We Have Come A Long Way, Baby


Nicole Buckler discovers that illegal “condoms” were a thing in 1927. And they looked like bicycle tyres. Ouch.

Old Moore’s Almanac has been around for a very long time. We have copies dating back 100 years. And they give a hilarious insight into the advertising industry back then. It was a golden time for advertisers simply because you could say anything about your product without having to prove a damn thing.
So let’s take a look at condom advertising (if you can call it that… both for advertising and condoms). Up until 1973, people were not legally allowed to use contraceptives in Ireland. Married couples actually had to take the church and the State to the Supreme Court (at the time both were virtually indistinguishable from each other). The Supreme Court found that married couples had a right to use contraceptives. This was just 42 years ago. It wasn’t until 1985 that you could legally buy condoms over the counter without a prescription.

But this wasn’t the case in 1927, where the urges were the same but the consequences were not. As an example, I am going to remind you of life in 1927, via the 1927 edition of the Old Moore’s Almanac, where telephones were just appearing and oily hair was a serious fashion.

LeBrasseur Surgical

This advertisement, on page 78 of the 1927 edition, is difficult to interpret as seen through the eyeballs of someone living in modern times. The text states that if you are a wise lady, then you will write to Le Brasseur Surgical for the “Triumph Treatment” for all irregularities.

While initially that sounds like a constipation cure, it is actually an ad for something completely different. It is a 1927 euphemism that has nothing to do with keeping you regular. It was actually an advertisement for condoms! Well, what they called condoms in those days. They are certainly not condoms as we know it now…phew… thank the Gods for living in the modern world.

A lot of advertisements in this era could not say outright what they were selling, due to the products being illegal or socially unacceptable. The advertisement, instead of bellowing on about condoms, instead asked readers to write away for the information booklet. Seeing as it was free to write away, I am assuming that some Irish ladies put fountain pen to paper. What they got back was a book called Guide for Husbands and Wives: A Manual of Wisdom, authored by Douglas Neale of LeBrasseur Surgical Manufacturing Co.

Amazingly, the book is available as a print-on-demand publication through google books. You can just imagine the treasure trove of misinformation and blatant advertorial it contains. It is next on your Goodreads list for sure. But it is safe to assume that it was intended as a guide to safe sex and contained details about how to use the condoms.


The condoms of 1927…a “washable” sheath! OMG eoou.

Such condoms of the day were made from rubber the same thickness as a bicycle inner tube. At the time, condoms were so thick and strong that they were …REUSABLE! The condoms of 1927 didn’t enhance pleasure but it did the main job of averting pregnancy and protecting against sexual diseases, which were big problems at the time.

The reason why so many “alternative” phrases needed to be used in advertising, especially in an Irish publication of 1927 was that the Catholic Church wasn’t budging on its opinion of contraception. Not so with other religions who were relaxing on the condom front. By 1930 the Anglican Church sanctioned the use of birth control by married couples. In 1931 the Federal Council of Churches in the U.S. issued a similar statement. However, the Roman Catholic Church responded by affirming its opposition to all contraceptives, a stance that has never changed, even to this day. So using condoms in 1927 Ireland was very much something you did on the down-low. This advertisement pretty much displays just how quiet you had to be about your plans to not have 25 children.

Despite what some community leaders would have liked, the market for condoms at this time was growing rapidly and their quality was improving fast due to advances in the rubber manufacturing process. Throughout Europe and Russia, they were sold at pubs, barbershops, chemist shops, open-air markets, and at the theatre. Their use later spread to America. Ireland was however still behind on condom freedom but some women who were “wise” and who bought Old Moore’s Almanac were “covered.”

We have come a long way since those days, so I for one am glad that the church no longer makes decisions on how we use our bodies. Long live sexual freedom and highly advanced condoms.


Buy the 2019 Old Moore’s Almanac


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