History Links

TP in Tax Law - 1929 - Read about a 1929 tax case in Scotland involving a million rolls of toilet paper.

The Toilet Paper World website sells paper products and cleaning products for offices and homes. They have compiled a pretty thorough resource of the history of toilet paper and manufacture (by taking info from manufacturers' sites). We take exception to one bit of historical misinformation that gets repeated across the web. The first roll of toilet paper was NOT introduced by Scott in 1890. There is evidence in magazine advertising as well as other artifacts that shows perforated rolls of toilet paper as early as 1883 and I suspect that the first rolls may predate that by at least a year.

Scott Tissue

PLEASE NOTE: Many sites will cite tp history and there are many contradictions. Please proceed accordingly with your research


Subject: History Excerpt (Before There was Toilet paper)
This history comes from the very unusual (and fun) book RE/Search Guide to Bodily Fluids by Paul Spinrad. It is published by RE/Search publications (San Francisco, CA, 1994). The information is not completely accurate, but gives an approximate idea of the practice.
Before posting it here, I received at least 2 inquiries a week. (So, if you're doing a paper, make sure you quote sources.)
" ... it is currently believed that the original material used for cleaning was leaves and sticks.
Of course, where you lived help determine the material of choice. Mussel shells were very popular in coastal regions prior to toilet paper's popularity (approx.1900). If you were lucky enough to be raised on the Hawaiian islands, you may have used good old coconut shells. If you were born into royalty, like Louis XIV, you would have used wool or lace for added comfort.
In India and the Arab world, the most popular tool to use today (not that I have witnessed this) is the hand - the left hand to be specific. Of course, they cleanse their hands after this dirty deed. Many Arabs consider the Western practice of using paper to be disgusting - they feel that you always leave a residue by following this practice. They can't see how paper can actually get you perfectly clean. Some historians consider this the reason why we shake with our right hands - because traditionally the left hand was the dirty hand!
Islamic tradition prescribes that you should wipe with stones or clods of earth, rinse with water, and finally dry with linen cloth. Pious men actually carry clods of earthin their turbans and carry small pitchers of water solely for this purpose.
In ancient Rome, all public toilets had a sponge attached to the end of a stick which soaked in a bucket of brine (salty water). The rich used wool and rosewater.
During the late Middle Ages, the French invented the bidet for rinsing of both sexes (clearly, the original models did not have modern plumbing). During WWI, British and American troops found these devices in the brothels that they frequented, leading them to assume that they were only used by women for vaginal douching. In other words, men no longer use them.
The material of choice among colonial America was corn cobs. When daily newspapers became
commonplace in the 1700's, paper became the material of choice (I guess that one could say that Gutenberg's printing press caused the toilet paper revolution). Lord Chesterfield (1694-1773) wrote in a letter to his son that one should always carry with them a cheap copy of the Latin poets so that he would have something educational to read while on the pot, as well as having a good use for each page after reading it (This is not a quote, just a story). This lead to a major problem in England - the landscape was littered with paper - they didn't have modern sewers to take the stuff away from our sight.
In the late 19th century, the Sears catalog became popular in rural America. People simply hung it up on a nail and had a free supply of 100's of pages of absorbent, uncoated paper. Corn cobs were still holding as a strong second place contender, however. Use of the Sears catalog declined in the 1930's due to the fact that they started printing on glossy, clay-coated paper. Many people complained to Sears about this glossy paper (Can you imagine writing a letter to Sears: Dear Sir, I want to register a complaint about your new glossy catalog paper. It is no longer soft and absorbent...).
The first actual paper produced for wiping was in England in 1880. They were individual squares sold in boxes, not rolls. This paper was very coarse - the type the British prefer today. Americans like the soft, fluffy type, which was introduced in 1907. The original American product was sort of like crepe paper, if you remember that stuff from kindergarten."
To make this background information complete, we need some statistics. I should warn you that these statistics are a bit grotesque and are based on a sample population of 106 people.
Here we go:
The average tear is 5.90 sheets of TP.
44% wipe from front to back from behind their backs.
60% look at the paper after they wipe.
42% fold, 33% crumple, 8% do both fold and crumple, 6% wrap it around their hands.
50% say that they have wiped with leaves.
8% have wiped with their hands.
2% have wiped with money!
3) posted on 11/17/03 at 02:51 AM
For examples of early pieces and other oddities:

