A Conversation for The Development of Toilets and Sanitation

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Post 1


Sir John Harrington of the court of Elizabeth I actually installed one of his water closets in one of Elizabeth's residences. She had it ripped out because she grew nauseous hearing the materials moving through the pipes and ordered it removed. This was, no doubt, a serious set back to Sir John's hopes for a Royal Patent.

It is not quite clear in the article that the WC emptied directly into the street.

Another and perhaps more important problem with the wide acceptance of Sir John's design was that it required a roof top reservoir that had to be filled by servants carrying water up the stairs.

While many of the wealthy had servants, this was still time and labor intensive and those servants had other duties as well. This is best demonstrated by the fact that these toilets were flushed by the use of a removable key which was worn by the master of the house as a mark of status and control. The WC was then flushed as few times as possible in a day.

Crapper may well have only made minor modifications to the plumbing of the earlier Giblin model (I don't know) but he did manufacture a popular fixture that proudly bore his name and trademark. It is possible to compare Crapper's designs with those of John Harrington both of which still survive. I am told that there is no significant difference, but I have never seen the drawings side by side.

Amazing what sort of cr . . . erm . . . stuff gets stuck in one's head, isn't it?


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Post 2

Simon Trew

Thos. Crapper (1837-1910) invented the ball-and-suction device, British Patent #4990. However, the word "crap" is far older, traceable through Middle English "crappe" meaning trodden grain through Old French and right back to Latin "crappa".

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Post 3


This is well in keeping with the old tradition of calling someone by his profession. Presumably, a crapper would be someone who makes a living by crapping.

The Merriam-Webster lists 'crap' in its meaning of 'to defecate' as having its earliest referenmce in 1846. Thomas Crapper would have been nine years old at that time, I suspect well before he was granted his patent.

So, Thomas Crapper goes down in history in the same category as Otto TitZling of people who seem to have been born for their profession.


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Post 4

Dr Hell

The Tom Crapper story IS definetly a myth. It wasn't there in the original entry until someone told me it would be nice, after all it's a very popular legend (at least in english speaking countries, I suppose).

Be it as it will... Many people seem to remember the man in association with toiletry, and for that reason he deserved two lines of attention.



PS: Hey Barton, imagine how glad I am to see you posting to this entry.

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