The chances are that you’re currently reading this while sitting atop the topic of this piece. You’d think that for how much time we all spend on using toilets, that there’d have been some sort of innovation when it comes to toilets, but for the most part they’ve stayed the same for our entire lives (especially if you’re a Millennial) while everything around them has drastically changed. Think about that, from the televisions to the phones you’re using to read this, to the cars that get you from toilet to toilet, everything has changed in this world except for the porcelin throne that is a fact of life that no one talks about. Perhaps it’s because people are too embarrassed to really discuss bathroom business, or perhaps it’s because there’s not a whole lot you can do to change a toilet, but either way, let’s take a look at the top 15 most famous toilets in history while you sit on your toilet and read this. How meta is that.
15. The Solid-Gold Toilet
While it sounds like something that President Trump would claim to have (for it only to be gold plated lead), there is actually a solid gold toilet out there and it’s actually a piece of art that was created by Italian artist and sculptor Maurizio Cattelan who came out of a five-year retirement with a bang by creating a solid-gold toilet for the Guggenheim. A lot like the number six entry on this list, the Fountain, which was a piece of art that was released just over a hundred years ago (and is considered to be one of the most important pieces of art in the history of… Art), the solid-gold toilet was literally worth it’s weight in gold, but was actually installed in one of the Guggenheim’s public restrooms back in May of 2016. It was reported that people could actually USE the toilet, as it was fully functional, if they wanted to stand in line longer than they usually would in New York. The goal was to elicit the American Dream while also offering a glimpse of the life of excess that only a few enjoy according to Cattelan while also allowing “unprecedented intimacy with an artwork”, which if you think of it, makes a lot of sense.
14. The Ajax
While the patents for components of the flush toilet are explained below (under the entry for Mr. Crapper… That’s right), it’s actually John Harrington, the British author who is credited with creating the flush toilet. He was part of the court of Queen Elizabeth I and was nicknamed by her, “Saucy Godson”, which is almost as good as a guy whose last name is literally Crapper. The term “Jakes” was slang for a toilet during this time and because of that he named his first flush toilet the Ajax (A Jakes). The Ajax was installed at Kensington’s/Saucy Godson’s manor sometime before 1596, as he wrote about his invention in the 1596 book A New Discourse upon a Stale Subject: The Metamorphosis of Ajax, although it was released under a pen-name Misacmos. He probably released it that way because he basically talked crap about the Earl of Leicester, which was a bad move as it angered the Queen (who he was on thin ice with anyway). He ended up being banished from court (not the first time) for this book, but the book was quite popular with those that could read. Like the whole “Crapper” means crap and crapper confusion also extends to the term “John” that some people use when they’re referring to the bathroom. It is said that that came from Kensington’s first name, but that is also disputed by historians so we should probably just start calling it the “Saucy Godson” from now on.
13. The Toto
In the intro of this piece it’s stated that toilets have essentially been the same for really the past hundred or so years. That may be true in the West, but it appears that the people in the East have been continuing to innovate in the toilet department, which makes a lot of sense as we haven’t stopped innovating any other product so why are we still sitting on white toilets and reading Reader’s Digest in 2018 (Squatty Potty notwithstanding)? The beautiful result of that innovation is the Toto toilet, which is essentially the future of toilets, the R2D2 of toilets, the once you try it you never turn back toilet. Do yourself a favor and check out the Toto on Youtube. It’ll make you hate your toilet more than you do already. From Japan, the Toto has a bidet (a water spout that cleans your bottom) built in that is controlled by the “push of a button on the seat or a remote control”. Beyond that, the Toto also has air fresheners, a heated seat and a dryer for after the bidet (which extends from the back of the rim). So while some people are just now discovering Wet Wipes in the West, Japan literally has a robot that cleans and sprays air freshener while heating the seat for your comfort. Perhaps those fears about Japan taking over the world in the 40’s and 80’s were realistic, after all.