2) posted on 2/11/05 at 06:52 PM
you wanna know sumthin funny? before toilet papr, some places used corn cobs. others...like in ancient rome, they used a sponge on the end of a stick soaked in salt water. if this was used now-a-days...dont u think it would give the phrase "wrong end of the stick" a whole differnt perspective and meaning? hahahhahaha
3) posted on 2/11/05 at 06:53 PM
Actually, in the mideast people considered it proper to "wipe" with your left hand...before toilet paper was invented... why do you think people greet others by shaking hands with your RIGHT hand? huh..think about it!
4) rich posted on 2/25/05 at 01:28 AM
That might be a factor for shaking with the right hand, but the other reason is certainly because that's how you know your guest is not concealing a knife. In latin the word for left as it would be for left-handed is "sinister.
5) posted on 9/30/05 at 02:08 PM
although the 'dagger theory' is one explanation for the right hand being offered, the full story is much deeper-both greeks and romans believed that the left side of the body housed evil spirits; thus they covered their left side with a toga, and offered the right hand so as not to pay someone a 'left-handed compliment' by offering them a symbolically evil handshake. by the way, the right side of the body was referred to as the dexter, or dextrous side, while the left was the sinistral, or sinister side.


Does anyone no who invented toilet paper
1) Princess43123 posted Mar 14 2001
2) Rich responded
"Well, they say Necessity is the mother of invention. It's more likely that the use of paper for wiping was an evolutionary process rather than an invention. So it's unlikely that one person will turn up as the inventor, although, it wouldn't surprise me to one day discover that someone did patent it.
3) Response from marti Mar 14, 2001
well, i guess they got tired of using leaves, but regular paper hurt too bad. the first documented mention of toilet paper was in the mid to late 1700's.
Date: Mar 27, 2001 on 10:01 p.m.
4) ladybug responded
Joseph C. Gayetty from the U.S. is credited for inventing toilet paper. (see other posts)
5) posted on 2/10/04 at 04:54 AM by anon
Joseph Gayetty was the inventor in the US but the real inventor was the chinese. in 1391 AD for the Emperors purpose only. So the chinese invented Toilet paper not Joseph sorry but he brought it over to the US so its ok i guess......


Gayetty - the inventor
Subject: Relative of TP Inventor?
1) From Joe gayetty
Joseph C. Gayetty of New York City invented toilet paper in 1857. He sold it in packs of 500 sheets for 50 cents.
Best regards,
Joseph Gayetty
Date: May 31, 2001 on 09:47 a.m.
2) Reply from Rich:
I also read that he had his name printed on each sheet. Reportedly it was an idea ahead of its time - that it was not a successful product at the time. Apparently people were not used to the idea that they should waste a perfectly clean piece of paper.
the following from the library of Congress.
The greatest necessity of the age! Gayetty's medicated paper for the water-closet. Read and learn what is in ordinary paper ... J. C. Gayetty N. Y. Barton & son Print, III Fulton street [n. d.].
Bibliographic information
The Greatest Necessity of the Age!
Medicated Paper,
Read and Learn What is in Ordinary Paper.
Click here to see this in its original form!
Many people have wooed their own destruction, physical and mental, by neglecting to pay attention to ordinary matters. Few persons would believe that a beautiful enameled card contains a quantum of arsenic, with other chemicals, which, if used to any extent, will communicate poison, and that fatally. All printing or writing papers contain either Oil of Vitriol, Chloride of Lime. Potash, Soda Ash, White Clay, Lime, Ultramine or Oxalic Acid. White paper contains either some or all of these fearful poisons, while colored papers, (excepting Gayetty's, which is a pearl color, and made to be as pure as snow,) embody portions of Prussiate of Potash, Bichromate of Potash, Muriatic Acid, Prussian Blue, Aqua-Fortis, Copperas, and a variety of other articles equally dangerous and pernicious, but too numerous to be catalogued in our little circular. Physicians owe it to the rising generation to caution all against touching or tasting such deleterious and death-dealing material. Printed paper, everybody knows is rank poison to tender portions of the body. Individuals would not put printers ink in their mouths, as one of its ingredients is Lamp Black--yet they have no hesitation in allowing themselves and children to lay in a plentiful crop of piles--or aggravating them if they exist--by applying that ink to the tenderest part of the body corporate, if we except the eye. How much cheaper in every respect is it to use a paper made of the purest material and medicated with the greatest care. Such is Gayetty's Medicated Paper. For sale by
27 Tremont Street, Boston.
Look for the inventor's name water-marked in each sheet of the genuine, thus:
BARTON & SON Print, 111 Fulton street.
3) Posted by anon
I had also read somewhere that the Chinese created the toilet paper. In the year 1391ad. A man named Lun Tsai had created the paper in 105ad then kept it a sercet until 751ad when some papermaking people got caught by Arabs. And then the paper spreaded through out the world. (Just in case you wanted more info.)
4) another added
i heard he had his named stamped also, so you were then wiping with Joseph Gayetty
5) T.P. Man posted on 3/29/05 at 08:56 PM
Dear Rich,
I heard that he sold TP in packs of 500 for .50 a pack. Where they single sheets, or on a roll.
6) Rich's reply
Hey TP Man,
They were most definitely sold in single sheets. A few years back I was able to buy a package on ebay. Though his name is not on the individual sheets, but on the package. I'm still looking for the ones with his name on them.

