One of the commissioned paintings by Gladys Rockmore Davis used in the classic Johnson & Johnson ad campaign.  Property of Johnson & Johnson.

One of the commissioned paintings by Gladys Rockmore Davis used in the classic Johnson & Johnson ad campaign. Property of Johnson & Johnson.

Once considered one of the premiere contemporary fine artists in America, she is largely unknown today, although her works remain in the collections of museums that include New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Cleveland Museum of Art. She was a career woman and a pioneering working mother during the 1940s. But she’s perhaps best remembered today for her series of paintings that appeared in Johnson & Johnson ads during the 1940s and 1950s. Here’s a look at Gladys Rockmore Davis, the artist behind the classic Johnson & Johnson ads, and the development of that iconic campaign.

One of the ads from the Gladys Rockmore Davis ad campaign, from our archives.

One of the ads from the Gladys Rockmore Davis ad campaign, from our archives.

On March 21, 1949, LIFE Magazine carried the first in a series of full-page, full-color ads for Johnson & Johnson wound care products. The focal point of the ads were beautiful paintings of children, with the line “Mommy always says you’re safe when you use Johnson & Johnson.” The response from the public was immediate. They wanted to know who did the paintings in the ads, and where could they get reprints?

American Artists Group Monograph Series, with Gladys Rockmore Davis self-portrait on the cover. From our archives, donated by the Marvin family.

American Artists Group Monograph Series, with Gladys Rockmore Davis self-portrait on the cover. From our archives, donated by the Marvin family.

 

Gladys Rockmore Davis was born in New York City in 1901. She and her family moved to Canada and then back to the United States, settling in San Francisco and later in Chicago. From early childhood, Rockmore Davis felt compelled to draw. She reflected: “It was my good fortune in early childhood that instead of merely playing with dolls, I had also an irresistible impulse to draw them. As I grew older, but still a child, my interest in drawing became so consuming that my early memories hold at the exclusion of all else, the great urge to become an artist.” [Gladys Rockmore Davis, American Artists Group Monograph Number 10, by Gladys Rockmore Davis, published by the American Artists Group, Inc., New York, 1945, p. 1]

After graduating from the prestigious Art Institute of Chicago in 1920, Rockmore Davis found work as an advertising and fashion artist. But spending time in Europe, studying with the famous Art Students League in New York and with painter George Grosz, spurred Gladys Rockmore Davis to switch gears from commercial advertising to fine art. Her primary areas of interest were in capturing light and creating moods with paint and pastels. Children were a frequent subject of Davis’ work; she used her own children as models for many of her pieces — including some of the paintings in the Johnson & Johnson ads.

Gladys Rockmore Davis was part of an art world power couple, having married the illustrator Floyd MacMillan Davis in 1920. Davis’s illustrations appeared on the cover of The Saturday Evening Post, among other national magazines, along with his peers like Norman Rockwell. But with the decline of the era of advertising illustration, magazines turned to photography instead, and Gladys Rockmore Davis turned from fine art back to commercial art to support her family.

Davis took a break from her painting in the 1940s to undertake the sometimes dangerous assignment as a European war correspondent with her husband. The July 16, 1945 edition of LIFE Magazine featured their reporting and their artwork. Rockmore Davis’s illustrations were done in her very recognizable style, but showed a very different and somber subject matter.

Johnson & Johnson brochure from April, 1949, discussing the Gladys Rockmore Davis ad campaign.  From our archives.

Johnson & Johnson brochure from April, 1949, discussing the Gladys Rockmore Davis ad campaign. From our archives.

In the late 1940s, just as Gladys Rockmore Davis was turning back to illustration, Johnson & Johnson was putting together an ad campaign for its line of wound care products. The ads would have large, colorful “human interest” illustrations to give meaning to the “Mommy always says you’re safe…” theme of the ad campaign. The illustrations would tell the story of a situation that would be helped by our wound care products, and the ads would have the famous Johnson & Johnson “The most trusted name…” slogan at the bottom.

The five product lines that were advertised in the Gladys Rockmore Davis ads. From our archives.

The five product lines that were advertised in the Gladys Rockmore Davis ads. From our archives.

