Gems Prophylactics


This red cardboard package originally held condoms. The center of the package features two yellow lions holding an oval shape. At the top of the box is the word "GEMS" in white print. Two yellow gems appear on each side of the word "GEMS." Below the lions, the text reads "PROPHYLACTICS MANUFACTURED BY ALLIED LATEX CORP. HASKELL, NEW JERSEY. USA."

Gems condoms were manufactured by the Allied Latex Corporation of Haskell, New Jersey during the middle of the 20th century. The package's dominant image, two lions, promoted the idea of virility.

Beginning in about 1920, condom manufacturers began using latex, as opposed to rubber, for their condoms. Because rubber condom manufacturing required the addition of gasoline to create liquid rubber, condom factories which produced rubber condoms were extremely susceptible to destruction by fire. Unlike rubber, latex is not highly flammable. It also has a high tensile strength and can be stretched more easily than rubber.

In 1872, the Comstock Act had prohibited interstate commerce in obscene literature and immoral material. Condoms and other forms of birth control fell under the category of “immoral material.” As forbidden material, condoms were rarely advertised openly.

However, during the early twentieth century, rising concerns about gonorrhea and syphilis led a growing number of public health advocates to call for condoms to be sold to prevent disease. In 1918, a court case in New York, (The People of the State of New York v Margaret H. Sanger) clarified that physicians could prescribe condoms to prevent disease. Named after Judge Frederick Crane who wrote the opinion in the case, the Crane decision opened the door for condom manufacturers to openly advertise and sell condoms, provided they were sold as a disease preventative.

By selling their condoms only in drug stores, the Allied Latex Corporation was able to underscore the legitimacy of their product and to charge higher prices.

Date Made: 1930s-1950s

Maker: Allied Latex Corp.

Location: Currently not on view

Associated Subject; Web Subject: Birth Control/ContraceptionSexually Transmitted DiseasesSex


See more items in: Medicine and Science: Medicine


Exhibition Location:

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: 1983.0871.75Catalog Number: 1983.0871.75Accession Number: 1983.0871

Object Name: Condomscontraceptive, condom

Measurements: overall: .9 cm x 5.2 cm x 3.8 cm; 3/8 in x 2 1/16 in x 1 1/2 inoverall: 2 1/8 in x 1 1/2 in x 3/8 in; 5.3975 cm x 3.81 cm x .9525 cm


Record Id: nmah_1280866

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