How it Happened: Band-Aids (3m)

For a lucky few the kitchen is a fun, creative space where skill and coordination lead to magnificent works of culinary art. For the rest of us, it is a dangerous minefield of hot surfaces and sharp objects we’re lucky to escape from alive.

Josephine Knight was a kitchen survivor. Though her husband Earle loved everything about her, even he would admit that her clumsiness was a dangerous trait around stoves and knives.

It was 1920, and Earle was a traveling cotton buyer for Johnson & Johnson. Unfortunately, that meant long hours and days away from home. Dinners together were few, and even though his wife Josephine had a real knack for flavors and loved to cook, Earle found their time together was mostly spent tending to her cuts and burns.

While he was at work, she would do her best with scraps of cloth and gauze taped loosely with one hand until he could return to help.

Eager to solve his wife’s kitchen woes, Earle took surgical tape from a store room and some cotton from the samples he received and set out to make a bandage she could easily apply when he wasn’t home. He unrolled the surgical tape and placed narrow pieces of cotton evenly spaced throughout. He covered the tape with crinoline to keep it from sticking to itself as he rolled it back up.

This way, Josephine could easily cut off pieces as needed, peel off the crinoline and apply the tape and cotton together easily.

It worked so well that Earle told his supervisor about this effective, self-packaged bandage system he had made for his wife and the supervisor took it to James Wood Johnson (the president of the Johnson & Johnson company) himself. Mr. Johnson immediately saw the invention’s potential and threw the whole company behind it’s manufacture.

During the first few years of production, Band-Aid sales were slow. After multiple rounds of the drawing board, they figured out how to pre-cut the product into strips and initially donated it to Boy Scouts for testing where it became an instant hit.

By the time World War II began, Band-Aids had turned into the sterile, sturdy, easy to use bandages we know today and proved extremely valuable to mess kits and med bags, preventing infections and launching sales through the roof.

After the war, veterans and their families continued to use Band-Aids in their civilian lives. Turning their attention to domestic households, in 1956 Johnson and Johnson introduced decorative Mickey Mouse Band-Aids and the public went crazy.

Earle was not forgotten as the success of adhesive bandages grew. During his long and successful career at Johnson and Johnson, he became vice president of the company and joined the board of directors until his retirement.

Immediately upon his promotion, he was able to at long last be home with his beloved Josephine every day to cook, dine, and enjoy their evenings together.

Of course, they were never without a free box of Band-Aids readily available – just in case.

Earle and Josephine Dickson


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Fredo Darling
Fredo is a lover of history, science, and people. He's an avid learner and makes his living as a creative director and photographer.

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