The John v.s. The Crapper: Who is the Rightful Owner of the Throne?

The John v.s. The Crapper: Who is the Rightful Owner of the Throne?

Someone had to make it, after all. The gods didn?t just drop indoor plumbing into our houses because we were so well behaved. (When were we ever well behaved?)

So who is the man we are to thank for rescuing us from chamber pots and outhouses? Here in the U.S., there seem to be two prevailing camps. There are those who have christened the modern toilet with the name John, and those who prefer Crapper. Crapper sounds so crass, doesn?t it? What man of good taste would use such a name?

Well, Mr. Crapper for one.

Yes, mon ami, both terms, ?John? and ?Crapper? are said to be linked to two very different men with very different backgrounds. Let start by taking a look at Mr. Crapper.

Image for postThomas Crapper

The Man Who Was Crapper

Thomas Crapper was born on September 28, 1836. The son of a steamboat captain, he was apprenticed to a master plumber at the age of 14. Crapper learned his trade well, and despite his humble beginnings, he rose through the ranks, eventually becoming the plumber extraordinaire of the British blue bloods. He supplied places like Windsor Castle, Buckingham Palace, and Westminster Abbey with the finest, most comfortable toilets of his day.

All that hobnobbing with the aristocracy made Thomas a bold boy. In those prim and proper Victorian days, people thought it rude and uncivil to talk about anything behind the bathroom door. Old Thomas threw tradition into the wind and not only talked about toilets, he set up a showroom of his bathroom fixtures for customers to browse. Soon Crappers toilets and bathroom fixtures were found everywhere. Even manhole covers sported the name Crapper. Thomas Crapper and Co. LTD became one of the biggest names in plumbing throughout England.

Now, although Crapper was pretty famous, he didn?t invent the modern flush toilet. It was one Joseph Bramah who received a patent for the first really practical water closet in 1778. His design was merely an improvement on a design by a Mr. Alexander Cumming in 1775. Notice no one refers to the toilet as a Bramah or an Alex, proving time and place are everything.

Image for postPerhaps toilets should be nicknamed the Venerable

One more note of interest concerning Mr. Crapper. Legend has it that American G.I.?s stationed in England during World War I played a large part in making the name Crapper synonymous with the toilet. Since his name was written on bathroom fixtures throughout England, the idea?s not far-fetched.

Meet the Ajax

John Harington on the other hand, was born August 4, 1561, he was a godson and courtier of Queen Elizabeth I. He was something of a jokester and certainly didn?t mind criticizing his godmother or her father, Henry VIII. It?s no wonder that in 1584 the Queen banished him to Kelston, a small village to the north of Bath.

Image for postSir John Harington

So what?s a guy to do when he?s banished by the Queen? Well, design a flushable toilet of course. Harington successfully designed and installed the first indoor flushing toilet which he christened with the name Ajax. The design consisted of a pan with an opening sealed with a leather valve. A series of handles and levers opened the valve allowing water to freely flow and wash out the bowl.

Eventually, the Queen got over her ill feelings toward John and went to visit him in Kelston. John was so excited he asked the Queen to try out his new invention, which she did gladly.

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It was reported that her visit was a success.

John went one to write a delightful little thing called A new discourse of a stale subject, Called the Metamorphosis of Ajax in 1596. The book, among other topics, gives a historical account of excretion and sewage disposal, as well as a description of his invention. The book enjoyed great popularity although Johns toilet didn?t really catch on until the industrial revolution.

And The Throne Goes To . . .

Well, that?s really a matter of opinion. Harington certainly was the one to whom we should give credit for the original design, but then again without marketing the best ideas come to nothing. Maybe the best answer is a throne built for two.

I?m glad I don?t have to sit on it.

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toilet for two image:

Who invented the flushing toilet?


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