Monday, October 2, 2023

How Clumsiness and Boy Scouts made the Band-Aid

Amber Lemus Christian Author
Blogger: Amber Lemus

Earle Dickson as a young man
Johnson & Johnson Archives
Used under Fair Use

I love reading about inventions because the stories are always entertaining. Either it was a funny accident, an inspirational story of perseverance, or an ingenious solution to a problem most people skim over. For example, did you know the Band-Aid was invented for a woman who was clumsy, especially in the kitchen?

Earle Dickson was born October 10, 1892 in Grandview, Tennessee. In 1917, Earle married Josephine Frances Knight. He was working at the Johnson and Johnson company as a cotton buyer, while his wife stayed at home keeping house. However, he quickly discovered that dear Josephine was constantly burning her fingers, nicking them with knives, or having some type of mishap around the house. She must have complained to him about the difficulty of bandaging up those minor wounds by herself while she was at home alone everyday, because he quickly came up with a solution.

Earle took a patch of gauze and affixed it to the center of surgical tape. He then used a band of crinoline to keep the tape from sticking to itself. What resulted was an easy-to-use bandage that his wife could easily use by herself to cover those injuries and prevent infection or further tearing of the skin. It worked wonderfully.

When Earle went back to work at Johnson and Johnson, he mentioned his solution to a coworker, who thought it was genius. The coworker encouraged him to take the idea to management and see if they would be interested in it. Initially, the managers at J&J were not impressed, but when Earle demonstrated that he could apply the bandage by himself to his own wounds, they saw that as a great feature. His supervisor told one of the Johnson brothers about the idea, who decided to adopt it and released the product to the public in 1921 under the brand of the Band-Aid. 

Band-Aid ad 1921
Early Ad for the Band-Aid
Johnson & Johnson Archives
Used under Fair Use

During this time, Johnson and Johnson were already successful producers of gauze and bandages for hospitals as well as military installations, so they had a built in market for this new product. Still, the first launch of the product was mostly a flop. Only $3,000 worth of the product was sold during the first year of production. Some believe that the reason it didn't initially take off was because the first versions of the Band-Aid were 2.5 inches wide by 18 inches long. The idea was that you could cut off whatever length of bandage you required for your injury.

Sales remained low, until someone came up with the idea of providing free, unlimited Band-Aids to the Boy Scout troops across the country. With the Boy Scouts using them, they became widely known and the demand for the Band-Aid soared.

In 1924, the Johnson and Johnson company started pre-cutting the Band-Aids into select sizes. Then in 1939, they began producing them as fully-sterilized bandages, just in time for WWII.

As for Earle Dickson, he was promoted for his invention and climbed to the rank of Vice President of the Johnson and Johnson company. He also became a member of the board, where he remained until his death in 1961, at which time the company was producing more than 30 million dollars worth of Band-Aids per year.

Today, more than 100 Billion Band-Aides have been produced and they have become one of the worlds most iconic and innovative products.

In recognition of his invention, Earle Dickson was inducted into the Inventor's Hall of Fame in 2017.


Two-time winner of the Christian Indie Award for historical fiction, Amber Lemus inspires hearts through enthralling tales She has a passion for travel, history, books and her Savior. This combination results in what her readers call "historical fiction at its finest".

She lives near the Ozarks in her "casita" with her prince charming. Between enjoying life as a boy mom, and spinning stories out of soap bubbles, Amber loves to connect with readers and hang out on Goodreads with other bookish peoples.

Amber is a proud member of the American Christian Fiction Writers Association. Visit her online at and download a FREE story by subscribing to her Newsletter!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for posting today. It was fun to read about the Band-Aid and its' humble beginnings.