I love trivia and the interesting history behind things, so imagine my delight when I found this book, What Did We Use Before Toilet Paper? by Andrew Thompson, in the bargain bin. Here are a few curious questions and their intriguing answers.
When was toilet paper invented and what was used before then?
The Chinese invented toilet paper in the 14th century, and the Bureau of Imperial Supplies began to produce paper for use by the Chinese emperors. However, it wasn’t until 1857 that the first factory-produced toilet paper was made, by American Joseph Cayetty, who named his product “Therapeutic Paper” and sold it in packs of 500 sheets. Cayetty’s name was printed on each sheet.
Before the invention of toilet paper, different areas of the world used many different things. In the U.S., newspapers and telephone directories were commonly used, as were other books. The Old Farmer’s Almanac was actually printed with a hold punched through the corner of each page so that it could be hung in outhouses, and the Sears catalog was widely used until it was produced with glossy pages, after which its use as a hygiene product became unpopular. Corncobs were also used. Ouch!
Why do some coins have ridges around the edge?
Many years ago, coins were made out of precious metals such as gold and silver. This tempted some people to file flakes of the valuable metals from the edges of the coins and then accumulate the shavings. To combat this problem, ridges were carved into the edges of the most valuable coins. If the ridges remained unaltered, this showed that none of the precious metal had been shaved off and the coin was still good legal tender. Also, the ridges–collectively known as reeding or milling–made counterfeiting more difficult. Only the valuable coins were reeded; lower-denomination coins such as the penny were made of common metal, which made reeding unnecessary.
Why does the date for Easter change?
Since the exact date of Christ’s resurrection was not recorded, no generally accepted date for Easter was fixed. In AD 325, the Council of Nicea was convened to decide an array of topics, one of which was the date for Easter. It was decided that, throughout the Church, Easter would be celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon that occurs on or after March 21. Applying this formula, Easter Sunday must fall between March 22 and April 25.