So Where Did The Flush Toilet Come From?


dreamstime_xxl_31666378In our last blog we went into detail — and let’s just admit it, too much detail — about the history of pre-flush toilets. Digging a hole, digging a latrine, feeding it to the…no, let’s not bring that back up (lest it bring up our last meal).

We’re proud of what we do as plumbing contractors, and we certainly enjoy the intricacies of the modern flush toilet that help us all live more sanitary lives. So where exactly did this marvel of modern engineering come from? Here’s a quick history.

A New Discourse of a Stale Subject, Called the Metamorphosis of Ajax

What we think of as a modern flush toilet started in 1596, when Sir John Harington wrote A New Discourse of a Stale Subject, Called the Metamorphosis of Ajax. We would have called it Poop B’ Gone: Baking It Be Gone, but Sir Harington didn’t ask us for our opinion.

With the publication of ANDOASSCTMOA, the basic idea of having water leave the bowl while an elevated tank full of water replaces it had been born. After his own home, the first person for whom he installed a toilet was Queen Elizabeth I. It’s unlikely that it was hooked up to any official sewer system.

The S-trap

Of course, when you do start using flush toilets with a sewer system, you need a way to prevent the smell from the sewer system from escaping back into the home or business. Alexander Cumming invented the s-trap in 1775, which collected water in an s-shaped pipe. This water then created a barrier to the gas, and such traps, whether they are S, U, J. or P, are still an integral part of your sewer service today.

Even More Advances

As cities grew and the need for a dedicated sewer system became more necessary, toilets started to become what we know today. Old homes were fitted with “water closets,” while new ones were built with dedicated bathrooms. Advancements were constantly being made to make toilets more efficient and less prone to clogging. By the late 1800’s, toilets were becoming more and more popular thanks to toilet barons such as Sir Thomas Crapper. Yes, that Crapper.


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When you think of a toilet, it really is an amazingly elegant design, using no electricity and only gravity to move your waste away from you. We hope you’ve enjoyed our little trip down toilet memory lane (that’s a Beatles song, right?) and, when you need drain or sewer cleaning to make your toilet work again, contact Garvin’s Sewer Service!