Ramses brand rubber prophylactics were manufactured by Julius Schmid, Inc. of New York, New York around 1929. Following the discovery of Ramses the Great’s Tomb in 1881, Americans had engaged in an Egyptology craze. Advertisers picked up on this trend and pitched products ranging from soap to cigars using Egyptians images. Condoms were no different. In a world which often pitched sex as a male conquest, Ramses condoms, named for Egypt’s most imperialist pharaoh, carried a not so subtle message about virile men and their conquests. This metal tin has a colorful Egyptian motif on its top, with an image of two Pharaoh Ramses seated on thrones facing each other and Egyptian columns with hieroglyphics behind them.
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 “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, a tactic which underscored 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.