February 20, 1985: Ireland allows the sale of condoms available without a prescription.

After a bitter fight with the Catholic Church and conservative factions of the legislature, on February 20, 1985, Ireland approved the sale of non-medical contraceptives such as condoms.  With this landmark reversal of Ireland’s previous strict ban on all forms of birth control (except leaving the lights on), anyone over the age of 18 could suddenly walk into a pharmacy and buy a pack of condoms for “a friend.”  In salute to the increased availability of this small but mighty device on this day in history, here are 19 facts you didn’t know about the condom.

  1. Condom use was recorded before the 15th century in Asia. Materials such as oiled silk paper, lamb intestines, tortoise shell, and animal horn were used.
  2.  A standard condom has a diameter of 2 inches and length of 7.4 inches.
  3. The first rubber condom was produced in 1855 and resembled a bicycle tube in thickness.
  4. In the 1930’s, the FDA began regulating condom quality in the US.
  5. In 2004, nearly 2,000,000,000 condoms were purchased by the Indian government for distribution.
  6. Legendary 18th century lothario Giacomo Casanova used condoms to avoid impregnating his many mistresses.
  7. In the early 20th century, condoms were typically made by dipping or wrapping penis-shaped molds in rubber.
  8. Condom advertisements were banned from US national television from the late 1950’s to 1979.
  9.  Latex condoms can be stretched to over 800% of their normal size before breaking.vintageadsdisease_1
  10. Worldwide condom sales doubled in the 1920s.
  11. Early condom factories were tremendous fire hazards due to the high use of gasoline and benzene to manufacture rubber condoms.
  12. In the decade before the introduction of the pill, 42% of Americans used condoms for birth control.
  13. The tensile strength of a condom is over 30 MPa. Human skin has an ultimate tensile strength of 20 MPa.
  14. In 16th century Italy, linen condoms soaked in chemicals and tied on with a ribbon were recommended for protection from syphilis.
  15. Sigmund Freud was vocal on his opposition to birth control in general and condoms in particular, siting both high failure rate and reduction of sexual pleasure.
  16. Japan has the highest rate of condom use in the world.
  17. Condoms were heavily promoted to soldiers during WWII using outlandish propaganda posters and films.
  18. Durex brand condoms were first manufactured in 1932 by the London Rubber Company.
  19. During WWII, the US Office of Strategic Services (OSS) used condoms as inconspicuous espionage tools, relying on their ubiquitousness and water-tight character to store items such as acid for self-destructing film canisters, explosive compounds, and corrosive fuel additives.