During the Great War some munitions and ordnance factories noted that, if left to their own devices, that the workers (particularly the “munitionettes”) were spending too much time gossiping and generally away from their work in the factory toilets. For the works management this was seen as a direct potential cause in reduced production efficiency and something that could not be tolerated. Additional they argued that “spending too much time in an unhealthy place like the works’ toilets was bad for the worker’s health and counterproductive”. So as a result, many factories introduced a system whereby workers who wanted to visit the toilets had to obtain a special permission ticket or token to do so. Depending on the various details of how this various “ticket” system operated they allowed the works’ supervisors a means of recording and regulating who visited the toilet and how long they used it for each visit. Many factories introduced rulings limiting the number of toilet visits that each worker could take per day and setting a maximum time for each visit. Workers found abusing the system or spending excess time in the toilets were disciplined and/or fined.
The obverse and reverse of a Toilet Token used at James Mackie & Sons Ltd. of Belfast
At some factories the use of what we may now consider as such draconian systems continued until at least the mid-20th century. The token illustrated above is an example of such a token. It was issued by James Mackie & Sons Ltd. of Belfast and bears the personal works/pay identification number of the employee to whom it was originally issued. While James Mackie & Sons Ltd. are known to have undertaken “war work” contracts on behalf of the British Government during both world wars this token is known to have belonged to Mr. Albert Storey who was an employee at the works during the 1950s.