History Of Toilet Paper
We have all seen the ad for Charmin with those adorable, funny bears, but why do they use bears to advertise toilet paper? What do they have in common with toilet paper?
Even more strange, or gross, is that toilet paper has only been used since the mid 1800s. Before the invention of toilet paper, people used whatever they could get their hands on, and that was often just as unpleasant as not wiping at all. The history of toilet paper and the history of the Charmin brand is an incredibly interesting story that will make you look at toilet paper in a whole new light.
Sponge On A Stick
It is hard to imagine a time when there wasn’t any toilet paper around to give yourself a good wipe. Well, the ancient Romans thought it through and gave the world a sponge on a stick. These sponge wipes were rinsed in water and used by person after person in the public latrines.
If that was not bad enough, public bathrooms were just that: public. There were no stalls or a shred of privacy in the public latrines. People would sit right next to each other on the stone slabs with holes cut into them. Sounds like oodles of fun, right?
Leaves And Cobs
If you think you have it bad, before the ancient Romans, the ancient Greeks were using clay as toilet paper. Can you imagine what that would be like?
Before the ingenuity of the ancient Romans and their sponge on a stick, people had to pretty much use whatever was on hand to wipe. This often meant grabbing a leaf or three to get a good clean. Sometimes it was a barrel of corncobs set inside the outhouse to do the wiping. Corn husks, moss, wood shavings, and, heavens forbid, rocks were also used. Whatever it took to get the job done was fair game.
By the time newspapers were being printed, people began tearing newspapers into perfect size pieces for wiping. Unlike today’s newspapers, newspapers were made out of cloth rags, which is how newspapers came to be known as “rags.” These newspaper pieces were stacked in the outhouses for use.
Free paper catalogs were also fair game for the outhouse. In fact, many catalogs were sent out with a hole drilled through a corner. This allowed people to hang the catalogs from the nail in the outhouse so they could sit, glance through the catalog, and tear out a page when it was needed.
The first toilet paper hit the market in the U.S. in 1857. It was not sold for hygiene, though. Instead, it was advertised as medical paper or “therapeutic paper.” The toilet paper was made out of hemp and it was infused with, of all things, aloe vera. It was meant to help with bottom sores and was sold in packages containing 500 sheets, or wipes, for 50 cents.
The idea of wiping with paper cloth must have caught on because shortly thereafter, a new product came out that would take the newspaper and the Sears catalog out of the outhouse.
The First Roll
In 1866 a new paper pulping process was developed. It was paper made from wood, not rags, and it would make paper cheaper than it ever was before. By 1883, the U.S. was a major paper producer.
The first roll of toilet paper was created by the Scott Paper Company. Since the company did not want their name on the toilet paper, they produced and labeled the toilet paper for other retail companies. This was a huge step forward in the wiping world. A totally new industry was created and soon there were over two thousand different brands of toilet paper.
Mr. Thirsty Fibre
Early toilet paper rolls were packaged in paper that bore the images of women in ball gowns or men sitting in horse-drawn carriages. By the 1920s, the Scott company joined in the mascot frenzy and created Mr. Thirsty Fibre.
Like the Mr. Peanut character, Mr. Thirty Fibre was created to sell more toilet paper in a not so offensive way. Nobody wanted to talk about what toilet paper was actually for. In fact, magazines and newspapers would not allow that subject to be addressed directly, but word did get out and, once again, the toilet paper industry continued to grow.
Too Embarrassed To Buy It
One huge hurdle toilet paper companies had to overcome was the embarrassment people felt when buying toilet paper. After all, it was not polite to even mention anything about natural bodily functions. Never mind that we all have to go, women were the ones who most often did the shopping for the family and they just were not comfortable buying something that was so intimate.
It was up to the toilet paper companies to convince women that it was okay and even fashionable to buy toilet paper. In fact, the better the toilet paper, the happier and healthier the family would be.
It Is Charming
Everyone who had any business sense saw that there was money to be made in the toilet paper industry. Charmin toilet paper was first made by the Hoberg Paper Company in 1928. The marketing plan was to sell the toilet paper to women and they even placed the cameo silhouette of a woman on the package to complete the look.
