Who Invented Toilet Paper?

Nobody knows exactly who invented toilet paper, but its existence has been traced back to Chinese dynasties as early as the 6th century A.D. Although the Chinese were known to have paper as early as the 2nd century B.C., there was no mention of it being used as toilet paper until much later. A scholar in 589 A.D. wrote that he would not use paper with the works of Confucianism or the names of any sages written on them as toilet paper.

Many other cultures invented toilet paper and came up with other workable substitutes. The Romans were known to use sponges attached to sticks. These were kept in containers of salt water. The Greeks used clay pieces and stones. In many Middle Eastern and Asian cultures, the left hand was always used when wiping after defecating. This is why the left hand has become known as the unclean hand, and should not usually be used in these countries to shake hands with people or touch people.

An American named Joseph C. Gayetty of New York was the man who invented toilet paper in the basic form we know it today. In 1857 he produced a packaged flat toilet paper that was medicated with aloe. His name and brand was on every single sheet. Later, in the 1880s, the perforated toilet paper that comes on a roll was produced and distributed. The Albany Perforated Wrapping Paper Company and the Scott Paper Company are thought to be among the earliest manufacturers to produce toilet paper in the form most common today.

Be glad that you live in the modern era – it wasn't until 1935 that completely 'splinter-free' toilet paper was available. Up until then, you ran a slight risk of some damage every time you used it. There was no use blaming the people who invented toilet paper, though – would you want to use any of the alternatives? In 1942, two-ply toilet paper was introduced and things began to get even more comfortable down there. Toilet paper innovations have continued, with stronger and softer papers being created. Toilet tissue in the developed world has been designed to decompose in the sewage system, so it does not clog anything while still being strong enough to use.

Today, toilet paper has become almost an art form for some people. The people who invented toilet paper might be shocked to see some of the designs being used for novelty toilet paper today. Many of these are made to shock or amuse the user, such as toilet paper printed with barbed wire, sandpaper, or cactus skin. Other people get toilet paper printed with the names of their favorite (or least favorite) sports teams on them. Political toilet paper is always popular as well – depending on who the president is at a given time, the opposing political party can get toilet tissue emblazoned with the face of the commander in chief.

Well, now you know who invented toilet paper. What will you do with your new knowledge? Will you inform a friend? Invest in some quality bathroom products? You'll probably just flush it down the drain.

Photo Credit: Casey Bisson

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