Long 19th century – 1880-1914

Advance to Modern Era   –  Back to Discovery Enlightenment Revolution
Back to Unpublished writing

Toilet paper, 1880s

Albany Perforated Wrapping Co
Image source: currency.ha.com

In 1871, Zeth Wheeler patented rolled and perforated toilet paper and went on, in 1877, to found the Albany Perforated Wrapping Paper Company. But it was not until 1897 that the company began selling and marketing standard perforated toilet paper on a roll.

Bronco Toilet Roll
Image source: quintessentialduckeggblue.com.au

In 1879 Walter James Alcock, a British businessman, became the first to offer toilet paper, perforated and on a roll. While from 1880 the British Perforated Paper Company produced toilet paper, in the UK, sold in boxes of individual squares. The company ran into trouble and was ordered to be sold – Walter Alcock acquired it in 1889 and went on to launch the brand Bronco,

The first patent for roll-based toilet paper dispensers was issued in Europe in 1883

Thomas Crapper, 1880s

Thomas Crapper was born in Yorkshire in September 1836, though his precise birthday isn’t known, but he was baptized on the 28th September.

Thomas’ older brother George became a master plumber in the Chelsea district of London. It is said that Thomas walked from Yorkshire to London to become apprenticed to him in 1853. This was two years after Jennings’ famous design had its debut at the Great Exhibition of 1851. It was just two years before Jennings was sent by the government to assist with Britain’s main Crimean War military hospital.

Crapper advertisement
Image source: hevac-heritage.org

By 1861 Crapper had completed his apprenticeship and worked three years as a journeyman plumber. He set himself up as a sanitary engineer, with a brass foundry and workshops along London’s Marlborough Road. He invented the elevated cistern and chain approach and named it the Marlboro Silent Water Waste Preventer, after the address. Its reliability led to his and its fame.

Crapper advertisement
Image source: www.suffolkplumbers.org
Thomas Crapper advertisement Image source – ‘Flushed with Pride‘ by Wallace Reyburn

Thomas Crapper & Co operated the first showroom of toilets, bathtubs, sinks and other bathroom fittings by opening a showroom on King’s Road in London (it ran until 1966). They still manufactured plumbing fixtures on Marlborough Road, it has since been renamed as Draycott Avenue.

Their marketing succeeded when Thomas Crapper & Company was given its first Royal Warrant in the 1880s.

Queen Victoria had purchased Sandringham Hall in Norfolk in 1862 for Prince Edward and his new wife Princess Alexandra of Denmark, he was later to take the throne as King Edward VII. This was an arranged marriage common among European royalty. They moved into Sandringham in 1863, but by 1865 the Prince felt that the hall was not large enough and hired an architect to tear it down and build something grander in its place. Sandringham House was the outcome, which was completed in 1870. It was lit by gas lights, and for its plumbing, Prince Edward commissioned Thomas Crapper & Company to install flushing toilets and showers. The toilets were of Giblin’s design approach, the installation included thirty toilets with cedarwood seats and enclosures.

Prince Edward liked Crapper’s products and services. He issued further Royal Warrants to the firm after taking the throne, and these were followed by more from George V when he was Prince of Wales and after he too took the throne.

Thomas Crapper, 1836-1910

Thomas Crapper eventually held nine patents for water closet design, such as the floating ballcock, a U-bend siphoning system for flushing the pan and a self-raising seat. Some of Crapper’s designs were in fact made by Thomas Twyford. The Crapper name and the much older usage for it to mean excrement is apparently a coincidence.

Thomas Crapper trademark
Image source: Wikimedia Commons
Cistern Pull
Image source – ‘Flushed with Pride‘ by Wallace Reyburn
Twyford water closet – Image source – ‘Flushed with Pride’ by Wallace Reyburn

In America, the chain-pull indoor toilet was introduced in the homes of the wealthy and in hotels, soon after its invention in England in the 1880s

Crapper ‘Cedric’ water closet
Image source – Flushed with Pride by Wallace Reyburn

Edward and Frederick Humpherson 1880s

Edward Humpherson established the Beaufort Works, Chelsea in 1885. He was based directly opposite Crappers in Marlborough Road and two of his four sons, Frederick and Alfred, had been apprenticed to Crapper in April 1871 – and joined the family firm.

