August 30, 2011

Toilet Paper History: How America Convinced the World to Wipe

The first products designed specifically to wipe one’s nethers were aloe-infused sheets of manila hemp dispensed from Kleenex-like boxes. They were invented in 1857 by a New York entrepreneur named Joseph Gayetty, who claimed his sheets prevented hemorrhoids. Gayetty was so proud of his therapeutic bathroom paper that he had his name printed on each sheet. But his success was limited. Americans soon grew accustomed to wiping with the Sears Roebuck catalog, and they saw no need to spend money on something that came in the mail for free.

via @stevesilberman

comments

  1. Sheila Ryan on August 30th, 2011 at 3:43 pm

    “By the 1970s, America could no longer conceive of life without toilet paper.”

  2. Cindy Scroggins on August 30th, 2011 at 3:45 pm

    Yeah, that’s pretty much when I decided it was important.

  3. Michael Smith on August 30th, 2011 at 3:46 pm

    Was it kottke who posted the thing about toilet paper vs. wet, flushable wipes? As in, why do we wipe with dry TP when it’s not very clean?

  4. Cindy Scroggins on August 30th, 2011 at 3:53 pm

    It’s harder to wear wet wipes around your neck.

  5. Daryl Scroggins on August 30th, 2011 at 4:09 pm

    Erica Bidet. Sorry.

  6. Cindy Scroggins on August 30th, 2011 at 4:26 pm

    I’m gonna call Tyrone.

  7. Rick Neece on August 30th, 2011 at 5:43 pm

    I flushed a “flushable” wet wipe once. Plugged up the main drain in the basement. We had a hard rain two days later. Started down the stairs the morning after to empty the catbox. Noticed an empty bucket at the base of the stairs. I thought, “Now who left that ther…?” Got closer. It was floating on an inch of water covering the floor. Called Rooter. He snaked it out, pulled that blackened and torn-up wet-wipe off the end of the snake. “Here’s your problem,” he said, fondling it in his gloves. I recognized it immediately.

    I’ve never flushed another.

  8. Rick Neece on August 30th, 2011 at 6:16 pm

    I’m pretty sure the Sears Catalog harkens to outhouses and the page you can do without. One would never wipe with a page that held your dream on it.

  9. Rick Neece on August 30th, 2011 at 6:18 pm

    I’m pretty sure a page, now, from the Sears Catalog would plug up drains from here to Katmandu.

  10. Rick Neece on August 30th, 2011 at 6:27 pm

    Oh, and: Gayetty.

  11. Sheila Ryan on August 30th, 2011 at 6:36 pm

    I’d love TP with “Joseph Gayetty” imprinted on it.

  12. Rick Neece on August 30th, 2011 at 6:44 pm

    It’s a marketing opportunity, for the Clusterflock giftshop.

  13. Carole Corlew on August 30th, 2011 at 8:44 pm

    I don’t know why this summons up Aunt Doris’ outhouse. She would not have an indoor for the longest time. You know, some old-fashioned people felt doing your business indoors was just nasty. No animals and no potties in the house.

    So, one time a cousin was in the outhouse in the winter. It got cold in the Tennessee hills at Christmas. His cap fell off and down down down. Oops. I was a very excitable child. So off I go screaming into the house where everyone was gathered around the big antique dining table. “Garble garble shriek scream … fell INTO THE OUTHOUSE. You know THE BATHROOM PART!” The women tore out of the house. I thought, wow, they really were attached to that ratty ole hat.

    They thought the boy had fallen in. The hat was surrendered. And I was lectured about working on not being so hysterical so many hours of the day. Which only partly worked.

    Carry on.

  14. Sheila Ryan on August 30th, 2011 at 8:55 pm

    My friend Ed’s family went on road trips every summer, and they camped. I recall Ed telling me that for a while his little brother, Tom, had a pit toilet fixation. Tom just ached to know what all was down there.

  15. Cindy Scroggins on August 30th, 2011 at 9:29 pm

    “I was a very excitable child.”

  16. Carole Corlew on August 30th, 2011 at 9:53 pm

    Cindy. I got into a big to-do with Daddy over something one time, told him he was really mean or something, then decided to do away with myself. I took three aspirin and stretched out on the bed with a butter knife clenched in my fists like a rose. I half opened one eye as Miss Nell crept into the room, in the dark, and gently removed the knife from my hands. I don’t know what I was thinking. I fell asleep. The next day no one referred to my dramatics.

  17. Carole Corlew on August 30th, 2011 at 9:56 pm

    Shelia, I did not want to know what was down “there” at all. The horror.

  18. Sheila Ryan on August 30th, 2011 at 10:00 pm

    Nor did I have any interest in delving into the depths of pit toilets, Carole.

    Also, my mother’s term for my own behavior was “theatrical.”

  19. Cindy Scroggins on August 30th, 2011 at 10:16 pm

    We’re a trio of peas in a pea holder, we are.

  20. Carole Corlew on August 30th, 2011 at 10:35 pm

    I sorta wore myself out. But I still have my moments. Mr. B. says I go off but that lasts only for a couple of seconds, then I’m back to my “calm self” again. But that’s not really fair. He said it when I was driving somewhere and yelled “you old coot” at a person for being aggressive in traffic. Justifiable road theatrics.