Friday Photo: 18th Century Technology

Kids who visit the Hammond-Harwood House always want to know why there’s no bathroom. Adults want to know too, but they’re a little more hesitant to ask. We tell them about chamber pots and outhouses, and they get appropriately grossed out, but there were actually flushing toilets in the 18th century. The first patent for one was issued to Alexander Cummings in 1775. Cummings’ innovation was the S-trap, which used water to seal the toilet bowl’s outlet and prevent foul smells from rising from the pipes. The drawing above is a design patented by Joseph Bramah in 1778. He replaced the slide valve of Cummings’ design with a hinged flap. Apparently Queen Victoria’s house on the Isle of Wight, Osbourne House, still has functioning Bramah toilets. Historic toilet tour, anyone?


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