Humpherson design
Image source: original-bathrooms.co.uk

The firm’s ‘Original Pedestal Wash-Down Closet’ was the direct ancestor of the type in use worldwide today. An ‘Improved Syphon Cistern’ was patented by Frederick in 1885 and this received a bronze medallion from Queen Victoria at the International Inventions Exhibition. In 1886, an early jet flush toilet was manufactured at the Beaufort Works in Chelsea, England. The first one-piece porcelain wash-down pan, named the ‘Beaufort’ appeared in their 1890 catalogue.

Japanese bathing in art and reality, 1880s

Japanese bath time in art?
Image source: Unknown
Japanese bath time in reality?
Image source: akg-image/Coll. B. Garrett

I know which of these I believe.

Thomas Twyford – 1880s

Twyfords was a dynasty of potters founded by Josiah Twyford who first took premises for a pottery business in 1675, then just one of a number of Staffordshire pottery operations. The attraction of this location was the quality of the area’s red clay.

John Dwight of Fulham had patented a manufacturing process for translucent earthenware. The Eler Brothers, from Amsterdam had set up in Staffordshire and had plagiarised Dwight’s techniques. Twyford, already a potter, posed as a halfwit and was employed by the Elers, his act allowing him to study all of their processes over two years, then he set up his own operation in Stoke-on-Trent.

By the 1720s Josiah, by now 89 years old was still originating and was among the first to establish that Devon and Dorset clays could produce a whiter result.

His son William predeceased him by a few weeks. William Twyford left his wife everything but if she should remarry then she would receive just ten shillings a year allowance. His son’s eventual inheritance was managed by an uncle until he came of age. Their descendants, Christopher and Thomas Twyford moved the business into sanitaryware, though they later split up and competed, but it was Thomas that became the more famous.

In 1876 Thomas Twyford is credited to have produced the first all-ceramic toilet based on a Jennings siphon design. The ‘Dolphin’ wash-out was exhibited at the 1876 world’s fair in Philadelphia, although it is not certain that Twyford was its manufacturer. By 1879, Twyford had devised his own type of ‘wash out’ trap water closet, called the ‘National’ which became the most popular wash-out water closet.

The leading companies of the period issued catalogues and marketed their products around the world. They established showrooms in department stores. Twyford had showrooms for water closets in Berlin, Germany; Sydney, Australia; and Cape Town, South Africa.

Thomas Twyford revolutionized the water closet business in 1885 when he built the first trapless toilet in a one-piece, an all china design. He was a preeminent potter competing with other notable businesses including Wedgwood and Moulton.

Josiah Wedgwood designs for closets and sinks
Image source: www.mikerendell.com

Twyford’s “Unitas” model was free standing and made completely of earthenware. Throughout the 1880s he submitted further patents for improvements to the flushing rim and the outlet. Finally in 1888, he applied for a patent protection for his “after flush” chamber; the device allowed for the basin to be refilled by a smaller quantity of clean water in reserve after the water closet had been flushed.

Toilet definition #13, 1883

Swedish lithograph of bath time
Image source: Rex Feature

By now the OED has the word toilet also being applied to a manner or style of dressing; dress, costume. Also (as a count noun): a dress or costume, a gown, quoting from 1883, ‘Lady Dudley’s black toilette was much admired.’

Vacant/engaged, 1882/3

Toilet lock – vacant/engaged
Image source: cybergrot.com

The vacant/engaged sliding door bolt for public toilets was invented by a Mr Arthur Ashwell who lived beside West Dulwich station. He conceived ‘Ashwell’s Patent Toilet Lock’ while on a train journey between Herne Hill and Waterloo London. A cog turns to indicate vacant or engaged and avoids the embarrassment of trying the door. He received his patent on 17th February 1882. In 1885 he was granted a second patent for construction improvements that made it less prone to breakage from rough usage.

