View Full Version : Condoms in the Twenties

02-27-2015, 07:50 AM
So I want to write a book with the protag in the Twenties. I know condoms were legal in the US, even advertised. But I have no idea where my protag would buy them.

Would it be a mail-order thing?
Would drugstores have them?
If so, would they be out on the shelves like they are today, or would it be something you'd have to ask the druggist for?

Any info would be helpful. Thanks.

King Neptune
02-27-2015, 05:33 PM
Even in the 1960's, condoms were a drugstore item, and the buyer had to ask, because they were not displayed on shelves.

02-27-2015, 06:02 PM
In the 1960s, drugstores kept condoms behind the counter, either at the pharmacy or the cash register. The buyer had to ask for them, specifying brand and which size box. There are numerous jokes and movie references to the difficulty of buying them for young men who hoped they'd get lucky; many involved the man who'd sold them the condoms being the one who answered the door when the guy arrived to pick up his date.


02-27-2015, 06:21 PM
I don't know about the US but over here barber shops used to sell them - I remember my Dad telling me about going for a haircut on a Friday and the barber asking him if he wanted "something for the weekend, sir?", meaning a pack of three.

02-27-2015, 06:50 PM
Availability depended on where you lived. The federal Comstock law prohibited shipment of birth control devices and information regarding birth control through the U.S. mail. Many states had "Little Comstock" laws that imposed similar restrictions on sale and advertisement of contraceptives. The federal law was partially overturned in the 1930s but state laws persisted into the 1960s. (See Griswold vs. Connecticut)

However, such laws were rarely enforced, so condoms and other birth control devices could be found in pharmacies, even where sale was illegal. Availability would have varied between urban and rural areas, and depended to some extent on the personal beliefs of the pharmacist. They would have been kept out of sight.

02-27-2015, 06:55 PM

The ironic thing is that I've done a great deal of oral history research about growing up in the Twenties and Thirties with my relatives. I've got LOTS of interesting stuff that never made it into history books.

But this just wasn't a topic that ever came up. Not the sort of thing you ask your grandma or great-uncle.

I love the barber shop thing. It's so elegant in comparison to the drug store.

I suppose I could dodge the bullet. The guy's going to be rich, although he'll lose it all in the stock-market crash. But I suppose it's the type of thing people who had valets could pay them to do for them.

I think I'm going to have to put him in New York, where I've never even been. Other than Gatsby, does anyone have any reading recommendations?

ETA: I suppose I could put him in Chicago. But he's a young man from the Midwest who wants to get away from the farm, and either of those seems like a more likely destination than say, Minneapolis or Indianapolis, which are the only two cities I have oral history research info on, other than LA. The last seems unsuitable, although I suppose he could take a Pullman car.