"Indeed, Leonardo de Vinci once pointed out, cynically but probably correctly, that for most people their only useful contribution to society is to their local cesspit."

Ralph A. Lewin




"It is important to accept man in his totality, his shit, and his death. In the acceptance of obscenity, excrement, and death there lies a spiritual energy which I make use of."

-Salvador Dali



"   Nevertheless, ancient Rome did have one hygienic advantage over modern New York. Like most Roman cities, and unlike modern American ones, it was generously equipped with public toilets. These were not of the sort familiar to modern users. Because the ancient Romans did not have the same taboos about elimination as we do, they did not insist on separate cubicles. The typical arrangement was a long stone bench, pierced with suitable holes. Everyone sat companiably, side by side. Underneath ran a channel of flowing water; and a channel in the floor outside the seat enabled the users to wash their hands when they were finished.

   Since municipal trash disposal was as far from Roman expectations as automobiles or video, householders simply threw their rubbish into the street, where it lay and festered and was sometimes partly washed away by rain. At least there were sewers and storm-water channels to carry it off into the Tiber. In fact, the Romans ewer system, which had been under construction since the sixth century B.C.E.. was (for all its imperfections) one of the marvels of the world's civic engineering."

Robert Hughes





"Farts and excrements are highly essential subjects; medicine and philosophy should turn to them with the greatest attention. The same is true for metaphysics. It has always been my regret that the Surrealists held their noses even when they were only just thinking about them."

-Salvador Dali




"What cannot be used from the consumed foods and drinks descends into a person’s lower intestines, changes itself into excrement….and is evacuated by the body."

Hildegard Von Bingen (C.A. 1155)


"Our forbears dug a large hole underneath their houses, which they called a cesspit. It was there that they carefully kept an accumulation of putrid filth, and a hotbed of the most horrible pestilence. It was not emptied until it was full to overflowing. Very few changes have been made to this abominable system."

Francisque Sarcey (1862)



"Think of what our Nation stands for....Democracy and proper drains."

-John Betjeman, 'In Westminster Abbey'



"Abbot of St. Albans: The Abbey of St Albans was consecrated in AD 1115. The Abbot built a stone cistern to hold rainwater, which he used to flush his lavatory; so he may have been the first Englishman to have a 'water-closet."



Acton Court: At iron Action near Bristol, the wonderful house of Acton Court was built around 1534 by Sir Nicholas Poyntz apparently especially for a royal visit; Henry VIII took Anne Boleyn there for the weekend.

   The house is now being restored, and one of the major discoveries was the garderobe-just a crude hole in a cupboard (which appears to have been widened for the royal visitor)-with a 22-food drop down a stone shaft into the moat.


Adamson, George For 30 years, George Adamson, legendary lion-man of Africa and subject of the film Born Free, used a spectacular "privy at his camp at Kora Game Reserve in northern Kenya, right on the equator. It was used also by royalty both British and American (i.e. film stars), and by Nick Gray and Mike Shrimpton, who described it to me.

   This two-seater, enclosed by matting walls, was natural, comfortable, and appropriate. The seats were upturned elephants' jaws on wooden frames, suspended above a trench. Paper was contained in a can to cheat the ants. A trowel was at hand to cover the deposit with sand before the whole contraption was moved along the ditch, ready for the next occupants).

Adam Hart-Davis

Thunder,Flush and Thomas Crapper: An Encyclopedia




"....It is one of those happily juvenile accidents of history that while the greatest seller of water closets in Britain was one Thomas Crapper, the earth closet salesman at 36 Dey Street was named Asa Butts. Ah, where would the world be without its Butts and Crappers? Graced with far fewer restrooms, to be sure. Yet Butts had more to bring to the job than a melodious name; he as also knows as the publisher of the progressive magazine Truth Seeker. To put this in modern terms: imagine finding the publisher of the nation working the floor of an American Standard showroom.

   What would draw wild-eyed reformers to such a prosaic thing as selling commodes? For one thing, sewage was still-I use this phrase advisedly-up for grabs. Today we naturally equate toilets with running water; Victorians did not. Impractical early water closets had been tried out in Britain, including a "slop system' with a tipper tank collecting sink and rainwater until it filled up enough to tip down and flush out the entire house with a powerful cleansing roar. This seemed like a keen idea until you had rainy weather-not unknown in Britain-whereupon the tank filled up and changed empty constantly, scaring the bejesus out of children as all the house's toilets roared in monstrous unison in the dead of night."