New brush-making technique, 1885

Mason Pearson
Image source: masonpearson.com

A brush-boring machine was invented by Mason Pearson, inventor and engineer of Bradford England who started his career designing wool processing looms. He moved to London and worked at the British Steam Brush Works in the East End, until he joined a partnership, Raper Pearson & Gill, that specialised in small-brush making. His machine made the fabrication of hairbrushes speedier and less expensive. This machine won a Silver Award at the International Inventions Exhibition of 1885. Pearson also invented a rubber cushion hairbrush.

Felbrigg Hall Norfolk, 1880s

Felbrigg Hall Outdoor Privy
Image courtesy National Trust

This 520-acre estate is one of the most elegant country houses in East Anglia, it became a National Trust property in 1969. The 17th century house boasts Jacobean architecture and Georgian interiors. Like many properties of the time it resolved the retrofitting of toilet facilities by creating an outside block.

Lever Bros, 1886

William Hesketh Lever (1851 – 1925)
Image source; en.wikipedia.org

William Lever, 1st Viscount Leverhulme,and his brother, James, bought a small soap works in Warrington in 1886 and founded what is still one of the largest soap businesses. Formerly called Lever Brothers it is now Unilever.

Sunlight Soap
Image source: unilver.co.uk

He began manufacturing Sunlight Soap and built a business empire with many well-known brands, such as Lux and Lifebuoy.  He was among the first to employ large-scale advertising campaigns.

Lifebuoy Soap advert
Image source: pinterest.com

He was an advocate for expansion of the British Empire, particularly in Africa and Asia. This had self-interest because this was where his supplies of palm oil derived, a key ingredient in Lever’s products.

Port Sunlight Wirral
Image source: victorianweb.org

In 1887, Lever looking to expand his business, bought 56 acres (230,000 m2) of land on the Wirral in Cheshire between the River Mersey and the railway line at Bebington. This site became Port Sunlight where he built his works and a model village to house its employees.

Mum deodorant, 1888

Original Mum

Mum was the first brand of commercial deodorant, invented by Edna Murphey of Philadelphia in 1888. It was a zinc-based compound sold as a cream in a jar to be applied with fingertips. The brand was based on the phrase ‘Mum’s the word’, implying  it was your secret.

French advert for Mum ‘Rollette’ Image source: ebay.com

In the late 1940s an employee, Helen Diserens, used the recent ball-point pen development to design a Mum applicator. In 1952 the company sold it as ‘Ban Roll-on’, by 1958 the UK and Commonwealth used it as Mum Rolette.

Savoy Hotel, 1889

Savoy Hotel
Image source: en.wikipedia.org

Savoy Hotel was the first luxury hotel in Britain, introducing electric lights throughout the building, electric lifts, bathrooms in most of the lavishly furnished rooms, constant hot and cold running water, and many other innovations

Sewage treatment, 1890

Sewerage systems were now expanding rapidly but it came to be realised that while the sewage could be led away elsewhere there was still a problem of its odour. In the late 1880s it was established that by adding oxygen to the decomposing sewage the odour could be prevented. This would lead through many innovations to aerobic and anaerobic treatments.

In 1890 the first chemical treatment plant was opened in Worcester MA USA. It applied the principles of chemical precipitation, essentially using chemicals and gravity to separate out the material from the liquid sewage into a solid.

