Will Find Yours and of my other novels on my website.

I have a monthly drawing on my blog Linda LaRoque's Musings and give away an ebook -- the winner's choice. All you have to do is leave a comment.

Happy Reading and Writing!

Linda LaRoque ~Western Romance with a Twist in Time~ A Law of Her Own, Desires of the Heart, My Heart Will Find Yours, Flames on the Sky, Forever Faithful, Investment of the Heart, When the Ocotillo Bloom


Paty Jager said...

Fun topic, Linda!

Linda LaRoque said...

Thanks, Paty!

Kathy Otten said...


Yes, fun topic and one most of us avoid in historicals. I never thought much beyond the Sears catalog. When I a kid and my parents bought a old colonial house, built in 1802, it came with a two seater out house. And the one room school house (which was then an antique shop) still had the old out house in back with one side for girls and the other for boys.

Mary Ricksen said...

Now I have to read the book to see what she used!
Good luck with the book!!!
sell a ton!!

Tanya Hanson said...

Loved this, Linda. I can't even imagine using a stone. Wow. When I toured Europe after college I collected a piece of TP from each country. Even then some were pretty primitive LOL.

Good luck with the book. It is on my TBR list. Happy New Year.

Tiffany Green said...

This was great, Linda! I did research the 1973 shortage of TP (as we call it in my family) and found that Johnny Carson was the culprit. Yep. That's right. Here is more from an article I found:

"Well, whether you believe it or not, there was a toilet paper shortage in the United States in 1973. The entire episode started with a Johnny Carson Tonight Show monologue. On December 19, 1973, the writers for the show had heard earlier the federal government was falling behind in getting bids to supply toilet paper and that it might be possible that in a few months the United States could face a shortage of toilet tissue. They took the words of this Wisconsin congressional representative, Harold Froehlich and decided to add a joke for Carson for the evening show.

Carson did in fact use the joke in a monologue stating, "You know what's disappearing from the supermarket shelves? Toilet paper. There's an acute shortage of toilet paper in the United States."

Much to the amazement of not only the show but of toilet paper factories across America, 20 million people that watched the Carson show that evening ran out in the morning and bought as much toilet paper as they could carry. By noon on December 20, 1973, practically every store in America was out of stock. Many of the stores tried to ration this valuable paper but they could not keep up with the demand no matter what they did.

A few nights later, Johnny Carson explained there was no shortage and he apologized to his viewers. However, this did not help with the scare. As soon as people noticed the empty shelves, they wanted this paper even more.

It took a total of three long and grueling weeks to get the shelves stocked again and finally the shortage was over."



Barbara Edwards said...

How nice to learn something new. I didn't know the nick-name for Sears and Roebuck and laughed.
Great article.


Mona Risk said...

I can tell you a little bit about toilet paper. The one they used in Russia in the nineties was like sandpaper. Having tried it, I am not exagerating.

In Egypt, only the upper and middle classes used toilet paper paper, the rough one. The lower class used newspaper.

Actually newspapers were incredibly useful. First people read them, then they used them as scratch paper for children to scribble drafts for homework, then they wrapped packages, sandwiches, and others in them, and finally they used them as toilet paper.

Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Linda,
Interesting topic.Yes, I can remember my parents had a back yard toilet(called dunny in Australia) when I was a child, and we used to use the old phone book pages.


Linda LaRoque said...

Thanks for all the great comments, guys. I've learned a lot. So, it was Johnny Carson that caused the toilet paper scare. I love it! Thanks, Tiffany for getting the facts.

Cate Masters said...

Loved this, Linda! Marketing definitely would have been tough in Victorian times. :) And ouch, Rears and Sorebutt - I can only imagine!
Thanks for the great post!

javieth said...

I must to say this blog catched my attention for all the interesting information that contained. i really liked, i think all this information are very useful and . i really enjoyed reading. I am a curious person, but i am usually interested just in a good blog like this one.

buy viagra