308: I’m Stuck on Band-aids

308: I’m Stuck on Band-aids

Brain Junk
Brain Junk
308: I'm Stuck on Band-aids

2024 is the 100th anniversary of Band-aids. But before they were the little strips in cool tins, they came in a roll you could cut to size.

Show Notes:

Johnson & Johnson history of Band-aids

Wikipedia: Band-aid history

Disposable America

The Atlantic: The Story of the Black Band-aid

TruColour Bandages


[00:00:03] Speaker A: Welcome to brain junk. I’m Amy Barton.

[00:00:05] Speaker B: And I’m Trace Kerr. And I do have a cold.

[00:00:08] Speaker A: Yes.

[00:00:08] Speaker B: But today is everything you never knew you wanted to know about band aids.

[00:00:13] Speaker A: I want to know many things. Did you buy picturey ones for your children, or were you kind of scroogey?

[00:00:20] Speaker B: Here’s the thing. I kind of felt like the picturey ones didn’t have enough of the nick.

I’m a fan of the fabricy ones because I feel like they stay on better.

[00:00:32] Speaker A: Yeah, but.

[00:00:33] Speaker B: Okay, so, 2024, I just figured this out when I was doing research, is the 100th anniversary of the eponymous bandaid.

[00:00:40] Speaker A: Oh, so they’ve had them since the 20s?

[00:00:44] Speaker B: Yes.

I went to the Johnson and Johnson website for the history of the bandaid, and I stayed for a bandaid quiz.

[00:00:51] Speaker A: You can do a band. That’s fun. I’ll do any quiz.

[00:00:55] Speaker B: Same. I got 90%. But I may have done some research and also cheated.

I had already been looking into it, and then I took the quiz, and I was like, I’m so smart. No, it was all but way back in the late 19 hundreds when you.

[00:01:17] Speaker A: And I were young.

[00:01:18] Speaker B: Yeah, way back then, a million years ago, back with the mammoth. You could buy bandaids in a tin.

[00:01:25] Speaker A: Yes, you can again. Now they’re, like $5 more than regular bandaids.

[00:01:30] Speaker B: I haven’t seen that with the flip top lid.

[00:01:33] Speaker A: I walk down that row, I’m not even there for bandaids. I’m there for whatever else is in that row, and I’m like, I probably need four tins of these fancy bandaids.

[00:01:42] Speaker B: I don’t know. But, I mean, that tin, it was just the right size to fit in, like, a shirt pocket. When I was a kid, you had, like, fishing supplies in there. It’s almost like the cookie tin. That’s actually a sewing kit.

[00:01:55] Speaker A: Yes, exactly.

[00:01:56] Speaker B: The number of times you could open that bandaid tin and it would not be bandaids was about 50 50.

[00:02:02] Speaker A: Yes. Gum. If it’s nicely in there. Yeah.

[00:02:05] Speaker B: Okay, so the story of the bandaid. Let me take you back.

[00:02:09] Speaker A: Take me back.

[00:02:10] Speaker B: Back in 1920, Josephine Knight Dixon. Now, Johnson and Johnson says she was accident prone around the kitchen. I feel like she was a woman in the kitchen getting burns and cuts. That just happens.

[00:02:22] Speaker A: Yeah. Because the kitchen was a lot more dangerous in the. Yeah.

[00:02:26] Speaker B: Keep her away from the knives. But back then, we didn’t have bandaids, so she would just wrap her fingers in a bit of spare fabric that she had lying know, and it would come untied and it would get dirty. So she told her husband about this issue, and he was a cotton buyer for Johnson Johnson. And the cotton that they were buying, they were using that to make gauze.

[00:02:49] Speaker A: Okay.

[00:02:49] Speaker B: And they had been making that for a while. Well, so he was. Okay, let’s. Let’s make a solution to this problem. So he brought a bunch of samples home. I like to think that he just kind of went into a supply closet and was like, let’s take a little bit of this. A little bit.

[00:03:04] Speaker A: Some sticky notes, a few paperclips, a red stapler.

[00:03:08] Speaker B: Don’t look in my handy dandy leather briefcase. There’s nothing in there. But Earl. That was his name. Earl brought a bunch of samples home. Three inch wide surgical tape and cotton gauze.

[00:03:20] Speaker A: So surgical tape already existed, then? Yes, it did. Okay.

[00:03:23] Speaker B: Although it was three inches wide, so it was almost like an ace bandage kind of size.

And he cut a piece about 18 inches long, and he laid the gauze, a strip of it, down the middle. So if you imagine this long rectangle with the gauze down the middle of it, and then he put a fabric layer on top of that and rolled the whole thing up because the fabric layer would keep the sticky bits from sticking to themselves.

[00:03:49] Speaker A: Okay.

