The Big Wipe

Aug 11, 2008Archive

What did Americans do before the invention of toilet paper?

Folks used the Sears Roebuck catalog, old books, or newsprint to take care of business.

Prior to that, settlers employed corncobs. They’d hang a dried (ouch!) communal corncob by a long string in the outhouse. Once the cob was exhausted, it was hurtled below where it decomposed nicely.

What about Europe?

· French royalty wiped with lace.
· Vikings used scraps of old wool.
· Portuguese sailors utilized the splayed end of an anchor rope.
· Medieval Europe employed straw, hay and grass.
· British Lords tore pages from a book.

You’d think the people who wiped with lace and literature would be able to come up with a nice, soft Mr. Whipple-loving roll of toilet paper. Au contraire! European toilet paper is a cross between institutional paper towels and copy paper—suitable for tasks like wood sanding or paper mâché projects.

With deceptive names like Kittensoft (Ireland) and Tenderly (Italy), Europeans happily wipe.

Still, Americans produce and consume more toilet paper than anyone else on earth, constituting a 2.4 billion dollar a year enterprise.

It just goes to show that the land with the most wipes wins.