Wall Tank flush toilet (C) D FriedmanAntique & Historic Toilets
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Antique & historic toilets:

This article describes early flush toilets such as the high-cistern flush toilet shown in our page top photo: this toilet is installed in the Samuel Morse home in Poughkeepsie, New York.

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Early & Antique Flush Toilets: high wall-mounted cisterns or flush tanks

Elastic water closet Thomas Crapper (C) DJFChamber pots (dating from Roman times and Garderobes (5th to 15th century toilets that simply dumped waste to the outdoors) and privies and outhouses, toilet designs that date to the 1500s or earlier are omitted from this review of modern toilets.

See OUTHOUSES & LATRINES for examples of privies and outhouses, toilet designs that date to the 1500s or earlier

By the 1880's, in London Thomas Crapper & Co's sanitary specialties included the elastic valve water closet illustrated at left, and the toilet cistern "water waste preventer" siphon toilet flush assembly design illustrated in the article above.

The elastic valve closet advertisement at left (photo from a bathroom wallpaper reproduction) does not show the cistern or water reservoir tank.

By 1890 the elastic valve closet had been sophisticated and simplified in appearance to appear with a toilet tank or cistern mounted still higher on the building wall as we illustrate in our historic photograph (below left).

Mounting the cistern high on the wall gave additional water pressure that helped flush the toilet bowl clean.

Elastic Valve Toilet by Mike at  Elastic Valve Toilet by Mike at

Above: photos of this J.A. Vogel flush toilet, provided by Mike, an reader and posted originally at TOILET TYPES, CONTROLS, PARTS, look remarkably like the pre-1900 "Elastic Valve Toilet" described in our sketch at the start of this article.

Here is more description from Mike at Readers who know more about this toilet are welcome to CONTACT us or to contact Mike

I cannot find any name brand or digits other than the knob/valve has Rockford on it. The and here in central Texas found it in a barn that was said to be near 125 years old. It was stored in the barn.

He had just bought the place. With the porcelain being just on top and inside, nothing ornate outside, I assumed it went into something similar to the hall tree wash basin.

Hopefully not in a hall but maybe a bathroom or closet, since it only rinses when seat it's pressed, did it run water while using it or maybe had a solid lid that once you done your business, close lid and press to flush?

Moderator comment:

Flush while sitting antique toilet (C) MikeYour toilet or one quite similar is described in Vogel, Joseph A. "Flushing apparatus for water-closets." U.S. Patent 801,754, issued October 10, 1905. As you later noted, JA Vogel was a U.S. company in Wilmington, Delaware.

This is how we think this toilet worked: sitting on the wooden toilet seat (missing except for a wood fragment on the left side of the bracket in the first photo) bolted to the cast-iron half-round bracket lifted a cam that operated the flush valve that caused water to flush the toilet bowl during or after use.

Vogel's patent descriptions explain how the valve worked on these early flush toilets and also cited a frost-proof design for the toilet drain system.

Excerpting from Vogel's second patent disclosure - 1905.

In a flushing apparatus, the combination of a bowl, a tank, a valve-casing ommunicating withthe bowl and tank, a supply-pipe communicating with the valve-casing and provided with an inlet and drain aperatures, a rod extending through said pipe and casing and carrying the inlet and flushing valves, the latter controlling the flow of water between the suppply-pipe and the tank and between the tank and bowl, said rod being provided witha by-pass for the flow of entering water between the inlet to the pipe and the valve casing, a seat-lid, means operatd when the seat-lid is depressed to raise the rod to open the inlet valve and close the flush valve, and a spring within the valve-casing adapted to force the rod downward to open the flush valve and close the inlet valve and normally maintain said parts in such position. - Joseph A. Vogel

These antique toilet photos show a toilet made of cast iron or of enameled steel with the remains of a flush valve much like that shown in the Elastic Valve Closet sketch on this page.

Subsequent toilet bowl designs have included many experiments & methods to improve toilet bowl cleaning, removal of solid waste without clogging, and to reduce "marking" - fecal stains on the toilet bowl surface that otherwise require a toilet brush and frequent cleaning.

Joseph A. Vogel Toilet History

U.S. patents citing JA Vogel as Inventor or assigned by an inventor to Vogel give an early history of this toilet and its flush mechanism beginning in 1903.

