When one hears the words “artifact” and “invention” items like the gun, the telephone, television, the microscope, or the internet come to mind. Rarely does one consider something as basic, mundane, and ordinary as toilet paper as ranking with conventional artifacts and inventions. For some, toilet paper may invoke feelings of embarrassment. After all, talking about what one does in the bathroom may be a little taboo. For others, it make invoke laughter. Everyone can appreciate a little potty humor and who hasn’t either dreamt of or actually “TP-ed” a tree or house? Few people would say that they can live without toilet paper, or at least, would want to live without it. For better or worse, American culture and society is intrinically bound and connected to toilet paper. Thus, toilet paper, as a historic invention, deserves a further, more in depth examination.
This website is designed to inform viewers about the history of toilet paper and its antecedents or predacessors. It describes the invention of toilet paper, ‘how to’ make toilet paper, and provides an interesting alternative technology that is popular throughout the rest of the world that could have replaced the toilet paper roll in the American bathroom. In describing why Americans chose toilet paper to clean themselves with, this website seeks to avoid technological determinism, the assumption that toilet paper was the only “natural” technology for Americans use to clean themselves. It also provides artifactual continuity by illustrating technological improvements on the original toilet paper design and its alternative technology popularly accepted around the world. Finally, this website discusses the cultural and social impact of toilet paper specifically in the United States.
I hope that this website is informative, thought-provoking, and gives you a greater appreciation for something often considered all too ordinary and mundane to be a historical artifact.
Image from Buzz Newsroom, “Toilet Paper,” http://buzznewsroom.com/wp-content/uploads/toiletpaper.jpg (accessed March 23, 2009).