Historical information

This small, portable 1930’s Sanax First Aid Case has been strongly constructed, with corners reinforced with metal to take knocks and bumps as it was transported to the site of an emergency. Having these supplies organised into a kit made them easily accessible and reduces time to take them to the site of the accident. It was possibly designed for use in factories because the booklet in the case states that the kit complies with “Part 1, Victorian Factories Regulations”. The text of the printed brand “Sanax First Aid Case” is right-way up when the case stands vertically on its hinged side.

In modern times people are well aware of the importance of quick treatment when accident and injury occur. However, before the first commercial First Aid Kit was made by Johnson & Johnson in 1888, people had little knowledge about treating injuries and lacked information about suitable supplies to keep on hand for emergencies. They were often unaware of how to help in that critical time before the doctor or other assistance arrived, a particularly important time for the many people living in remote areas. A quote from Johnson’s & Johnson’s 1888 price list explains “It is a fact, which is everywhere being recognized, that many lives are lost and much suffering entailed in such accidents on account of the lack of the simple but necessary articles required to afford prompt assistance to the wounded.”

One example of the value of First Aid assistance to community groups is shown in an article from the Weekly Times, 29th November 1930. It records a report from the Annuello Branch of the Younger Set (a Country Women’s Organisation), telling that on Armistice Day their president Mrs Jamieson, presented the Annuello School with the gift of a Sanax Red Cross First Aid outfit, which was accepted as being “of great practical use to the scholars.” (Annuello is a remote wheat growing area in the Mallee region of North Western Victoria, which became a soldier settlement area after World War I. There is a strain of wheat named ‘Annuello’ due to its suitability for that area. )

The Sanax Case in our Collection contains instructions, equipment and medical items suitable for use in emergency situations. The Case was one of 42 patterns available from Sanax that conformed to ‘Part 1, Victorian Factories Regulations’. It includes items made by Sanax Company and by Burroughs Wellcome & Co. (Australia) Ltd., Sydney, NSW.

A quote at the back of the First Aid Emergency Instructions booklet says: “Sanax products are made in Australia by or under the supervision of qualified chemists, from the highest quality materials. They are dependable for the purposes written on labels.”

BOOKLET included in First Aid Case:
“SANAX” First-Aid Emergency Instructions has orange cover and white pages, joined in the centre by two staples. Booklet contains First Aid Instructions for general events listed in alphabetical order. It also contains an indexed sections headed “Poisoning, and what to do” written by S.A. Burrows, Ph.C., Vuc and N.Z. There are instructions and diagrams on how to perform Artificial Respiration. There are advertisement for Sanax products throughout the booklet that include;
- Sanax Ambulance Stretcher for timber mills, mines, ships and quarries
- Saw dust masks (porous rubber) for workers in dust, paint or duco sprayers
Inside cover lists Sanax’s Australian made products including
- tablets and powders for headaches, neuralgia, influenza, colds
- snuff for Catarrh that is “quite harmless”
- First Aid Cases that come in a range of 42 patterns
- sunburn preventatives and treatments
- healing salve for carbuncles, pock, pimples, boils, varicose ulcers etc.
- snake bite outfits and kits

LEAFLETS included in First Aid Case:
(1) Tannafax Tannic Acid Jelly. Tannafax should be kept at hand in every home. It should be applied direct from the tube and used with neither oil nor grease. Where a large area has to be covered the clamped end may be torn or cut off to give a wider mouth to the tube. Collapsible tubes of different sizes. Made in Australia. Burroughs Wellcome & Co. (Australia) Ltd. (Incorporated in England). Sydney, NSW. Assorted Houses, London, New York, Montreal, Cape Town, Milan, Bombay, Shanghai, Buenos Aires. Copyright A. 1817, J. 9463
(2) Tabloid. The strong thing is the just - - . Tabloid marks the wor - - Burroughs Wellcome & Comp. The use of the word is to enab – the prescriber, dispenser and patient to get the right thing with one short word, instead of the firm’s long name. If another maker apply the word to his product, the act is unlawful. Tabloid is our trade mark and brand. If a vendor disregard it in dispensing or selling, the act is unlawful for the same reason. We prosecute both offenders rigorously, in the interest of prescribers, dispensers, patients and the owners of the trade mark. Please inform us of any instance of either offence. Burroughs Wellcome & Co. (Australia) Ltd. (Incorporated in England). Telephone Number - M 4184 (4 lines) All communications to G.P.O. Box No. 1185 DD. Copyright Sy. 20. & J 9894.

