Sep 14, 2009
While Thomas Crapper is commonly given credit for inventing the first flushing toilet in the late 1800s, the first version can actually be traced back to 1596. At this time, a British nobleman, Sir John Harrington, first engineered and invented a valve that could release water from the water closet (WC) when pulled. Sir Harrington, who was also the godson of Queen Elizabeth I, recommended pulling the valve (“flushing” the toilet) once a day for sanitary purposes.
So if Thomas Crapper didn’t invent the toilet, why is he given credit?
Three centuries after Sir Harrington’s invention, Crapper had a successful career in the plumbing industry and did earn nine patents for plumbing products in England. Unfortunately, none of those nine patents granted between 1861-1904 were for the flushing toilet.
While he did not invent the toilet, Crapper still has a close connection to the first patent for the toilet. Albert Gilblin, an employee of Crapper, holds the 1819 British Patent for a “Silent Valveless Water Waste Preventer”. This device was a system which allowed a toilet to flush effectively. Crapper later purchased the rights for this patent from his employee and marketed the device.
So even though he didn’t invent the crapper himself, we still owe a big thank you to Crapper for helping bring the product to the masses and also to the Chinese for inventing toilet paper in 50 B.C.