I know, it’s a strange topic to be writing about. However, it IS a serious subject. Amazingly people have very strong opinions and preferences about what they use to wipe their unmentionable parts.
The cavemen undoubtedly had far more limited choices than we do in the Western world. Here, we are spoilt for choice. They probably were limited to soft leaves, grass, a dunk in some pond or other, or the doggy bum walk.
Contrary to popular belief,Thomas Crapper did not invent the first flushable toilet in the late 1800’s. The honour for that goes to Sir John Harrington in 1596.In 1775 Alexander Cumming added the S bend to seal those nasty smells.
Crapper, a plumber by trade, did make further substantial improvements such as the ballcock which is still in use to this day.
Primitive latrines that utilized a constant stream of water to carry away waste date back at least 5,000 years, and early toilet systems were used by the several ancient civilizations, including the Romans and the Mohenjo-Dara and Harappa of the Indus Valley.
China was the first country to introduce official toilet paper in 1391, although it did produce large perfumed sheets for the Emperor and his family. Korea, however was using it already in 589. Colonial America was a bit rougher. They used corncobs. Ouch!
I can remember using torn squares of newspaper in the outdoor loos. As you sat in the loo, the convention was to rub the sheet/s between your hands to soften it ready for use. Printers ink of course left the hands black. I guess it did the same for the derriere.
Did you ever have the ‘pleasure’ of using those shiny squares that came in little packets and seemed to proliferate in public toilets? The ones that had paper, that is. Useless. The only way to get some use out of them was to fold them into a sharp crease and use it as a scraper.
And what about that one ply that was so thin your fingers went through it even before you used it? When we were in Manila picking up our youngest son, I had to go to the loo at the airport on disembarking. I was greeted at the door by a friendly woman who gave me two squares of paper. Two. Only. I quickly learnt to carry tissues with me everywhere we went.
The first packaged toilet paper appeared in the US in 1857 thanks to Joseph C Gayetty. However, the official inventor of rolled toilet paper goes to Seth Wheeler in 1871. Rolled and perforated paper did not arrive on the market until the 1880’s.
But did you know that it was not until 1935 that splint free toilet paper hit the shops. Can you imagine?! Soft two ply made its appearance in 1942. Coloured paper in 1954. Perfumed one ply in 1964.
Who knew the humble toilet paper, an essential commodity in most modern households, had such a colourful and chequered history.
This trip down the loo paper path came about because I bought some three ply recycled Koala loo paper this week. Made in Australia. Three ply seemed a bit extravagant, I thought. However, on opening the packet I discovered that the layers are thin and the paper is edging towards being sandpaper. Certainly not soft like the usual two ply I buy.