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Band-Aid® Adhesive Bandage
Though his name has
been somewhat lost to history over the years, Earle Dickson is responsible for
the invention of one of the world's most useful devices for the accident-prone:
the Band-Aid® brand adhesive bandage.
In 1917, Dickson married Josephine Frances Knight. He quickly realized that
his new bride seemed to constantly be nicking her fingers while working in the
kitchen, and he thought the big bandages he was using to help her treat them
were too big and clumsy.
He decided to affix small pieces of the sterile gauze to the center of strips
of surgical tape. Dickson folded the gauze into a narrow pad, unrolled the tape,
laid the gauze over it, and put down a band of crinoline to keep the tape from
sticking to itself. He then rerolled the tape so that his wife could unwind
and scissor off what she needed.
At the time, Dickson happened to be working for Johnson
& Johnson as a cotton buyer in New Brunswick, New Jersey. When Dickson mentioned
what he had created to a fellow employee there he was encouraged to approach
management with the idea. The Johnsons weren't overly impressed initially, but
then Dickson showed them that he could easily apply his bandage to himself:
this, they thought, was a great feature.
Johnson & Johnson was already a popular manufacturer of large cotton and gauze
bandages for hospitals and soldiers when Dickson offered up his Band-Aid®
solution. Unfortunately, the original handmade bandages did not sell well -
only $3,000 worth of the product was sold during their first year. This may
have been because the first versions of the bandages came in sections 2 1/2
inches wide and 18 inches long.
Sales were poor until the company distributed an unlimited number of free Band-Aids®
to Boy Scout troops across the country, sparking widespread use. By 1924 Johnson
& Johnson was producing different sizes of Band-Aids® by machine. The bandages
were completely sterilized in 1939, and spun out in sheer vinyl in 1958. Over
one hundred billion have been made to date.
Johnson & Johnson eventually made Dickson a vice president at the company,
a position in which he remained until his retirement in 1957. He was also a
member of the board of directors until his death in 1961. At the time of his
death, Johnson & Johnson was selling over $30,000,000 worth of Band-Aids®