Merritt Ierley replies: Thomas Crapper indeed had nothing to do with the invention of the toilet, nor does he seem to have played a significant role in its development, though he may have held several patents. Except for his last name he would be no more remembered than the hundreds of others who received patents, important and otherwise, in the late nineteenth century. It is perhaps worth observing that the most prominent contemporary authorities on the water closet, Glenn Brown and S. Stevens Hellyer, took no note of Crapper.
As for his devising a 2-gallon flush, just recently (July 27) in Congress (as reported in USA Today ) a House Commerce subcommittee took up proposed legislation to repeal the requirement, which went into effect in 1994, that a toilet use no more than 1.6 gallons per flush. The chairman said he had received thousands of complaints that the existing legislation is counter-productive because the “new toilets require multiple flushings and, in the end, do not save water.” Toilets generally required 5 gallons or more to work effectively until after the mid-twentieth century, when a 3.5-gallon flush became common. Crapper’s supposed 2 gallons is barely more than what is now being judged impractical even with today’s technology. If Crapper had really invented a successful 2-gallon device in 1882, wouldn’t the House subcommittee have had something else to do?