These Fourex brand pre-moistened prophylactic skins were manufactured by Julius Schmid, Inc. of New York, New York during the first half of the 20th century. The white and blue box bore production number 443 and contained three “non-slip” prophylactic condoms. These condoms were called “skins” since they were manufactured from the membranes of lambs. Simple instructions on how to use the condom were provided on a small blue envelope which held each condom.
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 existing penal codes allowed physicians to 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.
Throughout most of the twentieth century, Julius Schmid, Inc. dominated the condom market. An immigrant from Germany, Schmid was one of the first American manufacturers to use the “cold-cure cement” technique to make condoms. Workers at his factory dipped a glass mold into liquified rubber to create a sheath. The sheath was then vulcanized or hardened at a high temperature, enabling it to retain its shape.
Schmid’s condoms were not only standardized, they were also tested to ensure that they had no tears or holes. While cheap untested condoms were often sold on the street, Schmid made a point to sell his more expensive condoms in drug stores. This tactic allowed him to underscore his claim that his condoms were sold “only for protection against disease.” Aggressive marketing, combined with Schmid’s ability to move quickly when laws regulating condom manufacturing and distribution changed, were central to the company’s success.
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