Other early commercial tampons - Main Tampax patent - Ad from 1936 - World War II Tampax sign
Ads for the Kotex stick tampon (U.S.A., 1970s) - a Japanese stick tampon from the 1970s.
Early commercial tampons - Rely tampon - Meds tampon (Modess)
CONTRIBUTE to Humor, Words and expressions about menstruation and Would you stop menstruating if you could?
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Read 10 years (1996-2006) of articles and Letters to Your MUM on this site.
Leer la versión en español de los siguientes temas: Anticoncepción y religión, Breve reseña - Olor - Religión y menstruación - Seguridad de productos para la menstruación.


Is this the first Tampax menstrual tampon? Or the first menstrual tampon, period? (Sorry.) (U.S.A., about 1931-33)
Below: Boxes (1931-33) and two newspaper ads (1934, bottom of page)
Next pages: Tampon, tampon unwrapped, and instructions

In May, 2005, a woman in Texas wrote me that among the effects of her 83-year-old mother-in-law, who had just died, was an odd-looking box of Tampax. She sent me a scan of the front. Did I know how old it was?

I knew that the first Tampax Inc. was in Denver, Colorado, and that city appears on this box. Before I consulted my own Web site (this one) I guessed that one of the patent numbers was for Dr. Earle Haas's Tampax patent, his "catamenial device" (catamenia is a medical term meaning menstruation).

Well, I wanted the box, which seemed to predate the 1936 box of Tampax (here) that Tambrands itself had given me as part of a huge gift of material from its archives (read more here). I offered to buy it and the owner accepted.

But when I checked the patent numbers I didn't find the famous one, just two of Haas's earlier patents from the 1920s. The words on the box "OTHER PATENTS PENDING" must have included the famous one and meant that this box appeared before the patent office had approved it.

Whoopee! The box was older than I thought, which I conveyed to the delighted seller.

Here's how I dated the box. Dr. Earle Haas, Tampax's inventor, stated to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (www.uspto.gov/) that he first used the name Tampax in commerce on 1 December 1931; the trademark was granted on 14 June 1932. That office granted him the "catamenial device" patent for the two-tube menstrual tampon on 12 September 1933 (#1926900, first page here). So the box shown here must have been made between those dates, or shortly afterwards, since the box does not show the number of the Tampax patent (the two numbers it shows are for a similar device to insert powder into body cavities). On 16 October 1933 he sold his patent and trademark to a group headed by Gertrude Tenderich, a Denver businesswoman who immigrated from Germany and who herself would sell the Tampax company in 1936 after failing to make a go of it because of lack of cash. (Kimberly-Clark was thinking of buying it but its sales manager wrote that it would be "just like throwing money right out the window." [From "Shared Values: A History of Kimberly-Clark" by Robert Spector, 1997, p. 67]) The buyer would make Tampax successful before selling out to Procter & Gamble in the 1990s. (Most of this information comes from "Small Wonder," (here),  the history of Tampax commissioned by Tambrands.)

Earlier I believed that perhaps fax tampon was the earliest commercial tampon MUM had. Now it looks as if Tampax not only is the oldest in the museum, it is probably the earliest American commercial tampon of all. (But see my 2006 considerations about Nunap and fax here based on a reading of "Shared Values.")

The cellophane covering is discolored and ripped. It looks as if something dripped onto the package. The box measures 5.5" long x1.75" high x1.125 deep " (14x4.3x2.9 cm). The color in the photo is pretty accurate, the lettering being deep blue - almost Kotex blue, a favorite in the American menstruation trade of the 1920s (read about this here) - and the box tan, which might be the effect of oxidation.
The reverse side has identical information and blue lettering.
I wonder why the package does not mention the applicator, which was the genius of Tampax. Maybe because this was the first commercial menstrual tampon and the consumer would not have known there would be a tampon without an applicator - which characterizes most of the early tampons (see fax, for example, which didn't even have a string to pull it out of the vagina! And the fax package calls its tampon an "internal sanitary napkin," referring to something the user would be familiar with, thus declaring its early appearance.)
All images copyright 2005 Harry Finley
Both long sides (above) have the same information and blue lettering. (Black and white image)


Each tampon cost about 4.2 cents, roughly what Lox would cost at the end of the 1930s. A little later other tampons were much cheaper, like Tamponettes. Both ends (above) have the same information and blue lettering. (Black and white image)
Above: Newspaper ad from the Oakland [Cal.] Tribune, Friday, May 11, 1934, bottom of page 9 next to a perfume and toiletries ad. Tampon companies often called their products sanitary napkins since women might not have been familar with the word tampon. I thank very much a genealogy researcher for this scan and several others of tampon ads! She wants to remain anonymous.
Above: Newspaper ad from the Lincoln [Nebraska] Star, October 24, 1934. "[D]esigned by a physician, so it is safe" plays on the trust people had in doctors; the ad would not have said that in the 19th century, when patent medicine companies probably enjoyed a better reputation, and maybe not today. And just as with Wix tampons, Tampax sent out Mrs. Frederick and others to explain this wonder to customers.
NEXT: The wrapped tampons - the tampon disassembled - instructions

© 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
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