Businesses, public service jobs, and households probably have one. This object may not see a lot of use, but when we need it, we know exactly where to go for it. What is this object that so many of us use? It is a First Aid Kit.
In 1886 brothers Robert Wood Johnson, James Wood Johnson and Edward Mead Johnson founded the company Johnson & Johnson in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Johnson & Johnson have been leaders in the U.S. and abroad throughout the company’s history in regards to health. In 1888 the company came out with the first commercial first aid kits. These kits were made to help railroad workers but eventually became popular enough that they were standard when treating injuries for everyone. That same year the company published the book “Modern Methods of Antiseptic Wound Treatment” which helped the world see how important sterile surgery practices are. Johnson & Johnson made other kits as well, including a maternity kit that was so successful it propelled the company into the baby business. Over the next twenty-two years Johnson & Johnson would continue to make strides in the health care field. In 1901 the company released its first “First Aid Manuals” which listed the best practices used by doctors and was included in the First Aid Kits. Today Johnson & Johnson offers a variety of products to build or replenish your own First Aid Kit. These items include covers, tapes, rolled bandages, and butterfly bandages.
Another name associated with a First Aid Kit would be the Red Cross. Clara Barton founded the American Red Cross in 1881 where right off the bat they were busy helping people. They helped with domestic and overseas disaster relief efforts, aided the U.S. military from the Spanish-American War through many other military deployments, and helped with the worldwide influenza epidemic of 1918. Today, many First Aid Kits can be seen with the Red Cross logo on the front which has helped the First Aid Kit become synonymous with the Red Cross. The Red Cross does help you prepare your own First Aid Kit and offers a wide variety of items to build your own kit or buy one.
First Aid Kits have been used all over the world. There is a First Aid International that offers classes and kits, as well as organizations, like the Red Cross, that offer classes and kits here in the U.S. The British Museum has a tin First Aid Kit that was used during WWII. This particular kit has the letters A.R.P. stamped on and was used for Air Raid Precautions at home and used by A.R.P. wardens. The First Aid Kit we have in our collection at the High Plains Museum is a Rexall First Aid Kit. Rexall is a Canadian Pharmacy that was started in 1904 in Toronto and Ontario. The company still exists today, but it does not appear to carry First Aid Kits anymore. The kit in our collection contains, 1” gauze bandages, 2” gauze bandages, paper drinking cups, spirit of ammonia, iodine, antiseptic surgical powder, and rex-salvine for burns. The image on the bottom right is a picture from our collection showing a hospital and ambulance crew loading a patient on the Rock Island Railroad for transport to a larger hospital in 1955. These crews would have had a First Aid Kit readily available to assist them in their duties.
While today’s kits have different items in them, each kit is designed to help treat the injured. From Johnson &
Johnson making the first kit in 1888 to the Red Cross providing instructions on how to build your own, First Aid Kits have and will continue to be used. Objects like a First Aid Kit improve as time goes on and is something that we will not leave in the past. Can you think of other objects like the First Aid Kit that have a continued presence in our lives today? Please leave your comments in the section below.
Look for more posts in this series about our wonderful collection of Sherman County history.