Sir Thomas Crapper Day is Today: Didn’t Invent Flush Toilet, Improved it

January 27, 2014 Updated: July 18, 2015

“Sir Thomas Crapper Day” is Monday, Jan. 27, and is named after the English plumber credited with bringing the flush toilet to the mainstream.

Crapper, who died Jan. 27, 1910, improved on the functionality of the early flush toilet–or “water closet”–but he didn’t invent it, as it’s been said.

The inventor of the flush toilet was actually author Sir John Harington in the 1500s. He came up with the idea and made an early prototype.

And the first patent was handed out for the flush toilet to Alexander Cummings in 1775. Thomas Crapper was born in 1836.

“Thomas Crapper apprenticed as a plumber when he was still a child. By the time he was 30, he’d set up his own business in London. He developed and manufactured sanitary facilities of all sorts until his death in 1910. He held many patents and was in fact an important and extremely inventive figure in creating modern water-closet systems,” wrote John Lienhard with the University of Houston.

About Crapper’s name and the word “crap,” Lienhard adds that “he word almost certainly derives from the 13th-century Anglo-Saxon word crappe. It means chaff or any other waste material. The modern form of the word was certainly in use during Thomas Crapper’s life. So not only was he not the inventor of the flush toilet — it’s also unlikely that he really gave it his name, either. What he did do was to carry the technology forward.”

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