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Celebrating the 125th Birthday of the First Aid Kit with Safe Kids and Maggie Gyllenhaal

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As the chief historian for Johnson & Johnson, I love to tell stories from our long heritage of making products that care for people. And this year, as we’re celebrating the 125th anniversary of the First Aid Kit, I’ve had the opportunity to tell one of my favorite stories from Johnson & Johnson history: how we made the first commercial First Aid Kits back in 1888 to meet the great unmet need to treat injured railroad workers, and quickly began making First Aid Kits for every need: workplaces, households, travel, automobiles, airplanes, Boy Scouts Girl Scouts and more. If there was a need, we made a First Aid Kit.

Fast forward 125 years, and today families can create custom Johnson & Johnson First Aid Kits based on the products they need the most.

Like countless others, not only did I grow up with products such as BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandages and of course, our First Aid Kits, but as a parent, I rely on them in my household as well. So it was both as the Company historian and as a parent that I was excited to work with my colleagues at Johnson & Johnson Consumer Companies, Inc. and our partner Safe Kids Worldwide to celebrate this milestone anniversary.

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On June 10th, we held a birthday event in New York to tell the story and introduce a consumer education campaign on First Aid preparedness in partnership with Safe Kids Worldwide, and with the support of actress – and mom – Maggie Gyllenhaal. Not only were members of the media there, but bloggers such as Pam from Triple Threat Mommy and Brianne from Stroller in the City.

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Here’s how the partnership works: when a Mom or Dad creates a custom First Aid Kit by buying three or more of our first aid products, they will receive a free first aid bag. For every bag redeemed, we make a donation to Safe Kids Worldwide. Safe Kids will use the donations to create Sports Safety Clinic Kids’ Zones which will teach children important safety tips such as how to stay properly hydrated, the importance of warming up before an activity, how to handle injuries and how to identify a concussion.

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I brought some rare and never-before seen by the public historical First Aid Kits from our museum at Johnson & Johnson, and we lined the walls with vintage ads for our First Aid Products to show everyone the progression of First Aid Kits through the decades.

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Actress Maggie Gyllenhaal, who’s very down to earth and super nice, helped us tell the story. As the mom of two children, she carries our First Aid and topical wound care products with her and uses them with her family, and she grew up using them when she was a child.

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Attendees put together their own customized First Aid Kit based on their families’ unique individual needs, and I had the opportunity to do so as well. I have to admit to feeling nostalgic as I passed up the young child-friendly design of the decorated BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandages for one that would appeal more to a teenager who will start high school in the fall.

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More likely to appeal to a teenager: these went into my custom First Aid Kit

All in all it was a great event. As the company historian, it was great to watch so many people connecting with Johnson & Johnson through stories from our history and through our vintage ads and historical First Aid Kits. I not-so-secretly share everyone’s enthusiasm for our beautiful old tins and packaging.

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An Aerokit (first aid kit for airplanes) from the late 1920s. One of my all-time favorites with its beautiful packaging.

As a parent, I feel a deep personal connection to the story of how First Aid Kits came to be invented, and how they have continued to evolve over 125 years to meet the needs of parents and families. I not only have a Johnson & Johnson First Aid Kit at home, I’ve got one in my car and I take a small one on vacation too. It makes me feel much more secure in knowing that I’m prepared in case it’s needed.

I made sure to customize my first aid kit last week. Has anyone updated or customized their first aid kit recently? If you have, what’s in your first aid kit? And if you need to update it, what will you put in your first aid kit?

If you’re interested in reading the story of how a conversation 125 years ago led to the invention of the First Aid Kit, get the story over at the Kilmer House blog.

Margaret Gurowitz is Chief Historian, Johnson & Johnson, and is a member of the Corporate Communications department. She majored in history in college, and is privileged to have worked extensively with the Company’s history and historical archives throughout her career.

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