Flushing Toilets / Indoor Plumbing

Shortly before reaching their third birthday, children learn to use the toilet. Except for Indian children whose parents somehow potty train them as infants, a trick that’d transform the west though remains a total digression towards indoor plumbing. Life was changed for the better when indoor plumbing was invented.

Getting back to the toddlers of the west, three-year-olds learn to poop in the toilet and five-year-olds, typically in their first year of school, learn the inventor of the toilet was named Thomas Crapper. This causes no small amount of giggling and guffaws and a quiet relief that one’s family name isn’t Crapper.

Urban myths are oftentimes a load of, well, crap. But, in this case, there’s a lot of truth behind the story.

Alexander Cummings patented the first “S” toilet, that kept gas and vapors below the water. Thomas Crapper was his head of production. We’d say the unfortunately named Mr. Crapper though, no doubt, his name was just fine. As for occupational hazards, the transformation of one’s family name into, well, crap. The rather unique and the loss of being able to relay it to others with severe embarrassment is not likely covered by workers’ compensation insurance though it would certainly make primary school roll-call more fun.

Crapper’s crapper was not the first indoor toilet. In 1596; Harington invented and installed the first flush toilet and wrote a book about it, called A New Discourse upon a Stale Subject: The Metamorphosis of Ajax (Ajax meant toilet). He published under the pseudonym Misacmos due to metaphors in the book about the toilet, rulings from the royal court, and his likely projection about what would happen to the name if it caught on. His work was discovered and caused him to be banished from court. 

Despite the foul stench that arises from this brief narrative, Crapper’s indoor toilet made a big difference in the lives of urban dwellers. As unpleasant as toilets can be, buckets used for the same purpose were worse. Besides the convenience, indoor plumbing also enabled modern sanitation allowing an ever more dense population to safely live and work near one another.