Magazine Sneak Peek: A Joyous History of Toilet Paper

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In this month's new issue (hitting stands next week!), Linda Rodriguez has written a genius piece on the America's greatest invention: toilet paper. It's a fascinating story, but you don't have to take our word for it. Here's just a brief and incomplete that we included as a sidebar. Enjoy!

Great Moments in Toilet Paper History

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* Ever ahead of the curve, the Chinese begin wiping with scraps of rice paper as far back as the 6th century. In the 14th century, the Bureau of Imperial Supplies commissions 2 ft. by 3 ft. sheets for the emperor's personal use.

*In 1532, French writer François Rabelais satirizes financial excess with characters who brag about the joys of wiping with the neck of a "well-downed goose." Rabelais' exaggerations aside, the French do take their toilet solutions seriously. French royalty and persons of wealth allegedly begin using lace scented with rose or lavender water.

*The New York Times prints the phrase "toilet paper" for the first time in 1888. The article covers a hazing scandal at the U.S. Naval Academy where some cadets forced others to "chew their toilet paper." No mention of whether said toilet paper had been already used.

*A 1935 advertisement for Northern Tissue touts the product's "splinter-free" superiority. Most toilet paper at the time is uncomfortable (if not painful), owing to a less-fine milling process.
*Though initially slow to embrace toilet paper, the English contribute to its evolution in 1942, when St. Andrew's Paper Mill invents two-ply.

tpsign.jpg*In some countries, buying toilet paper is still considered flushing your money down the toilet—most literally in Zimbabwe, where inflation has reached an astronomical 234 million percent. There, it's cheaper, per sheet, to wipe with a 1,000-dollar Zimbabwe note than with toilet paper. Worse still, the currency wreaks havoc on plumbing systems. The notes have caused so much damage that some public toilets bear signs saying "No Zim Dollars."

*Japan releases another potty-related invention in 1997, the mock flusher. Because natural restroom sounds are a source of shame in Japan, people in public stalls often cover up the noise by flushing the toilet several times during the act. Concerns about water waste led to the invention of the mock flusher, which simulates the sound of flushing without actually letting water go down the drain.

But that just scratches the surface! Curious what else is in the magazine? Then pick up the new issue of mental_floss magazine here. Or take advantage of our latest offer and pick up a t-shirt with your subscription for just a couple of dollars more. 

June 19, 2009 - 7:49am
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