First Aid

August’s Hands on History session investigates objects from the museum collections connected to medicine. One object to be shared with visitors on Saturday 18 August is this mid-20th century First Aid Kit.


Mid-20th century First Aid Kit


This kit belonged to a local miner, who lived in Mancetter and worked at Mancetter Colliery. The kit is housed inside a metal tin painted black with white painted lettering on the lid. The tin contains an extensive range of dressings and bandages in their original coloured paper packaging.


First Aid Kit contents


Text on the individual paper wrappings shows the manufacturers of these medical supplies were Boots Pure Drug Company Ltd and Smith & Nephew – Southalls Ltd. The kit also contains an iodine ampoule, which could date from earlier on in the 20th century than the other supplies found within. Iodine was used to clean wounds during surgery to reduce death by infection in World War I.


Iodine Ampoule


First Aid Kits were invented in 1888 by Robert Johnson, who co-founded the American pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson. Johnson’s idea to create a transportable kit containing medical supplies bloomed from his impromptu conversation on a train with a Railway Surgeon. The conversation highlighted to Johnson, the advantages of making sterile gauze and other medical supplies readily available to Railway Surgeons, who often worked in remote locations and could not easily access further medical assistance.

First Aid Kits installed on trains enabled Railway Surgeons to stabilise emergency casualties before they were transferred to the closest facility providing further treatment. From here, Johnson’s idea grew to create First Aid Kits for the general public tailored to various settings including domestic kits.

 Join our Access Assistants from 11 am until 4 pm on Saturday 18 August to take a closer look at this First Aid Kit and other intriguing medical items from our collections.


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