There are many interesting evolutions of the modern day tampon, but when it comes to who invented the the tampon, we find the first evidence of the product in the ancient Egyptian cultures. Egyptian women used soft papyrus fashioned into a plug of sorts to absorb menstrual blood during their menstrual cycle. Over the centuries women have used everything from plants, to wool, paper, and plants as tampons.
In 1929, physician Earl Haas set out to improve on the “rags” that his wife was using every month. Inspired by a very trendy friend from California that used a sponge placed inside her vagina, Haas created what we know today as the tampon. After some experimentation, Haas created a prototype that was essentially tightly bound cotton with a strong attached for easy removal. Haas pioneered the idea of using an applicator to insert a tampon with the tube-inside-a-tube technology of the day.
After failing to generate interest in his new product, Haas sold the patent that he had secured for his invention to Denver-businesswoman, Gertrude Tendrich for a whopping $32,000. Tendrich started the Tampax company and was their first president. By the 1930’s, Tampax tampons were being sold on drugstore shelves throughout the United States.
Simultaneously, a German gynecologist named Dr. Judith Esser-Mittag was working on what she called a “smarter” alternative to the Tampax tampon. Her version did away with the need for an applicator and was designed to be inserted by hand, or “without napkins” which translates to “ohne binde” in German. And with that, o.b. tampons were born and eventually purchased by Johnson & Johnson.
It’s pretty interesting that the first two tampon companies created are still some of the most widely used today, yet their product is essentially exactly the same as it was almost 90 years ago. Before switching to organic tampons, we had been using the same non-organic tampon brand for the last 20 years.
We don’t even use the same telephones that we used a year ago, yet many women are using the same tampons that are almost a century old. It’s time for an upgrade, wouldn’t you agree?
Bustle has a great article on tampon history in case you just can't get enough!