You are probably wondering how Charmin got its name. According to the story, an employee called the product’s logo “charming” and that is how the name Charmin came to be one of the most popular brands in toilet paper.
Convince Them They Need It
The U.S. created the toilet paper industry at a time when people were just as happy to use a sheet of newspaper. It took a lot of marketing to push the idea that people should pay for something to wipe up with when many people around the world were still using whatever was on hand – or, in some cases, just using their hands.
It took advertising to really convince people that they needed toilet paper. That meant marketing gimmicks, eye-catching logos, and even mascots. It also took the installation of indoor plumbing into everyone’s homes to convince them that maybe toilet paper was not such a bad idea after all.
We have indoor plumbing to really thank for the use of toilet paper. Think about it. You cannot flush corn cops or clumps of moss down the toilet. It would wreck the plumbing system. Newspaper or any catalog paper would also clog the system.
The only product that was safe enough to flush down the toilet was toilet paper. If you wanted to be civilized and use an indoor toilet, toilet paper was your only option. Not that anyone was complaining about this. That extra expense of having to buy toilet paper was worth not having to run to the outhouse on a cold night.
The Four Pack
The first type of toilet paper was sold in sheets. Then the toilet paper roll came onto the shelves and people bought their toilet paper one roll at a time, even though in most households today a single roll of toilet paper might not last a full day.
In the 1930s, Charmin took another step forward and introduced the four-pack of toilet paper. This meant that people would not need to walk to the grocery store all the time to get the much needed toilet paper. It was also cheaper for the consumer to purchase the mighty four pack than it was to buy one package at a time.
Logos and branding are everything in the commercial market, especially when it comes to toilet paper. Charmin toilet paper did so well that in the 1950s the paper company that made Charmin, Hoberg Paper Company, changed their name to Charmin Paper Company.
They also wanted to change their image so that people would understand just how soft their toilet paper was. Soon the Charmin silhouette lady was replaced with the Charmin baby. For the next decade, the Charmin baby was a symbol of the brand’s unique softness and differentiated the brand from all the other toilet paper brands that were available on the grocery shelves.
Don’t Squeeze The Charmin!
In the 1960s and 1970s, Charmin rebranded once again. This time they wanted to once again remind people that Charmin was soft, but they had to go about it differently to reflect the times. After all, the cute baby logo was now considered old-fashioned. They needed something cheeky and fun.
“Don’t squeeze the Charmin!” became the catch-all phrase in their television commercials and print ads, showing family members unable to resist squeezing a four pack of Charmin toilet paper. Not that squeezing will in any way harm a package of toilet paper, but they wanted their consumers to actually pick up their brand and give it a squeeze just to see for themselves just how soft their toilet paper was.
In the 1970s, Mr. Whipple came onto the advertising scene. He was the grocer shown on the Charmin commercial and he was always telling his customers to not squeeze the Charmin toilet paper.
The Mr. Whipple campaign was so successful that the Mr. Whipple character was the third best-known man in the U.S. in 1978. The two best-known men before him were President Richard Nixon and Reverend Billy Graham. That is some supreme advertising power, especially since advertising still failed to mention what toilet paper was actually used for.
The 2000s have shifted away from babies and silly gimmicks. In keeping up with this consumer trend, Cottonelle adopted a yellow lab puppy for its spokes-animal. Charmin, on the other hand, adopted the bear family we see today on television commercials and magazine ads. The bear, named Leonard, and his family have appeared in numerous commercials for Charmin toilet paper.
While bears may seem like an odd mascot for toilet paper, they are in fact genius. Most people see that bears have a thick padding, full, thick fur, and are sturdy animals. This is exactly how Charmin wants you to see their toilet paper: thick, padded, and sturdy.
Toilet Paper Bits
It was not until Charmin introduced its bear mascot that people were actually told what toilet paper was for. Granted, we all know how to use the stuff, but it is humorous that the advertising folks never felt comfortable describing the product until now.
Commercial ads show the bear, or the bear family, with bits of toilet paper stuck on their behind. After all, that is what you get with cheap, thin toilet paper. Not with Charmin toilet paper. Advertisers showed consumers that they could use their sturdy toilet paper without having to worry about pieces of toilet paper remaining behind after a wipe.
