“Sheep intestines fashioned into a condom; crocodile dung with acidic properties for vaginal insertion; and hundreds of metal and plastic swirls, squiggles, loops and bows that form various intrauterine devices” — even beaver-testical tea — these are some of “the artifacts in the 11 display cases in the History of Contraception Museum in Cleveland, the nation’s only museum dedicated to the world of birth control,” writes Cynthia Cooper for Women’s ENews at Alternet.

Home-crafted solutions, usually discovered when doctors in decades past were called to extract them, include a whiskey glass and teapot top …

Casanova, the famous Italian 18th century libertine, reportedly recommended that his lovers insert a half-lemon with the juice extracted as a cervix cover.

Text dating to 1580 B.C. suggests grinding dates, acacia and honey to coat the vulva. More below with, of course, a poll:

The contraceptive exhibit was donated by Percy Skuy, past president of Ortho Pharmaceutical (Canada), maker of contraceptive products and pills, who began building the collection 40 years ago as what began as a trade show novelty.

Now retired and living in Toronto, Skuy is still on the lookout for new items to add to the display.


The collection of ingenious products to prevent pregnancy extends to cervical caps, diaphragms, sponges, amulets and condoms of all sorts, from the manufactured to the homemade candy wrapper and saran wrap.

“These are intimate articles. People don’t tend to save them, and for that reason, they are extremely rare,” said James Edmonson, chief curator of the Dittrick Medical History Museum, who says that he wants to continue to refine the museum to add retrospective social context and descriptions to the items.

The exhibit and its 650 artifacts–ranging from beaver-testical tea believed to prevent pregnancy to tiny pills in circle packaging–may serve as a reminder to U.S. politicians that the 93 percent of U.S. women who are at risk of pregnancy and who use contraception have plenty of historical precedent.