Siphon flush valve toilet

Siphon valve toilet Crapper (C) DFAn alternative to the tank ball and flapper valve toilet flush mechanism used in the U.K. and in toilets in some other locales, toilet siphon flush valves are operated by a button that forces water up from the reservoir cistern (toilet tank) into the siphon that in turn sends water into the toilet bowl to complete the flush.

Siphon flush valve controls on toilets eliminate the problem of running toilets caused by leakage at the tank ball or flapper valve.

As you can see from our photo of an early toilet advertisement by Thomas Crapper & Cos. (from a wallpaper reproduction), the siphon flush valve is not a new idea, and has long been sold as a method of preventing water wastage and running toilets.

Depending on where you live, sources also refer to a toilet as a water closet, WC, or loo.

The list of synonyms for toilets is long and also includes crapper, can, head (probably the oldest term) and commode or as my dad called it, "pot" after the antecedent "chamber pot".

Wall Tank flush toilet (C) D FriedmanSee MARINE TOILETS where we discuss special problems confronting the operation of toilets on boats, ships and submarines.

Thomas Crapper & Co. (London) called their scary-looking toilet contraption an "Elastic Valve Closet" [Image]

Early flush toilets like the toilet shown in our photo (left, Locust Grove, - Samuel Morse Estate, Poughkeepsie, NY)

and like this 1890 model [Image] used a high wall-mounted reservoir tank, typically wooden, to provide adequate pressure and flow rate to clean and empty the toilet bowl.

The flush valve for the wooden wall-mounted reservoir tank for this toilet was operated by pulling a chain that operated the mechanism.

Pulling the chain means flushing the toilet.

Below we illustrate a more contemporary top-front-flush high-mounted cistern type toilet. This toilet is installed in the restroom of the Brew Moon cafe in Amberley, on highway 1 between Christchurch and Akaroa, New Zealand.

The Brew Moon is a micro-brewery producing their own excellent beers whose sampling will for at least some customers, makes working toilets an important convenience.

High cistern front flush toilet installed in Amberley New Zealand (C) Daniel Friedma - courtesy of the Brew Moon Cafe. Flush button on the upper front of the cistern on a toilet at Brew Moon, Amberley NZ (C) Daniel Friedman

At above right you can see the operation of the flush control mounted on the upper front center of the Brew Moon toilet's cistern.

Below we illustrate the cistern fill valve in operation and the flush control valve components of this toilet. The toilet includes a separate overflow drain from the top of the cistern (blue arrow, below right).

Flush button on the upper front of the cistern on a toilet at Brew Moon, Amberley NZ (C) Daniel Friedman Flush button on the upper front of the cistern on a toilet at Brew Moon, Amberley NZ (C) Daniel Friedman

More about the operation of drains and vents on toilets of this type can be read at LOW COST TOILETS

Reader Question: Desperately Seeking Norris Toilet Parts

Low profile toilet, possibly Norris Industries Brand (C) D Friedman &  L K We have two of these, installed in 1983. A photo of our Mexican Sand (or Moroccan Sand) one is attached as well as a picture of the black one from your web page. I have been assuming that these are Kohlers, but Kohler says no. There is no K number in the ceramic of the tank.

The only identifiers are the word Norris on one of the tank lids and the number 45. The manufacturing date, however, is quite clear.

The hardware store invoice identifies them only as 503, with no manufacturer.

Since the phrase "Or as our mom did in Boca Raton" was used in the description of the black toilet, I believe somebody at your end has had a distressingly close encounter with this model.

Ours flush very well, but require constant rebuilding of the flush mechanism to fill and/or stop filling reliably.

The fact that I have been using Kohler parts all along might account for these constant problems. Thank you, - L.K. 5/9/12

Reply: A Quick History of Norris Industries & Norris Toilets

The black toilet shown in our photo was installed in a New York home - and was produced by Kohler industries. It does not appear to be the same brand as yours, since the tank on the black toilet in our earlier photo is rectangular, not curved such as the toilet tank shown in your photo (above).

But your message indicates that you saw "Norris" stamped inside one of the toilet lids. Almost certainly that indicates that your toilets were made by Norris Industries.

