News Advisor Under or over: toilet roll feud settled forever

Under or over: toilet roll feud settled forever

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The original inventor of the modern toilet roll has spoken from beyond the grave to settle an age-old dispute.

Under or over? That is the question plaguing loo-goers the world over, for which toiletry genius Seth Wheeler has a definitive answer.

In 1891, Mr Wheeler drew a diagram of his idea for perforated sheets of toilet paper, which until his eureka moment had been ripped away haphazardly.

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His patent has not only saved generations of humans the torment of manual tearing, but now enlightens us on lavatory etiquette.

In his own archaic words (which Google has archived in its online patent database), Mr Wheeler describes his idea as a “novel” way to prevent wastage, blissfully unaware of the future sh**storm his drawing would spark.

“In carrying out my invention the sheets of paper are only partially separated, having their points of attachment arranged in a novel manner, whereby each sheet will easily separate from the series as it is drawn from the roll, there being no litter occasioned, and any waste of paper is thereby prevented.”

The images accompanying the patent clearly show that toilet rolls should be unravelled overhand.


Journalist Owen Williams, who writes for The Next Web, says he found the patent after searching for it on a whim.

“I was just randomly curious and looked it up on Google patents,” he says. “Weird how curiosity strikes.”

His discovery has dismayed and enraged some social media users, with many disputing the finding.

“The reaction has been nuts,” Mr Williams says.

“I really didn’t expect people to be interested in a dumb joke about toilet paper.

“My entire mentions inbox on Twitter is people arguing which way it should be.”

Argue they may, but the evidence is clear. Mystery solved. Now we just need to settle scrunch versus fold.

As for inventor Seth Wheeler, he fought and won his own bitter lavatory battle.

Fellow US entrepreneur Oliver Hewlett Hicks tried to patent a very similar design, forcing the true pioneer of perforated rolls to defend his rights in court.

In 1894, the US Supreme Court ruled in Mr Wheeler’s favour, invalidating the patent of his competitor.

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