Condom History

As far back as 1,000 BC ancient Egyptian males are believed to have used linen sheaths to protect against sexually transmitted disease, and cave paintings at Combarelle in France, dating from around 100 200 AD, show some of the earliest evidence of condom use.

In the 1500s, a syphilis epidemic spread across Europe, necessitating some form of protection. Gabriel Fallopius invented a sheath made of linen that would do the job. After a while, users realized that the sheath had an unexpected side effect: it also prevented pregnancy.

Later in the same century, the linen sheaths were soaked in a spermicidal chemical and allowed to dry before use, thereby increasing their effectiveness as birth control and creating the first spermicidal condoms.

The word “condom” doesn’t show up until around the 1700s, when it was used in a poem. There are many theories regarding the name. Among them: that it was the last name of Charles II of England’s personal physician (who prescribed the sheath as a way for the king to avoid fathering too many illegitimate children) or that “condom” is the Latin word for “receptacle,” but the definitive origin of the condom name remains something of a mystery.

Also in the 1700s, condoms made from animal skin became available. As these were reused many times, they were less than hygienic, and described as “an armour against pleasure, a cobweb against infection.”

But in 1839, technology came to the rescue. The discovery of rubber vulcanization by Charles Goodyear (of the Goodyear Tire Company) allowed rubber goods to be produced cheaply in mass quantities. By the end of the century, condoms were commonly known as “rubbers.”

But it wasn’t all smooth sailing for the now rapidly-growing condom industry. In 1873 Congress passed the Comstock laws banning the mailing of contraceptive information and limiting the availability of condoms, although their manufacture and sale remained legal. And a good thing too—by World War I, soldiers around the world were in need of prophylactics. The German military was the first to promote condom use, followed closely by other American and European military.

From just before 1900 to the beginning of WWI, almost all condoms used in Europe were imported from Germany. During the war, two American companies became the main suppliers to the Allied troops, Julius Schmid, Inc., and Youngs Rubber Company. Julius Schmid called his condoms brands Sheik and Ramses. And in 1920, Youngs Rubber Company, founded by a 33-year-old businessman named Merle Youngs, introduced his brand—TROJAN—as the competition.

By 1975, TROJAN condoms accounted for over half of the condoms sold at pharmacies. Today, TROJAN condoms continue to be the top seller in America.*

Condoms are still a primary source of protection against disease and unwanted pregnancy. And at TROJAN we continue to make strides in condom development. In fact, at the last AVN and CES conventions in Las Vegas, we showcased the all-new BareSkin condom, the thinnest condom we have developed yet. Who knows what the condoms of the future will be? You can trust TROJAN to be at the forefront of their evolution.

start quotes The word “condom” doesn’t show up until around the 1700s, when it was used in a poem. end quotes