Paul Collins

The Trouble with Tom: The Strange Afterlife and Times of Thomas Paine



MOULE, REVD Henry Henry Mouloe, champion of the earth-closet, was born in Melksham, Wilshire, on 27 January 1801, the sixth son of a solicitor. he went to Cambridge, and in 1829 became vicar of Fordington in Dorset, where he remained for the rest of his life.

   For some years he was chaplain to the troops in Dorchester Barracks, and from the royalties of his 1845 book Barrack Sermons, he built a church at West Fordington.

   In 1861 he produced a 20-page pamphlet entitled National health and wealth, instead of the disease, nuisance, expense, and waste, caused by cess-pools and water-drainage.' The cess-pool and privy vault are simply an unnatural abomination', he thundered, 'the water-closet....has only increased those evils' and he went on to describe his own amazing discovery.

First success: In the summer of 1859 he decided his cesspool was intolerable, and a nuisance to his neighbor; so he filled it in, and instructed all his family to use buckets. At first he buried the sewage in trenches in the garden, one foot deep, but he discovered by accident that in three or four weeks' not a trace of this matter could be discovered'. So he put up a shed, sifted the dry earth beneath it, and mixed the contents of the bucket with this dry earth every morning. 'The whole operation does not take a boy more than a quarter of an hour. And within ten minutes after its completion neither the eye nor nose can perceive anything offensive.

   Then he discovered taht he could recycle the earth, and use the same batch several times and he began to grow lyrical. "Water is only a vehicle for removing it out of sight and off the premises. It neither absorbs nor effectively deodorizes....the dried surface earth, both for absorption and for deodorizing offensive matters.' And, he said, he no longer threw away valuable manure, but obtained a 'luxuriant growth of vegetables in my garden'.

   He backed up this last point with a scientific experiment, persuading a farmer to fertilize one half of a field with earth used five times in his closet, and the other with an equal weight of superphosphate. Swedes were planted in both halves, and those nurtured with earth manure grew one third bigger than those given only superphosphate....."

-Adam-hart Davis

Thunder, Flush and Thomas Crapper




"Sewerage is the sine qua non of urban life. London, the first megacity, might not have survived the 19th century had a medical researcher named John Snow not correctly theorized that recurring cholera epidemics were caused not, as was commonly believed, by the inescapable smell of raw sewage that plagued every corner of the city but by the bacteria leaking from countless overflowing cesspools into wells used for drinking water. London eventually replaced its army of shovel-toting cesspool muckers with a city-wide sewer system, which became known throughout the Western world as one of the marvels of the Industrial Age-though it was in reality not much more advanced than the system devised by the Romans more than 2,000 years earlier."

Nate Blakeslee Texas Monthly  Dec 2007



"Rev. Thomas Moule's Earth Closet featured a urine diverter and a hoper that dispensed earth and ashes after ever 'deposit' it competed with the water-flush toilet, for the mass market in 19th-century England. The water-flush toilet won out, perpetuating the "flush and forget" mentality that is so problematic today."

Carol Steinfeld

Liquid Gold: The Lore and Logic of Using Urine to Grow Plants




   "It's conceivable that the urine produced by a city could fertilize all the food it requires, according to Dr. Jan-Olof Drangert, a professor an Linkopin University in Sweden. Cities can serve as nutrient batteries that power the farms that surround them, as has been done throughout history, he says (Perceptions, Urine Blindness and Urban Agriculture, 1997)



   "Meanwhile decades of neglect have left an estimated $500 billion in needed repairs and upgrades to wastewater pipes and treatment plants nationwide. Illnesses related to overflows are becoming increasingly common. If sewerage is the cornerstone of civilization, then ours is a civilization in decline."



"There is no doubt about it, the basic satisfaction in farming is manure, that always suggests that life can be cyclic and chemically perfect and aromatic and continuous."

-E. B. White


"Cow dung and horse dung, as muck goes, are relatively agreeable. You can even become nostalgic about them. They smell of fermented grain, and on the far side of their smell there is hay and grass."

-John Berger


"Money is like manure."

-Sir Francis Bacon

Thornton Wilder

J. Paul Getty



"(Just before the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789, butchers) attributed the good health that they generally enjoyed to breathing in the odors given off by the blood, fat and entrails of the animals that they slaughtered. In 1832, workers at the appalling refuse dump were still convinced that the fumes given off by excrement and other waste matter were beneficial to their health....Peasant farmers persisted in keeping the indispensable dunghill just outside their doors. In Paris, the rag-and-bone men opposed the measures proposed by the city authorities. In 1832, they triggered off genuine riots against the decisions of the prefecture of police in its attempt to hasten the removal of mire and filth; they decided to use force in order to retain their rubbish heaps."