 

Some of the top commercial illustrators in the United States were asked to interpret the campaign theme, and the results were – as you might expect – excellent. But something was missing: “…it was felt that none of the original artists succeeded in capturing the complete warmth and tenderness conveyed by the campaign theme…” [“The Story Behind the Greatest Advertising Campaign in the History of Surgical Dressings,” typewritten history of the Gladys Rockmore Davis ad campaign, Johnson & Johnson archives.] So in continuing its search for the perfect artist to illustrate the campaign, Johnson & Johnson turned from commercial art and began looking at the field of fine art.   The company commissioned Gladys Rockmore Davis and told her to interpret the theme of the campaign in her own way. The result was a distinctive series of twelve paintings.

One of the set of 12 Gladys Rockmore Davis paintings used in the Johnson & Johnson ad campaign.  Property of Johnson & Johnson.

One of the set of 12 Gladys Rockmore Davis paintings used in the Johnson & Johnson ad campaign. Property of Johnson & Johnson.

Johnson & Johnson did some market research, surveying women (who were the primary purchasers of products to care for their families). They preferred the Gladys Rockmore Davis fine art illustrations two to one over the more conventional work of the illustrators.

Another of the Gladys Rockmore Davis paintings used in our ad campaign.  Property of Johnson & Johnson.

Another of the Gladys Rockmore Davis paintings used in our ad campaign. Property of Johnson & Johnson.

 

The beautiful paintings in the ads immediately connected with the public. (Davis did commissioned works for other companies’ ad campaigns as well, but her Johnson & Johnson ads have remained the most popular of her advertising work.) It was one of the first times the work of a major fine artist was used in advertising, and another example of the innovative thinking behind the Johnson & Johnson ad campaigns. The ads appeared in the publications with the greatest reach: LIFE Magazine and The Saturday Evening Post.

 The focus of the paintings is caring. Each painting shows a pair of children, with one child using our first aid and wound care products to care for and comfort the other child. The caring, rather than the products, took center stage in the artwork: the children using them are the focus, and the products facilitate the care that’s taking place in each scene. If the paintings seem very personal, they were: Davis used her young son and daughter as models for some of the paintings.

One of the reprints of the Gladys Rockmore Davis ad artwork, from our archives.

One of the reprints of the Gladys Rockmore Davis ad artwork, from our archives.

The Gladys Rockmore Davis ads proved to be immensely popular (the foremost marketing research firm of the era declared that the ads with her illustrations were twice as effective as ads without them) and, having received many thousands of requests, Johnson & Johnson made them available to the public as prints. The ads and reprints graced the walls of homes, pharmacies, hospitals, doctor’s offices and clinics. Decades later, many of the original paintings hang on the walls at Johnson & Johnson, a vivid reminder of a classic American artist and the company’s history of innovation in advertising.

Gladys Rockmore Davis ad and original painting.  From our archives.

Gladys Rockmore Davis ad and original painting. From our archives.

By the way, the boy with the dark hair in the wound care ad above (Davis’s son was the model for this painting) grew up to be an acclaimed artist himself, who is best known for his portraits of jazz musicians in Preservation Hall, New Orleans.

 

Two Spanish language ads from Johnson & Johnson, 1901 and 1910.  From our archives.

Two Spanish language ads from Johnson & Johnson, 1901 and 1910. From our archives.

We think of multi-language advertising as a modern phenomenon, but in fact at some companies it goes back decades – sometimes more than a century.   More than 100 years ago, Johnson & Johnson had an in-house Spanish-language advertising department that produced ads, correspondence and other materials for Latin America, the Spanish-speaking retail pharmacists who sold our products in the United States, and for Spanish speaking physicians. The earliest of these items date back to the late 1800s, shortly after we were founded.

Top half of an undated very early sterile surgical dressings and absorbent cotton Spanish-language ad, from our archives.

Top half of an undated very early sterile surgical dressings and absorbent cotton Spanish-language ad, from our archives.

This very early undated ad for sterile surgical dressings and absorbent cotton shows some of our earliest packaging, from the first years that Johnson & Johnson was in business.   The Antiseptic Gauze tin with the rare “double-J” logo places the ad in the first few years that Johnson & Johnson was in business –circa 1886 to 1889.

Spanish language edition of Modern Methods of Antiseptic Wound Treatment, 1891, our groundbreaking sterile surgery manual for physicians.  From our archives.

Spanish language edition of Modern Methods of Antiseptic Wound Treatment, 1891, our groundbreaking sterile surgery manual for physicians. From our archives.

