Laura’s mystery tile-in bathroom receptor holder thingy — what is it?

mystery bathroom holderWhat is this mystery tiled-in bathroom receptor? Laura is stumped, and so am I. Do we have any experts out there who know for sure? 

Laura writes:


I’ve lived in my 1920’s apartment 20 years and have periodically researched this thing in the wall, which I assume would be a toilet paper holder, but have not been able to find one similar online. 

I’d love to locate a piece that would work with it. Help appreciated! Laura

Wow, thanks! I can imagine the type of device that would go in but haven’t been able to locate anything. 

Laura followed up and clarified that inside, there’s about an allowance of about 1.5” on either side.

Inside a a 1920s apartment bathroom… the way it’s tile it, it looks original to me. What could this be?

  1. DJ Sparkles says:

    Bill’s correct, and many of us still carry them! My mom always has a package in her purse, as I do when I travel, and I always have them in my car. When cleaning out my beloved step-mother-in-law’s house, there was a package in every purse (she was quite the lady!) Back in the day, women needed tissues for blotting their Love That Red lipstick, and a few other things we won’t mention, because we’re ladies and all. 😉

  2. Michael says:

    I wrote earlier about the square TP in France. I did a quick check on Amazon.fr (French version of Amazon). This product is available and can be shipped to US…at a cost…of course! Do a search for “papier hygienique plat” and it will pop up. The pink Moltonel comes in reasonable quantity. The white is an industrial amount! Cost is about 25$–which will last….a LONG time…LOL…especially if no one uses it! You can have it shipped–the “prioritaire” price will automatically populate–which costs 100$, if you go ahead and select the continue to purchase option, the last screen allows you to change from prioritaire to “rapide” which is about 30$…

    I used the site all the time–same company as US Amazon. If you have a US Amazon account, you can log into the French site with your US username etc. Takes all credit cards, PayPal etc…

    Would make for a pretty expensive bunch of TP…but it would certainly start a lot of conversations!

  3. Kristin says:

    Bill- those “portable tissues” are still sold, and extremely popular- in Morocco, of all places. It’s called “Tempo”. They’re sold on eBay for exorbitant prices. Don’t waste your money.

    I think- do not know for certain, that the slot is for magazines or- the catalogue everyone had in their bathroom in those days. Was it Sears & Roebuck? Montgomery Ward’s? This is my suspicion. The slot looks about the right size for one.
    Speaking of “mystery slots” on a very old episode of House Hunters, one of the potential buyers, a young lady, demanded an older home with a laundry chute. No chute, no buy. She “found” one- that had a chute in the kitchen. I knew it was no laundry chute but an ASH shute (it being in the kitchen, and the slot being rather too narrow for garments to fit through) but if I were the realtor, I’d have thought “Customer is always right” and let her believe it was a laundry chute. (PS, I know House Hunters was fake & the house already chosen by the buyer, FYI)

    This article and any homes from the ’20s: look for annunciator tubing or holes also. I would love to find an old home with those builtin, I suspect many very old homes already do, but they’re covered up from many past remodels and modernizing.

  4. Bill says:

    Farmer stopped growing hemp after the market for it’s products disappeared due to better alternatives that were developed. Hemp was mostly grown for their long strong fibers that were ideal for strong cloth sacks to hold flour, potatoes, grains, etc. and strong rope. Hemp fiber’s downside is that it’ll support the growth of molds and mildew so went to rot fast. One of the largest buyers of hemp fabrics and ropes was the US Military who decided that they needed something better that would hold up longer during a protracted war in the hot and humid South Pacific. DuPont was already selling synthetic fibers (nylon and polyester) that were being used for weaving cloths and rope so the War Dept. had them make specific items from those to test. They held up well and wouldn’t rot so those replaced items made from hemp, cotton, wood and even painted steel since it quickly rusted in the humid salty air. The GI’s and Marines wound up wearing nylon clothing and boots with nylon webbing holding nylon backpacks and ammo pouches that got refilled from nylon ammo boxes so they could blaze away with their rifles that had nylon stocks. At the mess halls they got to eat potatoes and onions that were shipped inside nylon net sacks (same design we see today). Their naval and shipping vessels used nylon and polyester ropes, side nets, life preservers and more. The whole idea was to avoid shipping in replacements for those on a regular basis so the shipping had more room to carry other stuff that was quickly used up by the troops.
    Hemp products stayed in use during the war where rot and frequent replacement wasn’t a problem. Hemp hung in there for a while after the war then was dropped as a crop by farmers when once they hard time getting rid of their harvest. Then it became a nuisance weed that sprang up fields where ever it was grown before. It was so bad in places that the USDA would pay farmers for their fields’ projected yields so they could burn the weeds that infested the fields. The USDA did that quite a bit to farmland south of my hometown in NW Indiana. My Boy Scout troop earned money by cruising thru row of young corn to pull up hemp plants and toss them in a cotton tow sack for weighing since the USDA paid by the pound. Got to remember this was before pre-emergent pesticides were developed so was a common sight to see field hands moving thru the fields pulling out or chopping down various young weeds. Hemp was the dickens to get rid of if the plants were allowed to go to seed and drop them. The farmers hated the stuff so were the main force behind having it banned as a crop. I think there should be limitations on where it can be grown so it won’t create any problems as a wild weed while being grown as a short-lived trendy crop.

  5. Jackie D says:

    Yes, the wall slot was meant to hold “interfolded” toilet tissue-for dispensing one tissue at a time similar to a paper towel dispenser. It’s still sold here in the states under various names. Aspect and Georgia Pacific are two brands still sold today. You can find them on Amazon mostly sold by the case.

  6. Pam Kueber says:

    You’re right, I see lots of varieties for sale on Amazon – the key would be finding a size that fits, though. Most of what’s sold today looks like it’s for larger-sized dispensers >> https://amzn.to/2SG7Xhn [affiliate link]

  7. Mary Elizabeth says:

    I know also that in the 50s people smoked while in the toilet. This does not look like any of the built-in ashtrays I have seen, however. So I’m guessing folding TP is the answer. I ran across some in France in a dormitory in the 1960s, and it was very firm paper–sort of like butcher paper. We traveling students with tender tushes were warned to bring our own TP, so we brought it from the U.S.–took up half of one of my suitcases. 🙂

  8. Laura says:

    I would totally get if the device were still in tact that pushes them forward as they go. And I miss pink toilet paper! So miss that- considering a French order of pink TP for kicks.

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