Alain Corbin

Le Miasme et Le Jonquille (Paris,1982


"All living beings from microbes to men produce excrement, which is the residue from their food and vital functions. Any accumulation of this residue soon begins to threaten their existence(.....).The higher animals and man would perish if they had to live among their own excreta."

A Calmette (Paris 1905)



"Man's dung, or excrement, hath very great virtues"



"Researchers at Oregon State University announced that they had studied the raw sewage of 10 U.S. cities and ranked them according to the recreational drug of choice in each town: cocaine, methamphetamine, Ecstasy, and so forth. The researchers would not give the names of the towns, but the Drug Enforcement Administration is reportedly interested in the technology, which essentially amounts to urine testing an entire city."



"A sewer is a tells all."

-Victor Hugo


"The earth…..feeds and breeds by a composture stolen from general excrement."


Timon of Athens



"It is clear that the flush toilet must be abolished as a threat to our entire civilization…..We must foster technologies for dealing with ‘wastes’ that makes detours in the natural cycle, not irreversible departures."

Abby Rockefeller


For one person, the typical five-gallon flush contaminates each year about 13,000 gallons of fresh water to remove a mere 165 gallons of body waste….


"There is no guano comparable in fertility to the delritus of a capital, and a large city is the strongest of stercovaries. To employ the town in manuring the plains would be certain success; for if the gold be dung, on the other hand our dung is gold.

What is done with this golden dung? It is swept into the gulf. We send at a great expense fleets of ships to collect at the Southern Pole the guano of petrels and penguins, and cast into the sea the incalculable element of wealth which we have under our hand. All the human and animal manure which the world loses, if returned to the land instead of being thrown into the sea, would suffice to nourish the world."

Victor Hugo


"Science knows now that the most fertilizing and effective manure is the human manure….Do you know what these piles of ordure are, those carts of mud carried off at night from the streets, the frightful barrels of the night man, and the fetid streams of subterranean mud which the pavement conceals from you? All this is a flowering field, it is green grass, it is the mint and thyme and sage, it is game, it is cattle, it is the satisfied lowing of heavy kine, it is the perfumed hay, it is golden wheat, it is bread on your table, it is warm blood in your veins."

Victor Hugo (1862)

Les Miserables


"We are way off balance now in that organic materials, both of plant and of animal origin, are consumed or disposed of in urban or industrial centers and not returned for the enrichment of the land from which they have been derived. The enormous and almost blind demands of the markets in great cities, sucking vast quantities and varieties of products from faraway land areas, may well be largely responsible for a process of land exhaustion that cannot continue indefinitely. One cannot help wondering whether in Russia the industrial net is not spreading so quickly as to stifle the earth."

Fairfield Osborn
Our Plundered Planet


"Mexico City, though, has no natural oceanic disposal for its garbage or human excrement. As of this writing its civic engineers are beleaguered with what to do with 350,000 tons of human feces daily. This is a mega problem of no mean proportions, which is being resolved so far by mechanically piling the feces in open, standing mountains on the peripheries of the metropolis. The domino like implications of this should be made clear, since they give future-negative shape to the whole overpopulation picture.

   The sale of feces-moving equipment, of course, allow for profits to be taken by those who manufacture it. But the open or even subterranean storage of such amounts of feces automatically ensures that its noxious residues will flow into the area's water-table systems. When this happens, if it has not happened already, Mexico City will have to import all its water-which will in turn make profits for water mongers but will in no way resolve the original feces problem.

   Open storage of feces in such amounts leads to diseases. As it decomposes its particles become airborne. It is already medically proven that one can get hepatitis merely by breathing the air in Mexico City on hot, humid days, which will contribute to a decline in tourism. The Mexican capital is verging on ecological extinction. Mass exodus from Mexico City will increase as the city's  population heads for the 30 million mark by 2008..."

Ingo Swann

Your Nostradamus Factor


   "On a recent trip to Sydney Australia, I discovered the true meaning of civilization-public toilets, lots of them, clean, neat, safe, free of graffiti, working flushes and faucets, and well-stocked with toilet paper, along with paper towels or hand dryers. Most are free (some are automatic pay toilets) and available 24 hours. One free 24-hour toilet under the Darling Harbor Bridge appeared to have just been remodeled with colorful tiles.

