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A sanitary appliance

In the 1880s, spurred by public health reformers and a growing acceptance of “germ theory,” municipalities across the nation installed water and sewage systems. Flush toilets increasingly became more common. Wash-out water closets of the era had under-floor traps and dry bowls that often leaked odorous sewer gases. By the 1890s, wash-down siphon models became the norm: five to seven gallons of water rushing into the bowl pulled out waste; built-in traps kept a pool of gas-blocking water in the bowl.

An ideal bathroom, 1890s-1910s

An ideal bathroom, 1890s-1910s

Courtesy of Bo Sullivan

“In order to be effective, the flushing-water should come down in a sudden dash.”

– William Gerhard, House-Drainage and Sanitary Plumbing, 1898

Toilet bowl, about 1900

Toilet bowl, about 1900

Embellished bowls became popular when free-standing pedestal  toilets replaced earlier flush-styles that were enclosed in wood cabinets.

U.S. patent for an improved tearing toilet  paper, 1892

U.S. patent for an improved tearing toilet  paper, 1892

With indoor flush toilets came toilet paper—newsprint, pages from mail-order catalogs, and corncobs were fine for outhouse pits, but were not flushable. Rolled, perforated paper was first patented in the late 1870s; by the 1890s it had assumed its familiar on-a-tube form.  

From American Architect and Building News, 1894

From American Architect and Building News, 1894

This advertisement reads: "Duplex: The best water closet in the WORLD. Quiet in Operation, Positive in Action, Elegant in Appearance and Sanitarily Perfect."