In any given household, wars between spouses, families and roommates are waged on a variety of different fronts. Who does the dishes tonight? Who will take out the trash? How could Steve have left the toilet seat up...again? And seriously, who finished the coffee but didn't refill the pot? The audacity.
Individuals have to figure out most of these issues themselves through awkward household meetings, and, likely, more than a little bit of passive aggressive behavior.
But today, we are thrilled to report that some questions do have answers. And it might be the most important household dispute you can imagine. For far too long people have been arguing about whether the toilet paper roll should go over (meaning the toilet paper feeds out over the top) or under (meaning the toilet paper would come out from underneath).
Thanks to a patent filed on June 8, 1891 by inventor Seth Wheeler — that's 124 years ago! — we now know that the "overs" were correct. I write this as a girl who used to be an "under." I know, the shame.
Fight as the "unders" might, the proof is in the diagram.
A 1891 patent about which way to hang toilet paper. (Image: Public domain)
In addition to settling that long argued upon question, the patent tells us a bit more about toilet paper, and why we should recognize Wheeler for making bathroom time a little more user friendly. According to the patent, we have him to thank for easily tearable pieces of tissue.
In a letter to the United States Patent Office, Wheeler describes how wrapping-paper (that's what he called toilet paper) used to be packaged. He wrote, "In the manufacture of wrapping-paper it is usual to cut the same into sheets, count them out into quires or half-quires, fold them, and tie them up into bundles, such as half-reams or reams."
Wheeler wrote about his improvements, "My invention consists of a roll of connected sheets of paper for toilet use, said roll having incisions at intervals extending from the side of the web toward the center, but not meeting, and terminating in an angular out, whereby the slight connection left may be separated without injury to the connected sheets."
Tearable pieces of toilet paper certainly sound a lot easier to deal with than pre-cut pieces of tissue wrapped in a bundle.
As for the original debate between the "overs" and the "unders," as a more recently converted "over," let me say to all those religiously holding on to their "under" status, having the toilet paper dispense from the top is actually more convenient. I swear. It takes a few weeks to get used to it, and then you start scoffing whenever you see it positioned the other way.
Trust Seth Wheeler. He hasn't steered us wrong so far.
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