   And these facilities are easy to find. Street signs point to their locations and indicate if they are accessible to people in wheelchairs or have changing tables for babies. In 10 days of walking all over the city, I found not one public toilet that harbored drug users, vagrants, or people seeking sex. Then it was back to reality-New York City, where the decades-long promise of decent public toilets has thus far proved more fragile than toilet tissue. I've yet to see any of the contracted-for 20 public toilets that Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg promised to have open by this year (installation is scheduled to begin this summer). And 20 scattered through the five boroughs is hardly sufficient for a city of 8.2 million people that gets 40 million tourists a year.

   In case you're thinking this is not a health issue, think again. The stench of urine on subway platforms, city streets and building alcoves, the occasional deposit of human waste, and the desperation experienced by those in dire need of a safe, clean and open facility add up to a public health problem in my book>"

Article PERSONAL HEALTH  "A Simple Need, All Too Often Unmet" The New York Times, Tuesday, May 1, 2007 by Jane E. Brody


   "The sole American to contribute to the literature was Captain John Bourke of the United States Army. After Bourke fought in the Civil War, he traveled west to fight the Apaches and, generally speaking, keep any and all natives in line. Bourke got hooked on waste after he witnessed a Zuni urine dance in which a great olla of urine provided a "strange and abominable refreshment." He must have spent countless solitary hours thereafter in the fort library perusing the secret ingredients of ancient sterility cures and primitive love philters. After a decade of scholarship; he emerged with the most thorough study of excrement ever published in this country, the Scatalogic Rites of All Nations. Bourke described the fecal practices of the Hualapai and the Navajo, the Tartars and the Fiji Islanders, the Egyptians and the Hottentots, the Samoans and the Bongos of the upper Nile. His sources ranged from Martin Luther to Montaigne, Moses, Martial, Marco Polo, Ezekiel, Erasmus, and Shakespeare. Upon publication of his work in 1891, Bourke's editors stamped the frontispiece "Not for General Perusal."

-Frederick Kaufman  article Wasteland in Harpers Magazine Feb 2008


"As it turns out, the transformation of human waste into articles of commerce dates back to ancient Egypt. In the New World, Herman Cortes reported that human excrement was collected in Aztec sludge rafts, then sold in the marketplace of Tenochtitlan. A seventeenth-century physician named Rosinus Lentilius recounted that the Chinese and Javanese exchanged human waste for tobacco and nuts.

   Contrary to its name, waste can be useful. Human tyrd has polished gold, bleached wool, and helped produce salt and cheese. Innumerable tradesmen have used it to tan leather, adulterate opium, eradicate dandruff, ink tattoos, promote hair growth, and brush their teeth. Much to the delight of professional bakers, the General Homeopathic Journal, in 1886 reported that "chemists have evidently no difficulty in demonstrating that water impregnated with 'extract of water-closet,' has the peculiar property of causing dough to rise particularly fine."

-Frederick Kaufman    ibid


"The unsung hero of human history was of course, the Brain of Drains, the Hub of tubs, the Power of Showers, the Brewer of Sewers....the humble plumber"

-W. Hodding Carter

Flushed: How the Plumber Saved Civilization



   "Solving sanitation is also a noble pursuit, if the amount of royals who are interested in it is an indication. Prince Charles of the House of Windsor cleans his wastewater naturally by sending it slowly through a pond filled with reeds. King Bhumibol of Thailand holds a patent on a wastewater aerator, making him the only patent-holding monarch in the world. Prince Willem-Alexander of Orange, heir to the Dutch throne, leads the UN's sanitation advisory body. It takes a brave academic to address it, but the ones who do rise to the occasion producing papers like "My Baby Doesn't Smell as Bad as Yours. The plasticity of Disgust," by the psychologists Trevor Case, Betty Repacholi, and Richard Stevenson; or "The Scatological Rites of Burglars" by Albert R. Friedman, a noted professor of medieval literature, who must have been tickled to learn that this nasty habit of housebreakers is probably an ancient rite, and was alluded to in seventeenth-century German literature."

