Contraceptives such as the condom have a long and fascinating history that stretches back centuries. Among the many methods that have been developed over time, the condom holds a special place. In this article, we take a look at the origins and development of condoms - one of the oldest contraceptives in the world.
The history of condoms can be traced back to ancient times; some statues, for example in ancient Egypt, already clearly show "clothed" penises. There are even earlier records from France, where covered penises were discovered on high altitude paintings in Les Combarelles. The paintings are around 14,000 years old. However, the condoms of that time were not made of latex or rubber as we know them today, but were made from animal or plant materials such as intestines or cloth. These early forms were not necessarily used as contraceptives, but usually had a ritual or medical purpose, they were intended to protect against disease or in battle, or they were simply jewelry or status symbols.
King Minos - the presumed first user of condoms?
King Minos of Crete is often regarded as one of the first documented users of condoms. According to Greek legend, he protected his wife Pasiphae by using a type of condom made from a goat's bladder, as tradition has it that his first emission was fatal.
It is assumed that animal bladders were often used for contraception in ancient times, at least as protection against sexually transmitted diseases. In order to increase the man's steadfastness, sheaths made of various materials were used, including leather, metal, leaves and straw.
However, the effectiveness of these methods as contraceptives was limited and their distribution was certainly restricted to certain regions. At the same time, herbal substances, leaves, oils and even unusual substances such as crocodile dung were recommended as contraceptives for women.
Advances in the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance
During the Middle Ages, the use of condoms in Europe was seen not only as protection against unwanted pregnancies, but also as protection against sexually transmitted diseases. At this time, condoms were made from various materials such as animal intestines, linen or silk and treated with various substances to increase their effectiveness.
Syphilis in particular was a terrifying disease in the 16th century and gave the Italian doctor Falloppio the idea of using linen bags soaked in liquid over the penis during sexual intercourse to protect against the disease.
In the 17th century, an English court physician who went down in history as "Dr. Condom" was even knighted for the idea of using mutton casings.
The origin of the word condom
Not even linguists agree on how the word came about. One possible origin story goes back to a doctor in the 17th century who practiced at the court of the English King Charles II and is said to have recommended mutton casings for the prevention of disease and contraception. However, the exact name, whether he was really called "Dr. Condom" or possibly "Dr. Conton", remains unclear and has not been proven beyond doubt.
An alternative theory refers to the town of Condom in south-western France, which may have been connected to the formation of the term. Other experts ultimately derive the term from the Latin words "cum" (with) and "domus" (house, dome, roof). Despite intensive research, the origin of the term remains uncertain, as is noted in relevant dictionaries under the entry "condom".
The 18th century and Casanova
The famous Giacomo Casanova was a passionate user of condoms in the 18th century. He made a name for himself by using love sheaths, probably made of animal intestine, for his debauched pleasures. Although condoms were already widespread at this time, they were still made by hand and were correspondingly expensive.
The idea of throwing condoms away after use was unthinkable at the time! Instead, the covers were used several times, cleaned in between, dried and made supple with oil and bran. If necessary, they were even mended with durable materials such as bone glue and animal intestines.
The luxury version of the condom at the time was lined with velvet and silk.
The breakthrough in the 19th century
The breakthrough moment for the condom occurred in the middle of the 19th century when Charles Goodyear developed the vulcanization technique for the plant sap rubber. This innovation made it possible to use rubber latex (rubber) as an elastic and waterproof material - not only for car tires, but also for condoms. In 1855, Goodyear presented the world with the first rubber condom, which was launched on the market in 1870. Thanks to vulcanization, the mass production of condoms in factories could begin, making them of higher quality and considerably cheaper than before.
The renowned writer George Bernard Shaw described this rubber condom as the most important invention of the 19th century. Goodyear's condom had a wall thickness of 1-2 mm (compared to today's standard of 0.06 mm) and had a longitudinal seam.
The 20th century and Julius Fromm - the cornerstone of today's condom
In 1912, Julius Fromm came up with a groundbreaking invention that had a lasting impact on the history of condom production. By immersing a glass bulb in a latex solution, he developed an innovative method for manufacturing condoms. The result of this process was wafer-thin condoms with a reservoir that increased safety and comfort during use, all without any irritating seams.
Julius Fromm went one step further and shortly afterwards introduced the machine production of condoms. This automation not only revolutionized the speed of production, but also contributed to the consistency and quality of the condoms produced. Machine production made it possible to manufacture condoms on a larger scale and with precise reproducibility, increasing the availability of this important contraceptive to the general population.
The 21st century - the current state of condom development and the introduction of condom sizes
Today, condoms are still produced on glass bulbs as invented by Julius Fromm. In the meantime, however, there are numerous shapes, colors, flavored condoms, different wall thicknesses and also different condom sizes. Condoms have also become an established contraceptive, with over 200 million condoms sold in Germany alone in 2000. By 2023, the condom will have replaced all other contraceptive methods as the number one method, at least in Germany.
The idea of perfectly fitting condoms then grew from 2001 onwards, also significantly influenced by Jan Vinzenz Krause, the inventor of MISTER SIZE condoms, you can find the full story here: MISTER SIZE Story - The vision of the perfect condom experience
The safety of condoms is now also very high when using the right size and the right application. This is certainly also due to the fact that condoms are now subject to strict quality controls and are an officially approved medical product. They therefore provide reliable protection against sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies.
The history of condoms is characterized by continuous development and improvement. From their ancient origins to the modern, high-tech versions, condoms have come a long way. Today, they are not only an effective contraceptive, but also an important tool in the fight against sexually transmitted diseases. The history of condoms shows how, over time, human societies have sought solutions to gain control over their reproduction while protecting their sexual health.