In urban areas, the emptying of chamber pots straight into the street, and the accumulation of piles of human waste, resulted in disease and an unpleasant urban environment. Night-soil men were often employed to collect excreta, which was spread on the fields as fertilizer. Although Sir John Harrington had developed an indoor flushing toilet for Queen Elizabeth I in 1596, it was not until the rise of mass industrialization and urbanization in the nineteenth century that domestic toilets were mass-produced in northern England. Flushing technology was improved through the efforts of inventive manufacturers such as John Shanks, George Jennings, Alexander Cummings, and Thomas Crapper in the United Kingdom (Reyburn 1969) and Thomas Maddocks, John Randall Mann, William Campbell, and Henry Demarest, among others, in the United States (Palmer 1973). Early toilet manufacturers were generally companies that had first made their name in the manufacture of china and earthenware. Such English companies as Minton, Twyford, and Doulton adapted their production processes to make porcelain toilet bowls and pans. Toilet design was based upon the “sit” rather than “squat” mode of excretion (which required nothing more than a hole in the ground). The sit approach required a specific and highly marketable consumer product, the “pedestal” toilet, along with all the plumbing fixtures, such as taps (faucets), cisterns, basins, and fittings that together made up the “bathroom.” Interestingly, urinals for men, although a common feature of public toilets, are not generally a feature of private domestic bathrooms. These artifacts were exported from Britain to the rest of the world as a sign of modernity and Western progress, and were rapidly adopted for fear of being seen as “backward” or “dirty,” in spite of the fact that the majority of the world’s population squats when eliminating waste, a position that is ergonomically more healthy and efficient.
For details about apprenticeship or other opportunities in this occupation, contact the offices of the state employment service; the state apprenticeship agency; local plumbing, heating, and cooling contractors or firms that employ fitters; or local union–management apprenticeship committees. Apprenticeship information is available from the U.S. Department of Labor's Apprenticeship program online, or by phone at 877-872-5627.
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