Moist Toilet Paper
You might not think that more could be done with the standard toilet paper roll, but you could not be more wrong. In 2001, Charmin gave use the first moist toilet paper on a roll, called Charmin Freshmates Roll.
While some may think this is a bit over the top, many other people disagree. After all, we clean up our babies with wet wipes and toilet paper companies soon discovered that there were adults who were using these baby wipes on themselves. In order to cash in on this group, they created moist toilet paper for the whole family. Again, it was another genius idea.
Americans Love Toilet Paper
It is now inconceivable to people in the U.S. to go into a bathroom without toilet paper. In fact, there are plenty of people who stock up on the stuff, worrying about not having enough to keep clean. After all, a toilet paper shortage would set off a panic in the U.S.
It is estimated that each American uses about fifty pounds of toilet paper in a year. That is a far cry from the days when Americans would buy a single roll at a time. Needless to say, Americans love their toilet paper and could not imagine living without it.
Coming To Other Countries
Anyone who has traveled outside of the U.S. knows that getting a decent bit of toilet paper can be rather iffy. Some places offer up thin, barely-there toilet paper and some places haven’t a sheet to give. If you want decent toilet paper, you will have to buy your own and take it with you.
This is rapidly changing. Many developing countries are beginning to use toilet paper, and change their system so that operating toilets have the ability to flush paper. People who were not able to buy toilet paper in the past now have the disposable income to do so. Toilet paper may have reached its high point in the U.S., but sales are growing in other countries.
Charmin Made The World’s Largest Roll Of Toilet Paper
As you’ve already learned, Charmin was the first brand to popularize the use of toilet paper, so they’ve already proven themselves as pioneers in the field. That being said, it should come as no surprise that Charmin has gone down in the Guinness World Records book as having created the world’s largest toilet paper roll!
In 2011, Charmin rung in National Toilet Paper Day (yes, there is such a thing) by “rolling” out a Charmin tissue roll that was over nine feet wide in diameter and measured more than eight feet high. The roll contained over one million square feet of paper!
The Best Toilet Paper Money Can Buy
With the advent of toilet paper, you can bet that there are some companies who would try to convince you that you need luxury toilet paper of the highest quality. If that’s what you’re looking for, then look no further than Renova. The Portuguese paper products brand sells luxury toilet paper at about $3 per roll.
The 3-ply roll is considered the softest and most absorbent brand of toilet paper around. Renova toilet paper is not only scented but comes in up to nine different colors as well. It’s no wonder this toilet paper is used at exclusive resorts and purchased by celebrities for personal use.
Beyoncé Uses This Luxury Toilet Paper
No need to do a double take, because you read that previous slide correctly: Renova is the toilet paper of the stars. Beyoncé reportedly demanded that all the restrooms at the venues 2013’s Mrs. Carter The Show be stocked with red toilet paper. Even Kris Jenner only stocks up on black Renova tissue for her household.
Why did this luxury brand of toilet paper even come into ideation? Apparently, CEO of Renova, Paulo Pereira da Silva, was at a Cirque du Soleil show when the thought of having black colored tissue paper for his behind came across his mind. Well, he apparently took that idea to fruition and succeeded!
A Lot Of The World Is Not With The Tissue
With how far the toilet paper industry has come and how much of a basic necessity it is in our everyday lives, you’d be surprised to learn that a lot of people in the world still don’t actually use any. According to some sources, up to 75% of the world’s population—that’s about four billion people—doesn’t use toilet paper.
This is either due to lack of trees in the area, inability to afford it, or lack of decent plumbing. In many European countries, however, people prefer to wash up using a bidet without having to use toilet paper. Pro tip: You might want to bring a roll with you next time you visit a foreign country where toilet paper isn’t a standard in public restrooms.
Toilet Paper Was First Used In Ancient China
While toilet paper didn’t become a thing in the United States until the 19th century, toilet paper was actually first conceived by the Chinese as early as the 6th century AD. It was used by the Chinese Imperial Courts and other members of the Chinese aristocracy. After this caught on in their ancient society, it was being massed produced by the 14th century.
