Toilet Paper History – Complete Historical Timeline
The Chinese first made paper with short lengths of bamboo and then later added cotton linen rags which were soaked in water and pounded into swollen pulp. This was then formed into sheets and dried.
105 A.D: Ts’ai Lun, a Chinese court official, has his name linked to the invention of paper. Most likely, Ts’ai mixed mulberry bark, hemp, and rags with water, mashed it into pulp, pressed out the liquid, and hung the thin mat to dry in the sun.
England recorded locations for papermaking mills. Rags were the principal raw material and they were in short supply, thus limiting growth.
1391: The first toilet paper reported was used by the Chinese emperor. As a luxury item, only royalty had access to toilet paper. The paper was made in 2 ft x 3-ft sheets. The Bureau of Imperial Supplies began producing 720,000 sheets of toilet tissue per year.
1400-1600: In Renaissance Europe, paper was in high demand by the educated and elite society. Paper thus became an essential commodity, but the demand was too great for the supply at the time. Rags were the principal raw material and in short supply.
1596: The Flushing Toilet was invented by Sir John Harrington, who was a British nobleman and godson to Queen Elizabeth I. He invented a valve that when pulled would release the water from the water closet and suggested flushing at least twice a day. Rumor has it that this is where the name the “John” originated.
1648: Henry Crane emigrates from England and settles in Dorchester, Massachusetts. His great-grandson, Stephen Crane, is the first in the family to become a papermaker.
1690: William Rittenhouse and William Bradford of Germantown, PA built the first North American papermaking mill at Wissahickon Creek, near Philadelphia, that used rags as the raw material. Rags were boiled, rinsed, and beaten to a pulp, then pressed to get the water out and dried to become paper. Thanks to a great deal of imagination and hard work, they successfully collected, separated, cleaned, and recycled old cloth rags to make America’s first writing. Among the many picturesque acres of Philadelphia’s Fairmont Park, there is a rare and unique treasure known as Historic Rittenhouse Town. It is the site of America’s first paper mill, established in 1690 by Wilhelm Rittenhausen. Today, 7 buildings remain, dating from the early 18th century until the end of the 19th century, including a barn which houses a papermaking studio, the original Rittenhouse Family Homestead, and the original Rittenhouse Homestead Bakehouse. The site is open to the public and offers many exciting programs that enrich interest and awareness of this important National Historic Landmark and all it has to offer. The paper mill structure unfortunatley no longer exists. The mill building was taken down sometime after Fairmount Park took control of the site in the late nineteenth century. In the mid-1990s, Historic RittenhouseTown Inc. hired archeologists to search for the site of the mill. The base of the second mill has been located and Historic RittenhouseTown Inc. hopes eventually to be able to expose part of the base of the mill and include this in historical interpretation of the site.
1700: Initially, colonial Americans used corncobs and leaves to cleanse where toilet tissue is used today. Then, when newspapers became available they were used. Also, the Sears catalog and the Farmers almanac were later used. The Almanac had a hole in it so it could be hung on a nail or string. The French Royalty used lace.
1716: Hemp was first used in an experiment as a raw material for paper making in Europe.
1750: In Holland the first mechanical rag beater was developed called the Hollander. It was a tube with a revolving roller inside that passed over knives. This cut the rags up for pulping.
1775: The first US paper money – Stephen Crane sells currency-type paper to engraver Paul Revere, who prints the American Colonies’ first paper money. Revere’s transaction is on display in the Crane Museum.
1791: Rags needed in US- The Second Congress of the US passed a resolution calling on the people for rags to keep the infant papermaking industry alive. Rags were deemed in short supply. Alexander Hamilton reported later that year that supply of rags was adequate.
1798: Rolls made instead of sheets- Nicholas-Louis Robert of France invented a machine that produces paper on an endless wire screen. The Frenchman patented the idea of matting the fabric fibers and joining the sheet on a moving wire belt through which excess water could drain away. His machine would make continuous rolls rather tan sheets. It became the Fourdrinier. Fifty years later, papermakers began successfully using wood fiber to make paper, a process that was introduced in the United States in the early 1900s.
1800: Matthias Hoops published a treatise on papermaking written on paper made from straw, leaves, wood and other vegetable products.
1801: Crane is founded by Zenas Crane, Henry Wiswall and John Willard; the original one-vat mill has a daily output of 20 posts (1 post = 125 sheets). Crane runs its first newspaper ad, asking ladies to save their household rags for papermaking.
