This cardboard box originally held condoms. Inscriptions on the box read “ONE DOZEN / TETRATEX / GENUINE Latex / PROPHYLACTICS / MFD. BY L. E. SHUNK LATEX PRODUCTS, INC.” and “MADE IN U.S.A.” AND “AKRON, OHIO.”
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.
Shunk Latex, which produced these condoms, was incorporated in 1928. The company used machines designed by John R. Gammeter (1876-1957) to create their latex condoms. Gammeter was an inventor who worked for the B. F. Goodrich Co. which was also located in Akron.
In the early 20th century, Shunk condoms were made of rubber which was highly flammable. After the company experienced a major fire in their factory, they began using latex to make their condoms. Latex was more expensive but not as combustible.
Unlike cheap untested condoms which were surreptitiously sold on the street, Shunk sold their condoms through a drug store. Most of their condoms were sold through the Akron Drug and Sundries Company, a drug store located in the same city as Shunk Latex. The Akron Drug and Sundries Company introduced the term TETRATEX in 1932.