Band Aid

People have always been cutting and grazing themselves. However, for millennia they have had to make do with what they had. The bandages and dressings that were available were cumbersome or not very secure. In the early 20th century minor cuts were often covered with cotton gauze, and then held in place either with a bandage or medical tape. That was until 1920, when a cotton buyer for Johnson & Johnson, named Earle Dickson, created the Band-aide.

The story goes that his wife, Josephine, was accident prone and often cut herself.  This inspired Earle to look for an alternative that was less likely to get in the way of Josephine’s day to day work. He took a long strip of medical tape and placed small pieces of gauze, in the middle, at regular intervals; this way Josephine could cut the ‘band-aids’ off as she needed them.  Earl covered the ‘band-aids’ with a strip of crinoline to keep them sterile and from the tape stocking to itself.

Earle showed his invention to his boss, at Johnson & Johnson, who was impressed with it. Soon afterward, the company began producing band-aids. The first Johnson & Johnson band-aids were two-and-a-half inches wide by eighteen inches long, which were cut to size as needed.  In 1924, band-aids began being mass produced by machinery. By 1958, the sterile gauze was being covered with a vinyl strip of plastic.

Initially band-aids weren’t commercially successful. That is until Johnson & Johnson employed a bit of clever marketing. The sales of band-aids exploded when they were distributed to the Boy Scout and unlimited supplies were donated to the army during World War II. Later, in 1951, Johnson & Johnson began, marketing band-aids to children by decorating them with cartoon characters.

By fulfilling a need (i.e. sure bandaging for minor cuts) and attaching it to patriotic icons, band-aid was inserted into the common language. The band-aid is now generically used to describe any adhesive bandage with a sterile gauze, regardless of whether it is made by Johnson & Johnson. The word and the essence of the band-aid have superseded the initial product. Band-aid has become a term given to quick, temporary solution to problems.


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