This is not to suggest how, or where, or when such an event should be commemorated, but it should be noted that today – Jan. 27 – is Thomas Crapper Day.

Celebrants can probably just go about their usual daily business, because eventually, they’ll end up utilizing the very device the said Mr. Crapper is credited with inventing: the “silent valveless water waste preventer,” otherwise known as the toilet – or commode, or stool, or water closet, or can, or throne, or john, or potty, or, in keeping with the spirit of the day, the “crapper.”

“Not many people know who Thomas Crapper was – even people in my business don’t know who he was,” said Tahlequah plumber Bob Moon. “I’ve actually seen one of the original Crapper stools in Eureka Springs, Ark. I think they still used it.”

Oddly enough, as much relief as Crapper has provided for humanity, his name – and his contributions to society – have been caught up in a swirl of misunderstanding.

According to www.theplumber.com, a Web site that’s just flush with useful information about all things plumbing-related, the product most associated with Crapper’s name wasn’t really invented by him at all.

Crapper was a 19th Century London plumber who served as the sanitary engineer for the English royal family. He did hold nine patents – four for drain improvements, three for water closets, one for manhole covers, and one for pipe joints. But the toilet as we know it today – that silent valveless water waste preventer – was actually invented by Albert Giblin, and was patented in his name in 1898.

Some theorize that Giblin worked for Crapper and authorized him to sell the product. Others, however, say Crapper bought the rights from Giblin.

Contrary to popular myth, Crapper – though he may have maintained the real royal “thrones” – was never knighted.

Some folks may be inclined to feel a bit sorry for Crapper, assuming his name was the inspiration for the word “crap,” which is a nice substitute for more offensive words describing excrement. It’s also used to describe anything that’s of low quality – not exactly the kind of word you want people to associate with your name.

However, the fact that Crapper was in the business of crap-disposal seems to be completely coincidental, according to www.theplumber.com.

The Dutch word “krappe” – a vile and inedible fish, is one possible source of the word “crap.” That word was around long before Crapper was even born, in 1836.

But American soldiers passing through England during World War I thought it rather humorous that the manhole covers in London bore the name of Crapper’s company – “T. Crapper-Chelsea.” As “crap” was already a word they were familiar with, the coincidence was just too tempting, and they began calling toilets “crappers.”

However, it was the next decade after the war before the fixture Crapper’s associated with really did become a fixture in American homes – at least those located in Tahlequah, Okla.

“The one at the Thompson House is dated, and the date on it is from the early 1920s; my house was also in the Thompson family, and the bathroom was added onto it in the 1920s, too,” said Tahlequah historian Beth Herrington. “Of course, I wasn’t alive in the ‘20s, but I’ve been told by my parents that, In the ‘20s, most people of moderate incomes didn’t have indoor plumbing, and a lot of families didn’t have it until the late ‘30s. If you didn’t have it by the ‘40s, you didn’t get it for a while, because all of the materials – the metal and such – were being used for the war.”

Nowadays, practically every home has at least one silent valveless water waste preventer – although they’re not all that silent, if they ever were. Most homes have a couple, or several. Some even have them in the yard.

“I installed a toilet in my house one time that never did flush right – it wouldn’t swirl, it just went straight down – and it cost 80 bucks,” said Dennis Garde. “I was driving down around the lake one day and saw one for sale for $5. I took it home, installed it, and it worked perfectly. I even kept the price tag on it, so people would know I paid $5 for a perfectly working toilet. I set the $80 toilet out in the yard to use as a planter.”



Learn more

There’s plenty of information to bowl you over about toilets at www.theplumber.com, or www.crappersquarterly.com. Crappersquarterly, however, has some adult toilet humor that parents might want to view before letting their kids plunge into it.



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