Norris Toilets, as indicated by the brand you found in the toilet tank lid, were a 5.0 gallon flush toilet (or other volume), builder-grade, low profile toilet design installed often in the 1970's and as late as 1991. Often you can also see the toilet brand on the bowl or base, behind the toilet seat hinge.

Watch for cracks in the porcelain in these units. Also see Norris Thermador (NT) models. Norris toilets may be marked as N, NI, NT, Norris, Norris Industries, or Norris Thermador.

The Norris Toilet Industries factory was located in City of Industry, California where production under the Norris label stopped when the company was bought by Mansfield Industries in 1991.

Mansfield Plumbing Products has been in business since 1929 and continues to operate (as a subsidiary of CORONA, a Colombian multinational ) in Big Prairie Ohio with a second plant in Henderson Texas. You might be able to obtain Norris-compatible parts from

Mansfield Plumbing Products LLC 150 East First Street, Perrysville, OH, 44864 Phone: 1-877-850-3060 Fax: 1-800-984-7802 Website:

or go right to their parts supply contact information at

Vitreous China, Plastic Fittings and Parts. Phone: 1-877-850-3060 Fax: 1-419-938-6234

Other toilet part sources: we used to drive around in a pickup truck on "clean-up day" in our town, watching for people who were tossing out old toilets - collecting toilet lids for our renovation customers, as that's the part most often broken on porcelain toilets.

There are quite a few online vendors of toilet tank lids or other parts, including vendors selling color-matched parts if your toilet is other than a white model. Just ask for a brochure from the replacement toilet parts vendor and that will get you quite close to the original unit that you have.

The Corona Corporation was founded as Organizacion Corona in 1881 and is one of the oldest businesses in Colombia. The company, headquartered in Bogota, is a ceramics producer with operations in Colombia ( Cl. 99 #10 - 08, Bogotá, Colombia), Panama, Mexico, the U.S. and China. Corona has been owned by the Echavarria family since 1935.

British Toilets: Shires New Reverso Toilets - U.K. brands

Shires New Reverso UK toilet, Brinstone Farm Herefordshire UK (C) Daniel Friedman Shires New Reverso UK toilet, Brinstone Farm Herefordshire UK (C) Daniel Friedman

Above, the Shires New Reverso toilet, installed at Brinstone Farm, Herefordshire, U.K. This toilet was produced by Whieldon Sanitary Potteries. The cistern (toilet tank for yanks and Canadians) is probably newer than the toilet base of this Shires New Reverso.

The toilet pan (toilet base for yanks & Canadians) is ceramic. Whieldon Sanitary Potteries (previously Winkle & Wood Colonial Pottery) who produced the toilet pan were, in the 1930's, located in Mount Pleasant, Staffordshire, England near Stoke-on-Trent.

This Shires Reverso toilet model dates from [about] the 1950's, the pan or base possibly dating from the 1930's. Earlier installations of this Shires toilet placed the cistern higher on the wall and used a pull chain to flush the toilet.

The cistern for this Shires Reverso toilet is plastic.

Below we illustrate the brand marking for Shires New Reverso cisterns and toilet pans or bases.

Shires New Reverso toilet brand illustration, Herefordshire UK (C) Daniel Friedman

Shires Bathrooms, a british manufacturer of the Shires toilet / toilet cistern models included

Below: an image of the Whieldon Sanitary Potteries Ltd., Colonial Pottery factory in Staffordshire in the 1930's, excerpted from a larger image, original source: Whieldon Sanitary Potteries, once so large that the company had its own railway stop, was acquired by Doulton & Co., in 1937.

Doulton was bought by S. Pearson & Co. in 1971. Thomas Whieldon, was a British potter who is said to have been a mentor to Josiah Wedgwood.

Whieldon Sanitary Potteries, Mount Pleasant Staffordshire 1933, original source cited in detail in this article


Continue reading at CONTEMPORARY TOILET DESIGNS or select a topic from closely-related articles below, or see our complete INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES below.

Or see AGE of a BUILDING - visual and other clues determine building or building component age

Or see LOW COST TOILETS for a description of the McSkimming Toilet


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ANTIQUE FLUSH TOILETS at - online encyclopedia of building & environmental inspection, testing, diagnosis, repair, & problem prevention advice.


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