what about Walter Alcock?
Query: I know that Joseph Gayetty was the inventor, but I also know taht Alcock tryed to introduce toilet paper after Gayetty's attempt failed. So what's the deal with Alcock how come he is hard to find info on?

Answer posted by thersites
Click here to see the original site this info came from
In 1857, the New Yorker Joseph C. Gayetty sent to the market which he denominated Paper Medicado Gayetty, under the advertising call "a completely pure article for its hygiene". Thus the modern hygienic paper was born, that at that time consisted of leaves of Manila paper without whitening, noticeable to the water with the last name of the inventor. Nevertheless, the commercial success did not accompany that initiative, and the hygienic paper of Gayetty had a precarious sale.
In England, the manufacturer Walter Alcock tried to send his own hygienic paper in 1879; instead of making it in loose leaves he made it in rolls of leaves to be taken, separated by lines of perforation. Nevertheless, its initiative hit the English puritanismo of the time, to which it did not seem advisable to see similar product him in the shelves of the stores.
The insolvent attempts of Gayetti and Alcock were, finally, surpassed by the American brothers Edward and Clarence Scott, who, thanks to an aggressive and effective advertising campaign, took the honor to obtain the commercial triumph of rolls of hygienic paper, introducing to the market a mark that still today is commercialized actively.

First Rolls
Posted 10/16/97
According to The Finishing Net, a resource for paper manufacturers, bathroom tissue was first produced on rolls in 1871.
Size Matters
1) Rich posted on 7/27/02 at 12:38 AM
The following exchange was asked on a bb for people involved in paper manufacturing.
: Do any of the readers of this forum know why toilet paper is cut to the width that it is in the U.S. (Maybe different outside U.S. don't really know.)"
: If anyone has an insite, I'd love to hear it. Believe it or not, I get various queries about once a week.
: Thanks,
: Rich Newman
2) Mr Rich Newman
Is not true what you say. In several countries the toilet tissue rolls width is not cut in the same width that is in the USA.
USA used to cut in 11cm width. In European countries and latinamerica the tissue rolls have only 10cm (less of 4 inches)So you have to be careful to buy the machine you need.
3) Posted by brian sharp on September 21, 2001:
The width of a roll often changes in the uk this is because of different companies making more money using less paper if a log is 3 metres long & the roll 110mm wide then you make the roll 100mm wide every 10 cuts you get an extra roll p.s I'm suprised you haven't noticed the size of the centre.
4) posted on 2/17/03 at 05:30 AM
This is an interesting discussion about size of the roll of toilet paper. Its not surprising to me that standardization is based on the manufacturing process. But in USA especially, the standardization would have to be more significant than that, since the holders are made to fit the standardized width and no other options are offered. I don't think there's very much option in the size (diameter) of the roll either. Seems to me all the cardboard roll liners are the same diameter and have been that way since i can remember.
So there are two questions on the board:
IN USA, who what when where how and why was the present width of toilet paper determined, how was it standardized, and how is the standardization enforced? If other countries can vary the width how does the USA protect against imports of varying widths?
IN USA, who what when where and how and why was the standard diameter of the roll decided? What is the standard? How is it enforced? Does the diameter vary outside the USA?
This is an interesting discussion. Hope you keep it up.
Guy Knoll
Dallas, Texas


1) Rich 3/23/03
Just saw this in an article. Doesn't state the source other than to say "one industry expert" estimates or annual toilet paper use at 70 rolls each. That's 1 1/3 rolls a week each. Seems like a lot to me, but that's obviously an average.
2) posted on 7/6/04 at 04:00 AM
That seems like someone in the industry is trying to get consumers to buy more. Between me and my two daughters, we use about three or four rolls a month. However, whenever my cats get in the restroom, they use nearly the whole roll. I try to encourage them to use the litter box.

