Gadgets and Style

How things Work


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Clever inventions enabled early civilizations to enjoy the convenience of indoor latrines (toilets) thousands of years before the outhouse gave way to indoor plumbing.

King Minos of Crete owned the world's first flushing water closet over 2,800 years ago. But for most of history, people just relieved themselves wherever they happened to be.

Ancient Romans built latrines over running water to carry off wastes to the Tiber River. They developed the art of plumbing and constructed underground sewers made of lead, earthenware, or stone.

During the Middle Ages, our British ancestors used chamber pots made of glass and metal at night. In the morning they emptied their chamber pots out of the window!

Queen Elizabeth I used a portable toilet shaped like a box covered with red velvet and trimmed in lace with a lid and carrying handles. Her Godson, Sir John Harrington, invented a flushing toilet for her in 1596.

When millions in Europe died from cholera in 1832, people began to realize that poor sanitary conditions caused the disease to spread. Parisians rioted and Napoleon III had old sewers cleaned and new ones built. The government in Britain passed laws requiring houses to have some kind of flushing toilet.

Thomas Crapper, a British plumber, developed a type of flushing toilet in 1872. He perfected the cistern - the tank that holds the water for flushing and made flushing quieter. American soldiers stationed in England during World War I returned to the US and started using Crapper's name as a nickname for the toilet!

From 1910 to the 1920s, the water tank was gradually lowered and placed closer to the bowl until tank and bowl finally became one unit.


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