Historians of such esoteric subjects agree that condoms were first used for prevention of pregnancy, and by wealthy men only. That makes sense, since women were naturally held to the task of avoiding impregnation, and only wealthy men might wish to keep their seed from being spread outside the marriage bed.
Early condoms, perhaps worn first in ancient China, were apparently small devices that covered the glans only, made from oiled silk paper or lamb intestines. Later, in Japan, they were made of tortoise shell or animal horn. Ouch . . . not for the wearer, but for the receiver!
When a particularly deadly strain of syphilis broke out in Europe in the late 15th century, condoms began to be developed to stop the spread of this disease. One treatise describes linen sheaths soaked in chemicals and allowed to dry. These devices, which covered the glans only, were tied on with a ribbon, giving a whole new meaning to the words baby’s bonnet.
After 1500, penis protection became much more widespread throughout Europe. They were called “condoms” gradually, starting in the mid-1600s; and they might be made of animal intestines and bladders, or of linen. Here’s an interesting note from Wikipedia:
“In the late 15th century, Dutch traders introduced condoms made from ‘fine leather’ to Japan. Unlike the horn condoms used previously, these leather condoms covered the entire penis.”
The notorious philanderer Cassanova was proud of his “assurance caps,” and was reported to have given demonstrations by blowing into them, proudly showing their lack of holes (see photo).
In spite of opposition—mainly from the clergy—condoms, once developed, multiplied quickly. According to Wiki, they “were sold at pubs, barbershops, chemist shops, open-air markets, and at the theater throughout Europe and Russia.” Once they spread to America, land of invention and individuality, condoms became more and more sophisticated.
Skipping ahead a bit, I want to discuss the use of condoms in my Gaslight Mysteries novels. In the first novel HEART TO HART, Michael slips a clumsy latex condom out of his dresser drawer. It seems that, since the mid 1800’s and Charles Goodyear’s discovery of processing natural rubber, condoms could be made of stretched rubber, wrapped around the penis and held in place with a rubber ring. These early condoms were thick as a bicycle inner tube. One imagines that while one partner might enjoy the enlargement, the other might suffer the indignity of feeling nothing at all.
Anyway, by the time Michael was seducing Simon, condoms began to be made from latex, rubber suspended in water rather than in gasoline or benzene. These protective devices were stronger, thinner, and had a shelf life up to five years.
In the next Gaslight Mystery SPARRING WITH SHADOWS, Michael slyly leaves a package for his flatmate. It’s a condom made of thin animal bladder, the latest in American-made protection, thin enough and pliable enough to ensure the man’s pleasure as well as the other obvious benefits.
Many of the photos that follow are taken from the following website: http://www.ep.tc/condom-envelopes/ a gallery of images assembled by Ethan Persoff, http://www.ep.tcThanks, Ethan. I borrow them with gratitude
Just a note: The U.S.-manufactured Sheik and Ramses brands were well established by 1882. Trojans, also developed in America, were popular then as now.
Paper packaging was, and remains, a popular dispensary for condoms.
In the source listed above, Ethan Persoff notes:
“The very interesting book Remember your rubbers! (Collectible Condom Containers) by Elliott, Goehring and O’Brien published by Schiffer Publishing Co., strangely does not show any of the examples offered here on eBay by us. Does this mean these are rarer than their tin counterparts?”
The book also states the following on paper packaging:
“Interestingly enough, both the oldest and newest rubber packages are envelopes. India rubbers, latex rubbers and animal membrane prophylactics are found in envelopes. Most hold one dozen rubbers lying flat, though a few can be found with one quarter dozen. ‘Genuine Liquid Latex’ rubbers came packaged with four (rolled) to an envelope and wrapped in cellophane. Rarer are envelopes with a single rubber in the package…”
Thanks for your interest in vintage condoms. And speaking of that, here is an excerpt from my novel SPARRING WITH SHADOWS, when sly Michael has left an morning gift for his first-time lover Simon.
Excerpt from Chapter 9 of SPARRING WITH SHADOWS
Simon Hart, a life-long virgin, has just been maneuvered into an anal penetration by his accomplished flat-mate Michael. First he seeks a bath. And then he stands looking down at the bed where the act occurred.
Simon stood in the small claw-footed bathtub, watching the water fill, realizing this room was the only one where he could truly be alone. Even his own bedchamber was now the stalking ground of his new roomer, a circumstance he himself had allowed to exist.
He settled into the water, letting his sticky groin become immersed in the cleansing warmth. He could lavish only about ten minutes here before the next roomer would no doubt beat on the door, demanding his turn on the toilet or in the cast iron tub.
He let his head fall back and his shoulders relax. His mouth, too, moved in an inchoate smile, remembering his astonishing climax. Michael. His conniving, experienced, constantly aroused flat-mate had maneuvered him into an act of anal intercourse.
From that moment, there could be no question as to whether Simon was a practicing omi-palone. Michael had caused him to enter a realm that set him forever after in a special niche. He had just entered the world of homosexual men. Until a while ago, Simon could still fool himself into thinking Michael had taken him by force. From now on, the conniving bastard seemed to be saying, Simon was the sodomite.
He wondered how he’d explain that to the melancholy-eyed God he sometimes prayed to. …
~ ~ ~
Following are the Amazon links to the Gaslight Mysteries by Erin O’Quinn. (Nineteen 5* reviews, gay romcom mystery-action/adventure.) By the time book number three came out, the men had abandoned the condoms in favor of more spontaneous methods …
When two men join forces to solve a murder in 1923 Ireland, they begin to investigate private affairs—and none more private than their own.
HEART TO HART … The best-seller which started it all, a murder mystery wherein the larger-than-life Michael McCree lets his heart decide his fate; and the surly, angry Simon Hart tries to rid himself of a would-be lover. http://amzn.to/12gBwlL
SPARRING WITH SHADOWS … The second of the Gaslight Mysteries, wherein a man confronts his own sexuality, a determined admirer, and an arch-criminal. http://amzn.to/14QXtqW
TO THE BONE … The capstone of the trilogy, wherein a pesky new agent burrows close as a tick, keeping the men from exploring a series of crimes, and from their own always-edgy relationship. http://amzn.to/1bEXep2