. . . thanks to Agnes, Mabel and Beckie
Today I highlight a relatively common American find, which I first discussed in 2012. My friend Dick Stout, who has led a very sheltered life, had never even seen one in umpteen years of searching parks, tot-lots and abandoned homesteads. So, I travelled (metaphorically) across to the States to find the really bizarre. For the new detectorist’s elucidation and Dick’s continuing education I remind you of the 3 Merry Widows, Agnes, Mabel and Beckie.
Sometimes even the smallest objects can be the most interesting. Grant Hull, an American detectorist, has allowed me to show you the little tin canister he found. At first he figured it was some kind of ‘milk lid’ or ‘lotion tin’. When he found out what it really contained, he ruefully commented, “Well, I was kinda right on both counts!” This is what he found:
The ‘3 Merry Widows’ was a popular brand of American condom in the early 20th century and the tin probably dates to the 1920s or 1930s. I understand that the three ladies were the owners of the business and it was named after a long-standing slang term for condoms that implied a certain illicit pleasure. So, there you go.
You may find it hard to believe, but it’s true. In 1873 any form of contraception was illegal in the United States, punishable as a misdemeanour with a six-month minimum prison sentence. The act was designed to prevent the sale of obscene literature and pornography. You can read more about this and a history of the American condom by clicking HERE.
Sold for the Prevention of Disease
Because of the Act, vendors had to find other ways of selling their wares. The three ladies, ever resourceful, resorted to selling the product, ‘for the prevention of disease.‘
Origins – Early Condoms Ineffective?
In the early 18th century, when slaughterhouses discarded an abundance of animal organs, butchers made extra money by using intestines as preventive sheaths, making them the first widely sold contraceptive product.
Since the livestock industry was much larger in Europe, most of these “skins,” as they were called, had to be imported from England or France. Long before the advent of the birth control pill, these condoms became the most effective, affordable, and accessible form of contraception.
There are several tales about the origin of the word ‘condom’, none of which I believe, but I do have my favourite! Legend has it that the condom was named after its inventor, Dr Condom. The doctor was a contemporary (and personal physician) to Charles II and he made contraceptive devices out of sheep-gut for the king.
Charles II is believed to have sired at least 14 illegitimate children. Is it a reasonable assumption then that these early condoms were rather ineffective … or perhaps Charley Boy was not very systematic in their use! We shall never know!
It is also thought that farmers in Condom, France started using sheep guts as condoms. This is said to be the origin of lambskin condoms. It is also believed that this is where the name ‘condom’ came into play. No doubt there are other theories.
For the Swinger who thought he had Everything
In a special promotion with that fine detector emporium, Rigtons of Brumagen, I will be awarding an amazing accessory, free of charge, to the first 20 people who sign up for my blog. A piece of advice – don’t keep it in your camo jacket pocket. You never know when you might need it!