Laundry, 1890

Candleford Green
Image source: bookdepository.com

Flora Thompson in her Candleford Green described a village postmistress that she had known around 1890:

Miss Lane still kept to the old middle-class country custom of one huge washing of linen every six weeks. In her girlhood it would have been thought poor looking to have had a weekly or fortnightly washday. The better off a family was, the more changes of linen its members were supposed to possess, and the less frequent the washday…

For the big wash at Miss Lane’s, a professional washerwoman came for two days […] steam and the smell of soapsuds came in great puffs from the window and door of the small, detached building known as the ‘washhouse’ […] sheets and pillow-cases and towels were billowing in the wind on a line…

On the evening of the second washday, the washerwoman departed with three shillings […] The rest of the week was spent by the family in sprinkling, mangling, ironing and airing the clothes.

Toilet paper, 1890

Scott Tissue Mills, Old Chester PA
Image source: oldchesterpa.com

The Scott Paper Company bought large rolls of paper from paper manufacturers and then converted these to become toilet paper on small rolls, which he sold

Scott Company private-labelled the wrappers through intermediaries, private labellers and drug stores, cutting the paper according to the specification of each reseller. Initially the Scott family did not want to be associated with this Victorian era ‘unmentionable’ product and did not want their name on the product. The strategy worked and he soon had over 2,000 reselling customers.

Toothpaste tube. 1892

The first collapsible toothpaste tube was invented by Washington Sheffield, an American dental surgeon, and his son. Prior to this toothpaste had been sold in jars, In 1896 Colgate & Co copied his lead. Sheffield went on to develop advances in dentistry and dental surgery.

Toilet definition #14, 1895

Image source: coinslot.co.uk

The OED has the term now returned to meaning a place, and this is the first definition that is recognisable as our usage today. It was a room, building, or cubicle fitted for people to urinate and defecate in, usually with facilities for hand washing, quoting from 1895, ‘The men’s public toilet was in a similar condition to that of a public toilet at a railroad station.’

Gillette, 1895

King Camp Gillette (1855-1932)
Image source; fineartamerica.com

in 1895 a traveling salesman, for the Baltimore Seal Company, named King Camp Gillette had the idea of shaving with a disposable double-edged blade. There was an issue, because the blades proved difficult to make. It took another six years for Gillette to find someone who could actually make the disposable blades.

MIT professor William Nickerson joined Gillette to create a way of stamping the blades out of sheets of high-carbon steel. By 1903 they had their first batch of razors ready to assail America’s beards and made Gillette a fortune by solving the hassle of having to remove the razor’s blade to sharpen it every few shaves.

Gilllette razor and blades
Image source: theweek.com

New York garbage, 1896

New York like other urban areas was a dirty place, until 1860 pigs foraged in the streets (and until much later in other US cities), horses fouled the streets to the tune of half a million pounds of manure daily. It dumped its garbage into rivers or transported it to dumps in New Jersey. In 1896 the city first passed a regulation that New Yorkers must put their garbage out at the curb for regular removal.

Toilet definition #15, 1897

A Potted History of the Toilet
Image source: bbc.co.uk

The OED now defines toilet as the device itself. A fixed receptacle into which a person can urinate or defecate, typically consisting of a large bowl (with a ring-shaped liftable seat and usually a lid) connected by plumbing to a system for flushing away the waste into the sewer; a lavatory, a water closet; (also) a similar appliance where the waste is disposed of in the earth or treated with chemicals, quoting from 1897, ‘This was a toilet or urinal where they used some kind of chemicals to keep it clear and free from disagreeable odours.’ And from 1917, ‘The toilet should be kept absolutely clean. Hot water with washing soda or cleanser is often needed to clean it thoroughly, using the chamber-cloth or toilet brush for that purpose.’

Palmolive Soap, 1898

B J Johnson letterhead
Image source: wisconsinhistory.org

In 1898, the B J Johnson Company of Milwaukee Wisconsin developed a soap made entirely of palm and olive oils); his company. It became so popular, the worlds best-selling soap, that the company name was changed to that of the brand, Palmolive.

Palmolive applying Egypto-mania Image source: egypto-maniac,blogspot.com

New York City, 1900-1901

On the verge of defining relativity and inventing the aeroplane, NYC still didn’t mandate the provision of flush toilets. Some families were crowded into tiny apartments were no more advanced in sanitation terms than those of Roman tenements from two millennia earlier.

