History credits the Chinese with the invention of regular paper as we know it today. To make paper, they started with a combination of barks, rags, husks, and other waste materials to make a pulp, which they then dried into sheets an used for writing. As the first inventors of paper in general, it also makes sense that the Chinese were the first to develop the concept of using paper for sanitary purposes as well.
As early as 1391, before any modern record of toilet paper in other countries, the Chinese Emperor of the Ming Dynasty is mentioned to have used toilet paper. However, at the time, people considered toilet paper a luxury only granted to the Royalty. As a result, even though this is the first recorded instance of mass production of hygiene-related paper products, consumption was limited.
Toilet Paper In The 17th Century
Meanwhile, other countries were still using primal methods, like leaves, twigs, corn husks, or fruit skins, to clean themselves. This method was the primary approach up until the the 1700s. Then, in the 17th century, a guy named John Harrington invented the system of the flushable toilet. This invention allowed people to adjust to a new system and get rid of their old chamber pots.
Once people started moving into towns, leaves and twigs were not readily available. People found other ways to make do in the situation. In the United States, with the advent of newspapers, people started using old newspaper for new purposes. There was also the practice of drilling a hole through a Farmers’ Almanac (a hefty book with many pages) and hanging it in the bathroom for easy paper access. The thickness of the book and the quality of the paper made it quite popular among the public.
However, at this point, the paper making industry in the United States was still in its early stages. To produce paper, the US had to import the raw ingredients from the United Kingdom at a hefty price. With production costs so high for printing and writing paper, it was some time before creative minds thought of other potential uses. However, simultaneously, progress was underway in the plumbing field.
Towards the end of the 17th Century, there were numerous innovations and technical breakthroughs in the plumbing industry since Harrington’s initial model.
There were developments in the paper industry, as well. Instead of drying out sheets of paper, there was a new machine that produced paper in rolls. They joined many sheets of paper together to make a roll of paper instead of stacks. Producers use same approach today, from rolls of toilet paper to the modern printing press.
The credit of the first commercial production of toilet paper goes to Joseph Gayetty. He became the first to package thin sheets of paper and market them specifically for use as toilet tissues. This achievement happened in the year 1857. He printed his name on the rolls, which debuted to huge success.
Then, the Seth Wheeler Company, situated in New York, patented the term ‘Toilet Paper’ and dispenser in 1883. The 1890’s saw toilet paper sold in the form of rolls. Another company, Andrex, started marketing these rolls in the United Kingdom. These inventions all grew into the variety of options we have available today. Whether it be scented paper, eco-friendly options, or wet wipes, toilet paper has come a long way.