The history of the modern toilet is quite interesting. This is a device that is widely used to help deal with a very natural and universal process for all humans. It was not until quite recently in the grand scheme of things that indoor plumbing and flush toilets were the norm in all households and businesses. This article will outline a historical sketch of how people have dealt with human waste through the ages.
The earliest indoor form of toilet was the traditional chamber pot. This was exactly what it sounds like. It was a pot that was kept in the chambers where people could defecate and urinate into. There were servants whose job it was to empty and clean these pots on a daily basis. Sometimes these pots would be emptied out the windows, creating quite the unpleasant surprise to passersby.
Chamber pots were still popularly used up until the 1600’s.
For homes that did not like the idea of big pots of human waste sitting around in the house, out houses were formed. These could be quite fancy for the richer folks, but most were rather drab. They consisted of a large hole being dug and a rickety shack being built over the hole. A crude seat was fashioned so you could sit and do your business. When the hole filled up, it was covered over, and a new location was chosen for another hole to be dug.
Out houses were still in use as late as the 1800’s, although only in the older and poorer households.
There are some very creative indoor outhouses known of in certain castles and large manor houses. Some were built over water, and some had holes dug that emptied right into the dungeons or moats. They are interesting to see, and were the precursor to what we know now as the modern toilet.
In 1596, John Harrington created a lavatory with a flushing cistern. It was the first of its kind and was quite ahead of its time. It is also why one of the nick-names for the toilet is the John. While his invention was not terribly popular due to its need for indoor plumbing and its price tag, it did start a wave of inventions that led to our modern toilets.
Alexander Cumming had an improved invention in 1775, and 3 years later, and even better version was crafted by Joseph Brahmah.
In the end, however, the modern flushing toilet as you know it was not in use on a grand scale until the 1900s. This means that there are people in your life who could potentially have been alive before the toilet was an assumed element of all homes and businesses.
Thank goodness, we now have a world where relieving yourself can be done in the comfort of an indoor restroom, rather than heading outside or having to share a chamber pot with other people in the house. It certainly was not a very elegant aspect of living in those early years.