The Scott Brothers and the Invention of Toilet Paper

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Joseph Gayetty introduced the first commercially packaged bathroom tissue in 1857. His toilet tissue was sold in packages of individual sheets. The tissue didn’t sell well and quickly disappeared off the store shelves. The American public, at that time, could not comprehend spending good money on paper to be disposed of. The outhouses and bathrooms were stacked with old magazines, newspapers, pamphlets and flyers that provided not only reading material but also a means to an end.

England and the Invention of Toilet Paper

England had tried in 1870 to market toilet paper. Where Gayetty produced individual sheets, Alcock came up with the innovative idea to market the wipe on a roll of “tear sheets”. While the invention was groundbreaking the marketing was difficult; in the prudish Victorian society advertising something as personal as toilet issue was extremely difficult. Alcock spent nearly a decade of his life trying to find a socially acceptable way of getting his product into the public’s homes.

At this same time in New York, two brothers were also trying to push the rolled paper into the homes of consumers. They would succeed where Gayetty and Alcock failed.

The Scott Brothers Invent Paper Products

Clarence and Edward Scott were born in rural Saratoga County, New York almost three years apart. The same year that Alcock had pitched the perforated roll, the Scotts were in Philadelphia starting a paper product business. Their products were usually indispensable, disposable, and un-reusable. The best of their items was toilet paper. For the Scott brothers their success was all about timing.

In the late 1880s many home owners, as well as hotels and restaurants were installing indoor plumbing for sinks, toilets, and bathtubs. Most of the major cities were laying down sewer lines and installing public sewer systems. The Tremont House, in Boston, boasted of having “privies and eight bathing rooms” while in Philadelphia the citizens boasted of having the most bathtubs and bathrooms. In 1836 they numbered 1,530. Department and hardware stores highlighted the finest in bathroom fixtures. The bathroom was becoming classy and uptown. The market was ready for toilet paper.

The Success of Toilet Tissue

Scotts’ product came in small rolls, unlike Gayetty’s tissue which had 500 sheets per package. The Scott toilet tissue was packaged in plain brown wrappers and fit easily in the small bathrooms of the time.

Soon after the plain brown wrappers, the containers evolved into prestigious looking wrappers with the slogan “soft as old linen”. The Scott brothers kept the early ad campaigns low key to please the still prudish buying clientele. As the wars went by the toilet tissue invaded more homes and was seen as a sign of being upper class. While no one remembers Gayetty or Alcock, Scott tissue is a household name to most Americans.