The first public toilet

George Jennings created the public toilet which was first unveiled at the Great Exhibition in 1851. It was available for use at the cost of one penny, and this led to the popularization of the phrase “To spend a penny” as a euphemism for using the toilet in the United Kingdom.

During the exhibition, the public toilet received an impressive 827,280 visitors, all of whom paid one penny to access its amenities, including a clean seat, towel, comb, and shoe shine.

Despite plans to close down the toilets after the exhibition ended, Jennings convinced the organizers to keep them open. This decision proved to be wise, as the public toilet went on to generate an annual income of over £1,000. Jennings famously remarked that “the civilization of a people can be measured by their domestic and sanitary appliances,” while his critics argued that “visitors are not coming to the Exhibition merely to wash.”