Merrell's Dousan


The indications or uses for this product as provided on its packaging: A delightful aid for personal hygiene. 1 or 2 teaspoonfuls to a quart of water.

By the early twentieth century, the idea that regular vaginal douching was a necessary part of women’s hygiene had gained traction and spurred the creation of a whole category of consumer products for women. Douching involves the insertion of fluids into the vagina to “cleanse” it, and manufacturers offered a range of powders and liquids for making up these solutions. Douche products at this time typically included antiseptic and astringent ingredients such as boric acid, zinc sulphate, salicylic acid, alum, thymol, and menthol. While advertising emphasized the cleansing, deodorizing, refreshing and soothing effects of douching, douching after sexual intercourse was widely employed (however ineffectively) for the purpose of contraception. Historian Andrea Tone states that by the 1940s, douching had become the most prevalent form of birth control used by women in the United States and remained so until the introduction of oral contraceptives in the 1960s.

The William S. Merrell Chemical Company of Cincinnati, Ohio, first marketed Dousan douche powder in late 1929. Like many personal hygiene products for women, the package design is decidedly feminine. The bottle’s distinct shape, and the metallic colors and design of the label, reflect the art deco style popular at this time. The label on the bottle does not include ingredients or provide directions for use although this information may have been on an outer box and/or package insert. Based on newspaper advertisements in the 1930s, Dousan sold for 50 cents to $1.25 (probably representing two different sizes) but could be found on sale for half that amount. The product appears to have been discontinued by 1950.

Date Made: 1930-1950Trademark Renewed (Dousan): 1950-05-06Trademark Registered (Dousan): 1930-05-06

Maker: William S. Merrell Company

Location: Currently not on view

Place Made: United States: Ohio, Cincinnati

Subject: Women's Health ProductsWomen's HealthFeminine hygiene productsBirth Control/Contraception


See more items in: Medicine and Science: Medicine, Health & Medicine, Beauty and Hygiene Products: Feminine Care, Beauty and Health, Balm of America


Exhibition Location:

Credit Line: Gift of Mary E. and Joseph F. Melfi, Jr., Tupper's Drug Store, Summerville, South Carolina

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: 1980.0698.149Accession Number: 1980.0698Catalog Number: 1980.0698.149

Object Name: douche powderOther Terms: otc preparation; Patent Medicines; Drugs; Non-Liquid

Physical Description: glass (container material)white powder (product material)metal (container, cap material)paper (container, label material)printed (container, label production method/technique)Measurements: overall: 5 5/8 in x 2 3/8 in x 2 1/4 in; 14.2875 cm x 6.0325 cm x 5.715 cm


Record Id: nmah_724227

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