The History of the Condom
The origin of the word ‘condom’ is still unknown. Folklore attributes the invention to Dr. Condom or Conton, who was at the court of King Charles II in the 1600’s. It is more likely, however, that the name derives from the Latin ‘condus’, meaning receptacle.
The condom is one of the oldest forms of contraception.
Condom use can be traced back several thousand years. It is known that around 1000 BC the ancient Egyptians used a linen sheath for protection against disease.
100 – 200 AD
The earliest evidence of condom use in Europe comes from scenes in cave paintings at Combarelles in France. There is also some evidence that some form of condom was used in imperial Rome.
The syphilis epidemic that spread across Europe gave rise to the first published account of the condom. Gabrielle Fallopius described a sheath of linen he claimed to have invented to protect men against syphilis. Having been found useful for prevention of infection, it was only later that the usefulness of the condom for the prevention of pregnancy was recognized.
Later in the 1500s, one of the first improvements to the condom was made, when the linen cloth sheaths were sometimes soaked in a chemical solution and then allowed to dry prior to use. These were the first spermicides on condoms.
The first published use of the word ‘condum’ was in a 1706 poem. It has also been suggested that Condom was a doctor in the time of Charles II. It is believed that he invented the device to help the king to prevent the birth of more illegitimate children.
Even the most famous lover of all, Casanova, was using the condom as a birth control as well as against infection.
Condoms made out of animal intestines began to be available. However, they were quite expensive and the unfortunate result was that they were often reused. This type of condom was described at the time as “an Armour against pleasure, and a cobweb against infection”.
In the second half of the 1700’s, a trade in handmade condoms thrived in London and some shops where producing handbills and advertisements of condoms.
The use of condoms was affected by technological, economic and social development in Europe and the US in 1800s.
Condom manufacturing was revolutionized by the discovery of rubber vulcanization by Goodyear (founder of the tire company) and Hancock. This meant that is was possible to mass produce rubber goods including condoms quickly and cheaply. Vulcanization is a process, which turns the rubber into a strong elastic material.
In 1861,the first advertisement for condoms was published in an American newspaper when The New York Times printed an ad. for ‘Dr. Power’s French Preventatives’.
In 1873, the Comstock Law was passed. Named after Anthony Comstock, the Comstock Law made illegal the advertising of any sort of birth control, and it also allowed the postal service to confiscate condoms sold through the mail.
Until the 1920’s, most condoms were manufactured by hand-dipping from rubber cement. These kinds of condoms aged quickly and the quality was doubtful.
In 1919, Frederick Killian initiated hand-dipping from natural rubber latex in Ohio. The latex condoms had the advantage of aging less quickly and being thinner and odorless. These new type of condoms enjoyed a great expansion of sales. By the mid-1930s, the fifteen largest makers in the U.S. were producing 1.5 million condoms a day.
In 1957, the very first lubricated condom was launched in the UK by Durex.
From the early 1960s, use of condoms as a contraceptive device declined as the pill, the coil and sterilization became more popular.
The use of the condom increased strikingly in many countries following the recognition of HIV/AIDS in the 1980’s. Condoms also became available in pubs, bars, grocery stores and supermarkets.
In 1994, the world’s first polyurethane condom for men was launched in the US.
The 1990s also saw the introduction of coloured and flavoured condoms.
In more recent years, improved technology has enabled the thickness of the condom to decrease. Also, condom manufacturers have recognized that one type of of condom does not please everyone. You can now find condoms that have different shapes, flavors, ribbed, studded, bigger, smaller, more lubricant, etc…