the first American disposable pad: Lister's Towels
ads for headache, hiccups, and PMS.
See a prototype
of the first Kotex ad.
See more Kotex items: Ad
1928 (Sears and Roebuck
catalog) - Marjorie
May's Twelfth Birthday (booklet for girls,
1928, Australian edition; there are many links
here to Kotex items) - 1920s booklet in Spanish
method - box
from about 1969 - Preparing
Womanhood (1920s, booklet for girls) - "Are
you in the know?" ads (Kotex) (1949)(1953)(1964)(booklet, 1956) - See
more ads on the Ads for
Teenagers main page
The Museum of Menstruation and Women's
Menstrual pads made of
sphagnum moss and gauze
Box and newspaper ads
Portland, Oregon, U.S.A., 1919
Women have used many things to
absorb menstrual blood - cotton
mostly, but anything that absorbs, and
at all. Why not moss?
But Sphagnum Moss Products Co., which
made this pad, picked the wrong time to debut,
Another product coming out of the First
World War at just this time would soon
rule menstrual products in America: Kotex.
I'm not surprised that nurses in that
war were involved in both products. (See
a nurse from Germany in an ad for that
country's most famous menstrual pad -
and she's holding a box with the picture
of a lady of the night on it - MORE
about this woman.)
Companies liked to link menstrual
products with medicine by way of a cross.
story of Kotex the company tells
is that American nurses used bandages
supplied by the Kimberly-Clark Company
as menstrual pads. After the war, in
1919, K-C decided to use the material in
the leftover bandages as menstrual pads
- Kotex. The material was Cellucotton,
processed wood pulp.
I suspect SFAG-NA-KINS died on this
post-war field of battle.
The story of this article: Dr
Sara Read, who teaches at
Loughborough University, U.K., kindly
mailed me the scan of the box shown
below; I straightened some distortion
created by the angle of the camera.
Someone had e-mailed her the scan.
While looking for more information I
found an amazingly similar box on the
Web site of the Society
for Menstrual Cycle Research,
dents and shadows and distortions
included. It looks to me as if the scan
below is the same as the SMCR photo; if
true, it's probable Dr. David Linton
took the photo - he also writes a good
story about his tour of the menstrual
products collection in the Smithsonian's
National Museum of American History,
which I've also visited with the
generous Dr. Katherine Ott as
docent. At least the Smithsonian box
must be the same. I'm indebted to Dr.
The box, which likely rests in the
Smithsonian's National Museum of American
(see my story above). Sphagnum Moss
Products Co. probably replaced the A. J.
Churchill Co, Inc.
as maker - or so I gather from the
ads and the linked Patent Office
registration, all below.
Just as some nudist and other camps often
had odd, hyphenated names, so did
menstrual products like San-Nap-Pak
pads (and tampons),
combination pad and belt,
Ad from the newspaper The
Sunday Oregonian, 9 March 1919 on
the society page.
It's surrounded by ads for hats, clothing,
wall paper, a dancing school, and shoes.
Society news - that is,
news of the social events of the upper
crust of Portland - is scattered among
photos of brides. Early Kotex also
to the monied.
Poorer women probably used and washed cloth
This is the only ad
for such a personal item on this page.
Advertising on a page seemingly meant for
the well-to-do might have meant this
menstrual pad was expensive.
After all, the third ad, below, says it
was hand-made (gauze wrapped around
the moss). But it also
says it's no more expensive than previous
was also just coming out of the war,
probably soon crushed
this competition, maybe
because it was machine made and cheaper.
Sunday Oregonian, 16 March 1919.
The A.J. Churchill Co, Inc, pops up in the
July, 1919 Official Gazette of the U.S.
Patent Office (for July 1) as having
applied for registration of "sphagnum moss
sanitary napkins," #116, 988, granted
October 21, 1919.
Sunday Oregonian, 30 March 1919.
I thought that womanfolk took a lot of
pleasure in shopping. Maybe times have
ads for early American menstrual pads.
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