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February 11, 2024

Short History of Toilet Paper

Toiler paper was not always soft and comfortable. In fact, some of the earliest forms of toilet paper were quite rough and abrasive, such as corn cobs, leaves, sand, and even shells. 

These materials were not only harsh on the skin, but also inefficient and unsanitary. They could cause infections, irritation, and even injuries. Some people resorted to using their hands or water to clean themselves, which was also risky and inconvenient. It was not until the 19th century that toilet paper became more refined and widely available. 

The first commercially produced toilet paper was invented by Joseph Gayetty in 1857. He marketed his product as “Gayetty’s Medicated Paper,” which was made of hemp paper moistened with aloe vera. He claimed that his paper was soothing and prevented hemorrhoids. In 1879 the English Walter Alcock, will have the idea to put on the market the first toilet paper in rolls.

Both inventions failed for reasons of mistrust and fight against waste.

The turning point came in 1896 with three young entrepreneurs from Philadelphia, Irvin, Clarence and Arthur Scott who bought Alcock’s patent and decided to convert the large rolls used for winding fabrics from their father’s factory into smaller rolls to wrap toilet paper. Their new company, the Scott Paper Company (now Scottex), also had to contend with consumer reluctance. Success came only after 1930 from the American market, in 1950 from the European one and after ten years from the Italian one.


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