Most, if not all of our homes in West Jordan have at least one toilet. It is something many of us consider a vital part of our home. For an invention we use several times a day, it seems strange that we know so little of where it comes from. To be fair, not even the historians or archaeologists are certain exactly which person or civilization was the first to invent the toilet. What they do seem to agree on is that many different cultures seem to have come up with similar solutions to disposing of waste in about the same time frame. What societies helped to bring us the toilet as we know it today? We hope to help illuminate the past behind one of our most-often used inventions.
The first waste disposals were what we might, somewhat optimistically, call ‘latrines’. Holes in the ground that led to a waste pit below. Sometimes they were simply pots placed in holes in the ground. Usually the areas for these holes were not inside a house, thankfully. They were smelly, and sometimes far too close to sources of water. In the third millennium BC, another kind of latrine was developed. These latrines were only for those of position and wealth, and attached to the outside of a house. These latrines were closer to modern day toilets or latrines. They featured a rounded ‘seat’ for people to sit on, and had a vertical shaft beneath that helped to lift them off the ground. This vertical shaft was similar to the fallpipe modern western toilets use. Waste would go into the to and then ‘fall’ down to whatever pit or storage center was used for keeping the waste away from people.
Around the same time several civilizations were already using toilets connected to water to remove bodily waste, although height and style varied widely. Some of these places included Skara Brae of Orkney in Scotland and the Harappan Civilization. Toilets do not seem to have been used in other civilizations until the 18th century BC. The next societies to have them included the ancient Persian, Cretan, and Egyptian Civilizations.
The Flushing Toilet was first invented in 1596. It was invented by Sir John Herrington in Kelston, England. Sir Herrington named the toilet “AJAX.” It is theorized that the british term “john,” meaning toilet, is a reference to Sir John Herrington. The AJAX is very very close to the standard western toilet that you can find in most West Jordan homes today. The toilet had a valve to flush the toilet. When pressed, the valve released water into the bowl to clean it out and carry waste away.
The next development to the toilet came in 1775, when Alexander Cummings got the first patent for the flushing toilet. While he did not invent the flushing toilet, he did invent the “S-trap,” which has been modified to a “U” or “J” trap in modern toilets. The S, U, or J trap is what keeps the water in the toilet, even though there is no actual gate holding it there, and allows the toilet to refill. It also keeps nasty sewer gas and fumes from coming back up the pipe and smelling up our bathrooms. Between 1775 and the 18th century the toilet became a more widely owned invention. At the end of the 18th century Thomas Crapper helped to spread the usage of toilets.
Mr. Crapper owned the first known ‘showroom’ for toilets, and he also sold parts to fix toilets. His company, which had its own foundry, received a few royal warrants to install toilet rooms, or lavatories in castles. His first came from King Edward VII when he was still a prince. The order was to install plumbing and thirty lavatories. His company did a good enough job to receive several more royal warrants for installing plumbing and lavatories in different castles from both King Edward VII and George V. Having toilets installed in many castles helped to spread the use and awareness of the flushing toilet.
In 1906 William Sloan invented a toilet that used pressurized water to flush the toilet. Having a pressurized flush helped to make the toilet dispose of the waste faster, and also helped more efficiently clean the bowl of residue. Excepting the different types of trap in use, this is the same toilet most western homes use today.
In 1988 the state of Massachusetts passed a law requiring only low-flush toilets could be installed in remodels or new construction. In 1992 the U.S. President George Bush passed a law for the United States stating that new toilets could not use more than 1.6 gallons a flush. This caused problems because the manufacturers of toilets didn’t really change the toilet so a toilet designed to use a lot more water had to function on only the 1.6 gallons or less. Eventually, due mostly to complaints of customers, toilets were refashioned slightly so that low-flush toilets functioned better and were able to remove all the waste within one or two flushings.
Obviously toilets continue to change and develop even today, between consumer need and options available. We’ve seen everything from pink or green toilets to the toilets in Asia that can check your blood pressure. Only time will tell what happens to the toilet, but for now we’re glad to have a convenient, fresh-smelling bathroom and toilet.
If you want a new toilet installed or need an old one unclogged, give Your Plumber West Jordan a call.