Ah, we’ve stooped to this. The talk always turns to potty humor, doesn’t it?
As odd as it sounds, we here at Archives & Special Collections have toilet paper in one of our archival collections. That’s right — ARCHIVAL toilet paper. In a business collection, if you can believe it. Let me explain…
The Dexter Corporation began in 1767 as a small, family-operated mill on land in Windsor Locks, Connecticut. Originally a saw and grist mill, the business added a paper mill and began marketing specialty papers in the mid-nineteenth century. In its third generation of family ownership, under the direction of Charles Haskell Dexter, the company established itself as the C. H. Dexter Co. and developed products for a well-defined market of papers and tissues. Their Star Mills Medicated Manila Tissue was the first commercially-manufactured tissue. Together with his son, Edwin Dexter, and his son-in-law, H. R. Coffin, C.H. Dexter moved the company into the twentieth century as C. H. Dexter and Sons, Co. In 1914 the company was incorporated and was headed by A. D. Coffin, the son of H. R. Coffin.
The years of the depression in the 1930s saw the company’s further evolution with the development of the Long Fiber Papers, and through mergers and divestments. In addition to its specialty tissues and paper covers, the company began producing tea bags and meat casings.
By the mid-twentieth century, having established the quality of its specialized papers, C. H. Dexter and Sons, Inc., began production of industrial finishes and laminates. The company renamed itself the Dexter Corporation in 1966 to reflect its expansion and development.
In 1999-2000, when a hostile takeover threatened to displace over 200 years of operations, the Dexter Corporation dismantled, leaving only a trail of toilet paper in its wake (not really. I was kidding about that).
Shown here is a cardboard cover for a package of toilet tissue, circa 1896. For more information about the C.H. Dexter Company, and to see the cover and the toilet paper up close and personal, look at the finding aid at http://doddcenter.uconn.edu/findaids/Dexter/MSS20000128.html and come view it in the reading room at the Dodd Research Center. I’ll warn you, though — toilet paper from 1896 is NOT as soft as a baby’s bottom. Not by a long shot.
Laura Smith, Curator for Business, Railroad and Labor Collections