Zonas half-inch adhesive plaster

Item details

Object number M-453
Manufacturer Johnson & Johnson
Date 1920s
Category Curiosities and miscellaneous
Material Plaster


In the 1880’s American pharmacist Robert Wood Johnson of medical products business Seabury & Johnson developed the world’s first ready-made surgical dressings having been impressed by a talk on the importance of sterile surgery by Sir Joseph Lister at a medical congress for doctors in 1876. In 1886 Robert Wood Johnson joined two of his brothers James Wood Johnson and Edward Mead Johnson to make medicated plasters, sterile sutures, asceptic ready-made cotton and gauze dressings which were sold to physicians and pharmacists across the United States of America. The company Johnson & Johnson was incorporated in 1887.

The company’s success was swift and significant mainly as a result of the brothers’ keen sense of entrepreneurship, their knack of spotting commercial opportunities and a strategy of collaborating with high profile doctors and other experts in their field. They brought the first commercial first-aid kit to market in 1890 following a chance meeting of Robert Wood Johnson and a railroad surgeon who described the dreadful injuries sustained by railway workers during railroad construction and the lack of handy medical supplies to treat such injured workers while they waited for the doctors to arrive.

In the late 19th century, Johnson & Johnson teamed up with leading surgeons to develop adhesive plaster. Their Zonas brand rubber-based adhesive plaster in rolls, as displayed, became a household name not only for surgical and medical use but for a multitude other uses – it was regarded as the duct tape of its day (an affiliate company of Johnson & and Johnson actually invented duct tape in 1942).  The name Zonas came from the fact that zinc oxide was used in the product to sooth any irritation caused by the adhesive.