You may have heard a tale or two about Thomas Crapper, the Victorian-era inventor and sanitary engineer, but there’s a good chance those stories are untrue. So, in honor of Thomas Crapper Day on January 27 (which this year marks the 109th anniversary of his death), we want to set the record straight. Here are five facts about one of the world’s best-known but least-understood plumbers.
The biggest myth about English plumber Thomas Crapper is that he invented the first flush toilet. This would make for an amusing anecdote—"Crapper invented the crapper"—but the fact of the matter is that Crapper wasn’t even alive when the first flush toilet came to be. That dubious honor goes to Sir John Harington (a distant ancestor of Game of Thrones star Kit Harington), who built the toilet in 1596 for his godmother, Queen Elizabeth I. (She reportedly complained it was too loud). According to Snopes, many of the myths surrounding Crapper’s accomplishments stem from the 1969 book Flushed with Pride: The Story of Thomas Crapper, which “has often been dismissed as a complete fabrication.”
Unless you’re a plumber, you’ve probably never stopped to appreciate the inner workings of a toilet. That little floating valve inside some toilets that prevents tank overflow is called a ballcock, and Crapper did invent that. Altogether, he held nine patents for his inventions, including designs for water closets (early flush toilets), manhole covers, pipe joints, and drain improvements.
Crapper’s plumbing company was commissioned to do plumbing projects for some pretty high-profile clients, including the people over at Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, and the Sandringham Estate. Sadly, any tales that he was knighted by the Queen are untrue.
This is perhaps Crapper’s greatest claim to fame. At a time when it was considered improper to publicly acknowledge bodily functions, Crapper’s Marlboro Works showroom boldly placed functioning toilets on display—and customers could even try them out before buying them. According to Snopes, an article in Plumbing and Mechanical Magazine argued that Crapper “should best be remembered as a merchant of plumbing products, a terrific salesman, and advertising genius.”
If you head to Westminster Abbey and look down, you might see a manhole sporting Crapper’s name This is because he re-plumbed the building. According to the Londonist, some original Crapper toilets can also be found around the city—complete with chain-pulls—and a plaque commemorating Crapper’s achievements can be seen outside his former home in the London Borough of Bromley.
For those of us who prefer our blood sugar to remain relatively stable, doughnuts are an occasional treat—nutritionally bankrupt but delicious fried dough laced with flavors from chocolate to bacon. You might even choose to indulge only in honor of National Doughnut Day, which is observed each year on the first Friday of June.
Curiously, a second National Doughnut Day pops up just five months later, on November 5. We don't have two Thanksgivings, two Halloweens, or even two National Hot Dog Days. So why do doughnuts get to claim two dates?
It helps to know how the June date originated: During World War I, volunteers who wanted to support troops were charged with preparing food to deliver to soldiers on the front lines in France. The Salvation Army dispatched over 250 women there, who found that battle-tested helmets were perfect for frying up to seven doughnuts at a time.
In 1938, the Salvation Army decided to honor these proclaimed "doughnut lassies" by recognizing an annual pastry holiday that could also raise awareness (and money) for their charitable efforts. National Doughnut Day was born.
Its calendar doppelgänger is harder to trace. According to food holiday historian John Bryan Hopkins, who cataloged several fringe holidays for his site Foodimentary beginning in 2006, mentions of the November Doughnut Day could be found as early as the 1930s in copies of Ladies' Home Journal. Hopkins speculated that the November 5 date is close enough to Veterans Day on November 11 that a retail outlet likely introduced the date to acknowledge their service.
While not all doughnut chains (or connoisseurs) celebrate both dates, brands like Dunkin' and Krispy Kreme have been known to give doughnuts away on both dates. But considering June's date has a proven—and noble—lineage, many people consider it the more official of the two holidays.
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Based on the classic dystopian graphic novel series by Alan Moore and David Lloyd, James McTeigue's V for Vendetta starred Hugo Weaving as V, a Guy Fawkes mask-wearing anarchist intent on destroying British Parliament in a totalitarian England of the future. Along the way he saves Evey, played by Natalie Portman, and successfully draws her into his revolutionary plans.
