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Everyday Marvels

Explore some of the humble but revolutionary objects that have changed the way we interact with and engage in the world.


Earle Dickson
(American, 1891–1936)

1921. Adhesive bandage and cotton, unwrapped: 1 x 3" (2.5 x 7.6 cm) wrapped: 3 3/4 x 1 1/2" (9.5 x 3.8 cm)

The Band-Aid was developed in 1921 by Earle Dickson, a cotton buyer at the company Johnson & Johnson. He was inspired to create a new kind of bandage to aid his wife, who often cut and burned her fingers while cooking. She needed something that would be flexible and allow her to dress her own wounds.

Dickson noticed that traditional bandages—at the time made from gauze wrapping and applied adhesive—did not stick to his wife’s fingers for long, so he began experimenting with different materials. He took an adhesive strip, placed squares of cotton on it, and covered the whole thing in crinoline, a stiff fabric, to keep it sterile. He shared his idea with his boss, James Johnson, who decided to manufacture his invention. Since then, over 100 billion Band-Aids have been manufactured.1

Paola Antonelli, Humble Masterpieces: Everyday Marvels of Design (New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 2005, 175).

An element or substance out of which something can be made or composed.

Derived from the French verb coller, meaning “to glue,” collage refers to both the technique and the resulting work of art in which fragments of paper and other materials are arranged and glued or otherwise affixed to a supporting surface.

Cover for Wounds, Material for Art
The artist Jim Dine used a Band-Aid as one of his materials in Study for The Car Crash: Band Aid, Possible Mask for Girl as a Man, a collage in MoMA’s collection.