A Brief History of Toilets

By September 7, 2018 No Comments

Did you know that Nov. 19 is officially World Toilet Day? It’s an event hosted by the United Nations to raise awareness for people around the globe who live without proper sanitation. To honor the said event, we’re giving you a brief history of toilets and how humans have devised creative ways to go the bathroom since the very first person crossed his legs with an urgent need to go.

Toilets in the Ancient World

It is quite unclear who first invented the toilet. In the ancient world, people were all capable of creating their own design of sophisticated toilets. Farmers who lived in the Orkney Islands in the village at Skara Brae built their houses with cubicles over the drains. Some may have been inside toilets since their stone huts had drains built under them.

Rich people’s toilets seats in Ancient Egypt were made of limestone. The poor ones were made of wooden stool with a hole in it. Underneath the wooden stool was a container filled with sand which had to be emptied by bare hands.

During the Indus Valley civilization, networks of sewers were dug under the streets. All the toilets were flushed using water. The Minoan civilization also built a drainage system with sewage. Toilets, too, were flushed with water.

The Roman civilization also built their own sewers that collect sewage and rainwaters. They also built public lavatories which consist of just a stone seat next to one another without any kind of partition. Once the Romans were done using the toilet, they used to wipe their behinds using a sponge on a stick.

Toilets in the Middle Ages

During the 12th century, monks used to build stone chutes that lead to the sea so that when tides went in, it would simply flush away the sewage.

Medieval castles, on the other hand, had a garderobe, a vertical shaft with stone seats at the top. These types of toilet were emptied into the moat.

Wealthy ones use rags to wipe their behinds while ordinary people use a common mullein or wooly mullein.

Toilets in the Modern World

During the 16th century, a toilet was called by many as jakes. Flushing lavatories with a cistern were invented by Sir John Harrington in the 1590’s. However, the people still used the traditional cesspit or chamber pot which was cleaned by gong farmers.

In 1775, a granted patent for a flushing toilet was granted to Alexander Cumming. It was later had its much better design by Joseph Brahmah in 1778.

Since then, flushing toilets used to become common and not just a luxury at first. Earth closets became popular in the 19th century. It was a box filled with granulated clays over a pan.

In 1883, vacant or engaged toilet bolts for public toilets was patented by a man named Mr. Ashwell. The very first pedestal toilet bowl was made in 1884. However, inside toilets were still a form of luxury during the 19th century. It was only during the late 1900s when inside toilets became universal.

Today’s Toilet

In the 20th century up until today in the 21st century, bathroom technologies really took off. Smart toilets, in particular, became more and more popular. From built-in self-cleaning function, automatic flush and many others, toilets have really gone a long way. Everyone has the luxury to flush the toilet and just see it disappear.

Sara Ito

Sara Ito

Sara is the Editor at Terrific Toilets. When she isn't reviewing the best toilets and washlets, she enjoys spending time with her 2 kids, husband and Wasabi, her 2-year old Corgi.

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