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The History of Paper

Our Tiny Prints team loves paper. Yes, we are huge paper enthusiasts. If you happen to share a passion for paper like we do, we have included the "History of Paper" from Mead Corporation.

Mankind has always sought to improve ways of communicating and recording thoughts. Early attempts at achieving this involved the use of waxed boards, leaves, bronze, silk, and clay tablets. It was not until the invention of paper that information could be recorded and passed on cheaply and in greater quantity.

4,000 B.C.

Ancient Egyptians invented the first substance like paper as we know it. Papyrus was a woven mat of reeds, pounded together into a hard, thin sheet. The word "paper" actually comes from the word "papyrus". Later on in history, the Ancient Greeks used a kind of parchment made from animal skins for the same purpose.

A.D. 105

Paper as we know it was invented by Ts'ai Lun, a Chinese court official. It is believed that Ts'ai mixed mulberry bark, hemp, and rags with water, mashed it into a pulp, pressed out the liquid and hung the thin mat to dry in the sun. Paper was born and this humble mixture would set off one of mankind's greatest communication revolutions. Literature and the arts flourished in China.

A.D. 610

Bhuddist monks gradually spread the art to Japan. Papermaking became an essential part of Japanese culture and was used for writing material, fans, garments, dolls, and as an important component of houses. The Japanese were also the first to use the technique of block printing.

A.D. 751

Chinese and Arab armies clash after decades of peaceful trading. The Chinese are defeated and many are taken prisoner. Among the prisoners are paper makers who attempt to bargain for their freedom by teaching the Arabs the secrets of paper making.

A.D. 1009

It took about 400 years for paper to traverse the Arab world to Europe. The first paper mill in Europe was built by the Arabs in Xativa, Spain. Paper making continued here under Moorish rule until 1244 when European armies drove them out. Paper making then began to gradually spread across Christian Europe.

A.D. 1250

Italy becomes a major paper producer. The Italians vigorously produced the material and exported large amounts of it, dominating the European market for many years.

A.D. 1338 - 1470

French monks begin producing paper for holy texts. France quickly adopts this new technology and becomes a self-sufficient and competitive paper producer.

A.D. 1411

The first paper mill in Germany is converted from a flour mill with assistance from the Italians. Germany greatly improved the craft and made the finest papers available. In 1453 Johann Gutenberg invented the movable type printing press. The printing press was the next stage in the communication revolution. Previously, books were owned only by monasteries, royalty, and scholars, very few people could even read. For the first time, the impoverished masses had access to books, and more importantly knowledge. With the availability of books, literacy increased. As literacy increased, the demand for books - and paper increased as well.

A.D. 1588

England begins to make its own paper.

A.D. 1680

The first paper mill in the new world is established by the Spanish in Culhuacan, near the capital of Mexico.

A.D. 1690

A German immigrant to North America named William Rittenhouse founded the first paper mill in North America near Philadelphia. This is also where the first American paper makers were trained.

A.D. 1719

Rene Antoine Ferchault de Reaumur suggests that paper could be made from wood in response to a critical shortage of paper making materials. At the time all paper was made from old clothes and rags. There were not enough rags to supply the ever increasing demand for paper. Reaumur was inspired by observing wasps building their nest.

A.D. 1798

Nicholas Robert invented the paper making machine. His hand-cranked device made paper on a continuous revolving screen. However he was unsuccessful at finding investors. Hearing of Robert's invention from a mutual acquaintance, the Fourdrinier brothers of England create their own paper making machine. Although they did not use their invention, paper making machines bear their name to this day.

A.D. 1850

Friedrich Gottlob Keller of Germany devises a method of making paper from wood pulp. However the paper is of poor quality.

A.D. 1852

Hugh Burgess, an Englishman, perfects the use of wood pulp by 'digesting' the wood with chemicals.

A.D. 1867

C.B. Tilghman, an American chemist, improved the process of making paper from wood by using sulfites during the pulping process.

A.D. 1879

C.F. Dahl, a Swede finally perfected the use of wood by adding yet another chemical. His 'sulfate' method spread rapidly and reached the United States in about 1907.

A.D. 1883

Charles Stillwell invented a machine to make brown paper bags for groceries in Philadelphia. Today more than 20 million paper bags are used annually in supermarkets. Many of these are recycled into new bags and boxes.

A.D. 1889 - 1900

Economical, mass produced paper became a reality. Paper production doubled to about 2.5 million tons per year. Newspapers, books, and magazines flourished. Paper found its way into schools, replacing the writing slate.