#159 Over & Under
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Do you prefer over? Or under? Over & under are both popular — but which is correct?
The correct way to install toilet paper is over, according to the patent drawing from 1891. (I like the little hands.)
The history of toilet paper
This is an excerpt from a website devoted to the history of toilet paper (if you can believe that). Read the entire story at their website:
The first “official” toilet paper was introduced in China in 1391, but the first mention of toilet paper (paper for personal hygiene) dates back to the year 589 AD in Korea. Between 875 & 1317 AD, paper was produced in large sheets (2‑foot x 3‑foot sheets & even perfumed) for Chinese emperor’s family hygiene.
In the Colonial America, the common means was corncobs.
Paper was a rare commodity until the 17th or 18th centuries. The first reference to paper as toilet paper was recorded in 1718. After invention of paper pages from newspapers & magazines were also commonly used (newspapers became widely available at 1700s.)
Joseph C. Gayetty invented the first packaged toilet paper in the United States in 1857. “Gayetty’s Medicated Paper” was sold in packages of flat sheets, medicated with aloe & watermarked with his name. Gayety’s toilet paper was available as late as the 1920’s.
In 1871, Seth Wheeler (to some sources Zeth Wheeler) of Albany became the official “inventor” of toilet paper (on a roll). Seth Wheeler patents rolled & perforated wrapping paper.
Rolled & perforated toilet paper was invented around 1880. In 1879, Thomas Seymour, Edward Irvin & Clarence Wood Scott founded the Scott Paper Company in Philadelphia. Scott brothers came up with the idea of customizing rolls for every merchant-customer they had. They began selling packages of small rolls & stacked sheets. Scott Paper Company began producing toilet paper under its own brand name in 1896. By 1925 Scott Company became the leading toilet paper company in the world.
This is just part of the story. It’s from a website dedicated solely to the history of toilet paper! Read the full history at toiletpaperhistory.net
Still no toilet paper!
I just came back from the supermarket (first time out in two weeks — I’m playing it safe) and was amazed to find the shelves still bare of toilet paper & paper towels & hand sanitizer (& no split peas for my favorite soup using the Easter hambone).
Stores still out but I’m stocked up
While everyone else is wondering if they’ll have to resort to newspaper & corn cobs, I have a stockpile of toilet paper & paper towels in my bathroom cabinet. Like a mini Costco. No, I didn’t horde the shelves when the pandemic started. It has to do with spectacular design & two shocking discoveries (one bad, one good). Read on…
I’ve been a loyal consumer of Cottonelle for a decade or two. I hate the word Charmin & their stupid commercials. I like the word Cottonelle. It sounds French or continental or something classy. & I simply like the stuff. But what do I like most? This:
Straight & narrow
Look at that design! No embossed flowers, dots or wavy lines, just sleek straight lines that appeal to my linear design taste. Much like Mid-Century Modern. (However back then toilet paper rolls even came in colors: pink & blue & green & yellow. I liked those. Still popular in Europe, but nowhere to be found in the US — except on Amazon, but what isn’t?
I like the feel of Cottonelle, but it’s the design that arouses my senses. Plain, basic, linear parallel lines, never deviating from the beginning of the roll to the end. Toilet paper heaven. The one constant in my life (besides getting these AmperArt issues out once a month).
Toilet paper terror
One day, just last year, I purchased a pack of Cottonelle, & noticed the design had changed. No longer straight lines, they were now wavy. I don’t even have a sample to show you because I will not have flowery toilet paper in my bathroom.
So for several months I resorted to the cheapest toilet paper, because it was the only type that was as plain as possible, just flat with no design whatsoever. (I imagine a corn cob is softer than that stuff.) Took nearly a whole roll to do what a few sheets of the good stuff can do, but at least I didn’t have to look at embossed flowers & squiggles. (If there were ampersands I might consider that.)
Last September I was in a Walgreens & noticed a special on Scott toilet paper which was not only a good sale price, but reduced even more with my rewards card. $3.25 for a 12-roll pack is a great price, so I went over to check it out, &…
My design is back!
What I found was 12-packs of toilet paper that had the same exact design as my former love, Cottonelle. But this was Scott. What gives? Who cares? I bought out the store.
Did I attract some stares? Yes, but only stares. Today I would be mugged & robbed, right?
There was a surprise waiting for me when I got home, though.
Things aren’t always as they appear
I didn’t just stock up on toilet paper as I had thought. I had unknowingly purchased rolls of paper towels, too, that matched the toilet paper! Same linear ribs. Thus the packages looked identical.
I had cleaned out that one store, so I rushed to another Walgreens & bought out their toilet paper (double proofreading the labels first). But I didn’t return the towels because, even though they don’t compare to my usual Brawny or Bounty in performance, they match my toilet paper.
One brand’s trash is another brand’s treasure
I was curious how the Cottonelle pattern got on a competitor’s product, but I did have an idea. Sure enough, Cottonelle & Scott are owned by Kimberly-Clark. So I assume Scott just started using the dies discarded by Cottonelle. I find Scott to be a good enough toilet paper — after all, it’s the looks that count — so that’s who I’m loyal to now.
The 1973 Toilet Paper Panic
The clip shows how one innocent remark by Johnny Carson on the Tonight Show set off a panic across the United States. There was no actual shortage of toilet paper, but that’s not what Americans believed. The shelves were empty for four months, while toilet paper was even being sold on the black market.
Enjoy ten minutes of absurd fact, humor, & even nostalgia — if you remember White Front & Gemco.
I will end this post with a hilarious photo of one of my favorite people, Robin Williams:
Concept & design notes
I’ve been holding onto the title Over & Under for a few years, planning on using it for a Thanksgiving issue. You know, “Over & under & through the woods to Grandmother’s house we go…” but always conjured up an image of three bears and a fox. Mixing it up with some other woodsy story, I guess.
All of a sudden, with toilet paper eclipsing all other news, an image of two rolls forming an ampersand came to mind. Simple enough, I thought. But it turned out to be an M.C. Escher type of concept: trapped in the realm of impossibility and illusion. The page of sketches proves my frustration.
I finally figured something out, and with a bit of perspective and depth was able to render something possible. Maybe I should have kept it an optical illustion and become famous like M.C.
The tile background is reminiscent of the tile-walled bathroom in my childhood (with a separate tiled shower), and in fact I was going to use that palette of turquoise and black. But the background I found in a stock library is more appealing to a wider range of people, all of whom are consumers of the new precious element, TP.
As mentioned earlier, Over & Under was originally the title for a Thanksgiving piece. There are several other phrases that can be applied to more than one topic as well, such as empty & full, stop & go, big & small, et al. So I’ve decided to give myself permission to repeat a phrase whenever I get the whim and create a whole different concept with it. (One of my first AmperArt designs was #4 Lost & Found, which featured a set of keys. But I’d also like to do one for lost & found pets, especially since a “little lion” has been coming around for food lately.)