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What Was the History of the Modern-Day Toilet Paper?

Paper, in general, has been used for hygienic purposes since the 6th century. By the 14th century, it became a mass-produced product. However, it wasn’t until the 19th Century when the modern toilet paper was created. But did you know they weren’t splinter-free until the 1930s?

Up until the 1930s, it was common to have splinters in toilet paper. Then, the Northern Tissue Company began to advertise their product as splinter-free. By the 20th century, both soft and hard types of toilet paper were available.

The Origins of the Toilet Paper

Paper was initially used as wrapping or padding material in China during the 2nd Century. It wasn’t until the 6th Century when the paper was used for hygiene. An Arab traveler noted how the Chinese did not wash with water when they have done their business, but they would wipe themselves with paper instead. (Source: The Vintage News)

Joseph Gayetty, an American inventor, was widely credited for creating the first commercial toilet paper. He first marketed the product on December 8, 1875. Each sheet was watermarked with his information; JC Gayetty NY. The original toilet paper was made out of pure Manila hemp with aloe, said to be an anti-hemorrhoid product. (Source: The Facts on File Dictionary of American Regionalisms)

How Did Tissue Paper Vary Back in the Day?

Aside from the various names like bum wad, loo paper, and bog roll, the toilet paper was very different from what we are familiar with today.

Back then, toilet paper varied according to size, roughness, weight, water absorption, and residues. So big names in the industry invested a lot of time and money in surveys to find out which type sells best. Which eventually lead to companies adding softeners to their product.

Premium toilet paper would have at least 2 plies and have creams and lotions incorporated to add softness. They would often have patterns or are quilted to give it a luxurious feel. (Source: The Vintage News)

Why Did Toilet Paper Have Splinters Before the 30s?

Before 1935 it was very common to have splinters in the toilet roll. This was due to the techniques used in manufacturing. Northern Tissue Company was the first to advertise that their toilet paper was splinter-free. By 1942, St. Andrew’s Paper Mill launched the first 2-ply paper. (Source: The Vintage News)

What Kinds of Toilet Paper Were Available?

There were two kinds of toilet paper sold back then; soft and hard. The hard paper was more affordable. It was shiny and would have prints on them like Izal Medicated, Now Wash Your Hands or Government Property. These were written on all the sheets until the perforated ends.

The price difference between the two types decreased eventually, and the softer toilet paper was more popular.

In 1973, Johnny Carson accidentally caused panic, leading to the shortage of toilet paper in the United States.

You know what’s disappearing from the supermarket shelves? Toilet paper. There’s an acute shortage of toilet paper in the United States.

Johnny Carson

(Source: The Vintage News)

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