Phil Harvey

Phil Harvey founded Adam & Eve.

Phil Harvey,founder of adult retail giant Adam & Eve and Washington, D.C.,-based family planning charity DKT International passed away Thursday evening, at his home in Maryland. He was 83. 

He is survived by his wife, Harriet Lesser, and his extended family. Memorial arrangements are incomplete at this time. The company released a statement announcing he had passed.

Harvey divided his time between his home near the Adam & Eve office in Hillsborough, and his home near his office in Washington, D.C. Harvey is the founder and former president of Adam & Eve, the North Carolina–based company that is the nation’s leading retailer of adult products. He was known as an American entrepreneur, philanthropist and libertarian, who over the past 49 years, had set up large-scale programs that delivered subsidized contraceptives in poor countries. Harvey is the founder and former president of DKT International, the Washington, D.C.,-based charity that implements family planning and HIV/AIDS prevention programs in 19 countries across Africa, Asia and Latin America. He was the chief sponsor of the Liberty Project, which raises awareness about freedom of speech issues in the U.S. 

He was called "one of the most influential figures in the American sex industry today,” by Eric Schlosser, author of Reefer Madness, and a “hardcore philanthropist” by Mother Jones Magazine.

Over the years, Harvey used profits from Adam & Eve to supplement support from international donors to protect millions of poor couples from unwanted pregnancies and HIV infections. This unique operational philosophy worked by combining altruism with strong business models.  

Harvey was a proponent of free speech and sexual freedom. His battles with the United States and New York State governments defending First Amendment rights were legendary, and he authored five books including The Government vs. Erotica: The Siege of Adam & Eve. Published in 2001, this book was nominated by the American Library Association’s Freedom Roundtable as the year’s leading work on intellectual freedom.

Harvey’s strong support for individual freedom, free speech, and civil liberties led him to set up the DKT Liberty Project in 2010. He also served on the board of the National Coalition Against Censorship. 

Harvey founded Adam & Even in 1971, as part of his master’s thesis in family planning at UNC-Chapel Hill. It was the first mail-order contraceptive business in the country. Adam & Eve is now the largest marketer of adult products with more than 12 million customers worldwide.

The company started out in Carrboro before  relocating to a larger space in Hillsborough. With more than 300 employees, the company is one of the town’s largest employers. PHE’s generosity and impact as one of the area’s largest private employers helped earn it a Business of the Year award from the Hillsborough/Orange County Chamber of Commerce.