Have you ever wondered who invented toilet paper? And how long ago did they invent it? Most importantly, what did people use before toilet paper? The first packaged toilet paper products specifically made for bathroom clean-ups were designed in 1857 by Joseph Gayetty, a New York entrepreneur. He manufactured flat sheets medicated with aloe that he claimed would prevent hemorrhoids. As it turns out, people just didn’t care enough about hemorrhoid issues to spend the money and continued to use the pages from the Sears Roebuck catalog, something they received free in the mail.
Maybe I should rewind a bit more to pre-1857, more like pre-pre-pre-pre-1857. Pretty much as soon as humans started roaming the earth, they started “using the restroom” to put it politely. So, what happened before the Sears Roebuck catalog and Joseph Gayetty’s hemorrhoid-preventing paper sheets? The most common solution to the bathroom problem: they used whatever they could get their hands on. For the wealthy, that meant the use of wool, lace or hemp while those who were not as privileged used simply a river, or other body of water and their hands. Others used leaves, grass or hay. For the less fortunate individuals, they had their pick of stone, sand, husks, fruit skins, seashells or corncobs, if you can imagine that. Personally, I would rather not. There are several sources that indicate that ancient Jewish people used small pebbles carried in a bag or the smooth edges of broken pottery jugs. A river and a free hand seems much less dangerous.
While Joseph Gayetty’s “medicated paper” did not earn him the title of Toilet Paper Inventor, his creation was around until the 1920’s. Seth Wheeler of Albany got the credit for inventing toilet paper when his Albany Perforated Wrapping Paper Company began selling the first toilet paper on a roll in 1871 and in 1879 Thomas Seymour, Edward Irvin and Clarence Wood Scott founded the Scott Paper Company in Philadelphia and soon after came the first rolled and perforated toilet paper. According to toiletpaperhistory.net (there’s a website for everything these days), the first documented use of a toilet paper roll was in 1882 in New York State. Once the appeal of toilet paper caught on, I’m sure most people decided they were willing to spend the extra money and leave the Sears Roebuck catalog for what it was originally intended.
Today, not only do we have rolls of toilet paper, but we have eco-friendly toilet paper, coreless rolls of toilet paper, wet wipes and so much more. All of which we sell at CleanItSupply.com, by the way. It’s safe to say based on the billions of toilet paper rolls sold each year in the U.S that most of us in the States have adopted the use of toilet paper and the mere thought of running out sends us into a panic. However, while we think the use of toilet paper is the most dignified method of clean-up; there are still parts of the world that consider it pretty unhygienic. While these cultures have not regressed back to the days of pebbles, seashells and corncobs, they tend to favor a simpler method requiring the use of small pitchers of water and their left hands. I’ll stick with toilet paper, thank you!