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How Green Bay, Wisconsin Became the Toilet Paper Capital of the World

Several companies based in Green Bay produce toilet paper, including Northern Paper Mills, the company that started producing Northern Tissue in 1901. But the reason it was such a revolutionary product that carried the city through the Great Depression encompasses the entire history of toilet paper. It’s not a particularly pleasant history before the 20th century.   

The first mention of toilet paper in Western literature is not favorable. It comes in Francois Rabelais’ supremely scatological Gargantua(1534) in which the titular giant discusses how through “long and curious experience” he has “found out a means to wipe my bum.” Having tried sheets, curtains, table-cloths, hay, straw, wool and cats to do the deed, Gargantua announces that by far his worst choice was paper:

“Who his foul tail with paper wipes

Shall at his ballocks leave some chips.”

The rest of the story is just about as horrifying. Read it at Atlas Obscura and thank your lucky stars you live in modern times.

(Image source: Flickr user SenseiAlan)


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