In 1883, a young German Jewish immigrant named Julius Schmidt founded Schmidt Laboratories in New York. He later named it Julius Schmidt Company. His company soon threw its hat into the prophylactic business. Condoms were nothing new, indeed they had been around since the late 15th century in western society and even longer in Asian society. However, they were made from a range of materials that were full of drawbacks. Leather, linen, and intestinal membranes were all used in Europe until the late 19th century. But the invention of vulcanized rubber in the 1840's made them cheaper and more widely available. By the 20's they were made of latex rubber. They were popular especially in military circles as well as in the upper classes. Manufacturers at the time sought to produce fancy packaging to sell their products, using highly stylized cigarette style tins to sell their product.
In the late 19th and early 20th century, the west was fascinated with the Orient. The popularity of the middle east in particular was very evident due to the celebrity status of archaeologists and explorers. Julius Schmidt Company jumped on this with two lines of prophylactics. The first was called Sheik, playing on the images of the Arabian peninsular. The second was really ironic and showed just how uninformed the marketing department really was at the time. They called the second line Ramses, after Ramses the Great of Egypt. What is wrong with this is the fact that a company producing and seeking to sell a product to primarily prevent pregnancy named their condom after the most prolific breeder of all the Pharaohs. Some accounts have Ramses the Great producing around 160 children in his life. Had the public known this at the time, they may have opted to buy Sheik condoms, as the Ramses label might not inspire the utmost confidence. The company was eventually bought and sold and integrated over time and you can still buy their condoms today, but they call them Durex (DURable latEX)now.
|The "cigarette tin" packaging from 1929, playing on the popularity of ancient Egypt following the 1922 discovery of King Tut's tomb by Howard Carter|
|1947 Packaging. Less ornate than 20 years before, but still people seemed to be buying the product despite its ironic name.|