-Rose George

The Big Necessity: The Unmentionable World of Human Waste and why it matters


   "Anna Edey has been using urine to nourish plants for more than 30 years. She is perhaps best known for her "biointensive" greenhouse that brimmed with life in nearly every square inch. Salad mix and other greens grew in trays, and chickens and rabbits in cages along the walls ate scraps and helped warm the greenhouse. She chronicled her experiences, experiments, and revelations in her inspirational book, Solvia......"Most intriguing of all was the kinship and communication I sensed with these plants....The waste molecules from my body were being absorbed as nutrients by the living plants. I felt reincarnated while I was still alive. This liquid soon inspired new names: Peace-on-Earth. Urine-charge. You're-in-harmony. Aqua Vitae.

   "Anna uses only diluted urine to fertilize the abundant fruits and vegetables she grows. At one point, she grew 200 full-grown onions in one square yard, fertilizing only with urine. (She emphasizes that she did not use it to grow vegetables for sale, because public perception of this practice would not allow it.) Anna also uses wood ash, which is alkaline, to balance the pH of urine, which is slightly acidic, and to supply extra potassium to plants....

from Liquid Gold: The Lore and Logic of Using Urine to Grow Plants  by Carol Steinfeld   & Malcolm Wells, illustrator

"Everybody Poops 410 Pounds a Year"


  "In ages past, the universe was hallowed for man, and everything was invested with life: animals, plants, stones, time and space, tools and weapons. Every level of being and every manner of decay had a sacral significance. Cities and diseases were also holy, as was the coccyx bone, the os sacrum. Such beliefs existed in antiquity, continued through medieval times, and survived in traces until the modern age. Not even excrement was excluded from such a worldview-the feces, too, were venerated and imbued with life. In Rome, the Cloaca Maxima was a sacred place consecrated to the goddess Venus Cloacina, patroness of nightly bowel movements, toilets, and sewers.

   In the Healing Arts of antiquity and the Middle Ages, human and animal excrement was a precious medicine. In the actual prescriptions, however, its use was hidden behind euphemisms such as "Occidental Sulphur" and "Cibet." The physician and natural philosopher Paracelsus called it carbon humanum, and once made a number of enemies when he presented a bowl full of excrement to some colleagues, telling them: "If you do not want to familiarize yourselves with the secrets of putrefactive fermentation, you are not worthy of being called physicians."

Excrement was utilized in medicine in every possible form: still steaming or cooled down, liquid or solid, as powder, tincture, and ointment. A French chemist even created a liqueur from feces and brandy which he called Eau de Mille Fleurs. A new branch of science began to emerge: scatology. It blended magical and medicinal concepts regarding the healing power of excrement, and united these feculent notions together in an applied mythology. In Frankfurt, at the end of the 17th century, the scholar Christian Franz Paullini collected all the prescriptions he could find relating to these practices. In the year 1696 his New and Improved Healing Filth-Apothecary was published- a grimoire of the disreputable black art of applied scatology, filled with countless hints for how to employ excrement as medicine. In this book, feces appeared to be an almost universal cure for any ailment, possessed of immeasurable healing powers and magical attributes. "And it is indeed wonderful that a matter which is able to cause irresistible disgust by its look and smell may not only be considered as a curio and a thing of scientific study, but also as a unique treasure to maintain health." (Samuel Augustus Flemming ,quoted in Bourke's Scatalogic Rites of All Nations.)

-Kadmon   artist and researcher living in Vienna, Austria. He releases musical works under the name Allerseeten


"I call petroleum the devil's excrement. it brings trouble....Look at this locure-waste, corruption, consumption, our public services falling apart. And debt, debt we shall have for years."

-Juan Pablo Perez Alfonso (a founder of OPEC)


See article Wired Magazine July 2010 "Pissing Match: James Krug dreamed his urinal would save the world. Then a plumber became his worst nightmare" by Joshua Davis


Book: "The Big Necessity: The Unmentionable World of Human Waste and Why It Matters" by Rose George*

Read: "The Humanure Handbook by Joseph Jenkins

Book: "Thunder,Flush and Thomas crapper: An Encyclopedia" by Adam Hart-Davis

Book: "Space  Traveller's handbook: Every man's comprehensive manual to space flight "  by Michael Freeman

Book: "The Compleat Loo: A Lavatorial Miscellany" by Roger Kilroy

Book: "The Conquest of Water" by Jean-Pierre Goubert

Book: "The Not So Little Book Of Dung" by Caroline Holmes

Book: "The Dirt on Clean: An Unsanitized History" by Katherine Ashenburg

Book: "Flushed: How the Plumber Saved civilization" by W. Hodding Carter

Book: "Toilets of the World" by Morma E. Gregory & Sian James

© 2011



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