Friday, March 23, 2007

beginning of the Band-Aid

Back in 1920, newlywed Josephine Dickson was living in New Brunswick, New Jersey, with her husband Earle. Married life agreed with her, but housekeeping did not. Josephine was a klutz.

When Earle came home from his job as a cotton buyer at Johnson & Johnson, Josephine would have cuts or burns on her fingers. Josephine had no easy way of covering and protecting her injuries, and Earle had to cut pieces of adhesive tape and cotton gauze and make a bandage for each wound. This happened day after day. Josephine was bleeding all over the kitchen. Dinner was delayed. Earle was getting pissed-off.

Finally, after several weeks of kitchen accidents, Earle hit upon an idea. (Luckily for Johnson & Johnson, his idea was not to hire a cook.) Earle sat down and prepared some ready-made bandages by placing squares of cotton gauze at intervals along an adhesive strip and covering them with removable crinoline fabric. Now all Josephine had to do was cut off a length of the strip and wrap it over her bruise. This was the proto Band-Aid bandage.

Earle soon told his boss at work about his new invention and soon the first adhesive bandages were being produced and sold under the soon-to-be-world-famous Band-Aid trademark.

The first ones were three inches wide and 18 inches long. They were not an immediate success. Only $3,000 worth were sold the first year, but eventually they caught on.

Earle was eventually rewarded with a position as Vice President in the company, where he stayed until his retirement. As for Josephine, history does not record whether she ever mastered the art of accident-free cooking. But we do know she had plenty of Band-Aids available just in case.

Later product advances included machine manufacturing, a shift from cloth to plastic tape, sterile packages with the little red thread for opening, lots of different sizes, clear strips, medicated strips, rugged strips, waterproof strips and decorated Band-Aids for kids.

Brooke Shields, Terri Garr and John Travolta were in Band-Aid commercials before they became famous. (info from Johnson & Johnson)

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