Toilets of The Past
Thrones of yesteryear

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Toilets have come a long way since its earliest inception. From the ones in Ancient Rome to the modern-day flush toilet, let’s take a close look at the fascinating—and sometimes messy—history of toilets.

 

A Very Public Toilet

In ancient Rome, toilets were comprised of long open benches that emptied into a sewer system which emptied into a nearby river.

Because users sat so closely, Romans eventually treated their bathroom trip more as a social event. This area was a place to meet with friends, engage in conversation, and catch up.

And ever hear of the saying “getting hold of the wrong end of the stick?” Many believe this originated here. Instead of using toilet paper, Romans used what we call tersoriums, which are essentially wooden sticks with a sponges attached to one end. When they were done, they would simply rinse the tersorium with water and leave it for the next person.

 

 

 

Garderobes

Garderobes were the Middle Age’s term for what we refer to as restrooms.

They contain only a toilet and sink, and were mostly found in Medieval castles.

Waste from garderobes would drop directly into a sewage pit below, called a cesspit.

 

 

 

 

The Close Stool

During the 1500s in London came Garderobes’ successor, the close stool.

These chest-like toilets are equipped with handles for traveling and a folding lid to cover. 

Waste fell into a pot underneath and was often emptied into none other than the streets outside. And although the stench was highly unpleasant, it was worth not having to pay extra taxes for an adequate sewage system. Little did they know that doing so would cause many devastating diseases!

Before tossing their waste, however, they made sure to yell “gardez l’eau” or “watch out for the water” in case there were random passerbys.

 

 

The Earth Closet

Another olden-day toilet was invented by Henry Moule in 1869.

Also known as the composting toilet, this toilet utilized dry dirt instead of water to cover waste for later removal.

Value from the earth closet stems from its ability to deodorize waste and function without any indoor water pipes.

 

 

 

 

Flush Toilets

In 1596, English courtier John Harrington described the first flush toilet.

Although it took a few centuries for his idea to actually catch on, Harrington is still honored today when friends mention that they’re headed to the “John.”

Flush toilets were finally manufactured in the late 19th century by Thomas Crapper.

Cisterns (toilet bowls) were usually emptied by a pull chain, and many were made of porcelain and embellished with attractive colors and designs, like the one you see here.