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Thomas Crapper and the Popularization of the Toilet

Mar 31, 2018  |  By Brham Trim (Medicine Hat)  |  Toilets


Occasionally, the invention of the modern flush toilet is attributed to historical plumber Thomas Crapper. However, we can trace the first indoor flush toilet back hundreds of years earlier to Sir John Harington. Despite this, Crapper is historically important for other reasons.

A sanitary engineer and plumber in England during the 1800s, Crapper was a significant influence in the popularization of the indoor flush toilet, actively advocating sanitary fittings like the ‘waste-water-preventing cistern syphon.’ He held 9 patents in plumbing systems and improvements, and is credited as opening the world’s first bathroom fitting showroom.

He was also a quality-driven plumber, and his reputation helped him secure the honour of being contracted by British royalty to supply the plumbing of Sandringham, Windsor Castle, Buckingham Palace, and Westminster Abbey.

During World War I, American servicemen stationed in London apparently took to referring to washrooms as ‘crappers’ due to Crapper’s name being prominent on many toilets. The slang term has stood the test of time, and may be a reason for the incorrect assumption that Crapper invented toilets. The term ‘crap’ referring to human waste, however, is not due to Crapper’s toilet profile. The word can be traced back to Middle English – hundreds of years before Crapper and modern toilets.

In spite of his name’s association with these slang terms, Thomas Crapper’s quality plumbing and innovation in plumbing systems have ensured that his name will continue to go down in history.

More information about Thomas Crapper