1803: The Fourdrinier brothers in England improved the Nicholas Louis Robert continuous roll papermaking machine and made the Fourdrinier papermaking machine, which is still the heart of the paper and pulp industry
1810: The US census reported 179 mills in 17 states with an output of 3,000 tons. But the supply of rags was not sufficient to fuel the growth and demand for paper. European imports of rags became very expensive.
1815: European papermakers were flooding the US with exports of paper & rags, making high profits because of the lack of supply of rags in the US. This hurt the US papermaking industry.
1819: The silent valve was patented by Albert Giblin in England. This allowed a toilet to be flushed more efficiently. Albert worked for Thomas Crapper who had a successful plumbing business. It is most likely that Thomas bought the patent from Albert and then marketed the toilet himself from 1861-1904. (Toilet is a French word meaning ‘the act of washing, dressing and preparing oneself’)
1820: The US census reported only 108 mills in operation compared to 179 ten years earlier. The newly invented cylinder-mould machine replaces hand-forming. In Boston, Governor Strong uses Crane paper for executive proclamations and state documents.
1822: A US tariff was implemented to help the papermakers in the US. From here on, the industry grew steadily into its world dominance of today.
1840: Mechanical Process for making wood pulp- The development of the wood grinder for making ground wood now called pulp. This process grinds the wood in revolving grinders. There is little chemical change and the resulting pulp contains practically all the original cellulose constituents of the original wood. This pulp cannot be bleached and is used where color is unimportant, such as newsprint.
1844: Money Paper- Crane patented a method to embed silk threads into banknote paper to foil counterfeiters. The direct descendant of this idea can be seen in the embedded security thread in today’s U.S. currency. It was patented in 1991 by Tim Crane, a member of the sixth generation
1854: Wood pulp first used- Practical results of making paper from wood pulp were first obtained. Mechanical wood pulp or groundwood, as the new pulp was called, was used to supplement the supply of rags, and the mixture of rags and wood pulp produced a paper suitable for the times.
1856: In 1856, the English started to use corrugated paper for sweatband linings in stovepipe hats. Albert L. Jones, a New York City inventor, in 1871 was the first to use corrugated as a packing material for shipping kerosene-lamp chimneys and other glass. Goodbye sawdust and straw – over the next two decades cardboard evolved into today’s familiar sandwich, corrugated stuffing between two layers of linerboard. * see note below
Late 1800’s: The public’s demand for better hygiene coincided with improvements in residential and commercial indoor plumbing.
1857: New Yorker Joseph Gayetty introduced the first packaged Toilet Tissue in the United States. The Gayette Firm, located in New Jersey, produced and sold a package of 500 sheets selling for $0.50 It was named “Therapeutic Paper” and served as a medical paper. It contained an abundance of aloe to help cure sores. Joseph’s name was printed on each sheet!
1866: In 1866, an American named Benjamin Tilghman developed the sulfite pulping process. This process used sulphurous acid to dissolve the liqueous constituents of wood, leaving a residual of cellulose fibers. The first mill using this process was built in Sweden in 1874 and this became the dominant pulping process until 1937.
1870: There were eight ground-wood mills in the US. Mills were mostly in New England because of large supplies of spruce pulpwood there. In the 1890’s, mills were being erected in the Lake States region because of the supply of spruce and balsam.
1870: Elegant women’s stationery from Europe becomes the rage in America. Zenas Crane Jr. travels to Europe to learn the techniques. Soon, Tiffany, Bailey, Banks & Biddle, Marshall Field’s and Shreve, Crump & Lowe all carry Crane stationary paper.
1872: Charles Benjamin Clark, a 28-year-old Civil War veteran, recruits John A. Kimberly, Havilah Babcock and Frank Shattuck to build a paper mill in Wisconsin. They began producing newsprint from linen and cotton rags on October 22, 1872. Rags were cut up by machines and boiled for 14 hours. Then the rags were steamed, pressure washed, and rinsed for 5 hours. The rags were then bleached, drained and then beaten to make pulp. More bleaching added whiteness.
1873: W. Murray Crane receives a challenge from Winchester Arms Company of New Haven, Connecticut, to develop a strong, thin wrapping for repeater rifle bullets. This lucrative contract carries Crane through the recession of the 1870s. Other innovations around this time include a substitute for parchment, sheepskin for diplomas, and special thin paper for Bibles.
