A 19th century New Yorker invents toilet paper

Gayettyspaperad1907druggistMany things owe their existence to the inventors and developers of New York City, like Christmas tree lights, Oreos, chop suey, and ambulances.

Toilet paper? That’s a city creation too.

Before the invention of the modern water closet, people used newspaper, corncobs, even the Sears catalog to take care of business.

As advances in plumbing and sanitation brought indoor privies to an increasing number of homes in the 19th century, a businessman began marketing the first commercially produced toilet paper.

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Joseph C. Gayetty sold “flat sheets of ”Gayetty’s medicated paper for the water closet,’ for the fairly expensive price of 1,000 sheets for a dollar out of his shop at 41 Ann Street in Lower Manhattan,'” states this New York Times article from 2004.

As his ads reveal, Gayetty positioned his paper as a curative.

Gayettystoiletpaperadlocad“All persons anxious to be spared from Piles, of cured of that dreaded disease, should use Gayetty’s Medicated Paper,” says an 1859 ad from the New-York Daily Tribune.

“Young and old should use it systematically. The sedentary should never be without it. All other paper is poisonous, be it white or printed.”

Apparently, Gayetty’s paper wasn’t the biggest hit. The average consumer in the 1850s may not have wanted to pay for something that used to be free.

Or maybe it was the fact that his flat sheets weren’t so easy to use. According to the Times article, it wasn’t until “the brothers E. Irvin and Clarence Scott produced a roll of perforated paper in Philadelphia and founded the Scott Paper Company in 1879 did the idea catch on.”

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One Response to “A 19th century New Yorker invents toilet paper”

  1. Tom B Says:

    George Costanza would be glad to know about this.

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