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Archive for September 24, 2017

FOOD HISTORY: The Accidental Invention Of Paper Towels

Scott Paper Towels
[1] The original paper towels were made by Scott for washroom dispensers (photo courtesy Scott).

[2] An early ad (photo courtesy Period Paper).

Early Paper Towels Ad
[3] It took years for housewives to realize the benefit of paper towels (photo courtesy Toilet Paper World).

Bounty Select A Size

[4] We can’t live [happily] without them: Bounty Select-A-Size paper towels (photo courtesy Procter & Gamble).


We have always been fussy about the quality of our paper products: facial tissue, paper napkins, paper towels and toilet tissue. We’d give up cappuccino if we could only afford either coffee or paper goods.

Our paper towels of choice are the best-absorbent Bounty Towels (introduced in 1965 by Procter & Gamble).

Since we’re frequently mopping up kitchen spills, we tried to reduce wasteful consumption, actually tearing the full sheets in half to wipe up small spills.

When Bounty introduced Select-A-Size (photo #4)—one sheet perforated in thirds for those very small spills—we were in heaven.

Recently, putting away the 15-pack we purchased, we thought to thank the inventor of paper towels. But who was that? And when was it?

Scott Paper Company was founded by brothers E. Irvin and Clarence Scott in Philadelphia, in 1879. They debuted Scott Brand Tissue, toilet tissue with 1,000 sheets per roll, at 10 cents per roll.

It was initially considered a medical item. Print ads were used to increase awareness and address embarrassment.

In 1907, Arthur Scott, son of E. Irvin Scott and then head of the company, had a big problem:

An entire railroad car full of paper, unloaded at his plant, had been rolled too thick for toilet tissue. Should he send the whole carload back?

He recalled hearing about teacher in the city school system who had developed a novel concept to help fight colds:

She gave students with runny noses a small piece of soft paper to use after washing their hands.

That way, the cloth roller towels in the washrooms would not become contaminated with germs.

The light bulb turned on: Scott ordered the thick paper perforated into small towel-size sheets and sold them as disposable paper towels—the kind you still pull out of metal dispensers in public washrooms (photo #1).

Named Sani-Towel, and sold the paper towels to hotels, restaurants, and railroad stations for use in their washrooms (photo #2).

The metal towel dispenser of paper towels vied with the roller towel, the earlier solution: a metal cabinet housing a continuous towel that people pulled down (to find a clean piece). That towel was washed and returned to the roller.

In 1931, Scott saw a use for Sani-Towels in kitchens, and introduced the world’s first “paper towels”—a sheet a perforated, soft paper, on a roll in sheets of 13” x 8” (source).

To housewives used to washing kitchen rags and other cleaning cloths, it was a non-event. They had a hard time grasping the concept of “Towels you don’t have to wash” (photo #3).Dishes still needed to be dried with towels.

It would take many years before paper towels replaced cloth towels for kitchen use, but they resulted in the creation of a large new grocery category (and where would be be without them?).

Today they are now the leading manufacturer of paper towels.

Paper towels are second only to toilet paper in the tissue paper category. The U.S. is the country with the highest consumption of paper towels and other tissue products, with approximately 53 pounds per capita per year.

That’s 50% higher than in Europe and nearly 500% higher than in Latin America (source: Wikipedia).




TIP OF THE DAY: Have An Oktoberfest Party

This story comes to us from, the website for fans of American craft beers.

Prior to the advent of electricity, brewing was of necessity relegated to specific times of the year: spring and fall. In order for brewing to take place, the environment needed to offer up the right temperatures for brewing and lagering—the step where beers are aged—often in caves in the era pre-electricity.

Fall, which brought both ample ingredients from the harvest and the right temperatures, was considered the best brewing season.

For several generations, we’ve had temperature-controlled brewing systems. Today’s brewers have on-demand ingredients from anywhere in the world. Overnight air freight can deliver the yeasts that allow brewers to create the recipes they want.

So why do we drink March beer—Märzen (MARE-zen, sometimes spelled Maerzen in English)—in the fall?

In 1553, Bavarian Duke Albrecht V decreed it illegal to brew beer in Bavaria between April 23rd and September 24th. These months are typically too warm for brewing without risking bacterial growth that spoils beer.

Thus, brewers ramped up production in March to have enough supply for the next five months. These March beers, Märzens, were brewed stronger and lagered so they would keep throughout the summer.

A Bavarian Märzen is copper-red in color with a full-bodied maltiness—a little spicy and dryish. It has what is described as a rich bread-crust-like malt flavor.

The term “Oktoberfest” did not have a connection to Märzen-style beer for another 300-plus years, 62 years after the first Oktoberfest.

The first Oktoberfest celebration began with the Royal Wedding of Crown Prince Ludwig, later to become King Ludwig I, to Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen on October 12, 1810. The citizens of Munich were invited to attend the festivities held on the fields in front of the city gates to celebrate the royal event.


Marzen Beer
[1] Märzen beers have reddish hues (photo courtesy Craft Beer).

Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest Beer

[2] Oktoberfest beer from Sierra Nevada.

According to legend, a brewer ran out of the then-traditional fall beer, the Dunkel—a group of malty, dark German lagers that range in colour from amber to dark reddish brown (Dunkel means dark).

Instead, he served a beer similar to Märzen.

The first named “Oktoberfest” beer is a Märzen-style beer that was brewed for the Munich Oktoberfest in 1872 (it seems to have taken a long while for marketing to take over).

The celebration became an annual festival in Munich, running from the third week in September through the second week in October*.


Oktoberfest/Märzen beer has become a very popular style for U.S. brewers to produce. If you’re a lover of malt, look at your local selection of American craft brews for examples. Just a few examples:

  • Anaheim Brewery | Oktoberfest Lager | Anaheim, California
  • Cape May Brewing | Oktoberfest | Cape May, New Jersey
  • Chuckanut Brewing | Old Fest | Bellingham, Washington
  • Due South Brewing | Oktoberfest | Boynton Beach, Florida
  • Enegren Brewing Co. | Oktoberfest | Moorpark, California
  • Lumberyard Brewing | Oktoberfest Marzen | Flagstaff, Arizona
  • Meadowlark Brewing | Festbier | Sidney, Montana
  • Pedal Haus | Oktoberfestbier | Tempe, Arizona
  • SanTan Brewing | Oktoberfest | Chandler, Arizona
  • War Horse Brewing | Rolling Storm | Geneva, New York
    Pull together as many selections as you like, and call the crew over for your own little Oktoberfest*. Also scan the shelves for Dunkels to compare.

    And if you have as good a time as we think you will, plan another tasting next month, with pumpkin beers and ales.

    How To Plan An Oktoberfest Party

    Oktoberfest Foods

    Oktoberfest Burger With Pork Schnitzel & Beer Cheese Sauce


    *The 2017 Oktoberfest in Munich runs from September 16th through October 10th.



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