1874: Brothers Thomas Scott, Irvin Scott, Clarence Scott; and their cousins Thomas Seymore and Zerah Hoyt, establish The Scott Paper Company is established in Philadelphia, PA.
1878: API, the American Paper Institute, was first formed as the American Paper Makers Association in 1878. Five years later, it was reorganized and renamed the American Paper Manufacturers Association. A wood pulp division was added in 1887 and in 1897 the organization was again renamed as the American Paper and Pulp Association (APPA). This name lasted for the next 66 years. Today, the group is part of the American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA), which was formed in 1993.
1879: W. Murray Crane wins heated competition for U.S. currency paper. He later becomes Governor of Massachusetts and a U.S. Senator.
1880: US - There were now 40 ground-wood mills in America.
1880: Great Britain- The British Perforated Paper Company produced toilet paper.
1882: Sweden first used the sulfite pulping process on a commercial basis.
1883: German inventor Carl Dahl discovered adding sodium sulfate to the caustic soda pulping process produced a very strong pulp. This was called the Kraft process; Kraft means strong in German. During the early 1900’s, the Kraft process became the most important pulping process due to its several distinct advantages. First, the chemicals used to dissolve the lignin were recoverable and tremendous amounts of energy were produced during the recovery process. The process could also pulp pine trees, a predominant forest species in the United States. The Kraft process allowed the United States to become a major producer of paper products; Kraft paper makes paper bags and heavy wrapping.
1890: The manufacture of sulfite wood pulp was first commercially accepted in the US. This process involved cooking wood chips in an acid, chiefly bisulfite of lime, at high temperature and high pressure. This pulp can be bleached white. Sulfite pulp is very stable and the bleached pulp is good for writing, tissue, book and wrapping papers as well as food containerboard. Unbleached sulfite pulp is used in newsprint.
1890: Toilet Paper on a roll was introduced by the Scott Paper Company and quickly becomes the nation’s leading producer of TP. Scott bought large rolls of paper from paper manufacturers and then converted them to become toilet paper on a small roll. The TP was sold through intermediaries, private labelers and drug stores. Scott private labeled the wrappers and cut the paper according to the specification that each reseller wanted. Scott did not want to be associated with this Victorian era “unmentionable” product. The owners did not want their name on the product. The strategy worked and Scott expanded – Scott soon had over 2,000 reselling customers.
1896: Arthur Scott joins Scott and argues that controlling their brand and product specifications is the best strategy rather than selling through resellers.
1900: Soda pulp mills were erected in the US. These mills cooked wood chips in caustic soda and this pulp is chiefly used in treating short-fibered hardwoods such as aspen, gum, and poplar. Soda pulp is primarily mixed with sulfite pulp to make printing papers.
1902: The Waldorf brand was a big seller in Philadelphia by a paper jobber, Albert DeCernea. Arthur Scott, the son of Irvin, convinced his father Scott paper should control their own brands and product specifications. Scott therefore bought this private label and this began their first venture into controlling their own brand. By 1921 the Waldorf brand was 64% of Scott’s sales.
1901: Northern Paper Mills from Green Bay Wisconsin is established and introduces Northern Tissue to be used as a sanitary tissue. It is 1,000 sheets of tissue, each 4×10 inches. Each bundle has a wire through it so it can be hung from a nail.
1904: Over 1,300 wood grinders were in operation in the US now. Additionally, over 300 digesters produced sulfite pulp and over 200 digesters produced soda pulp.
1907: Scott introduces Scott paper towels. The Sani-towels became the first disposable paper towel in America used in Philadelphia schools to help prevent the spread of common colds.
1910: Scott begins to manufacture its own toilet paper. In order to control the standards and quality of the tissue, Scott built its own first manufacturing plant in Chester, PA to make paper. They began making large 72″ parent rolls of tissue and cutting them to smaller rolls. The small rolls were either 650 or 1,000 perforated sheets. The roll of 1,000 sheets sold for $.10 and it was considered a medical item.
Papermakers imported large quantities of wood pulp from Canada because of supply demands.
The Sulfate process to make pulp first appeared. This helped the US papermaking industry make pulp from the domestic southern pine located in the Southern states instead of importing pulp all the way from Canada. This process is used to pulp long-fibered woods. It is a modification of the soda process where sodium sulfite is substituted for caustic soda. It accelerates the pulping process and requires less heat and pressure.
