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.
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.
“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.”
Tags: Ann Street New York City, Joseph Gayetty, old New York City newspaper ads, things invented in New York City, vintage medical ads 19th century, Water closets in New York City, Who invented toilet paper