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Thomas Crapper’s Influence on Modern Plumbing

Jun 07, 2019  |  By Brham Trim (Lethbridge)  |  Toilets

Occasionally, the historical plumber Thomas Crapper is erroneously credited with the invention of the modern flush toilet. However, the flush toilet’s invention can actually be traced back to Sir John Harington hundreds of years before Crapper.

Despite him not inventing the flush toilet, Thomas Crapper is a historically significant plumber and sanitation engineer during the 19th Century in England, as he played a major role in popularizing indoor plumbing. Credited with 9 patents for the improvement of several plumbing systems, and reportedly the world’s first bathroom fitting showroom, Crapper was an influential advocate of sanitary indoor plumbing, especially the ‘waste-water-preventing cistern syphon.’

Crapper’s reputation for quality plumbing helped land his company contracts to supply the plumbing of royal establishments, including Sandringham, Windsor Castle, Buckingham Palace, and Westminster Abbey.

Like the invention of the toilet, the word ‘crap’ as a term for human waste, is often incorrectly associated with Crapper. The word actually can be traced back as far the 16th century. His name used as a crude reference to toilets, however, is much newer, reportedly coined by American servicemen stationed in London during World War I. Toilets bearing Crapper’s name apparently gave rise to the soldiers referring to them as ‘crappers,’ and the nickname stuck, perhaps leading to the impression that Crapper invented the toilet.

Regardless of the slang usage, Crapper’s quality plumbing alongside his innovations in the plumbing industry have helped secured his place in history.

More information about Thomas Crapper