Toilet paper was invented in... Albany

toilet paper

Modern toilet paper got its start here. Wipe proudly.

By Jessica Pasko

Now, I'm not exactly one for toilet humor, but I stumbled upon a fun factoid recently and it was too good to resist. I had to investigate.

And it turns out that, yes, Albany is the birthplace of perforated (rolled) toilet paper as we know it.


toilet paper roll patent imageCity historian Tony Opalka confirmed the rumor. Albany really is the reputed birthplace of TP as we know it today.

Reputed, because there is, of course, some dispute. Before Seth Wheeler of Albany patented his posterior product in 1871, there was already toilet paper in some form or another. But it was usually just individual squares -- often medicated -- and not a roll like we use now.

According to the US patent office, Wheeler patented what was then called perforated wrapping paper ("toilet" was a sensitive word in 1871). He patented the idea to have the product wrapped around a central tube in 1891, and is also often credited with patenting a bracket to hold those tubes.

Some people argue that Scott Paper Company invented the stuff before APW, but for the most part, Wheeler gets first credit. His company, Albany Perforated Wrapping Company, was founded in 1878 in a building on the northwest corner of Montgomery and Colonie Streets in Albany. That building was occupied by Albany Terminal Warehouse after the turn of the century.

According to the 1993 Mt. Ida Press book, Albany Architecture - A Guide to the City, for which Opalka was one of the contributing writers, APW "boasted that it had originated the idea of selling paper in perforated rolls." And yes, says Opalka, that included bathroom tissue.

Check out this Albany Perforated Wrapping Paper Co. ad from 1886. Oh, and if you weren't aware, there's actually a virtual museum dedicated to the history of TP.

And adding to our state's history with TP, another New Yorker, Joseph Gayetty of New York City, is typically thought to be the first marketer of a commercially available toilet paper. It was introduced in 1857 and was sold in packages of flat sheets, watermarked with the inventor's name.

No, Albany can't lay claim to patents for some of the advancements in technology, like quilted squares or two-ply or angel-soft or those little imprinted designs. But we were there when it counted with regular old TP on a roll.

Another exemplary example of Capital Region ingenuity. Where would we be without it?

You can commence the jokes now. Let's not get too... cheeky.

Earlier on AOA: Made in Schenectady: personal care for your derriere


As any right-thinking person can observe, the patent diagram of 1891 clearly establishes that the correct implementation of the toilet paper roll is to present the sheets "over and facing out."

Deluded followers of the "under and in" heresy should finally conceded to the judgment of history and wrap it up.

Perhaps that's why they made Albany the state capital...(since it was attractive to asses. get it? okay, long way for a bad joke.)

No shiz! Thanks for the neato factoid of the day, Jess!

Is there anything that WASN'T invented in this area?

Sandor- the wall and holder are not pictured in that diagram. You can't tell me for sure which way the roll is facing!

So many crappy jokes... so little time.

Urry, that's just the type of dissembling chicanery you "under-inners" are known for!

The truth is, your ultimate goal is nothing short of the total elimination of indoor facilities and the return to a mythological "Golden Age of Out-Housing".

Give it up! Only bears poop in the woods. Man was meant to relieve himself in comfort. Take your Sears Roebuck propaganda and go flush!

PS: And we have the documents to prove you fund the "Back-to-Front"ers, too!

Sure beats using a corn cob.

When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.

Apparently, even back in 1871, Albany was handing out an excessive amount know.

Talk about a conspiracy - even the bears are doing the "over and out" method!

That's it - I'm abstaining from toilet paper from here on out.

I'm with Sandor: as far as I'm concerned, that settles the over v. under debate. I've long been an advocate for "over," and that patent diagram clearly show the way its supposed to be. Thanks for settling a long time argument AOA! Oh, and interesting stuff too. :)

[bows down to Sandor's rhetorical brilliance]

I used to be an under-inner until I saw the light. But I have been a proud over-and-outer for almost two decades.

The old me liked the clean lines and the sleek look of having the sheets hang flush against the wall. The new me likes the ease of use and the ability to make fancy decorative little points from the ends of the sheet.

Yes toilet paper was an adaption and another wonderful example of man's ingenuity. But it is "old school" and there is something much better and allot more practical then trying to go for a swim in the river after each "event". It's the Bathroom Bidet Sprayer and it's advancement over toilet paper is like the fax was to the written letter or the microwave to the oven. I think Dr. Oz on Oprah said it best: "if you had pee or poop on your hand, you wouldn't wipe it off with paper, would you? You'd wash it off” Available at with these you won't even need toilet paper any more, just a towel to dry off! Don’t worry, you can still leave some out for guests and can even make it the soft stuff without feeling guilty. It's cheap and can be installed without a plumber; and runs off the same water line to your toilet. You'll probably pay for it in a few months of toilet paper savings. As for water use a drought is always a concern and must be dealt with prudently but please remember that in the big picture the industrial water users always far exceed the water use of household users and in the case of toilet paper manufacture it is huge. The pollution and significant power use from that manufacturing process also contributes to global warming so switching to a hand bidet sprayer and lowering your toilet paper use is very green in multiple ways. Blog; THE BUTT OF TOO MANY JOKES;

@Jeff9: went to your blog. That made me laugh. I quote: "If the French hadn’t been the one to invent the bidet and thereby tainted its image forever I believe these would be commonplace it the US and other western countries. (My apologies to any French People but we all know why you invented perfume so it's only natural that there would be a distrust of something new that sprays water up your hoohoo).". Good one. Sorry we ruined the bidet for you guys :)

Also invented in Albany: Billiard balls

After doing some brief research, I found out I am related to this man! 4th Cousin 4X removed!

As I'm sitting here, thinking about life in an unusual place, in front of me is a newer style GP toilet paper dispenser. To my left, a tin box with a stamping of APW Paper Co. I immediately went to Google, and found this article. Let's bring back APW and all of the glory that they brought to the world of poop.

After reading an article in Readers Digest recently, my mom told me that Seth Wheeler was her great great uncle. So I thought I'd check it out further. So cool!

Hi there,
happy to find this page as i am in Sheet Harbour Nova Scotia and APW also had a mill here for making pulp which was then sent to APW in Albany. In fact i have found reference that a ship ( name unknown at this time) sailed into Albany from Sheet Harbour June 1925. This ship from what i have found was the first Ocean crossing ship to enter Albany thus making Albany a port. This reference came from a line in a old published book. No other reference was made to the ship.
Any idea how i can find out the name of the ship for find any other papers on the APW company of Albany.
Thanks lots

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