The History of Paper
Before paper as we know it existed, people communicated through pictures and symbols carved into tree bark, painted on cave walls, and marked on papyrus or clay tablets.
About 2,000 years ago, inventors in China took communication to the next level, crafting cloth sheets to record their drawings and writings. And paper, as we know it today, was born!
Paper was first made in Lei-Yang, China by Ts'ai Lun, a Chinese court official. In all likelihood, Ts'ai mixed mulberry bark, hemp and rags with water, mashed it into pulp, pressed out the liquid and hung the thin mat to dry in the sun.
During the 8th century, about 300 years after Ts’ai’s discovery, the secret traveled to the region that is now the Middle East. Yet, it took another 500 years for papermaking to enter Europe. One of the first paper mills was built in Spain, and soon, paper was being made at mills all across Europe.
Then, with paper easier to make, paper was used for printing important books, bibles, and legal documents.
England began making large supplies of paper in the late 15th century and supplied the colonies with paper for many years.
Finally, in 1690, the first U.S. paper mill was built in Pennsylvania.
At first American paper mills used the Chinese method of shredding old rags and clothes into individual fibers to make paper.
But, as the demand for paper grew, the mills changed to using fiber from trees because wood was less expensive and more abundant than cloth.
Recycling has always been a part of papermaking.