Read the main Hartmann page
and see similar early U.K. towels (menstrual
pads) by Mosana.
THE MUSEUM OF MENSTRUATION AND
Early disposable menstrual napkin: Southall's
Ads from the United Kingdom, 1888 -
Southall's ads follow on the next
pages from a different contributor)
Assuming the date 1888 is
is maybe the first disposable pad,
earlier than Hartmann.
But information keeps appearing so the
final story has not yet been written.
The company early used an apostrophe
different positions - see below
- but today uses none.
Read the main
Hartmann page and see similar
early U.K. towels (menstrual pads) by
In July 2008 the loyal Dutch
contributor of items to this
I want to add to your discussion
the first commercially sanitary
napkins appears on the market in
the States or Europe, see
I think the date of 1888 of the
Southall's is correct. From the book
"The Worm in
the Bud. The World of Victorian
Sexuality" by Ronald
Pearsall (first published in 1969),
chapter 5: The facts of life,
paragraph Menstruation, page 271
The makers of sanitary towels
were faced with the problem of how to advertise
them [a problem the
makers of perhaps the earliest
American maker of pads had].
The principal manufacturers,
Southall Brothers and Barclay of
Birmingham, often selected the
oddest sites for their
desire to avoid offending
sensibilities had run riot. Surely
there can have been few more
unlikely spots than the Antiquary
of July 1888, in which Southall
Brothers took a third of the back
cover. The advertisement was
addressed in large sans serif
letters to 'Ladies
Travelling by Land or Sea'
[see the ads
below] and the items were
'patented Articles of
Underclothing, Indispensable to
Ladies Travelling. Sold at Cost of
washing Only! To burn when done
This fits exactly with the same
sort of ad you put on your site, so
I think the date you were given of
1888 is correct.
NB: I don't agree with Pearsall
about the unlikely spot. Women who
could afford the advertised sanitary
towels were not working-class women
in the true sense of word: with
plenty of time, not the right to
work (after all the Victorian world,
no suffragettes at that time) but
arts, doing good to the working
class (Red Cross, church work) etc.
I have reasons to believe this is
not the first year of production of
Southall Brothers. The ad on your
site suggests that the company was
well organized, has the praise of
medical professionals (doctors,
nurses), has a department run by
only women and so on. It suggests
more years of production, etc. Also
maybe the first trading was via the
shops, druggist etc. from woman to
woman and not advertising in
Maybe 1881 is the first year of
production. I will try to prove it:
I send you with this email a scan of
a two-page ad with the title "Have you ever
wondered how men would carry on if
they had periods?" The ad is
for Dr White's towels and tampons.
This is the same company of the 1888
advertisement, Southall Brothers.
The ad appeared in April 1985 in a
leading women's magazine of the UK,
The ad itself is humorous with
British style, with a man clad only
in women's lingerie . . . .
Interesting is the claim they make:
"After 104 years in the business, we
aren't naive enough . . . ." If you
subtract 104 from 1985, you have 1881!!
I am absolutely sure about the
year of publication of the ad. I
have more ads with the moons in the
corners of the same year (e.g. the
Liechtenstein ad with the man
thinking: "I just hope, my darling,
that this will last forever" ... and
the woman thinking: "I just hope
this towel lasts till I get home" of
October 1985 in the other leading UK
woman magazine, She).
So the successors of Southall
Brothers claim they were in the
business of female hygiene from 1881
Maybe you can ask readers from the
UK to comment on this!!
And also: maybe German readers
have information about the first
years of production of Hartmann!
I thank the
Web site sensationpress.com, a good source of
Victorian pulp fiction and other
Victoriana, for allowing me to use
their scans of these British ads!
I thank Ben for the scans of the
All images and
information come from, with
permission, the Web site sensationpress.com
from a paperback novel published by
the Hansom Cab Company, about 1888.
The donor photographed the ad at an
angle, thus the distortion, which I
In the ads below there's a constant
comparison to the cost of washing -
When other information is lacking that
indicates the pad is disposable.
from a weekly magazine, 1894
from a paperback novel published by
the Amalgamated Press, about 1902
From a Newnes sixpenny paperback
novel, about 1905
From a magazine published in 1913
© 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 permission of the
author. Please report suspected violations to firstname.lastname@example.org