12. Catherine the Great’s Toilet
They say that those that win the war(s) end up writing history and with someone with the name of Catherine the Great, you’d think that people would’ve heard that she died while she was sleeping or while signing some sort of law that helped the people. Instead, the truth came out that despite her amazing life, she ended up dying in one of the least dignified ways possible, on the toilet. Catherine, who was the longest-ruling female ruler of Russia (and was responsible for bringing Russia to the level of a great power in Europe during her reign), ruled from 1762 until 1796. She actually did awake that morning and had her usual coffee and began signing documents and papers, she looked tired so her maid, Maria Perekusikhina, asked her if she had slept well. Catherine replied that she hadn’t slept well in a long time and then got up from her desk and went into her dressing room, and then her bathroom. She reportedly collapsed on the toilet, although she did not immediately die. Her doctor was summoned and he was able to diagnose her with a stroke as her face was purplish in color and her pulse was very weak, while her breathing was shallow and labored. They did lift her from the toilet and brought her to her bed where she ended up dying the next day at 9:45. So, while it is reported by people that she died on the toilet, that’s not true, but at the same time you’d think that someone that powerful would’ve had her story changed from the truth, but perhaps it’s a testament to her greatness that even in death she told the truth.
11. Lenny Bruce’s Toilet
Modern Comedy may not be where it is without the work of Lenny Bruce. The term “ahead of their time” is used a lot and typically doesn’t mean much, but try to find some of Lenny Bruce’s work on YouTube and then remind yourself that he was saying stuff like that in the late 50’s/early 60’s. It obviously didn’t go over well with the authorities at the time and despite the fact that the United States has, you know, the First Amendment, he was basically bankrupted by all the obscenity charges he had to deal with. That probably ended up killing him as he was depressed about his career and turned to drugs and alcohol to fill the void that was perhaps not created but definitely was exacerbated by that fact. So, like others (Philip Seymour Hoffman comes to mind), Bruce was sitting on the toilet when he was shooting up heroin and he ended up overdosing and dying on the least dignified place to overdose and die (if there is any place, I suppose, although if someone were sitting in a hot air balloon they might be able to pull it off). While it didn’t mean a whole lot to him personally, he was actually pardoned for his obscenity charge in 2003, 37 years after his death, by New York Governor George Pataki for his obscenity conviction.
10. Larry Craig’s Toilet in the Minneapolis Airport
There’s nothing more gratifying than the stereotype becoming true that people who act holier than thou and super judgmental always have a ton of skeletons in their closet. So, don’t misinterpret this entry as homophobic, because there’s nothing wrong with two adults of any gender engaging acts that they consented in, but there is something wrong with it when it’s both done in public and also done by someone who has spent their entire adult life trying to make the lives of people who happen to be homosexual’s lives worse. For whatever reason, it seems that stereotype, that those who are angrily obsessed with homosexuality are all deeply closeted homosexuals themselves and while there have been multiple examples recently of this exact same thing, perhaps none is more famous than the Larry Craig “wide stance” bathroom bust from the Minneapolis Airport back in 2007. Apparently there was a bathroom at the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport that was well known for gay hook-ups and so the police decided to set up stings in the specific bathroom in the airport to crack down on that lewd behavior (because it was semi-public). It was said that Craig was sitting in a stall next to an undercover cop, and kept tapping his foot and moving it closer and closer to the undercover cop’s foot. He then placed his hand (palm upwards) under the stall as well. The cop then showed his badge under the stall and Craig responded by saying “No”. He attempted to explain away the entire situation by stating that he had a “wide stance” when he went number two, and despite the fact that the internet wasn’t as prevalent in 2007 as it is now, a meme was born and that bathroom and toilet became famous for completely different reasons than it had been before.
