Wound Care – Dickson’s treatment for his young wife Josephine

Earle Ensign Dickson (E E Dickson) was born on October 10, 1892 in Grandview, Tennessee. After earning his BA from Yale University in Connecticut in 1913, he graduated from Lowell Textile Institute, Massachusetts in 1914. In 1916, Dickson joined Chicopee Manufacturing Company in Chicopee Falls, Massachusetts as a cotton buyer. The same year, 1916, the Chicopee Manufacturing Company was acquired by the Johnson & Johnson Company, and began to produce surgical dressings for helping the injured soldiers in World War I. In 1917, Dickson married to Josephine Frances Knight.

Josephine was extremely accidentprone. She cut her finger twice with the kitchen knife just in the first seven days of their marriage. And it was unstoppable thereafter, now she started burning her fingers, and then cut ang again burn. Now a worried Dickson had to find out a solution than doing bandage to her cuts and burn wounds every alternate day. He looked for a readymade solution. Dickson affixed small pieces of folded sterile gauze to the center of a surgical tape, and put down a band of cloth to keep the tape from sticking to itself. He then rolled the tape again so that his wife could unroll and cut off a piece from the roll when she needs.

This desperate adhesive bandage made by Dickson for his wife was nothing but the birth of the modern BAND-AID®, yes the Johnson & Johnson’s!!

BAND-AID® was introduced in 1920 in the market, which was applied for a patent in 1925, and patented in 1926, thanks to the prior commercial use rules in the patent laws then.  U.S. Patent No. 1612267 Surgical Dressing and issued on December 28, 1926.

As a sensible employer, Johnson & Johnson immediately promoted him in the corporate ranks until he attained the position of Vice-President in 1932, just 6 years after the cotton buyer patented the invention. And he continued to be the Vice President at Johnson & Johnson until he retired in 1957.

Historical predecessors of the modern adhesive bandages

2200 BC –  Clay mixed with oil. According to the earliest medical manuscripts, clay plasters were applied to wounds  that protects it from contamination and also absorbs the exudates. Oil helped discourages the growth of bacteria and acted as a anti-adherent, so the plaster did not stick to the wound.

Approximately in the same period, in Mesopotamian culture a prescription stated these instructions, “Pound together fur-turpentine, pine-turpentine, tamarisk, daisy, flour of inninnu strain; mix in milk and beer in a small copper pan; spread on skin; bind on him, and he shall recover.”

1550 BC – Ancient Egyptians used honey, grease, and lint. Lint made from vegetable fiber helped soaking the exudates from the wound; grease and honey protected the wound from bacterial infection.

Egyptians also had adopted the method of coating the wounds with green color, with the belief that green indicates life, and green paint contains copper that is toxic to bacteria.

460 – 377 BC – Greeks believed in cleanliness,  they washed wounds with clean water, vinegar, and wine. The Greeks also differentiated between “fresh,” or acute, and nonhealing, or chronic, wounds. An interesting excerpt from Hippocrates theories on wound healing is, “For an obstinate ulcer, sweet wine and a lot of patience should be enough.”

025 to 180 AD – A Roman Physician Plinio (Pliny the Elder) used mineral remedies as lead and silver, and another Roman physician Galen (Aelius Galenus) used spice ointments.

1850 – 1865 AD – Joseph Lister, a Professor of Surgery in London, recognized that antisepsis could prevent infection. Lister placed carbolic acid into open fractures to sterilize the wound and prevent sepsis. Changes were also made to sterilize the surroundings of a wounded patient.

1865 – 1879 AD – Surgeons then practiced surgery under unsanitary conditions, and took pride in the stains on their unwashed operating gowns as a display of their experience.

1880  –  Hand washing prior to care along with sterilization of instruments as well as wearing of gowns, masks and gloves began in 1880s.

1887  – Johnson & Johnson started producing gauze

1888 – Johnson & Johnson debuted the first commercial first aid kits

1920 – Earle Dickson, a cotton buyer, invented the BAND-AID brand adhesive bandage

1921 – Johnson & Johnson’s BAND-AID Brand handmade adhesive bandages hit the market, which were 2.5 inches wide and 18 inches long. Only $3,000 business made in the first year.

1924 – Johnson & Johnson invented machines to mass-produce bandages

1926 – Johnson & Johnson Patented the BAND-AID debuted its iconic tin packaging

1939 – Completely sterilized BAND-AIDs were made

1942 – During World War II, millions of BAND-AID adhesive bandages were supplied by Johnson & Johnson.

1950 – Onward – Adhesive bandages, Not just BAND-AID became word of mouth, and innovations have been ongoing even today.

1960 – BAND-AID brand reached a business of $30 million mark

1961 – Earle Ensign Dickson, the inventor of Adhesive bandages died on 21 September 1961, Kitchener, Canada.


Earle Ensign Dickson’s Patents in US and Canada

Patent NumberPublication DateTitleInventor(s)Applicant(s)
US1612267A1926-12-28Surgical dressingEARLE DICKSON ENSIGNJOHNSON & JOHNSON
US1967187A1934-07-17Hospital dressing packageDICKSON EARLE EJOHNSON & JOHNSON
US2084264A1937-06-15Wrapped rolled surgical dressingDICKSON EARLE EJOHNSON & JOHNSON
US2145755A1939-01-31Surgical dressingDICKSON EARLE EJOHNSON & JOHNSON
CA347038A1934-12-25Dressing packaging methodDICKSON EARLE EJOHNSON & JOHNSON
CA378957A1939-01-17Surgical dressingDICKSON EARLE EJOHNSON & JOHNSON