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Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Toilet Paper Shortage of 1973

Market is basically driven by demand and supply.

"If anyone can remember, the early 70’s everything was in short supply especially oil. When Americans heard the word shortage, they would jump out and purchase these items since they knew what it was like standing in line to get gasoline for their cars.

Well, whether you believe it or not, there was a toilet paper shortage in the United States in 1973. The entire episode started with a Johnny Carson Tonight Show monologue. On December 19, 1973, the writers for the show had heard earlier the federal government was falling behind in getting bids to supply toilet paper and that it might be possible that in a few months the United States could face a shortage of toilet tissue. They took the words of this Wisconsin congressional representative, Harold Froehlich and decided to add a joke for Carson for the evening show.

Carson did in fact use the joke in a monologue stating, "You know what's disappearing from the supermarket shelves? Toilet paper. There's an acute shortage of toilet paper in the United States."

Much to the amazement of not only the show but of toilet paper factories across America, 20 million people that watched the Carson show that evening ran out in the morning and bought as much toilet paper as they could carry. By noon on December 20, 1973, practically every store in America was out of stock. Many of the stores tried to ration this valuable paper but they could not keep up with the demand no matter what they did.

A few nights later, Johnny Carson explained there was no shortage and he apologized to his viewers. However, this did not help with the scare. As soon as people noticed the empty shelves, they wanted this paper even more.

It took a total of three long and grueling weeks to get the shelves stocked again and finally the shortage was over.

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