History and Story Behind Inventions: Toothbrush

About the story behind the invention of the toothbrush, history and biography of inventor William Addis.

INVENTION: Toothbrush

INVENTOR: William Addis, G.B.

YEAR: About 1770

HOW INVENTED: Incarcerated in a cell of England's Newgate Prison for provoking a riot, Addis had little to do but eat, sleep, think. He thought a good deal about some new means of making a living once his sentence was served. One morning, after washing his face, he began to clean his teeth. He cleaned his teeth as most people did in his time--he rubbed a rag against them. Going back to ancient times, this had been the accepted practice. Aristotle had advised Alexander the Great to use a rag on his teeth. George Washington's dentist had suggested a rag with some chalk on it. Now, using the same method, the imprisoned Addis considered it ineffective. By the following day, he had an idea. He saved a small bone from the meat he'd been served. He bored tiny holes in the bone, then acquired some hard bristles through his prison guard, cut them down, tied them into tufts, put glue on the ends, and wedged them into the holes in the bone. Civilization had its 1st toothbrush.

When he was released from prison, Addis went into the toothbrush-manufacturing business. His success was instantaneous.

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