The Myth of Thomas Crapper

Published by The Bee News

March 20, 2023

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Even before the advent of social media, urban myths and outright lies were shared so often they were believed as fact. Such is the case with Thomas Crapper who is wrongly credited with the invention of the modern flush toilet.

Church records indicate that Thomas Crapper, and English plumber, was baptised on September 28, 1836. He died on January 27, 1910. But the historic record of a modern type of toilet that included a bowl of water that could be drained after use dates to 1596. That was the year that John Harrington presented the device as a gift for Queen Elizabeth I by John Harington.

Recent archeological discoveries are now rewriting the history of the toilet. A team of archeologists excavating the ancient palace ruins, the Yueyang archaeological site, in the central city of Xi’an announced the discovery of a bent clay flush pipe, and the remains of what seems to be a flush toilet. The astounding discovery is estimated to be 2,400 years old!

The Roman empire developed an extensive modern plumbing system for its cities as well as as frontier communities. Water was often brought to the city via aqueducts that towered above the landscpae and often ran for miles. A sewage system under the streets, and lead pipes that carried water to houses as well as fountains in city squares was quite modern. Surprisngly the use of a toilet was deemed a social event. People met in public toilets, often in bathhouses, to discuss politics, make business deals, and share news. Water ran through a channel under the seats.

Against this back drop of ancient bathroom plumbing, the modern bathroom is a relatively recent phenomenon. In 1920, three out of five American families owned an automobile. But only two in five had indoor plumbing.

As with many aspects of life in the third decade of the 21st century, the toilet is under going transformation. Modern toilets adjustable or motion activated seats, and heated seats are becoming more common. In 2012, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation initiated the “Reinvent the Toilet Challenge” and awarded a team of researchers at Cal Tech $100,000.

Toilet repair and installation are just one service offered by Retro Plumbing Inc. in Kingman, Arizona. Fully licensed, bonded, and insured, our company can handle any plumbing need from new home construction to mainteance of a mobile home or full upgrade of a plumbing system during a remodel.

Written by Jim Hinckley of Jim Hinckley’s America 


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