The Great Toilet Paper Shortage story is from the book Uncle John's Bathroom Reader by the Bathroom Readers' Institute (The Bathroom Readers' Press, Berkeley, CA, 1995, pages 217-218). It's actually a reprint of a TV Guide article from 1974.
Blame it all on Johnny Carson.
There have been shortages of many things throughout history - oil, rubber, coffee, medicine, and so on. Yet, one of the most interesting shortages - the shortage of toilet paper - was one that should never have occurred.
It actually all started as a joke. Johnny Carson was doing his typical NBC Tonight Show monologue on December 19, 1973.
Heeeere's Johnnnnnny....
Of course, Johnny, like most talk show hosts, had a staff that helped write his monologue. His writers had heard earlier in the day about a Wisconsin congressman named Harold Froehlich. Froelich claimed that the federal government was falling behind in getting bids to supply toilet paper and that "The United States may face a serious shortage of toilet tissue within a few months".
His writers decided to include a joke based on this quote in Carson's monologue. He said "You know what's disappearing from the supermarket shelves? Toilet paper. There's an acute shortage of toilet paper in the United States."
Too bad they couldn't see the consequence of this statement. You may not be aware if you are young, but the early 1970's was a time of shortages - oil in particular. The next morning, many of the 20 million television viewers ran to the supermarket and bought all the toilet paper they could find. By noon, most of the stores were out of stock! Stores tried to ration the stuff, but they couldn't keep up with demand.
Johnny Carson went on the air several nights later and explained that there was no shortage and apologized for scaring the public. Unfortunately, people saw all the empty shelves in the stores, so the stampede continued.
Scott Paper showed video of their plants in full production to the public and asked them to stay calm - there was no shortage. The video was of little help. The panic fed itself and continued.
They finally got the shelves restocked three weeks later and the shortage was over. It is the only time in American history that the consumer actually created a major shortage (I don't think that the "shortage" of Barbie or Power Ranger dolls at Christmas time could be classified as a real shortage!).
And to think that it all started as a joke.

TP composition is a trade secret
Rich posted
Companies such as Scott, keep their recipes for toilet paper a secret.
For instance, what proportion of hard wood to soft wood pulp. Hard wood? You wouldn't want to admit that you use it when you're trying to sell soft toilet paper. But then maybe a chemist will step forward and explain the propeties of lignin in toilet paper.
How would that compare to papyrus or rice paper? If it's top secret, we may never know!

oval toilet paper rolls
posted on 5/8/05 at 01:07 AM
This from Art Holman ...
"In 1960, stationed aboard USS Sufolk County, LST 1173, I learned
that Navy TP was pressed into an oval before packing. Seems a huge amount of space would be wasted by the empty holes in sufficient TP to supply 8,000 to 10,000 men for 6 months."

How does it hang?!
1) Mike posted on 1/18/03 at 06:22 PM
Ok...I am enlisting the help of the interested world in finding out the answer to the question: is a roll of toilet paper correctly installed with the paper against the wall (from the bottom), or out into the room (over the top)? My new girlfriend and I are having a friendly contest in finding out both popular opinion and any authoritative answer. It seems to me that if it hangs against the wall, it is unobtrusive and neat; while I can't think of any reason to have it hanging out into the room, and I think it draws attention to a feature of the bathroom that really should be politely available, but not the focus!
2) Rich posted on 1/28/03 at 02:56 AM
The jury is still out, but I've talked with a toilet paper designer, and from the manufacturers perspective, the roll should feed to the outside. Otherwise, you'll find that the design is upside down (and inside out?). Having learned that, I have observed it to be true.
However, since most people overlook that issue anyway, it's not necessarily going to change many minds.
3) posted on 8/19/03 at 01:17 AM
I worked for 10 months At Steven and Thompson Paper mill, in Middle Falls, New York. I made the cardboard cores on the core machine. The paper roll up and over the top of the roll, so the design will show. Ya heard it from a toilet paper expert!
4) posted on 12/29/03 at 06:23 AM
What do the toilet paper people know? Just because they print a design on it that can only be properly viewed when the tongue unrolls from the front doesn't mean a thing. Two reasons why it should always unroll from the back: it's more AESTHETIC that way (it looks better); and if you own a puppy the puppy can't playfully unroll it with his little paw when it comes down from the back. When it unrolls from the front it announces its purpose -- and who wants to be reminded of that every time you walk into a bathroom! Let's have some standards!
5) Mad Mac posted on 2/18/04 at 04:04 PM
I looked to the finest hotels to unravel this tissue issue. You can spend $300 a night and the toilet paper will be on the outside with a neat point. That should be an authoritative answer.
As for your puppy, consider yourself fortunate that he is toilet trained.
6) posted on 2/11/05 at 06:50 PM
it's supposed to come over the top and hand towards you. it's actually considered impolite to have it come underneath, because it is hits the wall that causes the paper to become unclean, then using it to 'wipe' can be hazardous.