Medicines and Equipment included in First Aid Case:
- Absorbent Cotton, Sanax, for absorbing blood or drying a wound. As a swab for washing wounds; to place above a compress to keep the heat in: or as a pad to protect wounds or fractures. The Sanax Co. Manuf. Chemists, Melbourne. Regd. Office: 5 Brunswick St, Fitzroy. N.6.
- ACHE tablets, Sanax, for all aches, pains, fevers etc. Dose: 2 to 3 tablets with a draught of water, every 3 hours. Children in proportion. For influenza or colds, take the bedtime dose with a hot lemon drink or toddy. Recommended for Headaches, Colds, Influenza, Fevers, Neuralgia, Rheumatism, Nerve Pains, Sleeplessness, and Seasickness. Three Sanax Ache tablets equals one Sanax Ache powder. Each tablet contains 1.75grs. each Phenacotinum and Acety acSzilcyl, and .75grs Ammon Brom. Etc.. Sanax brand specialties are prepared by highly qualified pharmaceutical chemists and may be accepted as safe and effective for the purpose indicated on the label. The Sanax Co. Melbourne
- Eye lotion, Sanax, “in eye bath full strength or diluted with equal parts of water. Sanax Co. Brunswich St, Fitzroy, Melbourne.
- Iodine, Sanax, POISON, with instructions for what to do if swallowed.
- Kuraburn, Sanax, Applied to the burn and allowed to dry, the pain and heat instantly disappear, and blistering is prevented. If necessary, apply again in an hours. To safeguard against burning when sunbathing, apply before exposure to the sun. If already sunburnet, use Kuraburn as directions above. Safe and harmless. Sole makers, The Sanax Co. Brunswick St. - - Vic.
- Sal Volatile, Sanax, - - stimulant for - - nervous aches - - or as smelling salts Dose - - -
- Solution of A- - - 5%, . The Sanax Co. Brunswick St, Melbourne.
- Tannafax, Burroughs Wellcome & Co. Australia Ltd. Sydney, N.S.W., 20gm. Approx., Tannic Acid Jelly, (Tannic Acid with 0.5% Phenol in a water-soluble base) for burns and scalds. A.N. 15050, p188, logo of a unicorn. Apply lightly, allow to dry, and bandage loosely. Do not apply oil or grease.
- bottle wrapped in brown paper, unknown contents, paper adhered to bottle.
- dish, kidney shaped, metal, white enamel with black rim
- eye bath, green, plastic or Bakelite

The Sanax Company was at the address of 5 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy [Melbourne] at least as early as November 1924, as shown by its advertisement of Ache Powder in the Weekly Times, 8th November 1924. It was still at this address in September 1951, when it advertised First Aid outfits and components in the Post Master General’s section of the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette.

Annuello, Victoria; Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Annuello,_Victoria
Annuello Younger Set, Branch Activities and Local Reports, Country Women’s Organisations, Weekly Times, 29 November 1930, Trove http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/224921009?searchTerm=%22sanax%22%20and%20%22melbourne%22&searchLimits=#
Commonwealth of Australia Gazette, Issue 32, 24th April 1915, https://www.legislation.gov.au/file/1915GN32
[Johnson & Johnson Price List, September 1, 1888, p. 20. From our archives], Celebrating the 125th Birthday of the First Aid Kit , The Story of Johnson & Johnson, , http://www.kilmerhouse.com/2013/06/from-1888-to-2013-celebrating-the-125th-birthday-of-the-first-aid-kit/
Post Master General’s section of the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette, Issue No. 73, Thursday 27th September 1951 http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/232185299?searchTerm=%22sanax%22%20and%20%22fitzroy%22&searchLimits=
Sanax First Aid Emergency Instructions, by S.A. Burrows, publisher Sanax Ltd. Fitzroy, Victoria, 1930-1939 English, book, Illustrated edition, Trove http://trove.nla.gov.au/version/40948895


Access to emergency medical help in early settlement days of Victoria could take quite some time, especially in remote areas. From 1888 First Aid Kits and instructions became available for work sites, offices, community groups and individuals, helping to bridge the gap between the accident and the arrival of medical assistance.

This portable Sanax First Aid Case is an example of portable medical equipment made in Melbourne, Australia, in the 1930’s and available to the public. It contains a range of items plus information to be used in a variety of injuries and emergencies in in factories, households, businesses and local communities, and instructions on their use.

Physical description

First Aid Case, portable, Sanax First Aid Case. First Aid kit in strong black cardboard carry case with metal reinforced corners, metal hinges on lid, metal catch and leather carry handle. Inside lid is a vertical strap with narrow gap behind it. Base is divided into two compartments. Manufactured by Sanax, Fitzroy, Melbourne, C. 1930-1939

Contents include "Sanax" First Aid instructions booklet, 2 leaflets, metal kidney dish enamelled in white with black trim on edge, green plastic or Bakelite eye bath, eye lotion, Tannafax tannic acid jelly, Sal Volitile, Kuraburn, Iodine, Argyrol, ACHE tablets, absorbent cotton in cardboard box, gauze bandage, and UNKNOWN wrapped bottle.

Inscriptions & markings

Printed in gold on lid of case “SANAX” FIRST AID CASE.
Most of the contents, as well as the case, show the “SANAX” brand.
Some contents are inscribed Burroughs Wellcome & Co. (Australia) Ltd.,