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The History of Condoms: Past, Present & OMG!

The History of Condoms: Past, Present & OMG!

Have you ever stopped to think about how condoms became the most popular and effective method of birth control and disease prevention? The first use in ancient civilizations is still debated by historians, however early cave paintings in France dating back 15,000 years show images of men wearing penis coverings that were possibly used for sexual protection. Armed with that fun tidbit, let's start our journey into the history of condoms.

Late 1400s: Syphilis spread across Europe and Asia, prompting the need for condoms.

Mid 1500s: Gabriele Fallopio, an Italian physician, claimed to have invented a device to protect against the disease. This "condom" was a chemically treated cloth that covered the glans of the penis. New condom materials emerged during this time like animal intestines and leather.

1700s: Condom use is well documented in written references throughout Europe and America. A market for condoms grew and they were available in varying quality and sizes. Linen sheaths lost popularity to the more comfortable and affordable animal skin condoms.

1839: Charles Goodyear changed the history of condoms with his rubber vulcanization process.

1855: The first rubber condom was produced.

Late 1800s: Condom ads appeared in British newspapers and even in the New York Times.

Early 1900s: Condoms were the most popular form of birth control in Europe and North America by the turn of the century.

1912: Julius Fromm of Germany developed a new technique of making condoms from liquefied rubber. Fromm would go on to sell the first branded condom. Youngs Rubber Company followed suit by introducing their Trojan brand. The condom would experience advances and many firsts in the next hundred years.

1920: Latex was invented. This invention, plus advances in automated manufacturing, allowed condoms to be easily produced and sold for less. Youngs Rubber Company was the first to make a latex condom.

1937: The United States FDA classified condoms as a drug, which required more testing and ultimately improved the quality of prophylactics.

1957: Durex brings to market the first lubricated condom.

Late 1960s: Even after the introduction of the Pill and the sexual revolution, the condom remained the most widely used form of birth control with single women, according to a British survey. The U.S. Agency for International Development created a widespread campaign to promote condom use in third world countries.

1981: The New York Times first reported about the discovery of AIDS.

1982: It was suggested that AIDS was a new sexually transmitted disease. The U.S. Surgeon General promoted the use of condoms as a way of preventing the spread of this disease. Youngs Rubber Company helped with an AIDS prevention educational campaign by mailing out informational pamphlets to American homes. Additional campaigns were launched in the U.S. and Europe promoting condoms as a way to prevent AIDS.

1997: Durex debuted Avanti, the first non-latex condom made of polyurethane. Polyurethane made it possible for those with a latex allergy to get the full protection of condoms minus the allergen.

1999:Trojan follows with its own polyurethane condom, Supra.

2009: Polyisoprene condoms were introduced and presented yet another great non-latex option. This material is stretchier and feels more natural than polyurethane.

2015 and beyond: The history of condoms isn’t done yet. Advancements are still being made, including the possibility of a silicon-based condom, which may be coming to market within the next two years.