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Seated in the past


On January 27—a week after a Presidential inauguration—we may celebrate Thomas Crapper Day. I thought of it as I sat on the throne with Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader’s notes on the history of toilets.

I was surprised to learn that, as far back as 4000BCE, human waste slid down water pipes to the Indus River. No fixtures, though: maybe there were just floor holes.

Centuries marked the movement of progress. Then, in 1536, Sir John Harrington gave Queen Elizabeth I the special gift of the first flushing toilet.

In 1891—centuries later—Thomas Crapper patented the valve-and-siphon toilet we now use, with the weighted ball that automatically stops the water flow when the tank is full. And perhaps skid marks began in earnest.

Reading about toilets pushed my interest in toilet paper. China handed us the first use of toilet paper by the 6th century. Thus it was many centuries after the first pipes that clogs began in earnest.

Mass production of toilet paper didn’t come until the 14th century, but well in time for Queen Elizabeth I. By 1890, Scott Paper Company put it out in rolls.

Scott and Crapper, at about the same time: coincidence? Or conspiracy? Ooooo…

In 1973 the first toilet paper panic reared its ugly head. A congresscritter grunted, “The U.S. may face a serious shortage of toilet paper within a few months…we hope we don’t have to ration toilet tissue…a toilet paper shortage is no laughing matter.” Hoarding went on for three months: sound familiar?

Our history of wiping out crap is proper for these times. We have many floaters making skid marks while treading water to grab for toilet paper. We should avoid constipation or the explosive projectile opposite. There will be relief.

Remain calm.