My baby granddaughter is visiting our house this week. When she scratched herself in her sleep, her mother applied Neosporin to the area to prevent any type of infection. Of course, it made me wonder what mothers used in the 1930s when children were injured in play.
|1930s First Aid Kit|
From my memories as a child I remember my mom dabbing on mercurochrome (we called it "macurycomb" as I remember) when I was small. This substance caused the injury and skin around it to be covered in a red-orange hue. It was used as an antiseptic to kill any germs developing in the open area.
I asked Mom yesterday what she remembered of those days and the use of "macurycomb". She said that was the best thing to use to take away the swelling and help the cut or scrape heal quickly. As I remember this substance didn't sting too much when applied. In fact it was sometimes a badge of honor to be painted with the red color that would wear off in a couple days.
Mercurochrome was a mercury derivative of a red dye, hence the bright color. It was discovered around the turn of the century, but wasn't widely used as an antiseptic until the 20s and 30s. It became popular with mothers since it was easy to apply the tincture to children's injuries.
Iodine was discovered in the early 1800s and has been used as a disinfectant and bactericide for much of the time since then. A solution of iodine and potassium in water was used during the Civil War in treatment of open wounds. By 1882 it was known that iodine kills microbes that cause infection and was widely used in World War I battle zones, also.
The difference between these two products is that mercurochrome is no longer on the market today. As the name suggests mercurochrome is made up, in part, of mercury - only about 1% by total weight, but by the 70s, enough was known about mercury to cause the much loved household product be added to the unapproved list of drugs. It could no longer be sold in pharmacies as it had for decades.
An item that is missing from the first aid kit above is band-aids. They were actually invented in 1921 by an employee of Johnson & Johnson because his wife was so prone to cutting her finger while working in the kitchen. He made the first such bandages by folding small pieces of gauze and sticking them to strips of adhesive tape, allowing his wife to cut a strip of bandage and apply it herself before he came home from work.
He took the idea to his boss who decided to manufacture them and sell them to the public. They weren't a big hit until Johnson & Johnson gave the Boy Scouts Troop free Band-Aids as a publicity stunt in 1924. Even in the 30s, they weren't widely used in households. After WWII band-aids became a expected part of first aid kits.
What memories do you have of getting "owies" fixed?
Information taken from Mentalfloss: not-so-modern-medicine, Civil War RX and History of Band-Aids