Ward's Book of Days.

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What happened on this day in history.

JANUARY 27th  

On this day in history in 1910, died Thomas Crapper.

Crapper was an engineer who is credited with the invention of the flushing toilet and adding the word crap to the English language.  

Crapper was born in Waterside, Yorkshire in 1836, the son of a steamboat captain. At the age of fourteen, Crapper was apprenticed to a plumber in Chelsea, where he served as a journeyman. In 1861, Crapper started his own business in London, called Thomas Crapper and Co. The company manufactured sanitary ware, bathroom fittings and in particular the flush toilet, which made the firm famous. The merchandise was noted for its quality and value, and the company thrived. The products became regular household items throughout the country. Some ‘Crapper’ manhole covers may be seen today in Westminster Abbey. The firm drew the attention of the Royal Family, and Crapper was commissioned to fit out the Royal country house of Sandringham with thirty water closets with cederwood seats. The company enjoyed Royal patronage even after Crapper’s death and obtained several Royal Warrants.  

The assumption that Crapper invented the flushing toilet in untrue. The device was created by Sir John Harington, a courtier of Elizabeth I, who had a ‘john’ built at the palace. It was developed by Alexander Cummins, whose device allowed a modicum of water to remain in the bowl to prevent seepage from the sewers.  Crapper did popularise the loo and made it an accepted domestic fixture. The notion that Crapper gave his scatological name to faeces is just crap.  The word ‘crap’, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, derives from the Middle English ‘crappe’, meaning chaff or residue from rendered fat.  

Crapper died in 1910 and is buried in Beckenham Cemetery, Elmers End Road, Beckenham, Kent, BR3 4TD. 

Rubbing of a Crapper manhole cover in Westminster Abbey.

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