Friday, May 27, 2016

Water-closets ~ Flush Toilets

While doing some research on indoor plumbing I stumbled across the term "watercloset". This struck me as odd because I know that term refers to "the room with a toilet". So, I redirected my energies in that direction.

As it turns out, the beginnings of what we know as the flush toilet was invented in 1585 by Sir John Harrington and installed for his grandmother Queen Elizabeth I at Richmond Palace. He published a work called A New Discourse of a Stale Subject, Called the Metamorphosis of Ajax. The main feature was a a flush valve to let water out of the tank, and a wash-down design to empty the bowl.

In 1775 the S-trap was invented by Alexander Cumming. It used standing water to seal the drain, preventing foul air from the sewer from coming into the chamber. His design had a sliding valve in the bowl outlet above the trap.

Joseph Bramah improved the design by replacing the usual slide valve with a hinged flap that sealed the bottom of the bowl. In 1778 he obtained a patent for a float valve system for the flush tank.

In 1829 architect Isaiah Rogers, designed the Tremont Hotel in Boston with eight water closets on the ground floor. In 1834 he built the Astor House in New York City.

In the 1840s, George Jennings had a business manufacturing water closets, salt-glaze drainage, sanitary pipes and sanitaryware at Parkstone Pottery. During The Great Exhibition in 1851, he installed his Monkey Closets in the Retiring Rooms of The Crystal Palace and charged a penny to use it. This started the term "to spend a penny" meaning to use the pay toilet. He continued to make improvements to the design. By the 1860s English building codes suggested that new homes be built with water closets.

Published in The Young Housekeeper, 1852
"In every respectable family house there will generally be two or three water-closets, and it is expected that the housemaid should understand the proper method of keeping them always sweet and clean, and fit for use;- this is easily done with a little attention: all that is requisite is to know the time the water comes into the cistern, and while it is coming in, to lift up the handle of the water-closet and let the water rush away; then put the handle down, let the basin fill again with water, and, raising up the handle, let it off again with a rush; and so continue to do for full five minutes at least, once every day,- and families should never allow printed or stiff paper to be used, or it will stop and spoil the best water-closets; only thin whitey-brown, or curl paper is proper.
If a water-closet should get clogged, either from using still printed paper, or from want of using plenty of water, or from any other cause, it is best to ask your mistress to let you desire the plumber to bring his plunger, with which he will easily set it free, at the expence of a shilling, if he is an honest man; for not onetime in if hundred does it require any thing else to be done to it, if plenty of water is used; for which purpose it is good to take off the ball-cock in the cistern, and let all the waste water, after the cistern is full, run off through the waste pipe; which will tend to keep the drains clean, and also prevent the water freezing in winter weather."

In 1857 William Campbell and James T. Henry received an American patent for a plunger closet. It resembled the twin-basin water closets.

In 1859, Nicolay August Andresen, a banker in Norway insured 3 water closets in his town house.

In the 1859 the Alfred Vidal Davis family of Natchez, Miss., had indoor hot-and-cold running water and an indoor toilet. This home later became the Dunleith Inn. The shower and flush toilet system was sold by a company in New Orleans called Price & Coulon.

From Godey's Magazine, 1859

An alternate term for water closet was "wash down closet". Before the tern water closet was use the toilet was sometimes referred to as the earth closet or toilet chair. I actually like toilet chairs and they really went by many names depending on the when and where. Other names for this piece of furniture are close stool, necessary stool, night stool, convenience, and night commode.

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