The London Museum of Antiquarian Sexology in Bushey is hosting an exhibition of the life and works of Herbert Gimp, Victorian inventor of the gimp mask.
Mr Gimp is a little known figure, whose pioneering work in the S&M community paved the way for an entire industry based on latex. Without him, the rubber plantations of Malaysia would have lain dormant for another 50 years until the invention of the rubber car tyre.
It was at a bondage-themed "orgiastic gathering", or orgy, in 1836 that Mr Gimp first came upon the idea. He explained the discovery in great detail in his diaries, which are available for viewing in the museum.
"The party was most splendid," he wrote. "There were a delightful array of characters from London's sexually depraved but well-to-do classes. During the course of the evening, I realised that other patrons were being distracted by my wife's hideous countenance, for which I apologised profusely. I attempted to cover her up with a tablecloth. However, in order for her to continue to play a part in the evening's proceedings, the tablecloth required holes for her eyes so that she may see, and one for her mouth so that people could copulate with it. The tablecloth was wholly ruined, and as soon as I got home that evening, I set about designing a better item for such a task."
The original blueprints for Mr Gimp's "Mask of Concealment for Unattractive Ladies to Enjoy Sexual Acts" are a work of incredible detail. Gimp applied for a patent that very year and before long the world's first gimp mask factory had opened in Dorking. At first, rubber was not readily available, so the masks were made from pigskin. Soon though, a ready supply of rubber was located in the East Indies, and the latex sexwear industry began in earnest.
After the invention of the zipper by Gilbert Fly in 1852, Gimp modified his designs to accommodate a zip in the mouthpiece. That brought the gimp mask to the recognisable form as we still use it today. He also patented the latex sock for covering corns, and the latex "unsightly-buttock-hiding crotchless underpant".
"Gimp: Father of the S&M Industry" exhibits until August in the London Museum of Antiquarian Sexology, 12 Crab Lane, Bushey.