Given the equine subterfuge that precipitated the sack of Troy, Trojan condoms are curiously named—deception is not a quality one typically looks for in a prophylactic. Consumers, however, don't seem to mind: Trojans reign supreme in America's nightstand drawers and billfolds. The various types of Trojan—Ultra Ribbed, Magnum XL, Warm Sensations—account for 70.5 percent of condom sales in drugstores, giving the brand more than four times the market share of runner-up Durex.
The brand's longevity is its chief strength, because when you're selling condoms, name recognition is everything. Cheapskates may be content to buy CVS Allergy Relief Tablets in lieu of Claritin, but even the stingiest shoppers are reluctant to gamble on unfamiliar birth control. So, consumers stick with the same brands their parents used—and in the case of Trojan, which debuted in 1920, the one their grandparents used. Newer brands like Trustex and Hot Rod have their fans, but they're minnows compared to mighty Trojan.
Trojan condoms were the brainchild of a canny Presbyterian from upstate New York named Merle Leland Youngs. When Youngs moved to New York City in the second decade of the 20th century, the condom trade was decidedly seedy, with fly-by-night manufacturers peddling dodgy wares. The Comstock Law of 1873 forbade the sale of birth control, so condoms were instead sold as protection against disease. Still, many pharmacists were loath to stock a product associated with sexual vice, and consumers often had to buy their condoms in the backrooms of bars.
Youngs realized that condoms, for all their supposed shadiness, were a potentially lucrative business for a morally upstanding entrepreneur like himself. During World War I, America's condom-makers flourished by selling their wares to European armies; the puritanical American Expeditionary Force, on the other hand, refused to furnish its soldiers with condoms and was in turn plagued by an astronomical number of venereal infections. Public-health officials were concerned that returning soldiers would spread syphilis far and wide, and Youngs correctly sensed that condoms would become more socially acceptable in the face of a potential epidemic. Indeed, the very year that World War I ended, a New York judge ruled in favor of birth-control pioneer Margaret Sanger, allowing her to distribute information on contraceptives without fear of arrest.
We are a nation of prudes.