Pamphlet advertising, one of the oldest forms of advertising, is still alive and vigorously kicking. They come tucked inside our morning newspapers, are handed to us by disinterested looking people outside shopping malls and in markets or are shoved into our letter boxes. The only difference is that they, in this impatient era, don’t contain a thousand plus words. In the world of pamphlet advertising of the 1930s, brevity was not a virtue. Elaborate sentences tried to cover all aspects of the product (some imaginary).

This ad was indeed a priceless find. It brings to us interesting details of contraception 80 years ago. Condoms back then were also washable and reusable. While AIDS was still about half-a-century away, other sexually transmitted diseases were a worry.

Condoms were of different kinds, the washable and the disposable. They were also available in different sizes. Never knew that condoms were also referred to as ‘neverips’, it could also be a brand like Prevax (Google wasn’t of much help here). Also on sale were female contraceptives – spermicide and pessaries, also enemas, hot water bags, sanitary towels and suspensary bandages.

The pamphlet uses the term ‘French Letters’ for condoms. The usage is British. And why the British called condoms French letters is still debatable. Incidentally, the French called the condoms capote anglaise (English overcoat).

Also 1930s were long before the decimal era (that began in 1957) and rupees, aanas, pice and pies were in circulation. (1 rupee = 16 aanas; 1 aana = 4 pice; 1 pice = 3 pies and therefore 1 rupee = 192 pies). Things are so much simpler now. Even the way currency figures were written were a little different, though not consistent. There are two examples in the pamphlet. One is hyphen separated and the other with slashes (examples: Rs. 1-4-0, Rs. 3/8/0). The first unit represents the rupee, the middle is for the aana and the last for the pice).

The Hamam Street in Bombay where the American Medico & General Commercial Association is now known as Ambalal Doshi Marg, Mumbai. Turf Printing Works (established in 1920) is still in business.

So much info in one ad. This is what makes my pursuit of vintage ads worth the while.

Indian print ad from 1930s for washable condoms and female contraceptives.


The need for the birth control has been emphasised by the last census Commissioner Dr. J.H. Hutton in his Administration Report, which draws pointed attention to the enormous increase in the birth rate in middle classes of this country.

With growing economic depression and stringency of money it is impossible to provide proper clothing, food and above all proper training and education to an unlimited number of children. It is surely a sin both moral and social, for parents not well provided with means to go on bringing children into the world to become only parasites to the nation and increase the number of unemployed.

Women have also the right to enjoy youth, vitality and radiant health, and it is the duty of men to protect them against excessive birth of children.

Unfortunately in India, owing to ignorance of contraceptive methods people are indifferent to this most vital problem of life.

Under the request of the Public we have stocked the following goods for birth control. The latest scientific and harmless methods approved by Birth control authority. All parcels are sent under plain covers.

The Rubber Protectors.

Close at one end is worn by the male to prevent conception, and in numerous cases to guard against venereal disease. They are made of superior Rubber with teat ends. They are washable and can be used for any number of times, thus providing great convenience to person with limited means. Made in 3 sizes, small, medium and large. Supplied with instructions.

Superior quality Rs. 1-4-0 each.
Superior quality Rs. 14/- per dozen.
Ordinary quality Rs 0-12-0 each.
Ordinary quality Rs 8/- per dozen.

British Neverips.

Commonly known as French Letters, are the finest, thin at the same time of very great stencile strength, velvety finish, each one tested to 10 lbs air pressure per square inch, with teat ends, for male use each in packet. Prophylactic with seamless double tip.

Price Rs. 0-8-0 each. Rs 5/- per dozen.

PREVAX-(French Letters) very finest and thin, with teat ends for male use. Specially made in England and will keep in good condition for 3 years. Not less than 3 in quantity will be supplied.

Price Rs. 1/- for three. Rs. 1/12 for six, and Rs. 3/- per doz.

Contraceptive Foaming Tablets, for Birth Control
Manufactured in England.

