In Memoriam of Thomas Crapper: The Man Who Did NOT Invent the Flush Toilet

A man named “Thomas Crapper” invented the toilet you say? I heard this on one of those “morning zoo” shows today, they claimed it was the anniversary of his birth, but Wikipedia says it’s his death. So turns out this is a real guy, but this just seemed too much of a coincidence to me (unless there’s a secret society of plumbers that has controlled the destiny of toilet technology that I am unaware of). So I checked out the great urban legend debunking site Snopes.com:

ThomasCrapperThomas Crapper is an elusive figure: Most people familiar with his name know him as acelebrated figure in Victorian England, an ingenious plumber who invented the modern flush toilet; others believe him to be nothing more than a hoax, the whimsical creation of a satirical writer. The truth lies somewhere in between.

Much of the confusion stems from a 1969 book by Wallace Reyburn, Flushed with Pride: The Story of Thomas Crapper. Reyburn’s “biography” of Crapper has often been dismissed as a complete fabrication, as some of his other works (most notably Bust-Up: The Uplifting Tale of Otto Titzling and the Development of the Bra) are obvious satirical fiction. Although Flushed with Pride is, like Bust-Up, a tongue-in-cheek work full of puns, jokes, and exaggerations, Reyburn did not invent the person of Thomas Crapper as he did Otto Titzling. In Flushed with Pride, Reyburn’s satire rests on the framework of a real man’s life. Thomas Crapper was not, as Reyburn wrote, the inventor of the flush toilet, a master plumber by appointment to the royals who was knighted by Queen Victoria, or an important figure whose achievements were written up in the Encyclopedia Britannica, and one searches in vain for evidence that contemporary authorities took any notice of Thomas Crapper, for mention of him in biographical dictionaries, or for his obituary notice in the London Times.

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