Early American pads in newspaper ads. Early Modess pads in newspaper ads.
Kotex ad emphasizing shame, 1992
See ads for Pursettes: September 1972 (letter testimonial) - August 1973 (letter testimonial) - February 1974 (cartoon story) - August 1974 (cartoon story) - October 1974 (cartoon story) See a 1965 ad for a Pursettes school educational kit - Pursettes Getting to Know Yourself booklet for girls - other teaching booklets: Growing Up and Liking It and How Shall I Tell My Daughter?
See Kotex items: First ad (1921) - ad 1928 (Sears and Roebuck catalog) - Lee Miller ads (first real person in a menstrual hygiene ad, 1928) - Marjorie May's Twelfth Birthday (booklet for girls, 1928, Australian edition; there are many links here to Kotex items) - Preparing for Womanhood (1920s, booklet for girls; Australian edition) - 1920s booklet in Spanish showing disposal method - box from about 1969 - "Are you in the know?" ads (Kotex) (1949)(1953)(1964)(booklet, 1956) - See more ads on the Ads for Teenagers main page
CONTRIBUTE to Humor, Words and expressions about menstruation and Would you stop menstruating if you could?
Some MUM site links:
homepage | MUM address & What does MUM mean? | e-mail the museum | privacy on this site | who runs this museum?? |
Amazing women! | the art of menstruation | artists (non-menstrual) | asbestos | belts | bidets | founder bio | Bly, Nellie | MUM board | books: menstruation and menopause (and reviews) | cats | company booklets for girls (mostly) directory | contraception and religion | costumes | menstrual cups | cup usage | dispensers | douches, pain, sprays | essay directory | extraction | facts-of-life booklets for girls | famous women in menstrual hygiene ads | FAQ | founder/director biography | gynecological topics by Dr. Soucasaux | humor | huts | links | masturbation | media coverage of MUM | menarche booklets for girls and parents | miscellaneous | museum future | Norwegian menstruation exhibit | odor | olor | pad directory | patent medicine | poetry directory | products, current | puberty booklets for girls and parents | religion | Religión y menstruación | your remedies for menstrual discomfort | menstrual products safety | science | Seguridad de productos para la menstruación | shame | slapping, menstrual | sponges | synchrony | tampon directory | early tampons | teen ads directory | tour of the former museum (video) | underpants & panties directory | videos, films directory | Words and expressions about menstruation | Would you stop menstruating if you could? | What did women do about menstruation in the past? | washable pads
Leer la versión en español de los siguientes temas: Anticoncepción y religión, Breve reseña - Olor - Religión y menstruación - Seguridad de productos para la menstruación.


Lister's Towels disposable menstrual napkin (ads)
The first American disposable? (1896-1920s?)

Until about the 1880s women in America and Europe probably either made their own menstrual pads (see Norwegian pads), bought washable pads (here) or wore, um, nothing (read about this).

But then Hartmann in Germany and Johnson & Johnson in the U.S. made throw-away pads, similar to what women use today in many countries.

The Dutch contributor of many items and information to this site writes that in the book Dieses kleine Stück Watte: Werbung und Tabu, am Beispiel Binden und Tampons (Renate Waschek, 1995) [This Little Piece of Wadding: Advertising and Taboo Using the Examples of Menstrual Pads and Tampons - Harry Finley made all the translations] "[s]he has a timetable with important dates (starts on page 115). She writes:

1885: Fürst beschreibt erstmals den Aufbau einer Menstruationsbinde," etc. etc., with reference to Hering; Maierhof page 36-37 [Fürst describes for the first time the construction of a menstrual pad. (It's possibly here, published in 1894.)] [See an 1888 design by German gynecologist J. Großmann.]

1896: Die ersten industriell gefertigten Wegwerfbinden kamen in den USA auf den Markt. Sie bestanden aus Wattekissen im Mulleinschlag und wurden von der Firma Johnson &Johnson hergestelt, Markenname: 'Lister's towels.'" [1896: The first American commercial disposable pads appeared on the market. They were made of a cotton pad in a muslin case and made by Johnson & Johnson and called Lister's Towels.] Her reference: page 299 of Umbach, Wilfried (Hrsg.): Kosmetik. Entwicklung, Herstellung und Anwendung kosmetischer Mittel. [Cosmetics: Development, Manufacture and Use of Cosmetic Materials] Kap. 6: Hygienemittel; 1988

Ende des 19. Jahrh. (...) Die Verbandstoffirma Paul Hartmann stellt für die Europäerinnen die ersten Wegwerfbinden her - die 'Mulpa-Damenbinde.'" [End of the 19th century . . . . The bandage firm Paul Hartmann made the first disposable pad for European women - the 'Mulpa Ladies Pad.'] She didn't give a reference for this.

J&J's contribution was Lister's Towels, apparently a product of the "tiny Lister Company, whose principal reputation was as a notorious price cutter. Johnson bought it out for $2,000," writes A Company That Cares, the company history of Johnson & Johnson, p. 52. The company probably took its name from the British proponent of germ theory and cleanliness, who worked to reduce the morbidity and death rate among patients by killing germs using a spray of carbolic acid.

The Curse: A Cultural History of Menstruation (Delaney, Lupton and Toth, 1988, pp. 138-39) states

Johnson and Johnson manufactured "Lister's Towels" in 1896, the first commercial disposable pad, made of gauze-covered cotton. But because turn-of-the-century morality prevented advertising these "unmentionables," the pads did not reach many women and were eventually withdrawn from the market.

But I think they did reach many women and the pads survived much longer than the turn of the century as the ads below attest.

And at least one other disposable appeared in America before Kotex muscled in in the early 1920s: Curads, now mostly known for its bandages (that term has been also used for menstrual pads) - see an ad in Vogue magazine.

I again thank the kind genealogy researcher who found this valuable evidence, below!

Below: From the Oakland Tribune, September 30, 1904 (see the arrow). Lister's is the only menstrual pad listed!
Below: November 21, 1921, Oakland [California] Tribune. Look how the regular price doubled from 1904 to 1921, same newspaper, above, but without inflation figured in. Hey, typo! The apostrophe should be between the r and s in the title!
Below: June 8, 1922, Reno [Nevada] Evening Gazette. Look at the bandeau ad below the Lister's; they were fabric bands without cups that compressed the breasts. Sized cups appeared in the 1930s. Flat or minimal breasts were the rage then, as in John Held's College Girl painting, here. Typo again, or dirt?
Below: Lima [Ohio] News, May 1, 1924. See Lister's Towels at the bottom of the right-hand column. Wait, what's THAT? Mum deodorant - no relation to your MUM, this museum - is under Toilet Articles. See an ad for the real thing!

Early American pads in newspaper ads. Early Modess pads in newspaper ads. First Kotex ad (1921) -
Kotex ad 1928 (Sears and Roebuck catalog) - Lee Miller Kotex ads (first real person in a menstrual hygiene ad, 1928)

See ads for menarche-education booklets: Marjorie May's Twelfth Birthday (Kotex, 1933), Tampax tampons (1970, with Susan Dey), Personal Products (1955, with Carol Lynley), and German o.b. tampons (lower ad, 1981)
See also the booklets How shall I tell my daughter? (Modess, various dates), Growing up and liking it (Modess, various dates), and Marjorie May's Twelfth Birthday (Kotex, 1928).
And read Lynn Peril's series about these and similar booklets!
See another ad for As One Girl to Another (1942), and the booklet itself.
© 2006 Harry Finley. It is illegal to reproduce or distribute any of the work on this Web site in any manner or medium without written permission of the author. Please report suspected violations to hfinley@mum.org