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How Old is My Vintage BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandages Tin?

It’s one of the most iconic consumer product packages in history: the BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandages tin. Beginning in 1926, these beautiful tins were repurposed to hold a variety of items in households through the decades, and they are prized by collectors today.

The first BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandages package from 1921.

Image courtesy: Johnson & Johnson Archives

Before the invention of BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandages, families bandaged small injuries with makeshift methods, like strips of rag. But in 1920, Johnson & Johnson employee Earle Dickson invented the BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandage to help his wife bandage the small cuts and burns she got while preparing meals in the kitchen. Earle’s invention was the first premade commercial dressing for small wounds. So how do you package a game-changing innovation? For the first five years BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandages were on the market, they were packaged in a blue cardboard box: packaging that was simple and functional, but hard to carry with you in a pocket or purse. So in 1926, the first BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandages tins made their appearance: flat, square tins with three-step instructions printed on the inside of the lid to show consumers how to use this revolutionary new product – and an iconic package was born. Here’s a look at some of the most memorable tins and boxes from the product’s long history.

From left to right: BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandages square tin, 1926; BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandages Speed Bandage tin and Spanish Language BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandages square tin, circa 1926 to 1930s.

Image courtesy: Johnson & Johnson Archives

These flat metal tins – the oldest and rarest of the tins for this product, were produced from 1926 until the early 1930s. The last tin of this shape was for BAND-AID® Brand DryBak Adhesive Bandages in the early 1930s. The eye-catching new graphics were designed to provide a distinctive new look for a brand-new product innovation: the first waterproof BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandage.

BAND-AID® Brand DryBak Adhesive Bandages square tin from, 1932 and vertical tin, early to mid-1930s.

Image courtesy: Johnson & Johnson Archives

While the flat product tins of the 1920s were ideal for people taking BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandages with them on their travels, it was the advent of the rectangular vertical tins in the 1930s that led this distinctive package to become part of people’s families for generations: once the product inside was used, the beautifully decorated tin container was perfect for storing small household items – buttons and pins in sewing kits, nails, screws and washers in workshops, and marbles, baseball cards and other small toys and collectibles in children’s rooms.  Over the decades, the tins themselves became collectibles.

The earliest upright tins in the 1930s had a lid that slid open horizontally, before the brand switched to the more familiar hinged lid. These tins feature one of the most beautiful package designs in the product’s long history. Each product innovation was packaged in a tin with a variation on the 1930s design, each instantly recognizable to consumers. If you have an old BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandages tin with one of these distinctive basketweave designs, it’s from the 1930s to circa 1940.

Three BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandages vintage tins from the 1930s, among the most distinctive and beautiful of the historic tins.

Image courtesy: Johnson & Johnson Archives

In the 1940s the packaging changed again to a simpler, though no less beautiful design using red, black, white, and gray.  Shortages of raw materials during World War II led Johnson & Johnson to package the product in wartime cardboard containers for several years beginning in 1942.  Johnson & Johnson shipped more than 20 million BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandages overseas to U.S. troops, along with the company’s first aid kits and medical supplies, and BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandages became an essential part of soldiers’ kits.

Three BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandages rare tins from the 1940s. Left: rare cylindrical cardboard container with metal top, circa 1940; center: one of the most visually striking of the vintage tin designs, circa 1940-1942; right: a tin from circa 1948-1949.

Image courtesy: Johnson & Johnson Archives

The postwar economic boom of the late 1940s and 1950s brought a wide variety of changes to society: an array of new consumer products and household conveniences in the home, the construction of interstate highways and schools, new technologies like computers in the workplace, and a record number of babies born in the United States – approximately 77 million between 1946 and 1964. It naturally follows that first decorated BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandages made their debut during this time, as did Johnson & Johnson’s first television sponsorships.

The first decorated BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandages, Stars ‘n Strips and Charmers tins, which made their debut in 1956.

Image courtesy: Johnson & Johnson Archives

With the exception of the brightly colored designs on the tins for decorated BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandages, the 1950s continued the trend of midcentury BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandages metal tins with clean, minimalist designs influenced by the midcentury modern movement, paired with bold, memorable graphics.

BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandages Cloth Strips and Plastic Strips tins from the 1950s showing the influence of midcentury modern design.

Image courtesy: Johnson & Johnson Archives

One of those sponsorships for a popular children’s television show saw BAND-AID® Brand offer a special collectible trading card for kids in each product tin, as well as a contest to win a trip to the United Kingdom, where the series was filmed on location.  There were special in-store promotions, and the show’s lead actor came to Johnson & Johnson to meet employees. The adhesive bandages in those vintage packages were a special shade of forest green.

BAND-AID® Brand Plastic Strips tin and trading card from the 1950s.

Image courtesy: Johnson & Johnson Archives

Whenever the brand introduced an innovation to consumers, it was packaged in a newly-designed tin. Perhaps the most memorable and iconic of those midcentury tins made its debut in the late 1950s with another innovation from the brand: sheer adhesive bandages.

BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandages Sheer Strips tins from 1957. These distinctive, elegant and eye-catching tins held the product from the late 1950s to the mid-1960s.

Image courtesy: Johnson & Johnson Archives

The decade of the 1960s brought with it the space program and rapid cultural and societal change, and BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandages played their part: the product went into space with the Apollo 8 mission to orbit the Moon in 1968 and the Apollo 11 mission in 1969 to land on the Moon as part of the astronauts’ medical kits. This era also saw the debut of the iconic and familiar red, white and blue BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandages tin beloved by those who grew up in the 1960s and 1970s. These red, white and blue tins instantly call back memories of childhood for millions of people.  Updated versions of that tin remained part of the household in the 1980s and 1990s, along with new varieties of decorated adhesive bandages, including Hot Colors and Glow in the Dark, introduced in the 1990s and each in their own distinctive and attractive tin.

BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandages Sheer Strips and Plastic Strips tins from the 1960s and 1970s. These familiar and iconic red, white and blue tins were found in millions of medicine cabinets.

Image courtesy: Johnson & Johnson Archives

The 1990s brought another change to the product’s package:  BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandages switched permanently to more sustainable cardboard packaging in 1994, but the brand has continued to bring its iconic tins back for some memorable anniversaries and special partnerships. Today, BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandages tins are prized by collectors. Some fans of this iconic product package boast collections numbering in the hundreds, while others continue to use the vintage and newer special edition tins to hold BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandages, or small family treasures, or as home decor. Recently, the brand introduced a set of limited edition commemorative tins for its 100th anniversary. Whether it’s a new special edition tin or an historic one, this iconic package continues to occupy a special place in people’s homes and hearts. If you have an antique or vintage BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandages tin that you would like help dating or you would like to learn more about, please let us know by reaching out to our artifacts mailbox

BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandages 85th Anniversary tin from 2005, and Limited Edition BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandages 100th anniversary tin from 2020.

Image courtesy: Johnson & Johnson Archives

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