9. Thomas Crapper’s… Crapper
Thomas Crapper is an extremely interesting figure as he is credited by credible sources as both the creator of the flush toilet and the word “crap” and “crapper”. That’d make him an extremely intelligent, important and ingenious person both at the time and in history but while he may be the former and the latter, it’s not for the reasons you may think. In doing research for this piece there was a list on Time.com (as in Time Magazine) that listed Thomas Crapper’s toilet as one of the most famous and/or important toilets in history, but the reality is that Crapper didn’t invent the flush toilet and that his name wasn’t the influence for the word “Crap”, as it had existed well before then. It’s not hard to see why people were confused about this, as he did have almost ten plumbing patents between 1881 and 1893, however the patent for the flushing mechanism on a toilet, which was described as a “valveless water-waste preventer” was actually patented by a man named Joseph Adamson in 1853 a whole eight years before Crapper started dabbling in plumbing as a business. If you want to get technical, you can even credit a man named Alexander Cummings, who patented the first “flush mechanism” for the “water closet” in 1775, which was a whole half-century before Crapper was born. However, Crapper sold toilets and was thus was a great salesman and really didn’t mind that people began to confuse him with the man/men who invented the flushing mechanism. Beyond that, a biography was written about him in 1969 credited him with inventing the modern toilet, which was obviously wrong. However, in the day and age of “fake news” and propaganda that people purposefully indoctrinate themselves in, he might as well have invented the first toilet and thus his first flushing toilet makes this list. Why not.
8. Hitler’s Toilet
This story is super interesting. In January of 2014, it was discovered that a toilet that was used by Adolf Hitler was discovered in full working order (being used everyday by workers in a car repair shop’s employees) in New Jersey. That sounds like the plot for a terrible movie, but it’s true. The toilet was originally apart of the Aviso Grille, which was the official German State yacht and was at the time the largest yacht in history (at 433 feet). The toilet was adjacent to Hitler’s bedroom and when the ship was destroyed in a scrap yard in… You guessed it, New Jersey. That’s where the owner of Greg’s Auto Repair in Florence, Burlington County found and purchased it, brought it back to his shop and created a make-shift bathroom by putting up plywood around the toilet for his employees who had to have had no other option but to use that toilet. The shop was purchased by Greg Kohfeldt from the previous owner, who realized the history behind the toilet and attempted to sell it in 2014. While some may not have heard of the Aviso Grille, it was a very important symbol of Germany’s strength and power not only because of it’s size but also because Hitler had said that he planned to sail the ship he called ‘The White Swan’ up the River Thames in Britain to accept Britain’s surrender. Obviously and thankfully that didn’t work out and the ship ended up as part of Germany’s navy after it became obvious that things weren’t going well enough for Hitler to hang out on a yacht and it eventually ended up near where Hitler may have invaded the United States, but instead people of all different backgrounds and ethnicities ended up sharing the same toilet that Hitler once used. That sounds like poetic justice to me.
7. The Toilet from Trainspotting
Hollywood loves nothing more than taking advantage of nostalgia and that’s really where the idea of sequels come from, regardless of whether or not they come out a year after their predecessor or multiple decades after. While the nostalgia obviously is a lot more powerful the longer it takes for a classic film to release it’s sequel the more the nostalgia grows. Most of the time that ends up backfiring but in the case of T2: Trainspotting, it did work. It was a great movie and a great continuation of the stories of all of the characters but the one thing missing from T2 was some of the crazier sequences from the first movie, however considering that the protagonist in the movie (played by Ewan McGregor) is sober for most of the film, it makes sense that he’s not completely diving into a toilet like he was in the first film in the world’s worst bathroom. That’s the toilet that was seen in the trailer and that completely grossed out everyone who saw the trailer or the movie, a scene that’s burned into the psyche of everyone who watched McGregor get on his knees and dig through his own diarrhea while gagging in the hopes of finding the suppositories that his friend gave him to help him get through his withdrawal from heroin. The scene appeared to be done with practical effects, meaning that it really was McGregor jumping headfirst into that toilet, which was obviously not full of feces (same goes for the floor), but still, the thought of that had to be pretty rough. However, considering it made McGregor a star that is still on the A-list today, it was definitely worth it.
6. Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain
Marcel Duchamp was a genius. Say what you will about his art, but he was a modern day renaissance man… Over a hundred years ago. He was a brilliant artist (painter and sculptor) whose work was associated with Cubism, Dada and conceptual art. He was also a pretty darn good Chess player, which showed that he was actually pretty intelligent as some people think that art like The Fountain isn’t “real art” and the work of a con-man who somehow gets people to pay tons of money for what amounts to a urinal. Chess is hard though and requires that one uses multiple parts of their brain at once (strategy, thinking into the future, spatial skills, etc.) so for anyone that thinks that The Fountain isn’t art or that Duchamp isn’t an artist… Check mate. The Fountain, though, was essentially a urinal that Duchamp signed “R. Mutt” and submitted for the exhibition of the Society of Independent Artists in 1917 (which was the first annual exhibition at the Grand Central Palace in New York city). It was rejected by the people in charge there, despite the fact that their rules stated that they had to accept every piece of art submitted by artists who paid to enter. So, he had to show it at his friend, Alfred Stieglistz’ studio. The Fountain has been analyzed by many, many “experts” who all have different interpretations of what it means or why Duchamp made it, which definitely makes it art. Beyond that, it was voted the most influential artwork of the 20th century by 500 “selected British art world professionals” and was credited for inventing conceptual art by itself. Pretty good for a urinal that was rejected by it’s initial home.
5. The Toilet in Godfather
There may be no movie more iconic than the Godfather and while the film has countless iconic scenes there is perhaps no more iconic scene than when Al Pacino’s Michael Corleone kills rival gangster Sollozzo (played by Al Lettieri) and corrupt cop McCluskey (Sterling Hayden) after he is patted down before the meeting but planned ahead by hiding a gun in the toilet in the restroom of the restaurant they’re eating at. It’s actually considered to be the best scene in the movie by some and has been dissected by many, as well. The reason the scene is so important is that up until that point, Pacino’s Corleone has stayed away from the family “business”, as he’s a war hero who is Ivy-League educated. However, after Sollozzo’s people attempt to kill his father, he decides to put family before everything else and to murder those who attempted to murder his father during a meeting that was meant as a peace offering from Sollozzo’s side. It’s where Michael decides to join the family business, to become the next Godfather (despite being the youngest brother) and it’s because of that that people will always remember to check the toilets in the bathroom of whatever restaurant they go to the next time they are trying to patch things up with a friend.
4. The Toilet from Leave it to Beaver
As the description of Lenny Bruce’s trouble with obscenity laws alluded, people were pretty uptight back in the 50’s and early 60’s. While television was pretty much a mainstay in every home by that time, it was heavily censored to the point of hilarity in retrospect as it actually censored real life and thus made some of the shows look really strange. An example that most people use when talking about that period is the fact that married couples were always shown to have two beds, as even the implication that they slept in the same bed (not even showing them in the same bed) was too racy for society back then. Another example was the fact that on the classic show “I Love Lucy”, they could introduce a new baby but they couldn’t show Lucy pregnant. So, basically a baby just showed up at the start of a season without any baby bumps or even talk of the baby coming. Another great example was the toilet on Leave it to Beaver, which was the first toilet ever shown on television. It caused quite a stir, not really by the people watching it as they understood that houses had toilet but by the FCC, who pulled the show from any re-reuns until a compromise was made in which they could show the tank of the toilet but not the bowl, because people would see it and start stabbing one another and burning their hometown to the ground? I guess? I mean, was the thought that people would start thinking of Eddie Haskell taking a dump? If so, that tells you more about the people at the FCC than anything else.
