Toilet Paper:  The Key to Civilization (Including a Brief History)

As we learned recently, the key to our civilization is toilet paper.  With it, we are a civilized world superpower.  Without it, we crumble like a third world country into chaos.  When Americans are faced by a potential tragedy – hurricane, flood, or apocalypse – the first thing they reach for is toilet paper – not guns, potatoes, or the Bible – but toilet paper!  When did you last see panic driven hoarders frantically pushing grocery buggies full of guns, potatoes, or Bibles out of stores in the wake of an impending disaster?  Likely, never, but if you are not careful during an apocalyptic event, you will get run over by buggies piled high with toilet paper.  In America, toilet paper is the anchor that holds common sense in place.  Without toilet paper, Americas react like lemmings rushing over the edge of a cliff.

Some of us might think such behavior is ridiculous and shake our heads and point sadly, even angrily, at the folks who strip store shelves bare of toilet paper with no regard for anyone’s hygiene but their own.  We console ourselves with the delusion civilized people do not act that way; however, that is exactly how civilized people act.  One of the greatest differences between man and animals is the ability to wipe your rear, and in that difference lies the foundation of what we think of as civilization.  People housed in a civilized bubble often speak eloquently of embracing “all for one” and “one for all” as the foundation of civilization, but history bears the truth is actually closer to “all for self-preservation” and protecting the ability to wipe at all costs as the true foundations of civilization.  Therefore, before we get too upset with the actions of hoarders, maybe we should first slow down and realize they are actually doing their part to preserve civilization as we know it.

The number one use of toilet paper is wiping the bottom post-dumping.  There is nothing more civilized or personal.  When anything endangers our ability to wipe, people panic and rightfully so.  Have you ever finished your business in the bathroom and discovered the toilet paper roll was empty?  Unless a person is built in the mold of a saint, when that happens, they would not think twice of taking the last toilet tissue square from the hands of their mama or the saint for that matter.  There is nothing more frightening and uncivilized as getting stuck on the pot with no toilet paper!  Other than eating, wiping your bottom with toilet paper is the most essential task in a home, and frankly in a business, or on a cross country trip as well.  Americans can go days without eating, but a day without toilet paper is an end-of-time pestilence.  We use toilet paper to wipe our rear, blow our nose, line the toilet seat, stuff bras and pants, and roll yards.  No self-respecting teenager in America would dare be caught without at least one twelve pack of toilet paper in the trunk of the car in case of a rolling emergency.  So, let’s get real!  Toilet paper is the foundation of our existence as civilized people.  It is all that keeps us a notch above the animals.  Therefore, are we truly angry at the toilet paper hoarders, or are we simply pissed-off we did not get there first to do our part in saving civilization?

The good thing is eventually hoarding and toilet paper scarcities end and become a distant memory.  Like the origins of wiping, scooping, and washing, the latest chapter in waste management becomes little more than a footnote in history.  Until the next disaster threatens civilization as we know it and shelves of two ply then single ply toilet paper are once again wiped clean, life returns to normal.  Once normalcy is restored, the story of civilization and who first squeezed the Charmin matters only to history:

A Short History of Toilet Paper

  • 1800 B.C. – The Mayans discovered the use of corn cobs as poop removers and their civilization was born.
  • 200 A.D. – The first paper making process was developed in China not for writing but for wrapping and disposing of poo. Prior to that the Chinese used silk gloves to freshen up.
  • 601 A.D. – Paper wrapped poo became a huge disposal issue in China. As a solution, in the 7th century, The Great Wall of China was built using baked bricks of paper wrapped poo as building blocks, which proved to be extremely economical.
  • 1300 A.D. – The Aztecs create the first perfumed corn cobs making it possible for large numbers of people to congregate in one area thereby making large cities more practical and livable.
  • 1391 A.D. – Perfumed paper wipes, the first actual toilet paper, was created for the Chinese Emperor’s family. The resulting heavenly smell of the Emperor and his family gave rise to their status as gods.
  • 1450 A.D. – Paper became widely available in Europe, so newspaper became a popular choice of toilet paper, which gave rise to the term “Yellow Journalism.”
  • 1500 A.D. – The Spanish invaded Central America and with newspapers in short supply in the New World, there was a severe corn cob shortage, which had a dramatic impact on the Aztecs and led to the demise of their civilization.
  • 1587 A.D. – The first commercially packaged toilet paper sheets were created by Joseph C. Gayetty. The toilet paper was medicated with aloe and Gayetty’s name was printed on each sheet.  This was the forerunner of today’s toilet paper with novelty printing.
  • 1879 A.D. – Walter Alcock created perforated toilet paper on a roll instead of flat sheets, and Scott Paper Company sold the first toilet paper rolls. That same year Sargent Dixwell, Headmaster at Boston Latin School in Boston Massachusetts became the first headmaster/principal to have his house rolled with toilet paper.
  • 1935 A.D. – The first splinter free toilet paper was invented by Northern Tissue. This new invention was praised by consumers but frowned on by manufacturers of underwear and tweezers.  Fewer tweezers and underwear were sold!  For the first time in history, there were no splinters when wiping nor did splinters rip and tear holes in undergarments.  Underwear using a thinner fabric that developed holes and tore easily was reintroduced several years later as a Christmas promotion by profit hungry undergarment companies.
  • 1973 A.D. – The United States amid a gas and onion shortage had its first toilet paper shortage. Comedian Johnny Carson joked about toilet paper being the next shortage on The Tonight Show, and the next day shelves in stores across the nation were wiped clean as people went hysterical buying and hoarding toilet paper.  There is no record of people hoarding onions at the time.
  • 2020 A.D. – Faced with the Coronavirus that attacked the respiratory system, Americans panicked and stripped stores of toilet paper. The connection to the respiratory system and the excretory system that led to the run on toilet paper is still being studied, but of course, we know the reason was to save civilization.

The history of toilet paper is a roadmap to man’s journey as a civilized human being.  As stated previously, the greatest difference between man and animals is the ability to wipe, and when that ability is threatened, mankind gives way to panic.  We are human beings, and as such, we will go to great lengths to protect the sanctity of our home and civilization, and if that means hoarding toilet paper at the expense of others, so be it.  We are the protectors of the porcelain throne and toilet paper is our banner flapping from under our skirt, from the heel of our shoe, the lump in our pants, and the swaying branch of a tree.  Take away toilet paper, America’s banner, and bring America to its knees.  Without toilet paper, we like the Aztecs cease to function as a civilized society.

See you in the history books.

©Jack Linton, April 1, 2020

JL

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