Why condoms have such manly names, and other things the Cleveland contraception museum can teach you

The Dittrick Medical History Museum is a tucked away treasure on the campus of Case Western Reserve University. Visitors to the third floor gallery are greeted with turn of the century birthing chairs.
The Dittrick Medical History Museum is a tucked away treasure on the campus of Case Western Reserve University. Visitors to the third floor gallery are greeted with turn of the century birthing chairs.

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Do you know why condoms have names like Trojans, and Sphinx, Ramses and Sheik? It's because the popularity of the condom, with the advent of latex in the 1920s, came into popularity in the time of silent films, the names reflect the themes popular in those films.

Did you know Cleveland has a museum with one of the largest collections of antique IUDs in the United States? The intrauterine device was introduced in the 1920s but fell out of favor in the U.S. in the 1970s. All this knowledge is available for free at one of the city's lesser-known museums, the Dittrick Medical History Center.

"In some ways we are a history museum," Chief Curator James Edmonson says about the museum known for its medical equipment displays. "This is our contraceptive history."

Located on the third floor of the Allen Memorial Medical Library, 11000 Euclid Ave., Cleveland, the collection of medical apparatus includes birthing chairs, knives and saws for amputating limbs, and one of the largest collections around focusing on contraception, and its history of availability. You can explore historical documents advocating puritanical values, or view a midwifery manikin.

"This is nothing new," Edmonson concedes. "You could learn from this gallery about the origins of contraception, what methods have been effective over time." Yes, the question of whether crocodile dung is effective family planning will be answered. And if you're wondering whether the writer made that part up, he didn't.

The gallery is flooded with light, with most of the exhibits encased in glass offering detailed information about their origin and use. Open and free to the public Edmonson reveals that most of the visitors are "non-medical" who have learned about the museum from Facebook or TripAdvisor.

So, if you're just interested in knowing what made the Civil War so dangerous for patients of surgery, or how Union soldiers secured birth control in an age when family planning was considered illicit the museum may just be an answer you are looking for.

"The experience is kind of contemplative," Edmonson adds. "You can come away and form your own opinion."

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