However, in 1901 New York City made it law that there must be one bathroom for every two families in a building, though these bathrooms were permitted to be placed outside in a yard. They did have to contain legitimate flush toilets connected to the sewer system. Landlords reacted with fury to this law, the United Real Estate Owners’ Association claimed a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment as an illegal taking of private property. It took until 1906 for the Supreme Court to rule in New York’s favour. Yet for decades some landlords continued to ignore the law and get away with it, because City inspection was inadequate, or inspectors bribed. In 1905 a new NY law mandated windows in bathrooms.

US toilet designs, 1900-1932

Between 1900 and 1932, the US Patent Office received applications for 350 new water closet designs. One of these was the design of Charles Neff and Robert Frame. These men were the first to produce a US siphonic wash-down closet, which would become the standard in the United States.

W E Sloan Flushometer
Image source: wikimili.com

In 1906, William Elvis Sloan invented the Flushometer which used pressurizsed water directly from the supply line for a faster recycle time between flushes. The Flushometer is still in use today, worldwide.

Vortex flush
Image source: prweb.com

In 1907, the vortex-flushing toilet bowl, which creates a self-cleansing effect, was invented by Thomas MacAvity Stewart of Saint John, New Brunswick. Philip Haas of Dayton Ohio, made some significant developments, including the flush rim toilet with multiple jets of water from a ring and the water closet flushing and recycling mechanism which was similar to the approach in use today.

Outdoor hygiene, 1900s

As the century began, the sanitation and hygiene for most was still an outdoor affair.

A wintry 19th Century/early 20th Century outhouse experience was immortalised by the poet James Whitcomb Riley in ‘The Old Backhouse’:

  “The torture of that icy seat would make a Spartan sob,
    For needs must scrape the goose flesh with a lacerating cob,
    That from a frost-encrusted nail, was suspended by a string- “

Image source: owlcation.com

Mangles were invariably kept in the garden and used on washdays.

Clothes pegs
Image source: en.wikipedia.org

Until the 20th century clothes were hung on a washing line using pegs fabricated from simple pieces of wood.

Northern Tissue, 1901

Northern Tissue
Image source: neatorama.com

Northern Paper Mills from Green Bay Wisconsin introduced ‘Northern Tissue’, a pack of 1,000 sheets of tissue, each 4×10 inches. Each bundle had a wire through it so it could be hung from a nail.

Water supply, 1902

Metropolitan Water Act of 1902
Image source@ researchgate.net

For half a century, from the Metropolis Water Act of 1852 to the creation of the Metropolitan Water Board for London in 1902, which led to the private water companies being taken over by the government.

Elsewhere in Britain water supply improvements on a smaller scale were being accomplished, sometimes just in the form of public fountains and taps for groups of houses. Many municipalities decided to take over the job of water supply from companies long before London did. Manchester did so in 1847 and by 1902 was responsible for some 42,000 toilets, 14,000 pail toilets and 3,000 middens.

Gillette, 1904

Shaving kit
Image source: en.wikipedia.org

A safety razor using the Gillette disposable double-edge blade was granted a patent in 1904, by 1906 Gillette’s design was moving 300,000 units a year. Interestingly, Gillette sold the razors at a loss, but made up for it by selling the blades at a huge profit.

Gillette Razors
Image source: theweek.com

Gillette won a contract to supply the American troops in World War I with double-edge safety razors as part of their standard field kits. This amounted to a total of 3.5m razors and 32m blades. Returning soldiers were permitted to keep their equipment and therefore retained their new shaving habit. The consumer demand for replacement blades building the Gillette brand and a significant industry in self-shaving.

Although Gillette’s invention came from his notion that he should invent something people bought, threw away, and then repurchased, he wasn’t a typical capitalist. He became a strong proponent of utopian socialism later in his life and planned a community in Arizona in which engineers would rationally orchestrate all activity. Gillette even offered Teddy Roosevelt $1 million to serve as president of this planned utopia in 1910, but Roosevelt declined.

