If you enjoy looking remnants of the past, be sure to check out 75 Years of Band-Aids®. This site has images of old Band-Aid® boxes and is worth a visit.
The New York Times has two articles on the achievements of Earle Dickson:
The first article is titled "News of the Advertising and Marketing Fields" which appears in the Sunday, September 13, 1953 issue (Section III, page 8, column 2). This article includes a photograph of the Dicksons and a fairly detailed summary of the development of Band-Aids®.
The second article is Earle Dickson's obituary. It is titled "Earle E. Dickson, Devised Band-Aid" and appears in the Friday, September 22, 1961 issue. One-half of the photograph from the previously mentioned article is shown (they cropped out Mrs. Dickson).
An article on Joseph Lister appears in the Monday, February, 12, 1912 (page 3 , column 3) issue of the New York Times. This story reports on Baron Lister's death and describes his accomplishments - crediting him as the "Father of Modern Surgery".
exist if it weren't for Listerine.
Band-Aids® actually came from Listerine! Here's the Scope... oops...scoop:
In the 1860's, a British surgeon named Sir Joseph Lister pioneered sanitary operating room procedures. In many hospitals, the post-operative mortality rate was in excess of 90%. I think it's clear to us today that his ideas were well needed.
Why, you may ask?
It seems that the doctors operated with their bare hands in street clothes. Spectators were allowed to observe the operations first hand. For surgical dressings, they used pressed sawdust which was lifted off the floors of the saw mills. Instruments were not sterilized - only washed with soap and water.
Lister gave a speech in Philadelphia in 1876, expressing his views on germs. No one was interested.
No one except a Missouri physician named Joseph Lawrence.
Lawrence went back to his lab and developed an antibacterial liquid, which was manufactured locally by the Lambert Pharmacal Company (any idea which Fortune 500 Corp. this became?).
They needed a name. We can be sure that they must have tossed around some great ones in that board room. Maybe 'horrible tasting liquid' or 'Stuff to make your bad breath smell like something else that still smells bad, but not THAT bad'. I guess they weren't interested in these great suggestions.
Instead, they gave it the name Listerine, in honor of Sir Joseph L----r (you can figure out the rest). This gave it an antiseptic image. The right name at the right time.
So how does this lead to the Band-Aid?
It turns out that one other person was impressed by Lister's talk- Robert Johnson, a pharmacist from Brooklyn.
He and his two brothers decided to start a company to produce large dry cotton and gauze dressing. The company had a great name - Johnson and Johnson (why was the third brother excluded?). They were shipped in germ-resistant packages, guaranteeing sterility until opened.
Their next product was baby powder, also still on the market.
I can hear you yelling all the way over here in New York. SO WHERE DID THE BAND-AIDS® COME FROM?
Calm down and let me get a word in edgewise.
In 1920, another brother, James Johnson, heard that his employee had invented a neat product. The guy's name was Earle Dickson (note how his name is lost in history and the company took all the credit and profits).
Way back on December 6, 1917, Earle married Mrs. Earle (the former Miss Josephine Frances Knight). Josephine was extremely accident prone and constantly seemed to be cutting her fingers with those darn sharp kitchen knives. Problem! His company's bandages were too big for her delicate little bruises.
By 1920, he grew weary of having to bandage up his wife's dainty little fingers. He decided to affix small pieces of the sterile gauze to the center of strips of surgical tape. (I can hear the crowds of people now - "DUH! That's pretty obvious!" These are the same people who are unable to figure out how Newton discovered gravity because it's so obvious.)
He mentioned what he had created to a fellow employee at Johnson and Johnson and was encouraged to approach management with the idea.
The Johnsons weren't overly impressed initially. At least not until good old Earle showed that he could easily apply it to himself. No help needed! Wow! Shazaaaaaam! What a great idea!
Unfortunately, the original handmade bandages did not sell - only $3000 worth of the product was sold during the first year. (The New York Times reports that "they came in sections 2 1/2 inches wide and 18 inches long" - does this seem a bit large to you?)
By 1924 the Band-Aids® were produced by machine and sales took off. History was then made. Over one hundred billion have been made to date.
By the way, poor old Earle was not that poor in the end. The company actually made him a vice president (until he retired in 1957) and then a member of the board of directors. Unfortunately, Earle didn't enjoy a long retirement - he passed away on September 22, 1961 at age 68. At the time of his death, Johnson and Johnson was selling over $30,000,000 worth of Band-Aids® each year.
Useless? Useful? I’ll leave that for you to decide.
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