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A pile of fresh sweet corn ears on an English market stall.
Here's Why Americans Once Used Corn Cobs For Toilet Paper
History - Science
While it may seem ubiquitous nowadays, toilet paper as we know it was only invented in 1857 and took a while to catch on. Before that, Americans utilized a number of cheaper alternatives while visiting the outhouse, and one of those was the humble but abundant corn cob.
The first settlers of the U.S. quickly figured out that the shape of the corn cob made it ideal for such an off-label use (provided the kernels were removed). However, early outhouses only had one corn cob each, meaning that entire families, schools, and congregations would share the same cob.
Americans eventually started using some paper options in their outhouses, such as the Sears Roebuck catalog (when it was printed on soft, absorbent newsprint) and the Farmer’s Almanac. By 1930, though, toilet paper manufacturers had finally managed to create soft, popular products, ending the use of corn cobs and print paper.