Peelers, Strippers and Condoms

8th November 2014 — 3 Comments

In Britain today policemen are sometimes referred to as ‘Bobbies’. Originally though, they were also referred to as ‘Peelers’, both names in reference to former Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel who created the modern police force.

If you had asked me last week about ‘Peelers’ I would have regurgitated a half-forgotten history lesson circa 1947 and related the story above. If you had asked me yesterday I might have referred you to the orange fruit Mrs. John bought at the supermarket; they were called ‘easy peelers’. Not tangerines or satsumas, but ‘easy peelers’.

Today, with the discovery of a badge by a Canadian detectorist, the word has taken on a whole different meaning of which I wasn’t aware. In my research for further information I came across phrases like. ‘Vancouver had become a hotbed of peeler bars and exotic nightclubs’, and ‘It’s the only peeler joint in town.’

Looking at the word in context, it soon became clear that the word ‘peeler’ in Canada (and I suspect North America too) was what we might call a ‘stripper.’ Detectorist T. Hunter found the badge shown below in Vancouver, in the woods. I guess that an ‘easy peeler’ over the water would refer to a stripper at the top of her profession or at least adept at her job.


© T. Hunter

The Cecil Hotel with its sign boasting, ‘the hotsy of the week’ was once one of Vancouver’s famous peeler bars until 2010 when it was pulled down. And what about the badge? Once again, because I know almost nothing about it, I must don my archaeologist fedora, be creative, and make up a plausible story.

The men who frequented the Cecil were unofficial judges and no doubt ogled the strippers in a lecherous manner. On the other hand, the ‘official’ judge (male only) not only checked out the gals in a professional way when they applied for a job, but also looked after their welfare and well-being. And this is how the badge came to be in the woods, dropped when an official judge, still on the job, was engaged in a little extra-curricular activity.


Agnes, Mabel and Beckie

I take the opportunity to resurrect and highlight a relatively common North American find. For your delight and elucidation I re-introduce you to the Three Merry Widows, Agnes, Mabel and Beckie, first published in 2012.

Sometimes even the smallest objects can be the most interesting. Grant Hull, an American searcher, has allowed me to show you the little tin canister he found recently. At first he figured it was some kind of ‘milk lid’ or ‘lotion tin’. When he found out what it really contained, he ruefully commented, “Well, I was kinda right on both counts!” This is what he found:


© Thanks to Grant Hull for allowing me to publish his find

’3 Merry Widows’ was a popular brand of American condom in the early 20th century and this container probably dates to 1920s or 1930s. I understand the the three ladies were the owners of the business.

This was the time before latex condoms so we know that what was inside this tin were three condoms of the older cement rubber variety. Of course they came with built-in disadvantages (I’ll leave you to work out what they were), but they also had advantages. They were more durable and, to use a modern phrase, they were simply Wash ‘n’ Go! Yes, re-usable and reflected in the rather high price of 50c a tin.

Did You Know?

In the early 18th century, when slaughterhouses discarded an abundance of animal organs, butchers made extra money by using intestines as preventive sheaths, making them the first widely sold contraceptive product. 

Since the livestock industry was much larger in Europe, most of these “skins,” as they were called, had to be imported from England or France. Long before the advent of the birth control pill, these condoms became the most effective, affordable, and accessible form of contraception. Collector’s Weekly

You may find it hard to believe, but it’s true. In 1873 any form of contraception was illegal in the United States, punishable as a misdemeanor with a six-month minimum prison sentence. The act was designed to prevent the sale of obscene literature and pornography, You may read more about this and a history of the American condom by clicking HERE.

Because of the Act, vendors had to find other ways of selling their wares. The three ladies, ever resourceful, resorted to selling the product as SOLD FOR PREVENTION OF DISEASE


Courtesy of Collectors’ Weekly

Origins of the Word

There are several tales about the origin of the word ‘condom’, none of which I believe, but I do have my favourite! Legend has it that the condom was named after its inventor, Dr Condom. The doctor was a contemporary (and personal physician) to Charles II and he made contraceptive devices out of sheep-gut for the king.

Charles II is believed to have sired at least 14 illegitimate children. Is it a reasonable assumption then that these early condoms were rather ineffective … or perhaps Charley Boy was not very systamatic in their use? We shall never know!

Goodness … I seem to have gone off on a tangent. Sorry! Thanks to Mr. Hunter for the badge, Grant for presenting the prophylactics for this post and to you for reading my scribblings.


Bruce Condom

© Bruce Campbell

Bruce Campbell, site moderator on the Canadian Metal Detecting forum,  says that he’s found his fair share of Merry Widow containers, but only one without the names of the gals and showing the price. Thank you for your contribution, Bruce.


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3 responses to Peelers, Strippers and Condoms

  1. The reason so many cap badges are found is due to army maneuvers.

  2. Something for the weekend sir.

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