A Muslim traveler to China in the 8th century once noted, “[The Chinese] are not careful about cleanliness, and they do not wash themselves with water when they have done their necessities; but they only wipe themselves with paper.”
Hawaii Almost Ran Out Of Toilet Paper
We can’t even think about what we would do if there were suddenly no toilet paper on hand. Although we could easily figure out a decent alternative (like much of the world apparently has), those who use the stuff on a daily basis would surely freak out if toilet paper supply was suddenly dwindling.
Well, that has actually happened before on a couple occasions. When West Coast shipping workers in San Franciso went on a wage strike in 1971, fleets of products that were meant to go to Hawaii were prevented from being shipped out. Of course, one of the most important products being held at the docks was toilet paper.
Johnny Carson Convinced America There Was No More Toilet Paper
The state of Hawaii went into a mild panic as the strike begun, which ended up lasting 134 days. As their basic household necessities weren’t coming in, Hawaiians had to scramble and ration their toilet paper until the strike was over.
If you think an island without toilet paper is bad, imagine that happening to the whole entire country! That’s sort of what happened in 1973 when television host Johnny Carson convinced all of America that there was a toilet paper shortage going on. One can only imagine the panic that consumed the country after Carson revealed that on the air.
This Caused An Actual Toilet Paper Shortage
In 1973, Johnny Carson read a headline on The Tonight Show about a headline regarding a toilet paper shortage and made a couple jokes about it on the air. Although it had been mentioned by other news sources at the time, Carson’s jokes were taken a little too seriously and are to blame for the temporary toilet paper shortage that followed.
For the next several weeks after Carson mentioned it, people were buying up all the toilet paper at their local stores and since the stores were unprepared for the sudden demand, they would go weeks with empty shelves where toilet paper should be while they waited for more shipments. The funny thing is, there never really was a real toilet paper shortage and it was all misconstrued.
One Of The Biggest Toilet Paper Debates
One of the biggest debates regarding toilet paper is the question as to whether toilet paper should hang over the roll or under it. Some sources say that you’re more intelligent if you’re inclined to hang your toilet paper under the roll, meaning that you’d have to grab it from the bottom to get more sheets.
But with no scientific facts to back up that claim, the heated over vs. under debate continues with both sides making viable claims for each method. In the case of hanging you toilet paper “under,” for example, it prevents the possibility of pets or children grabbing at it and making a mess.
Do You Hang Yours Under Or Over?
However, people who prefer to hang their toilet paper “over” say that it makes the end of the toilet paper more easily accessible and you don’t have to risk brushing your hand up against the wall where it might catch dirt or germs. It all really comes down to a matter of personal preference, but apparently, the choice can say a lot about your personality.
People who hang their toilet paper over are said to be overachievers who stay organized and take charge of situations in their daily life. On the other hand, people who hang their paper under are said to be more laid-back and dependable.
There Is Supposedly A Right Way…
Apparently, there are some people who claim there is a right way to hang your paper and the proof dates back to the 19th century when toilet paper was first introduced to the United States. Seth Wheeler of Albany patented rolled and perforated toilet paper on a roll in 1891.
His patent states, “I do hereby declare that the following is a full, clear, and exact description thereof, reference being had to the accompanying drawings, forming a part of this specification.” His drawings showed several rolls of toilet paper being hung in the under position. There you have it.
The Most Wasteful Use Of Toilet Paper
Of course, there are plenty of uses for toilet paper other than cleaning up after doing your business. One of the most common—albeit wasteful—ways to use toilet paper comes every Halloween or any other day a prankster is feeling particularly mischevious.
A lot of teens in the United States are familiar with the idea of toilet papering, or TP’ing, someone’s house as a prank! Usually done in the middle of the night, kids will toss toilet paper at people’s properties so that it streams over their homes, cars, and front lawns. This makes for a messy surprise for homeowners the next morning! This minor act of vandalism is citable as a misdemeanor depending on where you live.
The Most Epic TPing Prank Of All Time?
An epic example of this was the time that Howie Mandel’s home got toilet papered by “professional prankster” Roman Atwood. Atwood employed a crew that used over 2,000 rolls of toilet paper to completely cover Madel’s house. Luckily, Atwood wasn’t in too much trouble with the America’s Got Talent judge, since they are close friends.
