The History of Condoms

Condoms have been made from a variety of materials.  Before the nineteenth century, it has been documented that condoms were made out of chemically treated linen and other condoms out of animal tissue.

Believe it or not, condoms are not something that has been invented in recent decades.  The use of condoms as a means of preventing conception and the protection against diseases goes back thousands of years. As the years have passed, condoms were made of stronger, more reliable materials such as latex and polyisoprene.

It is believed that around 1000 BC Egyptian men used a linen sheath over the penis for protection against diseases. There has also been a cave painting found in Europe at Combarelles in France which depicts an early form of condom use.  The paintings in this cave have been dated as 12000-15000 years old.  In the 1500’s, syphilis has spread across Europe.  Gabriele Falloppio, was one of the most important anatomists and physicians of the sixteenth century.  He was he first to describe a condom in his published writings.  He stated that he invented a linen sheath that would be wrapped around the penis to prevent syphilis.  In a clinical trial, he reported that he tested his invention on 1100 men, none of who had contracted the disease.  In the later 1500’s, the linen sheath was then dipped in chemicals, then dried before use.  This was the first type of condom with spermicide.

In the 1700’s, the first published use of the word condum was used in a poem.  However, there are two possible explanations of how the condom got its name.  Some believe that it was derived from the word Condus, which is Latin for receptacle.  The condom may have also gotten its name from King Charles II of England’s physician, Dr Condom or Quondam, who made the kind condoms to prevent the birth of more illegitimate children.  These condoms were made out of animal guts.  It was even known that one of the famous lovers, Casanova, used condoms as a means of birth control and protection against infection.
In the 1800’s condoms were affected by the advance in technology.  Condom manufacturing was revolutionized by the discovery of rubber vulcanization by Hancock and Goodyear.  They made it possible to mass produce condoms that were also more reliable and less expensive.  Vulcanisation is a chemical process of treating rubber or rubber like materials with sulfur at high heat to improve the rubber’s elasticity and strength.  In 1861, the first ad for condoms was printed in the New York Times for ‘Dr. Power’s French Preventatives’.  Then in 1873, the Comstock Law was passed, which made it illegal for the advertisement of any birth control and the US Postal Service could confiscate any condoms sold through the mail.
Until the 1920’s condoms were made by hand dipping from rubber cement.  Unfortunately, these types of condoms aged quickly and were questionable in quality.  Then in 1919, Frederick Killian started the process of hand dipping from rubber latex.  The advantage of the rubber latex were that the condoms aged less quickly, were thinner, and had less odor.  By the 1930’s, 1.5 million condoms were being produced per day.  In 1957, the first lubricated condom was launched by Durex.  In the 1980’s, the use of condoms increased because of the risk of getting HIV and AIDS.  Condoms were made more available in grocery stores, bars, and pubs.  In 1993, the female condom was approved the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  Then in 1994, the first polyurethane condom for men (non latex) was available.
During recent years, the advancement in technology has given manufacturers the ability to produce condoms of different sizes, shapes, colors, and textures.  Manufacturers have been able to produce condoms that are thinner, but still maintain the strength and reliability that is essential for a condom.   Condoms have been proven effective to help prevent against unwanted pregnancies and reduce the risk of spreading sexually transmitted diseases.

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