The ancient Egyptians were the first to scribe characters on papyrus more than 5,000 years ago. In fact, the word "paper" is derived from the name of the papyrus plant.
Early papermaking has traditionally been traced to 2nd century China when Cai Lun, an official attached to the Imperial court during the Han Dynasty, created a sheet of paper using mulberry and other fibers along with fishnets, old rags, and hemp waste.
Papermaking was done by hand until European feudal lords built the first hydro-powered paper mills and mechanized the papermaking process in the 13th century.
In 1798, a Frenchman named Nicholas Louis Robert invented a machine to make paper in continuous rolls rather than sheets, a major technological innovation that allowed for mass production of paper products.
Paper mills produced the world's first splinter-free toilet tissue in the 1930s. Before then, splinters were tolerated as a natural part of the milling process. Ouch!
U.S. banknotes are printed on cotton-based paper, produced under exclusive government contract by the same manufacturer since 1879. The exact composition of the paper remains confidential, in order to deter counterfeiting.
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