Paper towels take the place of cloth tea towels or dishcloths for many drying and cleaning purposes, and of brown or other paper for draining fried or damp foods.
Some people prefer not to use them or to use them sparingly as they see their use as a “waste of trees.” One sheet of the better quality ones, though, often meet the task at hand in lieu of two or three of the bargain-brand ones.
The idea of paper towels was first conceived in America in 1907. Scott Paper had been in business in Philadelphia since 1879. In 1907, Arthur Scott, then head of the company, received an entire shipment of toilet paper that had been made far too thick. He heard about a teacher in the schools who was giving students with colds pieces of paper to wipe their hands with, so that they wouldn’t infect the cloth roller towels in the bathrooms. He decided to sell the school board on the idea of paper towels on a roll — and succeeded. And by chance, he just happened to have a whole shipment of rolled paper for them.
In 1931, Scott Paper modified the paper towel for kitchen usage. They made it perforated so that it would be more absorbent. Being launched during the Depression wasn’t the best timing for what was seen as a kitchen luxury, so the product took many years to catch on.