Condoms have been used for thousands of years in various forms. There are depictions of Egyptians between 1350 – 1220 BC wearing linen sheaths, and it is thought that the use was mainly to prevent the transmission of disease although they might also have been worn as a ritual act.
Currently the earliest use of condoms in Europe dates back to between 100 – 200 AD. The evidence is found in cave paintings in Les Combarelles, Dordogne in Southern France which depict the use of sheaths or condoms.
In the 1500’s a syphilis epidemic spread across Europe and Gabrielle Fallopius an Italian was the first man who published research and conducted tests on linen sheaths that were used for protection during sexual intercourse. Out of the 1,100 men he tested, none became infected with Syphilis. His research was focused on preventing sexually transmitted diseases, however later on it was found that the linen sheaths were also very good at preventing pregnancy. Later in the 1500s, one of the first improvements to the condoms was made, the linen cloth sheaths were sometimes soaked in chemical solutions, then allowed to dry. This could be thought of as the the first use of spermicide in condoms.
1700’s The first published use of the world ‘condoms’ or ‘condum’ is the subject of some debate.
William E Kruck’s _Looking For Dr. Condom_ (1981), dates ‘condom’ in print to the pamphlet, _A Scot’s Answer_ (1706), which included:
The Syringe and Condum,
Come both in request,
While virtuous Quondam
Is treated in jest.
In these four lines, Belhaven was referring to John Campbell (1680 – 1743), 2nd Duke of Argyll . . . who “brought along with him a certain instrument called a Quondam, qch. occasioned ye debauching of a great number of ladies of quality . . .”
Condom 1640 intact
It has also been suggested that the name came from a “Dr. Condon” or “Colonel Cundum” in the time of Charles II. Some believe that it came from the Latin word “condum,” which means “a cuppe or pot.” Could condoms have come from the Persian ‘kondu’ or ‘kendu,’ “an earthen vessel for storing corn or grain,” with the Greek ‘Kondy’ or ‘Kondom,’ “a seed storage pot”?
Later in the 1700’s condoms made out of animal intestines began to be available. Unfortunately they were expensive and the result was that they were often reused. It was aid that Casanova, was using the condom as a birth control as well as against infection. In the second half of the 1700’s, a trade in handmade condoms blossomed in London, some shops where producing handbills and advertisements of condoms.
In the 1800’s there were some huge technological advances as well as increases in economic and social development in Europe and the US. In 1844 Hancock and Goodyear discovered rubber vulcanisation and condom manufacturing was revolutionised as a result. The result was a strong, thin, elastic rubber that served as a contraceptive and excellent prophylactic. It was now possible to to mass produce condoms quickly and cheaply.
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. which made it illegal to advertise any sort of birth control, and it also allowed the postal service to confiscate condoms sold through the mail.
In the1880’s – The first liquid latex condom was produced, although most condoms aged quickly and the quality was doubtful. In the early 1900’s these was a movement to prohibit the use of condoms by Americans, resulting in U.S. troops in World War I having the highest rate of STis — over 70%! By World War II, a more realistic attitude had emerged and the government aggressively promoted the use of condoms.
It was not until 1919 when Frederick Killian started hand-dipping from natural rubber latex in Ohio. The latex condoms had the advantage of ageing less quickly and being thinner and odourless. By the mid-1930s, the fifteen largest makers in the U.S. were producing 1.5 million condoms a day. It was to be the 1930s before these were in widespread use. Latex condoms were a lot thinner and provided more protection from infection and pregnancy.
In 1957, the very first lubricated condom was launched in the UK by Durex.
In the early 1960’s, the sexual revolution resulted in a decline in condom use as the pill, the coil and sterilisation became more popular.
The use of condoms increased dramatically following the recognition of HIV/AIDS in the 1980’s. Condoms also became available in pubs, bars, grocery stores and supermarkets.
1990’s – The 1990’s saw the introduction of a large number of different types of condoms, The female condom was introduced in 1992 and it was approved in 1993 by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Other type of condom including coloured condoms, ribbed condoms, studded condoms, flavoured condoms, glow-in-the-dark condoms, and large condoms. In 1994, the world’s first polyurethane condom for men was launched in the US. These condoms, are thinner and more sensitive than their old latex counterparts.
In more recent years, advances in technology have enabled the thickness of the condom to decrease. Also, condom manufacturers seem to have recognised that one size of condom does not fit all. You can now find condoms that are different shapes, widths and lengths.