Many have been left to believe that Thomas Crapper (yes Crapper) was the first to invent the flushing toilet which he was not. In the late 1850’s he was however the founder of “Thomas Crapper & Company” and owned the first bath, toilet and sink showroom. So, while he did not invent the toilet, it is generally assumed that the word ‘crapper’, meaning the toilet, finds its origins in his name.
Some also believe that the flush toilet was invented in 1596 by Sir John Harrington. There actually isn’t one known inventor because there are timelines going as far back as the 26th century BC where it is stated that flush toilets were first used in the Indus Valley Civilization. In a few cities it was discovered that almost every home had a flush toilet attached to a sophisticated sewage system.
Even though we don’t know exactly who to give credit to on making our ‘thrones’ much more sanitary and what they are today, we do have a general known historical timeline listing milestones along the way of the evolution of the toilet.
The ‘Crapper’ Timeline
206 BC to 24 AD
A toilet was discovered in the tomb of a Chinese King of the Western Han Dynasty.
Had a system of sewers. They built simple outhouses or latrines directly over the running waters of the sewers that poured into the Tiber River.
The Persian inventor Al-Jazari invented a hand washing device incorporating the flush mechanism which is now used in modern flush toilets. When the user pulled the lever, the water drains and the mechanism refills with basin.
Chamber pots were used which were a metal or ceramic bowl that was used for relieving oneself and then contents were disposed of. It is believed that these pots were often disposed out of the window which may also explain some of the major sickness that would plague cities.
A Flush toilet was invented and built for Queen Elizabeth I by Sir John Harrington. It is also said that she refused to use it because it was noisy.
The first patent for the flushing toilet was issued to Alexander Cummings.
Samuel Prosser invented and patented the ‘plunger closet’. This was a new lavatory model that used a plunger to flush the toilet.
Joseph Bramah patented the first practical water closet in England. Which is now just called a bathroom.
People start to realize that poor sanitary conditions caused diseases (you’d think the smell alone would have been the reason). At this time lawmakers, medical experts, inventors and the general public made having toilets and sewer systems a top priority.
The Tremont Hotel in Boston became the first hotel to have indoor plumbing. It had eight ‘water closets.
It was up until this time that most indoor plumbing could only be found in homes of the rich and in upscale hotels.
The first popularized public water closets were at The Crystal Palace in London. These were considered the first public toilets. They actually had attendants and customers were charged a penny for use.
Building codes suggested that most new middle-class homes in British cities were equipped with a water closet.
Thomas Crapper’s plumbing company built flush toilets. Crapper popularized the siphon system for emptying the tank, replacing the earlier floating valve system which tended to lead.
The first modern ‘flush-down’ toilet was demonstrated by Frederick Humpherson. Also, during this time, a Pottery Manufacturer Thomas Twyford build the first one-piece ceramic toilet using the flush-out siphon.
Giblin received a patent for the “Silent Valveless Water Waste Preventer”.
William Sloan invented the Flushometer. This used pressurized water directly from the water supply line for faster recycle time between flushes. This is still used today in public restrooms worldwide.
Thomas MacAvity Steward received a patent for the vortex-flushing bowl, which creates a self-cleaning effect.
1910 to 1927
Toilet designs started changing from the elevated water tank into the modern toilet with a tank coupled to the bowl. Philip Haas developed and received a patent for the flush rim toilet, which also depended on multiple jets of water from a ring with downward pointing perforations to thoroughly was every portion of the bowl. He also designed and improved a water closet flushing/recycling mechanism similar to what we use today.
So, as you can see the evolution of the toilet has been a long one and even today there are new developments happening even today to improve the way the toilet works, including water saving systems that save the average household 67% of their water usage. We can all probably say that we take our modern-day restrooms for granted.
Need to upgrade your ‘Throne’? Call R-Mech Heating, Cooling & Plumbing and we’ll get you taken care of.