Menstrual Cups

Vintage Cups

This page is to talk about the first Menstrual Cups – the Foldene, Daintette, Tassette and Tassaway.
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Daintette and Foldene

The first commercially available menstrual cups may have been the Daintette and Foldene cups.  Sadly there is little information available on these early cups.

Daintette Information at EasyCup (Translated into English)

Daintette Information at MUM | Foldene information at MUM

The photos of the inside of the Daintette cup from EasyCup website shows the word “FOLDENE” on the side of the Daintette cup.  According to “MUM”, the packaging for the Daintette and Foldene cups both listed the Goddard and Hagedorn patents. The bent stem some of these existing cup examples have seems likely to be as a result of being squashed into packaging for a long time.  MUM comments that their Foldene cup is slightly smaller than their Daintette, and the box had “Junior size” on it.  So it is possible these early cups came in 2 sizes.

Lester Goddard (for the “Cokzene” company) patented the first of the modern-looking cups in 1932 (below left).   https://www.google.com/patents/US1891761.  In 1933 (published in 1935) Arthur Hagedorn patented a cup design that is almost identical (below right).  The only differences I can see with this and the Goddard cup are the addition of channels (#15) in the wall of the cup and a very slight difference in the angles of the walls of the cup in the diagrams (perhaps also a thicker rim) https://www.google.com/patents/US1996242

1932_goddard_US1891761-0_web1935_hagedorn_US1996242-0_web

Both companies offered very similar looking cups for sale, both featured a silhouette of a woman on the packaging (although different artwork), but the companies were not from the same US State, and had different names.  According to the patent information, Hagedorn was from Ohio – where the Foldene cup was from. The Goddard patent offers no information on where Goddard was from, but the Daintette cup was from Connecticut.  Possibly Goddard was from Connecticut?  The fact the Daintette cup bears the Foldene mark seems to suggest the companies were somehow connected.

While they were patented in 1932-1935, there is no date available for when these cups were actually on the market.  So while the patents for these predate the Chalmers/Tassette cup – they may have been available at the same time, or even after the Tassette – I don’t know.

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Tassette & Tassaway

In 1937 Leona Chalmers patented her design (commonly {perhaps mistakenly} called the first modern menstrual cup).   https://www.google.com/patents/US2089113. This appears to have been sold as the “Tassette”

1937_chalmers_US2089113-0_web tasette_mum

(Photo of the Tassette courtesy of MUM)

Interesting knowledge can be gathered from the 1961 prospectus (when it appears the Tassette company were trying to sell shares of the company to fund more advertising to grow the business)