3. King George’s Toilet
Between Catherine the Great and Elvis Presley, there’s something about King’s and Queen’s dying on the toilet. If I were Prince Harry I’d definitely start copying Howard Hughes, but if I was Prince William I’d just resign myself for the toilet (as he’s slowly turning into Prince Charles). King George II was the King of Britain and Ireland, Duke of Brunswick-Luneburg (Hanover) and Prince-elector of the Holy Roman Empire from June 1727 until his death in 1760. He was also the grandfather of George III, who was the King George that everyone in America hated back around the time of the Revolutionary War. He actually lived to the ripe old age of 776, which back then was essentially like 500 years old today, even with the treatment that the King received. Despite that treatment, though, he was falling apart towards the end, as he was blind in one eye and essentially deaf. He awoke on the 25th of October and after having some hot chocolate, he sat down on his close stool, which was a chair with a hole in it where you could go to the bathroom (despite the fact that the flush toilet had been invented 150 years prior). Because he was essentially pooping on a chair, he was left alone, but when his valet heard a loud crash he decided to risk things and entered the room where he saw the king on the floor. The valet and others lifted him to his bed, and his daughter Princess Amelia was called for, but there was nothing that could be done as he was dead (although he had lived longer than any other King up until that point). It was discovered during the autopsy that he had died from an aortic aneurysm, which may have you asking why so many people die on the toilet, for the answer to that skip ahead to number 1. To learn about how astronauts poop in space, continue to number 2! It’s a choose your own poop adventure!
2. NASA’s Zero-Gravity Toilet
In the span of about 200 years human beings went from pooping inside wooden chairs to pooping in zero-gravity toilets. Imagine that we’ll accomplish in the next 200 years! Also referred to as a “Space toilet”, which is one of the multitude of problems that arise from the lack of gravity in space (the others are things like loss of muscle mass and bone density, for example). Because there’s no gravity, there’s nothing to direct the feces of the astronauts down into the plumbing in the space station or previously in the space shuttle, so NASA had to derive a system that worked better than just having astronauts pee into a condom like system like they did during the early Apollo missions (before women were in space). The Space Toilet uses air pressure and flow to direct the contents of the toilet. That air is returned the cabin, apparently, while the originally the waste water was vented into space while any “solids” are compressed and stored for removal upon landing (so it wouldn’t float around the outside of the space station and somehow damage anything out there. However, that was the old system of dealing with waste in space, as things are now a bit fancier, which means that people with genius level IQ’s are having meetings about how best to deal with poop in space, which should bring a smile to your face. They found a way to kill the bacteria in the feces, by exposing it to the vacuum pressures that exist in space, thus killing the bacteria and really helping with the stank. That helps filter the air, which again is recycled back into the air supply on the ship, which seems entirely unnecessary but again, these people know what they’re doing.
1. The King’s Porcelain Throne
During his prime, there was perhaps no more famous person ever than the “King” himself, Elvis Presley. Despite his immense fame, wealth and fan-base, Elvis probably had the least dignified death of anyone in the history of celebrity (or humans in general) deaths. Now, first off, let’s establish exactly how and where Elvis died because despite the fact that he didn’t actually die on the toilet (as was initially reported, a lot like the death of Mama Cass of the Mama’s and the Papa’s (who was said to have choked to death on a ham sandwich (she didn’t)), but he did die on the floor next to the toilet, with his pants pulled down around his ankles. There are countless theories as to how Elvis died but the reality is that he was in terrible shape, on countless drugs and because of that he was always constipated. He was actually so constipated that his colon was descended, so it’s thought that he was sitting on the toilet and struggling to go to the bathroom to the point that he was pushing and pushing. Western toilets aren’t actually conducive with the natural process of going number two, as it’s actually better to squat over something like the people in Asia do, so becase of that people have to push which creates internal pressure and in the case of someone like Elvis, who was constipated and who also had heart issues, it created a situation that essentially lead to cardiac arrest. Because of that, the toilet he fell off of became the most famous toilet ever.