66ºF

As you struggle to find toilet paper, here’s the history behind the prized possession

Coronavirus pandemic may cause second toilet paper shortage in U.S. history

Toilet paper moves out from a cutting machine at the Tissue Plus factory, Wednesday, March 18, 2020, in Bangor, Maine. The new company has been unexpectedly busy because of the shortage of toilet paper brought on by hoarders concerned about the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
Toilet paper moves out from a cutting machine at the Tissue Plus factory, Wednesday, March 18, 2020, in Bangor, Maine. The new company has been unexpectedly busy because of the shortage of toilet paper brought on by hoarders concerned about the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

ORLANDO, Fla. – Toilet paper, bathroom tissue, loo paper, TP. No matter what you call it, we hope all of you have used it at some point when visiting the bathroom.

But do you know the importance of the item you just flushed down your toilet? Or how it came to be?

Class is in session as we talk about the history of -- toilet paper. Yes, this is what we’re going to talk about.


Let’s go back to the very beginning -- when going to the bathroom meant bending over behind a rock or a tree.

During that time humans would clean themselves up with whatever they could find lying around their designated spot. Maybe a rock or a tree branch and if you’re lucky a soft leaf.

The Chinese were the first to use sheets of paper for toilet purposes, dating back to the 6th century AD, according to Charmin.

It took 1,300 years to wipe the slate clean and bring toilet paper to everyday human.

Joseph C. Gayetty is credited with creating the first commercially packaged toilet paper in 1857.

Gayetty’s toilet paper was anything but pleasant. It consisted of loose, flat, sheets of paper that no bum would enjoy. This first toilet paper in flat sheets was medicated with aloe.

Gayetty named it “Gayetty’s Medicated Paper.” Joseph Gayetty took the liberty of printing his name on every sheet.

Unfortunately, his invention went straight down the toilet.

What came later the invention of toilet paper on a roll. The creation was popularized by two brothers in 1890.

to avoid making the same mistake as Gayetty, the brothers declined to put their name on any part of it and sold the product directly to hotels and drugstores.

The Scott brothers founded the Scott Paper Company. The Scott Paper Company’s toilet paper was the first toilet paper sold in rolls.

In 1871, Zeth Wheeler creates a patent for not only rolled toilet paper but perforated toilet paper. In 1897, the company began selling and marketing standard perforated toilet paper on a roll. No more using the entire roll.

Jumping ahead to 1921, the Waldorf brand of toilet paper represented 64% of Scott’s total sales crowing the factory as the leading toilet paper company in the world.

The Hoberg Paper Company of Green Bay, Wisconsin rolled out a much softer addition to the paper game in 1928.

“According to company lore, someone said the rolls of toilet paper and their elegant, ladylike packaging were “charming” and thus Charmin toilet paper was born,” according to Charmin’s website.

The United States experienced its first toilet paper shortage in 1973 after a clever joke on “The Tonight Show.” The joke was made as tensions were high over oil and gas prices.

The joke sent worried consumers to supermarkets across the country to buy up as much TP as they could afford.

For some, a toilet paper shortage is a stark reminder of the past -- especially for those living in Hawaii.

There is a price to be paid for living in paradise. All of your goods cannot be brought in by an infinite number of trucks. Instead goods and other products are brought in by large cargo ships.

The great West Coast dock strike began on July 1, 1971, when 15,000 dockworkers in 24 ports on the West Coast of the United States walked away from their jobs. This disrupted the shipment of goods between Hawaii and the West Coast.

The strike caused many on the tropical islands to stock up and sit in limbo for 134 days as they waited for new shipments.

As coronavirus cases rise and people continue to stock up on toilet paper, it’s no surprise that we may be in the midst of another toilet paper shortage here in the U.S.


About the Author: