• cynthiamorissette

The History of TP

Good Morning Watershed Explorers,

I began scrolling through my emails this morning and National Geographic did a story entitled, "What did people do before toilet paper?" Toilet paper is a very hot topic these days, mostly because people are running out of it!

Mass production of the toilet paper in the United States began in 1857 and is credited to a man named Joseph Gayetty. Gayetty created what was know as medicated paper which was treated with aloe to make it a bit softer. This paper was sold in packs of 500 for 50 cents (credit: Soft, strong and long: The story of toilet paper).

The first "splinter-free" toilet paper, however, was not introduced in the U.S. until 1935 by a company that was known back then as Northern Tissue. We know this company today as Quilted Northern a part of the Georgia Pacific company (credit: ABC news Great Moments in Toilet Paper). Prior to the "splinter-free" toilet paper, most alternatives did have the ability to create splinters, OUCH!

In the National Geographic article, it explains that the first toilet paper similar to that which we use today was created in 1391 for the Chinese emperor. This toilet paper measured in at a whopping 2 feet by 3 feet, think small rug that you might have to wipe your feet on before entering someone's house! Prior to toilet paper, there were many other alternatives. Some of those alternatives included corn husks, bamboo sticks tied together, leaves, grass and more. Many of these alternatives were constructed as tools and have been found by archaeologists. Two specialized tools called the tersorium and the pessoi have been attributed to ancient Romans and Greeks. Scientists still debate about what the tersorium was actually used for, some say that it was used for cleaning bathrooms and others believe it was actually used as a form of toilet paper. The tersorium which is pictured below was a stick with a sponge attached to the end. The pessoi, were small circular discs that were made thin for wiping, many articles describe how scratchy they must have been!

Reading about these toilet paper alternatives sure makes today's toilet paper seem like the ultimate luxury. Keeping NBC's wastewater treatment facilities in mind, it is important to remember when selecting a current brand of "splinter-free" toilet paper that the toilet paper says septic safe on the outside of the package. This is the best way to ensure that the toilet paper disperses and travels easily through the pipes.

Also, remember not to flush anything but the 3 P's!

I hope that you found this post interesting. If you want to read more you can check out the National Geographic article at

Much love,

Mrs. Morissette