Charts & Graphs

Nature’s Calling

A brief history of the toilet.

c. 2800 bc Scotland Earliest known indoor toilets are built.
c. 2700 bc Indus Valley Indoor plumbing with earthen pipes appears.
616 bc Rome The Cloaca Maxima, a large city sewer system, is built.
c. 300 bc Athens Public latrines appear; human waste is used to fertilize crops and orchards outside of city limits.
589 China Toilet paper appears.
1366 Paris City of Paris orders butchers to dispose of their animal excrement outside the city.
1388 London British Parliament prohibits disposal of human waste into ditches, rivers, and other bodies of water.
1596 London The “Ajax,” precursor to the modern flush toilet, is constructed in England, and Queen Elizabeth I installs one in her Richmond Palace.
1805 Paris Napoleon Bonaparte extends and modernizes the first vaulted sewer network.
1858 London Summer heat and the smell of untreated sewage in the Thames causes the “Great Stink,” an event that leads Parliament to commission the construction of an extensive underground sewage system almost one hundred miles in length.
1885 Washington, DC The first concrete sewer walls are installed in the United States.
1900 Chicago The Sanitary and Ship Canal opens, reversing the flow of the Chicago River in order to carry the city’s sewage away from Lake Michigan.
1980 United States Automatic flush toilets appear in public restrooms.
1992 Guadalajara Gasoline explosions in the sewer system cause extensive damage and kill at least 210 people.