The toilet paper inventor and his 124-year-old patent have solved a mystery that has torn apart families for decades — does the paper come from over the top or under the bottom?
Writer Owen Williams dug up the original patent for the toilet paper roll, finding that inventor Seth Wheeler actually included in his blueprints the proper orientation of the roll. The answer — the paper is supposed to come from over the top.
Williams shared a picture of the original toilet paper patent on Monday, and his post quickly spread across the internet. The story was covered by a number of national news outlets, seemingly ending the age old debate of over vs. under.
The patent for toilet paper should settle the over vs under debate pic.twitter.com/arZl6l6ALn
— Owen Williams (@ow) March 17, 2015
Though toilet paper orientation may seem like a trivial issue, it has actually spawned countless arguments and even inspired scholarly papers. Wikipedia has an entry on toilet paper orientation that is more than 5,300 words long. Popular newspaper advice columnist Ann Landers tried to tackle the issue in 1997 (though she was actually referring to paper towel in a kitchen, the concept is the same), and ended up with countless angry replies.
“I’m still trying to recover from the flak… I’m not giving any more advice on how to hang anything,” said Landers, who called toilet paper orientation the most controversial topic she had ever tackled.
When she retired from writing advice columns in 2002, Landers decided to sneak in one last opinion on the issue, ending her final column with: “P.S. The toilet paper hangs over the top.”
Sociology professors have used the question of toilet paper orientation to explore larger issues, like Eastern Institute of Technology professor Edgar Alan Burns who used a question of “over or under” to help students explore “rules and practices which they have never consciously thought about before.”
In his patent, the toilet paper inventor and founder of the Albany Perforated Wrapping Paper Company described how the groundbreaking toilet technology would work.
“My invention… consists in a roll of wrapping paper with perforations on the line of the division between one sheet and the next, so as to be easily torn apart, such roll of wrapping paper forming a new article of manufacture,” Wheeler’s 1871 parent read.
Thanks to the toilet paper inventor and his patent, the issue of over vs. under has finally been solved, though the debate may still live on.
[Image via Big Frog 104]