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Toilet Paper: A History

In today’s day and age it is difficult to imagine life without toilet paper and if you are like most people you probably take this for granted. In the early days, whatever means possible would have been used, from leaves to sticks and rocks —ouch!

The first official toilet paper was introduced in China in 1391, the paper was produced in large sheets — 1 metre by 2 metre sheets were cut into small squares and even perfumed for the Chinese emperor’s family hygiene. Paper was a rare commodity until the 17th or 18th centuries. The first reference to paper as toilet paper was recorded in 1718. After the invention of paper pages from newspapers and magazines were also commonly used when they became widely available during the 1700s. Joseph Gayetty invented the first packaged toilet paper in the United States in 1857 and is credited as the inventor of modern commercially available toilet paper. ‘Gayetty’s Medicated Paper’ was sold in packages of flat sheets, medicated with aloe and watermarked with his name. Gayetty’s toilet paper was available as late as the 1920’s.

Rolled and perforated toilet paper was invented around 1880. In 1879, Thomas Seymour, Edward Irvin and Clarence Wood Scott founded the Scott Paper Company in Philadelphia. Scott brothers came up with the idea of customising rolls for every customer they had. They began selling packages of small rolls and stacked sheets. By 1925 Scott Company became the leading toilet paper company in the world. The first documented use of a roll of toilet paper was in 1882 in New York State.

In 1935 Northern Tissue invented splinter-free toilet paper. Simple paper making procedures often failed to remove small splinters from the finished product but Northern Paper engineers solved the problem and softer, splinter-free toilet paper then became a reality for consumers and provided an advertising slogan for Northern Tissue. In 1942 toilet paper becomes softer, St. Andrew’s Paper Mill in England began selling the first two-ply toilet paper. Today two-ply toilet paper is the standard in many countries.