History credits the Chinese with the invention of regular paper as we know today. They used a combination of barks, rags, husks, and other waste materials to make a pulp, dry it out in sheets and use it for writing. It naturally follows that it was them, yet again, who first developed the concept of paper for use as sanitary purposes.
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, it was a luxury, granted only to the Royalty. As a result, consumption was pretty much limited, even though it is the first recorded instance of a hygiene-related product being mass-produced.
Toilet Paper In The 17th Century
Other countries meanwhile were still using primal methods such as husk of corns and similar grains, or skins of fruits to clean up after themselves. This method went on as far as up to the 1700s. Then, in the 17th century, a guy named John Harrington invented the system of the flushable toilet. So people stopped defecating out in the open, and they threw away their old chamber pots.
Once people started moving into towns, leaves and twigs were not readily available to wipe off your hard work. People found other ways to make do in the situation. In the United States, with the advent of newspapers, people substituted old news for new leaves. There was also the practice of drilling a hole through a Farmers’ Almanac (which was a pretty hefty piece of work) and hanging it in the John for the purpose. The thickness of the book and the quality of the paper made it quite popular among the public.
However, the papermaking industry in the United States was still in its early stages. Therefore rags, used in making the pulp, were imported from the United Kingdom at a hefty price. With the paper for printing and writing being as costly as it was, it was quite sometime before creative minds could think of another direction of its usage. However, simultaneously, progress was made in the field of plumbing and flushing.
Toilet Paper In The 18th Century
Around this time there were numerous innovations and technical breakthroughs in the field 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. This same model still works, be it in our toilets or the 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 and were a huge hit.
That is where it began, and he was soon followed by the Seth Wheeler Company, situated in New York, who patented the term ‘Toilet Paper’ and dispenser in 1883. The 1890’s saw the toilet paper sold in the form of rolls. Another Company, by the name of Andrex, started marketing these in the United Kingdom. That’s how it began, slowly at first, but now we have such a variety. We can currently have scented toilet paper, wet wipes, and whatever your heart’s desire — what a time to be alive.