1911: Scott eliminates all private-label manufacturing. Scott’s ‘Sno-tissue was renamed ScotTissue. This marked the beginning of the complete concentration on Scott brands and Scott Tissue. They no longer sold through resellers.
1915: Kimberly Clark begins producing absorbent cellulose wadding called Cellucotton. This is to be used as a bandage material in WW1 and army nurses begin adapting this material for menstrual use.
1918: Kimberly Clark prepares to sell Cellucotton for use in WW I, but the war ends. The project later leads to the development of Kleenex.
1919: Fort Howard Paper Company established in Green Bay Wisconsin.
1920: KC forms the company Cellucotton Products to market Kotex sanitary napkins. The KC Company owners are afraid to associate with this ‘unmentionable’ product. Kotex is first advertised in ‘Ladies home journal’ in 1921 but the ad is restricted in explaining the products use. Also, Northern Mills introduces toilet tissue on a roll and claims to be the largest producer of bath tissue in the world.
1924: Kleenex is introduced by Cellucotton and first marketed to women as a disposable towel to use when removing cold cream. (In 1930 the marketing changed to be ‘a disposable handkerchief’ instead of a cold cream remover). Cold cream was commonly used to protect their skin while riding in the open convertibles. Most of the six million autos were open touring cars. Because Kotex had a slow start, they had excess capacity in the Kotex facility and needed to find a use for the Kotex product. The project leader took the heavy creped Kotex material and ‘ironed’ it to become soft, flat and smooth.
1927: Georgia Pacific was founded by Owen R. Cheatham as a wholesale lumber company. By 1941 it becomes the largest supplier of lumber to the US armed forces.
1928: Crown Zellerbach is established and is a forerunner in the paper & pulp industry. Also, Charmin is introduced by Hoberg Paper in Green Bay, WI. The logo was a woman’s head on a cameo pin and was designed to appeal to the woman’s fashions of the day. A female employee remarked that the design was ‘charming’ and hence the name Charmin was born.
1929: Kleenex tissues in a pop-up dispenser box are introduced.
1930: Northern Toilet Paper is hailed as ’splinter-free’ toilet paper.
1931: Scott makes ScotTowels, the first paper roll towel. They market using ‘Mr. Thirsty Fibre” for absorbency, wet-strength and economy.
1932: Charmin introduced its 4-roll package, making a convenient bundle purchase for shoppers.
1939: Scott Brand claims to be the largest producer of toilet tissue in the world. Also, Capacity in the US for sulfate pulp was 3,368,460 tons annually. Sulfite pulp capacity was 2,524,950 tons.
1942: 2-ply toilet paper was introduced by St. Andrews Paper Mill in England. Before this toilet tissue was one-ply and not very soft.
1943: Scott launches Scotties facial tissue to compete with Kleenex.
1948: “Fluffy” the Northern cub appears in advertising.
1950: Kimberly Clark introduces Delsey toilet tissue. Also, the Hoberg Company changes its name to Charmin Paper Products.
1953: Charmin Baby Born is introduced and takes the place of the Charmin Lady. Also, Marathon Corp buys Northern Mills.
1954: Northern introduces colored toilet tissue.
1955: Scott advertises toilet tissue on TV for the first time.
1956: Kimberly Clark advertises Kleenex on TV on the Perry Como show. Also, The “Charmin babies your skin” ad campaign begins.
1957: Procter & Gamble acquires Charmin Company. Also, Georgia Pacific enters the paper and pulp business. American Can buys Marathon Corporation (formerly Northern Mills) and Dixie Cup.
1964: Mr. Whipple pushes Charmin toilet paper & appears for more than 20 years on TV, print and radio. The real Mr. Whipple was the president of the Benton & Bowles advertising agency. He came up with “Please don’t squeeze the Charmin” ad campaign. He sold the rights to Procter and Gamble for $1. Dick Wilson was a vaudeville actor that played the part in the TV ad. Mr. Whipple was the third most recognized name in the US behind Richard Nixon and Billy Graham. Also, Charmin adds perfume to their one-ply toilet tissue.
1968: Kimberly Clark introduces disposable diapers named Kimbies. This became Huggies in 1978.
1969: James River Company is established in Richmond, Virginia, the James River Valley.
1970: Charmin television commercials featured former Knots Landing star Joan Van Ark and Charlotte Rae from the sitcom The Facts of Life.
