Moss, is humor writer from Tennessee. She writes a
weekly human interest column about daily life and the funny
things that happen to everyone.
She has written for the Daily News of Kingsport, Griffin Journal,
Oakridge Now, Atlanta Woman Magazine, Aberdeen Examiner, Angleton
Advocate, and Smyrna AM, a supplement of the Murfreesboro Daily News
Journal. She has been
published by Voyageur Press, McGraw Hill, and the good folks
at Guidepost Books. Her articles have appeared in
numerous anthologies and other publications, both in print and online.
She is a
former board member and past Editor of the Columnists.com, website of the National Society of Newspaper
oldest and largest professional organization
for columnists. She is the Web Editor of
Humorists.com and a founder of the Southern Humorists writers'
organization. She is writer, editor, and webmaster of HumorColumnist.com.
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Online Since 1999
Mentioning the Unmentionable
of life's most useful but least discussed items is toilet paper. We
take the existence of toilet paper for granted and have pretty much
forgotten about the days of catalogs, newspapers, shucks, leaves,
corncobs and other alternatives used by our ancestors. Who had the
idea of making this product and how did it come to be one of the items
we consider as a necessity?
I found out that the story of toilet paper is 2000 years old and
related to the story of the invention of paper itself. Toilet paper
has been around a long time and was used by the emperor in ancient
China. And I thought the Chinese only used paper for lanterns and tiny
In the olden days paper was made from old rags, which were shredded,
beaten into a pulp, boiled and then rolled into paper. In early
America cloth was very scarce and it had to be imported, which made
paper very expensive. I suppose Colonial ladies saved their rags to
make patchwork quilts.
Americans found ways to recycle paper so that it could be used more
than once. The Farmers' Almanac and Sears Roebuck Catalogs, as well as
newsprint, were commonly used in outhouses as an alternative toilet
paper. When Sears started printing their catalog on slick paper,
customers actually complained.
The first toilet paper in America was sold in pharmacies as a
therapeutic product and was saturated with aloe. Some of the of the
products being sold nowadays with lotion or aloe sounds like pretty
much the same thing to me. Maybe we are not as advanced as we like to
The first paper company to produce toilet paper on rolls was the Scott
Paper Company. It was such an unmentionable product at the time that
they refused to put their name on it and packaged it under the name of
the buyers, such as the Waldorf Hotel. Eventually, Scott purchased the
name and Waldorf became the most popular brand name sold.
As other companies got into the business of making paper products,
manufacturers began to look for more economical ways to produce paper.
Since trees were plentiful, they discovered that chipping up wood,
boiling it into a pulp, bleaching, drying and rolling it, could make a
satisfactory paper. Northern tissue became successful by advertising
its product as "splinter free".
Other companies also became successful through advertising, such as
Charmin', whose advertising campaign featuring Mr. Whipple and
"Please don't squeeze the Charmin'" as its slogan. In his
time, the name of Mr. Whipple was almost as widely known as Richard
Nixon or Billy Graham.
Tissue paper is made soft by a process called "creping",
which scrapes paper off large rollers and leaves small wrinkles, which
make it flexible while lowering density. At first all tissue was
one-ply or one layer thick. Then it was found that two thinner layers
of tissue were softer and two-ply tissue became standard. There are
different types of toilet paper, but all are made to dissolve in water
to keep from stopping up pipes and plumbing. The invention of modern
plumbing had made outside privies very unpopular by then.
In 1973 there was a consumer-created shortage of toilet paper when
comedian Johnny Carson made a joke about the U.S. running out of
toilet paper. People panicked and rushed to the stores, buying out
supplies to hoard. Even though Carson later apologized and said there
was no shortage, it took about three weeks to replenish supplies.
Toilet paper now comes in a variety of textures, colors, and scents.
It is sometimes used for handkerchiefs, napkins, cleaning glasses,
blotting lipstick and many other things besides the use for which it
Whether you call it toilet paper, toilet tissue, bathroom tissue, TP,
or something else, it is one of our most necessary household products
- unmentionable or not.
Copyright 2007 Sheila Moss
Nashville, TN 37219
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