Tag Archive | flush toilets

A Modest Proposal (part 2)

A Modest Proposal (Part II)

 Now, people may never have heard of Thomas Crapper (1836 – 1910) but if you find it hard to believe that he developed the flush toilet, go ahead and Google him. I have never ceased to marvel at the perfect association of name and function. Honestly now, with a name like that, what else could you have enriched civilisation with if not the flush toilet?

 Let’s try:

Theoretical Physics? (The Crapper Effect)

Art? (The Crapper School of Impressionism)

Literature? (The Crapper Second Novel Prize)

Music? (Crapper’s Fifth, “The cacophony”)

Politics? (The Crapperite Rebellion)


You see? It just doesn’t work. When Thomas Crapper was just ten, his teacher would have noted in his report card:


Unusually serious young man, with a keen understanding of hydrodynamics. Should go far in the field of municipal engineering. Must improve his handwriting and spelling. He is talented but must learn to master his carelessness.


Do I detect a degree of skepticism in the reader?

Please. I can look up Wikipedia too, and see the hatchet job they have done on poor Crapper. OK, some nonentity actually came up with the idea of flushing, (in 1596) but Mr Crapper came up with many absolutely critical improvements and was the first to obtain a Royal Warrant for the provision of thirty lavatories with cedarwood seats at Sandringham Palace in the 1880s.

Enough said!


I’m sorry to have to say this, but Crapper’s Influence was altogether too great, and the development of sanitary appointments which take into account the natural physiology of defecation, was for a time unrecorded and centered in a little known restaurant, au petit coin, in the XVIIeme Arrondissement in Paris, France. There, a totally unknown veteran of the Foreign Legion, Emile Foirar, who had returned from the  Algerian disturbances, decided to invest in a nice little brasserie in the rue Crotte. There he installed a mechanism based on things he had seen in his days among the Bedouin, who always squatted when performing the Grosse Commission. (or, as the Legion poilus used to say, pour poser sa pêche.)

Now of course, the Bedouin had lots of open space, and quite a sufficiency of sand for doing things, which in the pampered salons and brasseries of Europe require water, which the Bedouin do not have in abundance. They had no need of enclosures, and in fact preferred to perform their necessary tasks in the open where they could keep an eye on their camels and make sure thugs from the next oasis didn’t sneak up behind them in their most vulnerable state, to cut their throats, before making off with the camels. Such were the insecurities of the life of primitive folks in the land of Scheherazade.

Nonetheless, Foirar realised from his observation of the Bedouin, that their custom of squatting was entirely sound, physiologically, and needed only minor modification for life in the bustling métropole that was Paris in the nineteenth century.

He had a cousin, who had a ceramic factory in Angoulême, create a fitting that was basically an ovoid hole with decorative footprints on either side, and incorporated Crapper’s flush system so that Parisians could benefit from the healthy Bedouin way of doing things with the brilliant modification of doing it with water, as importing all that sand would have required an import permit and would have been prohibitively expensive.

I actually visited Au petit coin, in the rue Crotte in my student days, when it was still a functioning brasserie. Somebody had installed an amusing electrical device sometime just after the War, which played a reproachful little tune if you didn’t flush and wash your hands. It was embarrassing to have the patron tell you to go back and get it right, to the loud amusement of a barful of French drunks. I was only caught out once, I can tell you!

Anyway, we are digressing.

Foirar’s ideas caught on in France, and his cousin made so much money with his decorative footprints that he was able to buy a château on the Loire and staff it with retired girls from the Folies Bergères. But, success was ephemeral and Foirar died, penniless and a broken man, just after the Paris Exhibition of 1937, when his invention began its steep decline in popularity, and Crapper’s much inferior product took off. North American tourists thought the Bedouin way was indelicate and Crapper’s allowed for reading whilst on the job, as it were. Although the Bedouin way was much more physiological, it did require some care and a good sense of balance. It would certainly have been risky to try reading the paper whilst poised on your toes over the plate-forme céramique! Nonetheless, I failed to find any mention of serious accidents in publications of the time.

So Crapper’s star rose as Foirar’s sank into oblivion, and we are left with the uncomfortable and totally un-physiological facilities we have today. It was ever thus.

For aeons, primitive man performs some task in the simplest, most scientific way imaginable, then some plumbing contractor comes along with an idea to make a quick buck, and all of a sudden we are tripping over each other to shovel money into his pockets.

I alluded to this phenomenon in my post on Runny Jam (q.v.) where I reminded my readers that in the days before the Drug War, in The Land Of The Free, people could take all the opium they wanted (we were free to do bad things to ourselves).

Now it’s an orgy of Socialism and social engineering, and a philosophy of let’s take care of the incompetents, even if the incompetents prefer to continue to live their lives incompetently. During the six years of the presidency of Felipe Calderon in Mexico, 60,000 Mexicans died in the crossfire of the Drug War, and another 40,000 disappeared. That’s about a 1,400 a month. (Google “juarez, mexico”)

But it does cost a lot of money to have that kind of success, so that’s good too, since drug interdiction is in the top three of the engines of the economy in North American countries, and you have to have those wheels turning.


In a Drug-War free world, the police would have to go back to investigating rapes and murders, and finding some of the thousands of women and children who are abducted every year.

But sometimes, when you are used to the womb-to-tomb embrace of government, freedom is tough to handle!