Military toilet paper, 1905

In 1905, a report from the Surgeon General of the US Army specified ‘the issue of toilet paper is now authorized where posts have sewer connections’.

Soft toilet paper, 1907

It was in 1907 that a creped paper toilet roll introduced the trend towards softer paper. Though I still recall the Izal branded paper in the 1950s.

Washing machines, 1907

Wooden washing tubs were widely on sale from the 1750s, these had a rod through the centre with a disc at the top and several handles at its base to stir up the washing.

In 1767 a German scientist, Jacob Christian Schaffer, published designs for a ‘washing machine’ Die bequeme und höchstvortheilhafte Waschmaschine. But there is no record of it ever being manufactured or used.

Sidgier washer
Image source: eltamasya.blogspot.com

The first patent for a ‘washing machine’ was issued to a Brit, Henry Sidgier, in 1782. It used the rotating drum approach that had been patented by Henry Sidgier. His drum cage had wooden rods which water passed through as the cylinder turned.

In 1787, Edward Beetham advertised Thomas Todd’s washing machine stressing that these machines would not destroy linen. In 1790, Beetham bought the rights to James Wood’s patent for a portable wooden washing mill that accommodated a large quantity of clothes. A lever turned the mill and the interior had grooves to help with the churning of the washing. A version of this was made for the navy for use aboard ships.

Nathaniel Briggs advertisement
Image source: jdmitchelldesigns.wordpress.com

Beetham’s machine reached the United States in 1791, though the first patent granted there was for a version designed by Nathaniel Briggs. However, his patent was lost in a fire.

Washing Board
Image source: bluewavesite.wordpress.com

Coates & Hancock, rivals of Beetham, had different patented machines, they too needed to stress that their machines provided a gentle action by offering a money-back guarantee for the first month after purchase. Their machines used nettings or cloth wrappers to be wrung. A similar machine that uses the same technology was patented by John Turnbull in 1843.

Thor washing machine
Image source: facebook.com

Alva Fisher proved to be first to develop an electric washing machine in 1907 and sell it commercially. Though it was in fact Louis Goldenberg, an engineer at Ford Motor Company, who did the heavy-lifting for the design. The machine was called ‘Thor’, it was a drum-type with a galvanized tube and an electric motor. However, as the motor was not protected beneath the machine, dripping water caused it to short-circuit and users would get shocks.

Upton mobile display
Image source: whirlpool.com

In 1911, Whirlpool Corporation, previously Upton Machine Co, produced wringer washers powered by electric motors.

Typhoid, 1910

By 1910, the debate was over. Sewage was being dumped into bodies of water on a grand scale but the cholera had abated. Then, in the tradition of trading one problem for another, cities downstream of dumped waste started experiencing epidemics of typhoid when they piped sewage-laced water to the homes of their citizens. It became evident that sewage must be treated before dumping it into rivers or else the river water needed to be filtered before drinking?

Public health officials favoured treating sewage before dumping it, and sanitary engineers favoured dumping the sewage unfiltered and filtering water before drinking. The engineers prevailed, and as cities began to filter and disinfect their drinking water, then typhoid also disappeared.

As cities grew, health officials realized that transporting sewage beyond the city limits was not enough and began building sewage treatment plants. As these systems evolved, engineers developed a two-tiered process comprising primary and secondary treatment.

Porcelain enamels, 1910

1910 Bathroom
Image source: oldhouseonline.com

Porcelain enamel baths more attractive and the surface more durable, if rather expensive for the time. They were too heavy for the export market but gained sales in the UK. Trenton Potteries of NJ was one of the originators in the USA.

Mascara, 1913

Eye make-up
Image source: metv.com

Mascara was invented by T L Williams

Advance to Modern Era   –  Back to Discovery Enlightenment Revolution
Back to Unpublished writing