In the video that showcases the prank, Atwood says, “Being a friend of the Mandels, I was able to talk his son Alex into getting me in the [gated] community and he was also able to talk his mother [Howie’s wife] into playing along.”
The Toilet Paper Wedding Dress
Another interesting use for toilet paper is dress-making! You’ve seen little kids make dresses out of toilet paper and you’ve probably seen the idea at bridal showers. Well, Charmin has taken the concept to a whole new level by holding a toilet paper wedding dress contest!
Teaming up with Cheap-Chic-Weddings.com, Charmin hosts an annual contest to see who could design the best wedding dress using only toilet paper. The winner of the contest has their designs featured, in addition to winning $2,000. Every year many designers put their skills to the test, but surprisingly come up with some awesome dresses that are completely comprised of the tushy tissue.
Free Toilet Paper For Whoever Turns Themselves In
In 2017, the “mad pooper” began to run wild around Colorado. Reports of a jogger who has been caught doing her business on people’s front lawns have been the horror of many Colorado residents. Although she has been caught in the act, she has yet to have been apprehended by authorities.
When it became national news, Charmin offered their assistance. They tweeted, “If the #MadPooper turns herself in, we’ll give her a year’s supply of TP [toilet paper] to help with her ‘runs.'” The jogger was never arrested but has apparently apologized since they cannot control themselves after undergoing gender reassignment surgery.
Toilet Paper Production Uses 27k Trees A Day
According to David Maxwell Braun of the National Geographic Society, toilet paper production accounts for the killing of 27,000 trees a day. This is apparently due to the increasing use of toilet paper in developing counties, which increases demand worldwide.
Noelle Robbins of Worldwatch Institute writes that “steadily increasing demand for toilet paper in developing countries is a critical factor in the impact that toilet paper manufacturers have on forests around the world… And with the increasing pressure to reduce and discontinue the use of old growth forests, the move is on to tree plantations.” This doesn’t sound too good for the environment.
They Use Special Toilet Paper In Space
If you’re wondering how astronauts go about their business while they’re up in the International Space Station, it should come as no surprise that they’ve figured out a pretty decent system. With zero gravity up in space, you’d think that the use of toilet paper will be one huge mess, but they actually have special toilet paper that is sealed and compressed into containers.
As for going “number one,” the waste gets suctioned out into space where it will evaporate into a gas. But other waste gets collected in a receptacle until it can be cleared out when back on Earth.
The Toilet Paper That Will Literally Scare The Stuff Out Of You
Almost everyone has experienced the disappointment of sitting down on the toilet to “do business,” only to realize they don’t have anything to occupy themselves during that time. Well, that shouldn’t be a problem for author Koji Suzuki, who had an entire horror novel written on a roll of toilet paper!
Suzuki, who is the mastermind behind The Ring, wrote a story about an evil spirit who lives in a toilet bowl and he thought of the only appropriate way to have his novel published: right on the toilet paper! The Hayashi Paper Corporation, which is known for dolling out unconventional toilet paper to Japanese consumers, printed Suzuki’s novel, which runs almost three feet long.
People All Over The World Are Guilty Of This
There are millions of Americans who admit to stealing rolls of toilet paper from places like hotels when they have the chance. You probably won’t get away with something like that in China, where they reportedly have face-detection technology to prevent toilet paper theft!
According to NBC News, tourist attractions in Beijing have restrooms at which users must stand in front of a camera before being dispensed two-feet of toilet paper to use. Managers told the news source that this was enacted to “cope with the behavior of taking public toilet paper home which is theft and abuse of public resource.”
You’re Not Crazy, Toilet Paper IS Getting Smaller
Have you noticed that toilet paper rolls have been getting smaller? Did you think that they were just staying the same size as you grew older and had the responsibility to get your own? That may be the case, but in fact, toilet paper that is sold today is considerably smaller than toilet paper sold decades ago.
According to NPR in 2015, “A standard roll is much smaller than it used to be, so now they’re selling double rolls. So, without being scientific, …a double roll is pretty well equivalent to what a standard roll was perhaps a decade ago.”