At your last festival, carnival, or outdoor event, you may have found yourself searching for a “pot of gold” at the end of the rainbow: the porta potty. 

As you sat pondering your thoughts, did you ever stop to wonder: where did porta potties come from? 

Read on to learn all about the origin of humankind’s most convenient commode invention. 

Humble Beginnings

Before indoor plumbing hit the scene in the 20th century, nearly everyone used some form of outdoor facility. Outhouses were about the size of a modern porta potty, but they stored waste in pits buried in the earth. When the holding pit became full, it would be buried, and the outhouse was moved to a new location. 

The only “portable” toilets at the time were chamber pots. These were large pots made of ceramic or metal material. They were usually kept under the bed in the bedroom or “chamber.” 

Chamber pots were most often used at night when it was too cold or too dark to walk to the outhouse. In the morning, people would have to empty them. If a household had servants, it was usually the servants’ duty to empty the chamber pots.  

The Necessities of War

Even though indoor plumbing was common by the 1920s, portable toilets as we know and love them didn’t come around until World War II. Navy men working on ships were spending a lot of time coming to and from the docks to use the restrooms. 

The first porta potty was of rather crude construction, made from wood and steel. They served their purpose of saving time, but they were extremely heavy and hard to clean. As you might imagine, the wood absorbed a horrible smell very quickly. 

Groovy Upgrades

Porta potties on Navy ships were functional but certainly not very popular. By the 1970s, plastics and other polymers were becoming widely manufactured. 

Harvey Heather is said to have created the first fiberglass portable toilet unit in the late 1970s. Heather designed it from one solid piece of fiberglass. He dubbed this invention the “Strongbox.” 

Strongboxes were much lighter and easier to clean than the portable toilets of WWII, but they still had their issues. The thick, dark fiberglass material blocked out nearly all light inside the unit, and odors were still a major concern. 

Another man, George Harding, supposedly patented the modern polyethylene porta potty in the 1960s. He went on to co-found the PolyJohn Corporation, the inspiration behind the name “Port-o-John.” In the 1980s, PolyJohn would produce the first luxury restroom trailers

Brilliant Blue Goo

Sometime in the 1970s, everybody’s favorite blue biocide liquid was invented. The first deodorizing liquid contained formaldehyde, which has now been replaced with environmentally-friendly alternatives.

This substance made portable toilets much cleaner and safer to use. The liquid biocide kills bacteria, which prevents odors, and the blue dye hides waste that would otherwise be visible to occupants. Thank goodness. 

Present-Day Porta Potties

Porta potties earned their name from their portable nature. In modern times, you’ll find porta potties nearly anywhere. They are the standard portable bathroom rental option for carnivals, festivals, construction sites, and outdoor weddings. 

Today, there are more types of porta potties than ever before. You can rent standard size, deluxe size, handicapped-accessible, and luxury units. Since their humble beginnings as little chamber pots, portable toilets have certainly come a long way. 

What a Time to Be Alive!

The history of porta potties is truly fascinating. Next time you find yourself on the plastic throne, remember the porta potty’s humble origins. We can be grateful that we no longer have to empty our chamber pots!

Are you looking for quality, clean, and comfortable porta potties for your next event or project? Renting a porta potty is easy with FusionSite! Contact us today or give us a call at (615) 783-0700.