1972: Cottenelle Toilet Paper is introduced by Kimberly Clark.
1973: Charmin patents a process to make paper softer. Through air-drying, it fluffs up the paper instead of the conventional method that squeezes paper flat.
1974: Northern Paper Towel changed its name to Brawny.
1979: Georgia Pacific acquires Hudson Paper and introduced the ‘Sparkle’ brand.
1986: Georgia Pacific enters Premium Toilet Tissue market with Angel Soft. Also, to meet consumer demands, Charmin introduced unscented Charmin and Charmin Free products (free of inks, dyes, and perfumes).
1990: Kleenex Premium TP is introduced.
1992: The US Government requires toilet designs flush using much less water. This new design parameter creates a condition where the ‘flushability’ of toilet paper is important.
1993: Charmin Ultra is introduced as an upgrade. Also, Charmin Plus with Lotion and Aloe is introduced. Also, Northern Tissue re-launched as Quilted Northern.
1994: Charmin introduced the “Big Squeeze,” a 9-roll pack, and the Double Roll, which contains twice as many sheets as a regular roll, to keep pace with consumers’ needs.
1995: Kimberly Clark and Scott Paper merge. Also, Watermarked US currency: Crane begins producing watermarked paper for newly redesigned U.S. currency. Lansing E. Crane, a sixth generation Crane family member, is named CEO.
1997: James River and Fort Howard merge to become Fort James Corp. Purely Cotton toilet paper is introduced and made from 100% of cotton and water, no wood. This from a new Seattle based company. Also, Charmin Triple Roll was introduced. Charmin continued its soft and strong heritage, and was able to fit on a standard bathroom roll holder.
1999: Charmin introduces a new papermaking process. Its ‘Structured’ papermaking process makes paper softer, more absorbent and stronger. Also, a Paperless toilet is introduced in Japan. It is complete with a washing/rinsing mechanism, a blow-drying component and a heating element.
2000: Georgia-Pacific acquires Fort James and the brands Brawny, Quilted Northern and Dixie.
2001: Introduced by Kimberly Clark on January 16, Cottenelle Fresh Rollwipes are America’s first and only dispensable pre-moistened wipe on a roll. Also, that year Charmin purchased Moist Mates, on May 7, claiming to introduce the first pre-moistened bath tissue. They call it Charmin Fresh Mates.
2003: Annual global sales on toilet tissue exceed $19 billion. The four major attributes are softness, absorbency, strength and value.
2005: Cheap-Chic-Weddings.Com hosts its First Annual Wedding Dress Contest. To enter, applicants must submit pictures of themselves in a wedding dress made entirely out of toilet paper, glue, and tape. The contest continues to be highly anticipated event every year, with the level of competition getting stiffer every year.
2008: Decemeber - Marcal Paper Products, LLC announces the launch of their new brand of eco-friendly and recycled paper products, Small Steps. All of the products in the line (toilet paper, paper towels, facial tissue, napkins, etc) are made from 100% recycled material and contain a high percentage of post-consumer recycled content.
2009: August – Cuba declares it may run out of toilet paper by the year’s end. The communist nation’s economy struggled to recover from the hit of 3 massive hurricanes. This situation caused their rough economic situation to cripple even worse; leaving the government strapped to pay for basic necessity imports, like toilet paper.
2011: April - Students Set World Record for Folding Paper A group of students from St. Marks School in Massachusetts set a new World Record for folding paper, with toilet paper purchased at ToiletPaperWorld.com!
2012: January - ToiletPaperWorld starts selling Centerpull Toilet Paper, April - Brown toilet paper debuts from Cascades, July - First Hello Kitty and Kiss Printed Toilet Paper Revealed, November - World’s first Toilet Theme Park opens in South Korea
2013: January - Ancient Roman artifacts (ceramic disks – known as pessoi) thought to be early gaming pieces may actually have been used as a form of toilet paper. Read the ABC News article on Ancient Roman toilet paper.
March - A Finnish toilet paper company, Metsa Tissue, was trying to convey messages about love and joy but accidentally included Bible verses on their rolls. The company, whose toilet rolls regularly feature witty quotes, poetry or philosophical messages, said it would continue the product line but with more stringent vetting.
April - Venezuela’s Toilet Paper Crisis impacts the country, prompting a 50 million roll purchase to appease the distraught nation. “State-controlled prices” and “anti-government forces” are being sited as causes of the country-wide supply shortage.