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Book reveals history of household items we take for granted

By Samyuktha

London, June 19 (ANI): An American author has written a book detailing the history of domestic life and the household items that we usually take for granted.

In his book, 'At Home: A Short History Of Private Life', Bill Bryson, 58, also revealed how Queen Elizabeth's godson John Harington built the first toilet, and how Thomas Crapper made his fortune from flushing loos.

Bryson looked at the household things that were considered important through history and found that the bed was, for most homeowners, the most valuable thing they owned, the Sun reported.

In William Shakespeare's day, for instance, a decent canopied bed cost 5 pounds, which was half the annual salary of a typical schoolmaster.

And since they were often treasured items the best bed was often kept downstairs, sometimes in the living room, where it could be better shown off to visitors - although often it was hardly used.

Decorating one's house was also important, and wallpaper, made from old rags, was very expensive, and smelled of garlic.

They were often coloured with pigments that used large doses of arsenic and lead, and after 1775 it was frequently soaked in an especially insidious compound called copper arsenite.

This was not only dangerous to people who made or hung the wallpaper, but also to those who lived with it afterwards.

The invention of the toilet by John Harington, godson to Queen Elizabeth, made life easier, but there were still flaws that needed correcting.

In 1778, Joseph Bramah, a cabinetmaker and locksmith, patented the first modern flush toilet, but even then many of the toilets did not work properly, and sometimes they backfired.

It was only until Thomas Crapper invented the classic toilet, activated by the pull of a chain, called the Marlboro Silent Water Waste Preventer, that the perfect toilet was found.

Taking a bath in the 18th century proved quiet a daunting task, with people often having to break the ice in their washbasins in order to take a bath.

Benjamin Franklin tried another tack. During his years in London he developed the custom of taking "air baths", basking naked in front of an open upstairs window.

What really got the Victorians to turn to bathing, however, was the realisation that it could be gloriously punishing.

Reverend Francis Kilvert noted with pleasure how jagged ice clung to the side of his bath and pricked his skin as he merrily bathed on Christmas morning in 1870.

And when it came to keeping one's lawn need and tidy, people had only two options.

The first was to keep a flock of sheep. The other was to employ a dedicated team of people who would spend the whole of every growing season scything, gathering and carting away grass.

Finally the introduction of simple drive chains (borrowed from another wonder of the age, the bicycle) and new lightweight steels meant that by the last quarter of the 19th Century the lawnmower was established as part of gardening life. (ANI)

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