“Our attitude toward Margaret Thatcher’s ultra-conservative government was one of the driving forces behind the fascist British police state we created in Vendetta,” illustrator David Lloyd explained of his and Moore’s original story for V for Vendetta, which was written in the early 1980s. “The destruction of this system was V’s primary reason for existence.”
Hilary Henkin (Road House, Romeo is Bleeding) wrote an early adaptation of the graphic novel, which was singled out as one of Hollywood's best unproduced scripts in a 1993 Los Angeles Times article. Her script was described as a “wild, over-the-top saga” and a cross between Les Misérables and A Clockwork Orange. In 1998, Henkin was nominated for an Oscar for co-writing Wag the Dog (1997).
Lana and Lilly Wachowski acquired the rights to V for Vendetta in the mid-1990s, then promptly wrote their own screenplay. After directing the three Matrix films, the Wachowskis weren’t interested in returning to directing right away, but they did make alterations to their V for Vendetta script, including moving the story forward in time and making Evey older.
James McTeigue was first assistant director on the Matrix movies, as well as on Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002), and was picked by the Wachowskis to take charge. "A lot of the filmmaking process is about trust, and at the point that [Lana and Lilly] said, 'We want you to direct it,' they were about trusting me to go off and give it the vision it needed to be directed with, so they kind of left me alone," McTeigue said. "They were there if I needed them, and sometimes I’d go, 'Hey, what do you think about this?' and they’d put their two cents worth in, and I could either take it on board or leave it at the door."
Alan Moore had read the screenplay for V for Vendetta and considered it “rubbish.” Moore believed DC Comics and the film industry had knowingly stolen from him. Conversely, David Lloyd praised the movie moments after he had seen it for the first time, declaring it a “fantastic representation” of the work they did, according to McTeigue.
James Purefoy (A Knight’s Tale, Resident Evil) was originally cast as V, but reportedly turned out to be not a “dynamic enough presence” for the filmmakers. Purefoy denied rumors that his departure from the film had anything to do with him being uncomfortable wearing a mask all the time and swore that “it was genuine creative differences.” He was replaced by Hugo Weaving (The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, The Matrix), who broke the ice with Natalie Portman over a “very nice Thai meal.”
McTeigue studied Gillo Pontecorvo's The Battle of Algiers (1966), about Algerian revolution against the French. Portman watched the documentary The Weather Underground (2002), about the late 1960s/1970s American radicals, and read the autobiography of former Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin, who was shaped by his imprisonment by Soviets, as well as Antonia Fraser’s Faith and Treason, a book on the Gunpowder Plot of 1605.
Producer Joel Silver claimed moving most of V for Vendetta's production to Germany was economically advantageous for the studio. V’s “Shadow Gallery” was filmed at Babelsberg Studio in the Berlin suburb of Potsdam, the site of Nosferatu (1922) and Metropolis (1927). The late John Hurt, who played High Chancellor Adam Sutler, found it “strange” to play an Adolf Hitler-type character in the middle of Berlin—sometimes in locations where Hitler himself gave speeches.
It took nine months of negotiating with 14 government departments for the filmmakers to gain permission to film on Whitehall, London's famous thoroughfare that runs from Trafalgar Square to the Parliament Buildings. The film shot three nights in a row between midnight and 5 a.m.
McTeigue utilized three cameras for the scene. "It was a one-shot deal, and that was the most stressful thing about the experience," Portman said. She also claimed that her shaved head made her more recognizable to onlookers.
Oscar-nominated cinematographer Adrian Biddle (The Princess Bride, Thelma and Louise) passed away on December 7, 2005, at the age of 53, following a heart attack. V for Vendetta, which was released in the U.S. on March 17, 2006, was his last movie.
Four professional domino assemblers prepared the 22,000 dominoes in the Netherlands before the two-day shoot.
The original plan for V for Vendetta was to release the film on November 5th, for Guy Fawkes Day, and the early trailers said to “remember, remember the 5th of November.” But then the film got delayed in post-production and came out on St. Patrick’s Day weekend. V for Vendetta landed the top spot at the box office during its opening weekend, where it earned more than $25.6 million in its first few days alone.
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