Culture and Society

Did You Know – #1

Julius Fromm
Julius Fromm

The clock moves almost a century back to the remarkable year of 1914 in the world history. July the 28th when Austria and Hungary declared a war against Serbia that lead to the thing world never knew of before called ‘The world war’. Yes, it was then that the world was introduced the idea of the worst kind of wars of all times! Be it war or peace no human could entirely overcome their basic instincts like sex. Situation of war at the end of the day lead to multiple partners, sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies for pleasure of a night.  There were condoms as contraception but they were made of vulcanized rubber.

Charles Goodyear – the father of vulcanized rubber was in fact the first person to make condoms of rubber in 1855. The earliest rubber condoms had a seam and were as thick as a bicycle inner tube. Besides this type, small rubber condoms covering only the glans were often used in England and the United States. There was more risk of losing them and if the rubber ring was too tight, it would constrict the penis. Thus, making the condoms more of a thing to avoid. Everyone was witnessing the situation and the failure rates of existing contraception but one. He was in his early thirties then, not merely witnessing what was happening. He was studying Chemistry then in Berlin spending his life in slums with a parent-less family of 6 siblings. Since large-scale factories were putting the hand-made cigarette out of business, young Julius took chemistry classes in night school and dreamed of better times. Julius Fromm was his name.

In 1906 Julius had to marry his pregnant fiancee who bore him three sons later on. It must have been these awkward experiences that would have given him the idea that transformed the idea of sex entirely. In 1912 Julius set up a workshop in the Berlin workers’ district of Prenzlauerberg, where he manufactured perfume and rubber items. He experimented for months there with a new kind of condom. After all the pondering and failures he came up with a much better idea. He fashioned phallic glass molds, dipped them into a natural rubber solution, and then vulcanized them in an oven, creating thin and transparent rubber sheaths with a nipple on the end. He then hand-rolled and packaged them for sale in drug stores. In 1916, he patented it titled ‘Fromm’s act’. He did a roaring trade, with every packet containing a folded slip of paper on which was printed: “Please discreetly hand me a packet of three Fromm’s Act,” to be silently presented to the salesperson. This was exactly what we call modern day ‘latex condom’.

Fromm’s efforts got described as ‘a revolution in bed’ which just like birth control pill “Reliably separated lust and love from reproduction.” “Fromm’s Act” was “the right product at the right time.” By 1919 his little factory registered a daily production of 150,000 “Fromms,” as they were already being called and in early 1920s he was marketing them across Europe. He introduced his first condom vending machine in 1928.

The rest as they say is history. Latex had its dominance over the world condoms market much up and until 1994 when Polyurethane came into the market. 70 years of an extensive time period that the whole world used it in exactly the same form. In 2008 the world was introduced to Polyisoprene condoms and by now there are all the different types available including female condoms.

Imagine where the world would have ended up after the Second World War if the condoms didn’t existed then in its Latex form. It is that one idea one passion to make the difference, one spark of anger that brings the change the world had never seen before. It wasn’t only him who was going through all he was going through. World had millions of people then at that time going through the same as Fromm was going through but it was only Fromm who was conscious enough to actually try and come up with a solution with his existing knowledge!

Originally Written for ‘The Quest – an intrapersonal critique’  issue #6

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