Remember Your Rubbers

My education began in the Greater Chicago Catholic school system.  So the title to this post make me giggle.  When I was a little girl and it was raining outside, the nuns would tell us to "Put on your rubbers!" before we went out into the rain. This was back before kids were fragile snowflakes and a light rain was O.K. to go run around on a paved parking lot next to the church where a vicious game of dodge ball was considered healthy, but I digress.  Here I will tell the story of how I learned way more than I ever thought I would about the history of contraceptives (ironic, considering my early childhood huh?)

Skip ahead 28 years to my first full time "permanent" job in archaeology. I had moved sight unseen to Boise for the job and had no idea what I was getting into. Lucky me got hired to finish the project from hell that none of their staffers wanted to handle- a huge survey of over 200 sites that had been shoddily completed in the field that still needed to be put into a report.  I. Hated. That. Project.  All I got were terrible field notes that I had to piece into one glossy report on a survey in an area I had never seen.  Yeah, that wasn't shady at all.  The only thing I remember fondly from working at that company was this little gem:
The recorder had no photo, this is one I found later on the net.  I got a crude drawing that looked vaguely like this image.  It measured about 1-2 inches (yeah, they didn't bother to really measure it) and wrote on the form that it was probably a "zinc button cover for overalls".  How that person came up with that mystifies me.  Maybe I'm weird, but I've lived in a big city, went to college, got around so to speak and thought I'd heard of a corset referred to as  "merry widow".  Look up "merry widow corset" on Google.

So I may have made the original "let me google that for you" before Google even existed and typed in "3 merry Widows Agnes Mabel Beckie.  This is what I got.  So I did a search for antique condom tins and this is when I found Remember Your Rubbers. To top it off, the author had his personal phone number listed on a website for the book at the time so I left a message, why not right?  These people hired me to finish their crap project, I was going to do the most intensive research on their dime.  The guy called me back the next day and confirmed that we had indeed recorded an antique condom tin that was fairly rare (at the time).  He was also a bit creepy on the phone, but a real help.  

Long story short, this is one of my favorite stories about archaeology finds.  I bought the book and one day when I have a living room big enough, it will be on my coffee table.  


  1. I. Hated. That. Project.


  2. oh my goodness. what a cool thing to find. i'm looking up antique condoms now...did you know the oldest condom in existence dates back to 1640 and is made of sheep intestine?! here's a link:

    ugh, reusable. that gives me the willies, no pun intended. definitely a great idea to immerse it in warm milk first to avoid diseases (wtf?)...thank jebus it's not 1640.

    love the rubbers book, that looks so entertaining. i'm trying to resist the urge to go look up antique condom tins on ebay...although that would be a pretty perfect V.D. day gift.

  3. ugh, i didn't resist that urge for very long. this one comes with TWO CRAZY-OLD CONDOMS. make sure you scroll down to the last photo to view them in all their moldy, discolored, revolting glory.

  4. @ Emily, I know, they are worth more with the dessicated old condoms inside. Reusable, who knew folks were so "green" way back when.

  5. Collectible Condom Containers, who knew? I must have missed that episode of Antique Roadshow. Thank you (and Emily) for the education.


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