Toilet tissue is something most of us see every day, but it is also something to which we give very little thought. With the exception of the surprisingly polarising argument between toilet paper rolls hanging over vs. under, the product rarely makes its way into our thoughts. However little attention it gets, toilet tissue does have an interesting history. It's well worth noting where toilet tissue comes from and just how it has developed into the ubiquitous white rolls we love to ignore. The beginnings of toilet tissue Toilet tissue hasn't been along forever, though the need for it is obviously not a recent development. Before there were the soft, white rolls of perforated paper we're so used to, people used a wide range of items for the same function. Depending on the time period and the geography, humans have used rags, leaves, hay, pebbles, moss, sand, water, snow, corn cobs, sea shells, hands, catalogue pages, newspapers... just about anything. Some of the first accounts of toilet paper being used come from medieval China. Through mention in Chinese writings, it is possible to trace the use of toilet paper back at least as far as the 6th century AD. By the early 14th century, we know that the province of Zhejiang was producing ten million packages (each package had between 1,000 and 10,000 sheets) of toilet paper annually. Back then, however, it came in 2 by 3 foot sheets-not exactly manageable. Despite its use in China, toilet paper didn't catch on in the West until the late 1800s. Commoditised toilet paper Credit for the commoditisation of toilet paper in the West typically goes to Joseph Gayetty in the United States. Geyetty sold the paper in packets of individual sheets and marketed it as a medical product (for the treatment and prevention of haemorrhoids) in 1857. But because Americans had grown so accustomed to using the pages of catalogues that came free, his paper was not commercially successful and it was another twenty years before another major innovation was made in the field. In 1879, brothers E. Irvin and Clarence Scott formed the Scott Paper Company and became the first to sell toilet paper on the roll (though it still wasn't perforated), which gave the product a new appeal to consumers. There is some debate surrounding the identity of the first company to sell the rolled, perforated paper we use today. Some believe it was the Scott Company, while others argue that the Albany Perforated Wrapping Paper Company was selling toilet paper as early as 1877. One thing we know for sure though is that modern toilet tissue was widely used by the early 1900s. A delicate topic Possibly adding to the difficulty we have in identifying the first company to sell modern toilet paper is the social taboo around the product. Bodily functions were a source of embarrassment during the 19th century, and mentioning it was considered to be inappropriate. The Scott family got into the toilet paper business in 1879, but didn't want their family name associated with such a product and got around this by customising the rolls with the names of their clients (like the Waldorf Hotel). As a result it can be difficult to find records of production and consumption.
Toilet paper today We seemed to have moved away from our great-grandparents' modesty regarding the paper; the second half of the 20th century saw a number of developments in the industry and there are currently hundreds of variations of toilet tissue available. We seem to enjoy new improvements and details added to our toilet tissue. You can now find 2, 3 or 4 ply paper in any supermarket, as well as perfumed papers, quilted papers, moist paper and paper printed with just about anything from decorative pattern to novels. Recycled toilet tissue has also been developed as a more environmentally-friendly alternative to the virgin paper we typically use.
Cannon Consumables sells toilet tissue dispensers along with standard, jumbo toilet paper and a range of office and cleaning supplies.
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