[00:03:50] Speaker B: And then, voila. She could unroll this roll a little bit and cut off a strip the size that she needed to put on a cut.

[00:04:01] Speaker A: So his big roll was like a racing stripe all the way down. But then she cut off. It would look like our traditional band aids.

[00:04:08] Speaker B: Yeah, exactly.

[00:04:10] Speaker A: Crafty, right?

[00:04:13] Speaker B: And it worked great. She loved it. And so Earl was like, I got to tell my boss about this.

[00:04:19] Speaker A: Yeah.

[00:04:19] Speaker B: And so he took it to his boss, showed him, and he was like, you’re right. This should be a thing. And so then they took it to pharmacists, and it was not popular.

[00:04:29] Speaker A: Oh, really? What?

[00:04:31] Speaker B: They only sold $3,000 worth of these rolled bandaids, these bandages, the first year they were out. And Johnson and Johnson was like, people didn’t understand what it was that they could be buying.

[00:04:44] Speaker A: Yes. This is the story of Fabrize, where people didn’t know they needed it until Fabrize explained they needed it.

[00:04:50] Speaker B: Wait, I smell.

So they put out ads that detailed how to use this rolled up bandage. They educated pharmacists and the traveling salesmen who were out telling people, this is what it is. This is how it works. See, for your accident prone wife in the kitchen, this would be great. So they went from $3,000 in sales in 1921 to 1924. And the precut bandage, we all know, today. So between 1921 and 1924, it was just the big chunk. And then somebody was like, hey, how about we just cut these into bite sized pieces?

[00:05:29] Speaker A: I’m thinking, like, wax paper would work really well for a backing.

[00:05:33] Speaker B: And I think it’s one of these things where we had World War I and people were doing a lot of medical stuff, and then they figured out, oh, there were ways to keep these things clean and sterile and in that fancy little tin.

[00:05:44] Speaker A: Yeah. Because the tin would stay dry. Yeah.

[00:05:48] Speaker B: So you could whack your thumb with an axe while chopping wood. And bandaid.

But then bandaids went on, like, in 1968, they went to the moon on Apollo eight. Oh, that’s fun, right? In 1975, there was a bandaid commercial, and I’m wondering if you can complete the jingle. I’m stuck on bandaid brand because bandaid stuck on me.

[00:06:12] Speaker A: Yes.

I knew it before. I’m like, I know that jingle. That is the jingle of my childhood. And I can see the commercial right now. Happy children with a finger in the air.

[00:06:24] Speaker B: Yes. In the bathtub. Bandaids still sticking. There was even a commercial where they would stick bandaids to a dry egg and then lower it into boiling water. I couldn’t remember that. I could remember the kids with bandaids on, but not the boiling water egg.

[00:06:42] Speaker A: Yeah, I don’t remember the boiling water. One adult, me, would be like, yeah, that’s awesome, kid. Me, would be like, why are we boiling the bandaids?

[00:06:52] Speaker B: Yes. And then they just kind of cruised along. In 2017, they had an innovation for touch screen friendly bandaids.

[00:07:01] Speaker A: Oh, yes. I have had a pointer finger.

Someone cut it with a knife a couple of times.

[00:07:09] Speaker B: Ouch.

[00:07:11] Speaker A: And it becomes very difficult to do life now without a pointer. Yeah.

[00:07:20] Speaker B: Or the thumb. Like, if my right thumb has a bandaid on it, it’s like, you can just send me out to pasture, push me into traffic. I can’t use my thumb on my phone.

[00:07:29] Speaker A: No, you’re out with your middle finger and then doing everything. Speech to text.

[00:07:33] Speaker B: Oh, no, I don’t do that. Speech to text. I’m not capable. You do it. You do speech to text, like a boss.

[00:07:39] Speaker A: Oh, yeah. I do it everywhere too, and my children are mortified by it.

[00:07:45] Speaker B: Especially bandaids are cool, period.

[00:07:49] Speaker A: Oh, yeah. It can be awkward. Back to bandaids.

[00:07:55] Speaker B: Okay, so we’re going a little out of order because my timeline is out of order. 1994 was the end, although clearly not now. But it was the end of the tin bandaid container.

[00:08:04] Speaker A: Sad.

[00:08:05] Speaker B: I know. But now they’re retro, so we’ll bring them back. 2000, the billionth bandaid was produced.

[00:08:12] Speaker A: Oh, wow. I can see that. I use a lot of them.

[00:08:16] Speaker B: Yeah.

Okay, so I’m going to take a slightly different turn here. It wasn’t until 2021 that bandaid, Johnson and Johnson Bandaid brand made bandaids that were not just for white skin.

[00:08:29] Speaker A: Yes. And not even white skinned. It’s like weird, putty colored people. None of us are. There’s nobody in the world that’s actually bandaid colored.

