A Plumber’s History of the Toilet


We have so many euphemisms for the bathroom, but one of the most telling is one that’s gone out of use: the “necessary room.” Rather appropriate, for reasons that should be obvious. Why not show the bathroom — and the humble toilet — a little respect, though? After all, it has a longer history than you may realize. Let Ace Plumbing be your guide to the porcelain throne!

The Early Years

In ancient times, indoor plumbing was unheard of. The Babylonians, regarded as one of the most advanced ancient civilizations, had hanging gardens and sophisticated aqueducts, but nary a privy to be found. It wasn’t ’til Roman times that what we might recognize as a bathroom came into being. Unfortunately, the Romans weren’t sticklers for privacy. Not only were the baths public, the toilets were also very public — rows of seats, set up like a latrine.

However, the Romans did introduce pipes made of lead (or plumbum), which brought water indoors. That’s where we get the first indoor plumbing and the word “plumber.”

The Dark Ages

Once medieval times arrived, things were hardly much better. Outdoor “bathrooms” remained the norm for most.  Castles contained primitive rest rooms that often emptied into the castle’s moat (which is worse than alligators, if you ask us). Sanitation as we know it — and take for granted — today was practically nonexistent, leading to the easy spread of disease.

The First Flush Toilet

The first flush toilet came during the the Renaissance. Invented in 1596 by an Englishman named John Harington, it was the forerunner of the modern toilet. It would take another three centuries for another Englishman to modernize the flush toilet and bring it into common use. For all he gave us, surely Thomas Crapper deserves better.

The Modern Toilet

Other things we take for granted are even more recent arrivals. The toilet seat wasn’t invented ’til 1927. Toilet paper as we now know it appeared around the same time, with early advertising for some brands promising “fewer splinters” (we shudder to think of the alternative!)

The toilet continues to evolve. Modern toilets use a much lower volume of water per flush for water conservation, but the innovation doesn’t stop there. Some modern toilets include self-lowering seats (you’re welcome, ladies), night lights, seat warmers, built-in bidets, deodorizers, and even music players.

If you stop to think about it, the flush toilet really is one of the simplest things in your home, but no less important for that. Despite its simplicity, it’s still plumbing, and can still break or clog. If that happens, and you’ve got a problem that’s a bit too big for a plunger, it’s time to make a call to Ace Plumbing.

If your home is your castle and your toilet earns the “throne” designation, it stands to reason you deserve a plumber who treats you like royalty. For those of you in the Sacramento area, Ace Plumbing keeps your toilet running its best. Call us today!