Little Bits of History

Sitting on the Throne

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 13, 2010

Toilet insides

January 13, 1863: Some things we simply take for granted. The wonders of indoor plumbing are one of those things. The simplicity of crawling out of bed in the middle of the night, walking a few short feet, barely opening one’s eyes, operating a simple handle, and then returning to bed relieved is all a fairly new experience. Thanks to Thomas Crapper.

On this day, Crapper pioneered his famous one-piece pedestal flushing toilet. He is mistakenly credited with inventing this marvelous piece of ingenuity. He did not do that. Crapper simply brought this behind-the-doors invention to the public’s attention in London, England, through his showrooms. He was shrewd in business and a wonderful salesman.

In ancient times, Romans built latrines over running water so that the waste could be carried away. Early pipes used by the Hohokam Indians were hollowed out logs which could also carry the water away. There is also a tale of King Minos of Crete having a flushing water closest over 2,800 years ago. During the Middle Ages, chamber pots were used nightly and emptied into the streets come morning. With millions dying of cholera, the poor sanitation was seen as a means of spreading disease. It has been said that no house in Massachusetts had a bathroom before 1820.

Of course, the toilet without the sewer system would be problematic. Engineer Julius W. Adams provided framework for the modern sewage system in 1857. At that time that he was brought in to design the system for Brooklyn which, in 1857, covered about 20 square miles. With the design of Adams’ system used as a model, many how-to books for other communities to do likewise were produced.

“Engineering is not merely knowing and being knowledgeable, like a walking encyclopedia; engineering is not merely analysis; engineering is not merely the possession of the capacity to get elegant solutions to non-existent engineering problems; engineering is practicing the art of the organized forcing of technological change … Engineers operate at the interface between science and society …” – Dean Gordon Brown

“If you build a better mousetrap, you will catch better mice.” – George Gobel

“Where a new invention promises to be useful, it ought to be tried.” – Thomas Jefferson

“Television is like the invention of indoor plumbing. It didn’t change people’s habits. It just kept them inside the house.” – Alfred Hitchcock

Also on this day, in 1842 Dr. Brydon is the only survivor among 14,500 in the Afghanistan withdrawal.


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  1. Greece « Little Bits of History said, on January 13, 2011 at 6:11 am

    […] on this day: Sitting on the Throne – In 1863, Thomas Crapper pioneered his pedestal toilet. Only Dr. Brydon survived – In […]

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