[00:08:37] Speaker B: No, not really. But, I mean, you’re closer.

[00:08:40] Speaker A: You’re closer.

[00:08:41] Speaker B: If you’re on the.

[00:08:42] Speaker A: For sure. It’s in the shade range. It’s not scale. Yeah.

[00:08:46] Speaker B: When asked about it over the years, they’d say, well, there’s too many shades. What can we do? So in 1995, they did come up with a clear bandaid. And I remember those. They don’t stick very well.

[00:08:58] Speaker A: They’re sweaty and weird. Yeah.

[00:09:00] Speaker B: Because they’re kind of plasticky.

[00:09:02] Speaker A: Yeah. I like the idea. It was a good thought.

[00:09:04] Speaker B: It was a good thought. I read an atlantic article. They quote a 66 year old black woman named Orndu Johnson. She said of ads at the time, she told her kids, the bandages said flesh color. And I’d explain, that’s not your flesh. The band Aids were even a point of contention with the Black Panthers. There’s this cartoon of a man in, like, a leather jacket, and he’s got this white band aid on his head, and it was like, look at this. They can’t even make us bandaids.

[00:09:31] Speaker A: Wow. That goes back ways then.

[00:09:33] Speaker B: It goes back a long ways now. They make them in a variety of tones. And there are a lot of other companies that make bandaids since, like, the mid 80s that have stickable bandages in a variety of shades. But often bandaids like the Johnson and Johnson brand are cheaper just because of market share. There are so many of them. Yes, but they turned it around. 2021. Good job.

[00:09:57] Speaker A: Good.

[00:09:58] Speaker B: Yeah.

[00:09:59] Speaker A: Because we had neon bandaids way before anyone with brown skin could have a bandaid that matched them.

[00:10:05] Speaker B: Oh, the neon Band aid. That’s right.

[00:10:07] Speaker A: I’m glad that that is more accessible and less expensive now.

[00:10:10] Speaker B: Me too. Yeah, me too. So that is the story of I’m stuck on band Aid brand because band Aids are stuck on me.

[00:10:18] Speaker A: I love that. That’s a little piece of childhood. I sling band aids like I’m daddy Warbucks. Everybody can have band Aids. I’m not Scroogey at all. And fancy ones go for it. If that says I love you or you’re going to be okay. You have it.

It’s a charming story, right? Oh.

[00:10:38] Speaker B: He was thinking of his wife, who kept chopping off her fingers. But we made band aids.

[00:10:45] Speaker A: My aunt has one of the really old tins out at the lake, and it still contains band Aids. And there are several in there that are very vintage that we all ignore because we know those aren’t going to stick. So it’s a little time capsule.


[00:11:00] Speaker B: When I told Chaz they haven’t made them since 1995, he stood there for a little bit, and he was like, how old are all the tins I have in my fishing gear? And I was like, old buddy.

[00:11:09] Speaker A: Probably antique old, because they’re our childhood tins. Oh, my goodness. Do you know what else I wanted as a child with tins? Is the lip gloss in a tin. And I did conquer that. I got those. And then you realize that’s not that great. It’s a little bit difficult. What do you do with the residue on your finger? Do you find a dry spot and rub it on? I don’t know.

[00:11:30] Speaker B: Yeah. But those lip smacker, little tiny tins, they would click open.

[00:11:37] Speaker A: Oh, yes.

[00:11:38] Speaker B: And you want to talk about the original fidget toy.

[00:11:41] Speaker A: Yeah.

[00:11:41] Speaker B: Oh, those were so good.

[00:11:43] Speaker A: We’ve just given a small gift, a small sensory gift to every gen xer right now. So there you go. The other thing. And this is another one for me. I so longed for secrets. Those tins were the coolest. And they had commercials. And I’m like, those are so tidy. Look at the little things. And they’re so great. And so I think my dad had a cold, and it was a real cold, not like us kids. And he actually needed a cough drop. And at some point, mom bought them. And I remember trying them, and they were not good. So gross. Oh, yeah. Never mind. I would like some Smiths or Ludens again, please.

Things and tins. Thank you for giving us the lowdown on bandaids. You’re welcome. You can drop a line.

Brainjunkpodcast@gmail.com always find us on Facebook and Instagram. Message us there. Pop up a fun thing. We’re there. We’re watching.

[00:12:36] Speaker B: That sounds ominous.

[00:12:37] Speaker A: Yeah, like big brother. And we’re expecting you to, like and subscribe.

Smash that button, please.

But please do wherever you, you know, the smart speaker thing.

[00:12:51] Speaker B: And YouTube.

[00:12:52] Speaker A: Yes, YouTube. Find us on YouTube. You can just start up at work and listen if your boss is cool with that. All right, trace and I will catch you next time when we share more of everything. You never knew you wanted to know and I guarantee you will not be bored.

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