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“On the Pill”

In 1960 the Food and Drug Administration approved the first oral contraceptive pill. Within a few years, millions of American women were “on the Pill.” Doris Wagner began using it in 1962 after she and her husband David had their fourth child. The required regimen—one a day for twenty days then five days off—made remembering to take the pill a source of anxiety for the couple. David, an engineer, designed a dispenser to alleviate the problem. Most American pharmaceutical companies that sold birth control pills adopted his idea.

Pill Dispenser Prototype, 1962
Wagner made a simple model of his dispenser using a few sheets of plastic, a metal fastener, and a wood dowel. (Collected 1995, Gift of David P. Wagner)

DialPak Pill Dispenser, 1963
In 1963 Ortho Pharmaceuticals adopted Wagner’s design for their DialPak dispenser. (Collected 2000, Gift of Ortho-McNeil Pharmaceutical)

Original Drawing of Dispenser, 1962
Wagner’s drawing shows how the dispenser held the pills in place and clearly indicated whether a pill had been taken on any given day. (Collected 1995, Gift of David P. Wagner)

Wagner Pill Dispenser Patent, 1964
Wagner submitted a patent application for his design in July, 1962.  Two years later he was granted patent 3,143,207. (Collected 1995, Gift of David P. Wagner)

The Wagner Family, about 1965
(Courtesy David P. Wagner)