The Beginning of BAND-AID® Brand

Origin Story

According to company lore, the BAND-AID® was born one evening at the home of a cotton-buyer for Johnson & Johnson. In 1920, Earle Dickson noticed his “clumsy” wife Josephine was having difficulty bandaging her own wound after yet another accident in the kitchen. By putting together two Johnson & Johnson products, adhesive tape and sterile cotton gauze, and covering it with crinoline, a starched cotton fabric used for petticoats) Dickson created a way for his wife to tend to her own wounds. All she needed to do was to trim off the needed amount from the 2½ by 18 in roll. Dickson pitched the idea to Johnson & Johnson, and the company quickly began production. The resulting product name came from the combination of the words “bandage” and “first-aid.”


1921 advertisement with instructions for use. (

Despite the convenience and ease-of-use advertised by the product, early sales were disappointing. No machines existed to produce the product, so each roll was hand-made, which made them relatively expensive. The process became automated by machine in 1924. Two years later, the company produced individually wrapped singles in different sizes. This helped increase the usefulness of the products, but sales were still slow.


Patent for individual adhesive bandages. The patent refers to the product as a “surgical dressing” rather than a bandage, likely to distinguish it from both “adhesive plasters” and the “surgical bandages” patented by their competitor, Bauer & Black. (Google Patents)

Once America became involved in World War II, Johnson & Johnson included their BAND-AIDs in medic and mess kits for soldiers. By that time the company developed a completely sterilized product. Once the soldiers returned home, sales of BAND-AID began to increase.

Johnson & Johnson sales also increased when they adopted a strategy similar to one used by competitor Bauer & Black a decade earlier linking their brand to the Boy Scouts.


1926 Bauer & Black First Aid Kit. (Collectors Weekly)

The company connected with the Boy Scouts of America and handed out free samples to troops. In 1925, BAND-AIDS were included in custom-made Johnson & Johnson first-aid kits produced for the Boy Scouts. These kits, and the strategic product placement of the adhesive strips therein, helped Boy Scouts earn first-aid merit badges. Boy Scouts and their parents found a solution to a problem they did not know they had.


Johnson & Johnson First Aid Kit, c. 1940s. (