Did you know Google has a search engine where you can look up patents? It's called "Google Patents," and is a place where you can, according to the site, "search and read the full text of patents from around the world."
Of course, I had to try it out. What did I search for? Well, like any sophisticated Gen Xer, I searched for the toilet paper patent, naturally. Here's what I found. It's patent number US465588A, and was granted to Seth Wheeler of Albany, New York, on December 22, 1891. While others had been playing around with perforated paper rolls a few years earlier than Wheeler, his patent seems to be the first related to paper rolls that were specifically meant for toilet use. Here's an excerpt from Wheeler's patent application:
My invention consists of a roll of connected sheets of paper for toilet use, said roll having incisions at intervals extending from the side of the web toward the center, but not meeting, and terminating in an angular out, whereby the slight connection left may be separated without injury to the connected sheets. A difficulty with rolls of this character as heretofore manufactured has been due to the width of the bond uniting the sheets, which it has been necessary to make of considerable strength to Withstand the tension of winding, but which it is desirable should be as trail as may be when the roll is unwound, otherwise the sheets do not separate with certainty and many of them are torn. Attempts have been made to remedy this by incisions in the bond that should not weaken it longitudinally; but such incisions avail little unless the sheets are pulled in a certain direction, a condition the user seldom considers or is aware of. In my improved roll I overcome this wholly by reducing the bond and terminating the lateral incisions in an angular cut, removing all liability of injury to the sheets in separating them. With this construction, one sheet may be separated from the next without liability of the incisions turning in a direction parallel with the web and tearing off a considerable part of the contiguous sheet. At the same time, I wind rolls containing any desired number of sheets.
Thanks, Seth, for improving the roll, and removing all liability of injury to the sheets when separating them. Also, thanks for the illustration, which should answer any questions about which way the roll should face.