  • The cup was in “limited use” from 1937 to 1959.  Presumably this started out with cups being in testing phase, but rubber supplies were limited for civilian use during World War II, so it appears that production was suspended until 1951 – after an updated patent had been filed.
  • The updated patent design (http://www.google.com/patents/US2534900) changed the stem to be a flat tab with a hole (presumably for a string to be inserted for easier removal), it also allowed the cup to be made thinner, with the addition of thicker zig-zagging portions for stability.  The shape was also changed to have one side flatter, which was said to be for better fit.  The only photos I can find of the Tassette cup are of the 1937 patent design, not this updated 1951 patent design (below), so I don’t know if cups were produced to this patent.
  • In 1951 Chalmers made a contract with Abe R. Oreck where it appears she gave him an exclusive license to manufacture the Tassette for 20 years – including the rights to the name and the patent, as well as the use of her name and image in advertising.  While also keeping her on as a consultant.
  • After May 1st 1959 the Tassette company was required to pay the “licensor” (Chalmers I assume) 10c per unit sold (and not less than $2,500 per year), or to purchase the patent/name for $50,000.  It appears from their financial records they chose to pay per unit.
  • Robert Oreck (Abe Oreck’s Son perhaps? Abe died in July 1961) formed Tassette Inc.  on May 5th 1959.
  • In an effort to boost support for the cup, over 28,000 letters were sent out to Drs, 33,000 letters were sent out to nurses.  1,253 Tassette cups were sent to clinics, hospitals and universities for them to study and use the cup.  The company called 434 Drs to discuss the cup – 306 gave approval of the cup, 27 raised objections (and 85 were unavailable when contacted)
  • The Tassette was the first menstrual product to be advertised on radio and buses.  It was also advertised in newspapers and billboards.  It was the first menstrual product to be advertised on a billboard on time’s square.  It seems to have been heavily promoted.
  • From May 1959 to July 31st 1961 the company had spent $248,241 in advertising, but had only $82,644 in sales.  The lack of sales and high advertising costs seemed to be an ongoing problem for the company.  It appears to have done many deals to trade shares for advertising and other services.
  • From Jan 1st – July 31st 1961, 10,081 cups were sold (including wholesale and retail)!
  • On 31st July 1961 the FDA sent Tassette a letter stating that due to the possibility of infection or “mechanical irritation” the cup should be labelled to be sold only by prescription.  At the date of the prospectus it seems that Tassette had intended to send more information to the FDA to appeal the decision.  I do not know the outcome.  This would have severely impacted upon the ability to have menstrual cups available to the public!
  • In 1961 the Tassette was being sold for $4.95 each
  • In 1961 Tassette acknowledged the cup they were now selling was not to the patented design (as it had undergone design changes), and was thus without patent protection.  But felt that building the trading name was of more importance.  I do not know what the cup they were selling looked like – if it was the white cup that MUM has, or something else
  • On 31st July 1961 the Tassette company had 2 sales managers and a registered nurse (as well as their President, 2 Vice Presidents, Secretary/Treasurer and 6 directors).  Shirley Oreck (presumably wife to Robert) was one Vice President, the other (J Thomas Gibbons) had previously been the Vice President of Seamless Rubber Co.  (who manufactured the Tassette). One of the other directors had previous worked for Seamless Rubber Co.
  • Tassette had shares in the tampax company!
  • It offered a 3 month, money back guarantee.

 

It is believed that the Tassette cup disappeared from sale in 1963.

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However in 1968 (and revised in 1971) Barbra Waldron patented a design for the Tassette company and in 1970 the “Tassaway” cup was introduced.


(Image from MUM)

1971_Waldron_Tassaway_US3626942-1_web 1968_waldren_tasette_US3404682-0_web tassaway_inserter

https://www.google.com/patents/US3404682 & https://www.google.com/patents/US3626942

Interesting notes made on the patent information for the Tassaway are that they claimed that the Chalmer’s patented design was ineffectual and leaked (presumably this is why this new design has the top rim design it does).  Also that the flatter sided design of the updated 1951 Chalmers patent was said to be difficult to fold and uncomfortable.

This was a new design and made to be disposable.  This was thought to solve 2 major problems with a reusable menstrual cup – the need for washing and reusing (which some women didn’t like), and the fact customers would need to purchase more of them (better for the company).

The Tassaway was designed to be flushed down the toilet and according to the patent information was to be made from a “synthetic resin, such as any one of the well-known polyvinyl alcohols” – not rubber like the previous cups.  It also had a “controlled degree of water solubility” – meaning that they designed the material to be able to last long enough to be used once, but it would start to distort and break down if it was washed and reused – thus ensuring it could not be reused (and presumably meaning it would break down in the sewers, since it was flushable).    The patent also references an “inserting element” tool – so that the women would not need to use their fingers to insert the cup, as this was another issue that some ladies had with the use of the cups.

However money problems still seemed to plague Tassette.  On suspicion of fraudulently inflating the prices of shares (the number of units sold didn’t seem to justify the share prices), in 1972 there was a court hearing after Tassette were allegedly violating the registration provisions of the Securities Act of 1933, the anti-fraud provisions of the Securities Act of 1933, and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.

The Tassaway doesn’t seem to have been available after about 1973.

Another photo of a Tassaway with packaging – from Flickr (see another here):

20150217_112437

Tassaway from an ebay listing (which I’d had in my watch list and forgot about!   SOOOOOOOOOO mad at myself *sob*)

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May 23, 2016 - Posted by | The Cups

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