An Ode to Porcelain

I do not think I have ever seen Justin quite so excited.

You see, Justin has been doing a lot of work on the Cross House. He is the Main Guy, and the one who has been lifting sagging parts of the house, demolishing non-original parts of the house (or rotted), building new sections of the house as required, and generally doing a bit-o-everything.

Yesterday he called me and sounded breathless with excitement. “Can I stop by?” he asked.

Ten minutes later he was at my door. But rather then step in, he wagged his finger for me to come out. “I want to show you something in my car.”

What, I wondered, is he so giddy about? A new puppy?

And there, strapped into the front seat….

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…was the upper tank to the very old American Standard toilet from the marble bath in the Cross House. All shiny and polished! Oh, does anybody know how to date a toilet? I know the toilet is old. But is it 1920s? Circa-1910? Or is it the original 1894 toilet? And did the inventor of the seat-belt ever envision such a scenario?



Inside the upper tank is a combination of new parts and old. Whoee! Parts for very old toilets can be notoriously hard to find, and even if you do find parts they are expensive. But the locally-owned hardware store had all the parts. For just $30.



The bowl, resting comfortably in the back seat. Soooooo clean!! Soooooo curvaceous!!



The bowl. Old, renewed metal components; new (thank God) sealer ring.


Well, I was agog! And I am thrilled we can reuse the old toilet as new toilets just do not look right in vintage bathrooms, even though they use vastly less water. So, I am choosing, yes, yes, aesthetics over ecological efficiency. Still, by restoring on old house rather than building a new LEED-certified home, I am using less of the Earth’s resources, and should get points for that!

Oh, I promised Justin the first pee.

I might even film the honor.

And post the video on this blog.


  1. Betsy on March 7, 2015 at 3:54 pm

    And did the inventor of the seat-belt ever envision such a scenario?

    LOL – it is a beautiful thing !

  2. rhiannonrises on March 7, 2015 at 10:59 pm

    I’ve put weirder things in seat belts 🙂

    I’m not a toilet expert. In fact, I have a bit of a toilet phobia. But, this one looks a lot like my 1937 toilets. I know that’s probably not very thrilling, but I’m also just going by these two pictures… and I’m not an expert 🙂 So take that for what you will.

  3. Travis on March 9, 2015 at 8:08 pm


    Likely late 1920’s. I have been collecting toilets for my own house. Nice condition.

  4. Barb Sanford on March 9, 2015 at 8:16 pm

    Ross: I don’t know how to date a toilet. But I did a little prowling around on the Web, and here’s what I found: Your toilet is an American Standard. The company has a terrific history document posted here.

    If you look in 2005, you’ll see a company logo that looks like the logo on your toilet. Click that logo, and you’ll find an entry that says that particular toilet is from 1928. Based on that little bit of research, I’m guessing your toilet dates to the 1920s remodeling. But to find an exact date, you could contact the company to see if they can date your model. Maybe YOU have the oldest toilet in the U.S.

    • Ross on March 11, 2015 at 6:38 pm

      Thanks Barb!

      I checked, and my toilet IS older than a 1928 model recognized by American Standard as the oldest in America!

      See here.

  5. Travis on March 10, 2015 at 11:20 pm


    My 1928 standard toilet bowl is dated on the bottom around the hole.

    • Ross on March 11, 2015 at 6:24 pm

      Travis! You are a genius! Please see why.

  6. Travis on March 11, 2015 at 9:07 pm

    Ross, you’re the genius. Thanks to you, I am only one light fixture short for the entire house!

  7. djd_fr on January 14, 2017 at 2:43 pm

    I have read about putting bricks in toilet tanks so as to use less water. I have never tried that though.

  8. Susan Coolen on March 4, 2017 at 9:23 pm

    H’mmm now you have ME thinking. I’m late to the party here but….my downstairs toilet (the room started life as a wee pantry) was similar to this. The tank hung on the wall and connected via a pipe. I’m nearly certain the sewer line went in late 40’s to early 50’s. The kids that lived here wrote their names in the wet cement in the basement.

    Sadly the toilet met it’s demise when a “man” that was living w/me here, tightened the tank too much and cracked it. Being young and dumb at the time (age 23/24), I of course made him buy me a new toilet and threw out the old one. Boooo Hisss, I know. But now I’m wondering how OLD that toilet really was…..

    And yes you can put a brick or two even in the tank to save water. I’ve done it. You can also lower the ball or whatever to use less…..jes sayin

    • Ross on March 5, 2017 at 10:35 am

      Yes, that high-tank toilet was MUCH older than 1940s!

  9. E.J. on December 12, 2017 at 8:36 pm

    American Standard is just that: American, and Standard. Unlike most others, every hardware store has parts that fit & work. Even the low water-usage models will flush a bath towel without choking on it. In the event you need to plunge a clinker through, it is a simple matter, unlike most of the home center models, which you have to take off the floor, and manually unplug(ick). An old American Standard fixture is better than anyone else’s new product. As you have installed a modern fill unit, you can easily lower the water level. This is trial-and-error, but you will be able to get the flush volume down almost to what the low-flow models use with a bit of fiddling.

  10. Joe on January 24, 2018 at 9:11 pm

    Hey Ross, I am also an old house preservatioinst! Love reading your blog. I have aan 1869 italianate in Joliet IL. Anyway about making your toilet more “green.” When i was a kid, my Mom put a half gallon jug of watwr in the toilet tank so it would use less water with each flush. It’s not much, but it may help asuage your conscience!

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