The Ideal contraceptive. Completely reliable. Perfectly harmless. Non-greasy, Non-irritant, Odourless, Contraception Tablets are charged with strong, yet harmless prophylactics which when in contact with the natural humidity of the vagina, are released in the form of foam. This prevents the entry of the spermatozoa into the womb, and the antiseptic properties search every recess of the vaginal passage killing the spermatozoa immediately. Widely recommended by most eminent authorities. This are quite harmless both to men and women. Available in tube of one dozen Tablets.

Price Re. 1/- per tube. Rs. 2-12-0 for three tubes.

Check Pessary.

This pessary is made of the finest quality para Rubber, with silken cord attached, so that it is very simple to use in accordance with female organs, can be worn with ease and comfort, being seamless, it so accurately fits the parts that it fits itself perfectly and no apprehension of its going too far or doing the slightest harm need be felt. It’s use is largely recommended by Medical Men to delicate females who by physical deformity cannot with safety bear children and to those whom injudicious and rapid child bearing become affliction and burden. It is a perfect, convenient and safe protection and the only article of the kind that can be safely used without any inconvenience of any sort. Full directions with diagrams enclosed with each pessary in box.

Price Rs 3/- each.

Indian print ad from 1930s for bras, hot water bags, enema, sanitary towels

Whirling Spray.

Vaginal whirling spray are seamless with stout bulb made of finest para rubber, which gives a very powerful flushing action and thoroughly cleanses the entire vaginal canal. Regular use of same is strongly recommended by Doctors as a very important factor for many ailments of woman and its is absolutely necessary before and after the removal of Pessary to cleanse the entire passage, thereby finally destroying the spermatorial germs hidden in the vaginal cavities and make it hundred percent safe against conception. Very convenient to use, extremely simple in action; nothing to get out of order, no metal parts to corrode or wear out, with adjustible ebonite spray, guaranteed serviceable for years. it can be used also as travelling enema, as there is separate rectal piece, which can be used for other troubles of nose, throat, ears etc.

Each box Rs. 5/- each.

Brassieres (Breast Supporter)

Very popular. High in favour with woman as is gives firm support to the bust without interfering with body freedom. Made of Artificial Silk with elastic webbing around the waist. In all sizes.

Price Rs. 1-8-0 Each.

Hot Water Bag.

An ideal article to use in the home the most natural and simple pain relieving methods without any bad effects numerous human ailments such as pain in back, chest abdomen, neuralgia, rheumatism, chills etc. which if neglected develops into very serious troubles.

Medium size. Rs. 3/- each.

Suspensary Bandages.

The Medical Profession are agreed that to wear a properly constructed Suspensary Bandage is not only a safe guard against accident, but conquers many nervous troubles consistent with an active life. If you have never worn one you cannot realise the comfort and support that they give. Their use absolutely banishes that used, dragged down feeling. Many men wear this for comfort and the number is steadily increasing as a result of the benefits attending their use being better understood. They are invaluable to those exposed to the strain and fatigue of standing for many hours. It is very light and comfortable to wear. It can be available in three sizes large, Medium and small. Price cotton 1-8-0.

The Rubber Enema.

The most useful thing for chronic constipation and as vaginal douche. It is recommended by Doctors, in Leucorrhoea. Whites Vaginitis and offensive discharges. Complete in box with rectal and vaginal tubes.

Price Rs. 3/8/0

Rubber Powder.

The powder to be dusted inside and outside for all kinds of Rubber goods to keep them fresh and to prevent them from getting sticky. Oil and grease are very harmful for rubber goods and they should not be kept in a hot or damp place. Price Ans. 6/- per box.

Sanitary Towel.

Vary absorbent for use during monthly periods. It solves a problem which has been cause of distress and embarrassment to women-kind since time immemorial and it is no cause for wonder that they are universally used.

Price Rs. 1-8-0 per packet per packet of one dozen.
(English or American).
Sanitary belts for using above Towels. Price Rs. 1-8-0

17-21 Hamam Street, Fort, P.O. Box No. 722, Bombay.

Turf Printing Works Bombay-4.