The noted plumber Thomas Crapper was baptized on this day in 1836 in Thorne, Yorkshire, England.
Many sources to this day snicker as they report that a man by the name of Thomas Crapper invented the flush toilet. The truth of the matter is that while Crapper was a competent and successful plumber, the use of flush toilets was already well established in England by the time Crapper was born (about 2/3 of the essential technology having been invented by the poet John Harington in the 16th century). Crapper was apprenticed to a plumber as a youngster, and by the age of 30 he had set up his own business in the waste-water capital of the world, London.
Over the course of almost 40 years in the business, Crapper received 9 patents -- 4 for improvements to drains, 3 for water closets, 1 for manhole covers and 1 for a pipe joint -- but never received a patent for the product which seems to have bought him immortality, the Silent Valveless Water Waste Preventer, a siphonic discharge system that permitted a toilet to flush when the cistern was only half full. That device was actually patented by Albert Giblin, and it is assumed that Crapper bought the rights from Giblin before he began selling Crapper's Valveless Water Waste Preventer as part of his line of toilet products.
In the 1880s, Crapper became the royal sanitary engineer to Queen Victoria, and he supervised the refurbishing of all plumbing at Sandringham House, including around 30 lavatories with cedarwood seats. Although the word "crap" has been around since the 13th century as slang for waste, the use of the word "crapper" for the toilet seems to be uniquely American, and is thought to have been brought to the U.S. by American soldiers during World War I who saw "T. Crapper -- Chelsea" stamped on British toilets. A number of manhole covers also stamped with the Crapper name can be found around London, including several, popular for brass-rubbings, in Westminster Abbey.
After his retirement in 1904, Crapper's plumbing business continued to operate under his name until 1966. Crapper died on January 27, 1910 in London.