Strange Question
1) Can anyone please tell me what Jesus would have used for toilet paper?
2) Rich's response:
The closest I can come to helping you is from the History excerpt mentioned elsewhere in this forum.
The islamic and middle eastern references would possibly apply to the Jewish people as well. If you can find any biblical scholars from the old testament, that would be the closest you'd get to corroborating, since Jesus was practicing Judaism ...
3) posted on 5/14/03 at 07:13 PM
During the time of Jesus, Romans used a sponge placed on a small stick to scrub themselves - often times public toilets would have a common gutter in which to rinse them off. Pretty nasty if you ask me.
4) posted on 2/11/05 at 06:48 PM
personally, i think he used his hand too i mean, what else did they have - 'palms'?

The following list arrived in my email inbox and it has many inconsistencies and to attribution as to source - if this is a copyrightable list, I apologize to the originator and will certainly remove on request. Also, I have edited it down.

  1. The first recorded use of toilet paper was in 6th Century China.
  2. By the 14th Century, the Chinese government was mass-producing it.
  3. Americans got the idea of using paper from the Japanese but packaged toilet paper wasn't sold in the United States until 1857.
  4. Joseph Gayetty, the man who introduced packaged TP to the U.S., had his name printed on every sheet.
  5. Global toilet paper demand uses nearly 30,000 trees every day.That's 10 million trees a year.
  6. It wasn't until 1935 that a manufacturer was able to promise Splinter-Free Toilet Paper.
  7. Seven percent of Americans admit to stealing rolls of toilet paper in hotels. Seriously???
  8. Americans use an average of 8.6 sheets of toilet paper per trip to the bathroom.
  9. The average roll has 333 sheets
  10. Historically, what you use to wipe depended on your income level.
  11. In the middle ages they used something called a gompf stick which was just an actual stick used to scrape
  12. Wealthy Romans used wool soaked in rose water and French royalty used lace.
  13. Other things that were used before toilet paper include: hay, corn cobs (see note at end), cotton rags, sticks, stones, sand, moss, hemp, wool, husks, fruit peels, ferns, sponges, seashells, knotted ropes, and broken pottery broken pottery, corn cobs?
  14. Roughly 70% of the world still doesn't use toilet paper because it is too expensive or there is not sufficient plumbing.
  15. In many Western European countries, bidets are seen by women as more effective and preferable to toilet paper
  16. Colored toilet paper was popular in the U.S. until the 1940s.
  17. The reason toilet paper disintegrates so quickly when wet is that the fibers used to make it are very short
  18. On the International Space Station, they still use regular toilet paper but it has to be sealed in special containers and compressed.
  19. During Desert Storm, the U.S. Army used toilet paper to camouflage their tanks.
  20. In 1973 Johnny Carson caused a toilet paper shortage. He said as a joke that there was a shortage, which there wasn't, until everyone believed him and ran out to buy up the supply. It took three weeks for some stores to get more stock.
  21. There is a contest sponsored by Charmin to design and make wedding dresses out of toilet paper. The winner gets $2,000.
  22. There was a toilet paper museum in Wisconsin, The Madison Museum of Bathroom Tissue, but it closed in 2000. The museum once had over 3,000 rolls of TP from places all over the world, including The Guggenheim, Ellis Island, and Graceland.
  23. There is still a virtual toilet paper museum called Nobody's Perfect. (no longer seems to be around)
  24. In 1996, President Clinton passed a Toilet Paper Tax of 6 cents per roll, which is still in effect today.
  25. The most expensive toilet paper in the world is from Portuguese brand Renova. It is three-ply, perfumed, costs $3 per roll and comes in several colors including black, red, blue and green.
  26. Beyonce uses only red Renova toilet paper.
  27. Queen Elizabeth II wipes her royal bum with silk and where might she be doing the “royal flush”.
  28. Koji Suzuki, a Japanese horror novelist best known for writing The Ring, had an entire novel printed on a single roll of toilet paper. The novel takes place in a public bathroom and the entire story runs approximately one hundred and three feet long.