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History of Toilet Paper

Although we take toilet paper for granted, toilet paper has a relatively short history in the modern world.

In the 2nd century BC Chinese invented wrapping and padding material known as paper. There is evidence confirming that they used a paper like toilet paper.

The first documented use of toilet paper occurred in 6th Century AD China, where scholar-official Yan Zhitui mentioned the use of toilet paper. This suggests that the Chinese had already begun using paper as a means to clean themselves, although it does not mention any paper that was manufactured specifically for this purpose.

By the early 14th century, the Chinese were manufacturing toilet paper at the rate of 10 million packages of 1,000 to 10,000 sheets annually. In 1393, thousands of perfumed paper sheets were also produced for the Chinese Emperor family.

In the late 15th century, paper became widely available. However, mass manufacturing of modern toilet paper began in the late 19th century.

The Modern Toilet Paper

In 1857 the first toilet tissue was developed by Joseph Gayetty of New York. This “Therapeutic Paper” was sold in packages of 500 sheets for 50 cents. “Gayetty’s Medicated Paper” contained aloe and was marketed to cure sores and prevent piles (hemorrhoids). His name was printed on each sheet.

Thomas Seymour, Edward Irvin and Clarence Wood Scott began selling some kind of toilet paper in Philadelphia in 1867.

In 1871, Zeth Wheeler patents rolled and perforated toilet paper. In 1877 he founded the Albany Perforated Wrapping Paper Company. In 1897, the company began selling and marketing standard perforated toilet paper on a roll.

In 1879, the Scott brothers founded the Scott Paper Company.

In 1880, the British Perforated Paper Company began producing toilet paper. These papers were individual squares sold in boxes and were very coarse.

In 1890, the Scott Paper Company of Philadelphia introduced the Waldorf brand, the first toilet paper to be sold in rolls.

In 1885 Oliver Hewlett Hicks patented his own package of toilet paper and the manufacturing process.

In 1896, Irvin’s son Arthur Scott joined the Scott Paper Company. In 1921 their Waldorf brand represented 64% of Scott’s total sales. The company became the leading toilet paper company in the world.

In 1928, German Hans Klenk become the first toilet paper rolls seller in Europe.

In 1935 Northern Tissue invented splinter free toilet paper. This “Splinter-free” toilet tissue made Northern a popular brand.

In 1942 toilet paper becomes softer, St. Andrew’s Paper Mill in England began selling the first two-ply toilet tissue.

1954 – colored toilet paper by Northern Tissue.

1964 – perfumed toilet tissue by Charmin.

1973 – Charmin patents a process to make toilet paper softer by air drying.

This was also the year that Johnny Carson (one of America’s most loved comedians) started the great “Toilet Paper Shortage Scare”, when he made a joke about a scarcity of toilet tissue.

Carson said during his “Tonight Show” monologue on Dec. 19, 1973: “There is an acute shortage of toilet paper in the good old United States. We gotta quit writing on it. But I wanna tell ya, it is serious.”

People all over the country stormed supermarkets, grabbing as much toilet paper as they possibly could.

1999 – Charmin introduces new “structured” papermaking process which makes paper softer, more absorbent and stronger.

The mid-20th century would see the rise of brands we have come to see daily, such as Cottonelle and Charmin, and by the 1970’s ‘premium toilet paper’ would arrive. This led to a softer paper, and eventually paper that was fused with lotion and aloe. Today most toilet paper tends to have some sort of pattern or design on it, with plain recycled toilet tissue tending to be part of the cheaper bracket. Coloured toilet paper is also available across Europe, although Scott discontinued their coloured toilet tissue in the USA almost twenty years ago.

Today the manufacture of toilet paper is a large industry. The modern toilet tissue has definitely made life much easier and more hygienic for us all.