One of the first Johnson & Johnson publications to be translated into Spanish was the company’s groundbreaking sterile surgery manual, Modern Methods of Antiseptic Wound Treatment, published by Johnson & Johnson in 1888. The Spanish-language copy of Modern Methods in our archives dates from 1891. A decade or so later, we published a Spanish-language edition of The RED CROSS® Messenger, our publication for the retail pharmacists who sold our products.

File copy of a letter from Fred Kilmer to the editor of American Druggist Magazine, 1898, from our archives.

File copy of a letter from Fred Kilmer to the editor of American Druggist Magazine, 1898, from our archives.

The Spanish language advertising that Johnson & Johnson was doing began to gain attention. In September of 1898, Caswell Mayo, the editor of American Druggist Magazine, wrote to Johnson & Johnson, inquiring about the company’s Spanish-language materials and seeking advice. Scientific Director Fred Kilmer wrote back to him to recommend a printer in Jersey City who could do Spanish-language composition. Kilmer mentioned that Johnson & Johnson did its own printing for its Spanish-language materials in its own composing room – which would have been part of the Company’s Advertising or Printing department. Kilmer wrote:

“…much of our Spanish printed [sic] is done in our composing room with no difficulty. Our translations are done in our New York office, by Mr. O’Neill who has charge of this department…” [Letter from F.B. Kilmer to Mr. Caswell Mayo, Sept. 30, 1898, Johnson & Johnson archives.]

The letter mentioned that the New York office could recommend a physician who could do the translations.

The Johnson & Johnson sales office in Mexico, 1908, from our archives.

The Johnson & Johnson sales office in Mexico, 1908, from our archives.

By 1916 – with the steady robust growth of the company’s business, and in an era of large-scale immigration to the United States — the Johnson & Johnson Spanish Language Department had grown extensively. It was located on the second floor of the Johnson & Johnson offices in New Brunswick. “The Spanish sales department, which handles the South American trade, is especially extensive.” [RED CROSS Messenger, Vol. VIII, March 1916, Nos. 9 & 10, p. 490, “Four Floors of Brains and Energy.”] The department was close to the company’s mailroom, which made it extremely convenient to send out correspondence and product samples.

Johnson & Johnson Spanish Language Advertising Department form, from our archives.

Johnson & Johnson Spanish Language Advertising Department form, from our archives.

Believe it or not, Johnson & Johnson kept track of its Latin American sales – and all of its sales – in 1916 with a “computing machine,” or mechanical bookkeeping machine. It was the same type of machine used to tabulate the United States census, and it used punch cards. That forerunner of the computer wasn’t the only cool bit of technology in the Johnson & Johnson office in 1916 – the company also used early automatic typewriters that could type standardized, repetitive text by themselves — a visiting pharmacist likened them to player pianos! [RED CROSS Messenger, Vol. VIII, March 1916, Nos. 9 & 10, p. 490, “Four Floors of Brains and Energy.”] Johnson & Johnson was an early adopter of a variety of technologies. Aside from improving business capability and efficiency, it is also likely that then-company president James Wood Johnson, an engineer, found these innovations to be incredibly cool.

First Aid Accident Case ad in Spanish, 1901, from our Archives.

First Aid Accident Case ad in Spanish, 1901, from our Archives.

Johnson & Johnson pioneered the first commercial First Aid Kits in 1888 and, by 1901, we were advertising the general (non-railroad-specific) First Aid Accident Case in Spanish.   Shortly after that, the company began producing a series of colorful ads and collectable souvenir cards for the Latin American market. The cards had beautifully detailed illustrations of children on the front, and advertising for our products on the back.

Collectable souvenir card, front and back. From our archives.

Collectable souvenir card, front and back. From our archives.

By the early 1900s, if we advertised a product, we also advertised it in Spanish. Sterile surgical dressings? Yes. JOHNSON’S® Baby Powder? Without a doubt! Kidney Plasters, with our famous Feels Good on the Back ad? Of course. JOHNSON’S® Shaving Cream Soap? Absolutely!

Top of a page of Johnson & Johnson Spanish language letterhead, 1902. From our archives.

We had company letterhead in Spanish, as well as product order forms. And a Happy New Year card from Johnson & Johnson that was sent to the company’s Spanish-speaking customers in appreciation of their business. And speaking of sales…

A Spanish-speaking pharmacy in New York City, early 1900s, from our archives.

A Spanish-speaking pharmacy in New York City, early 1900s, from our archives.

As early as 1908, Johnson & Johnson had a number of employees of Hispanic heritage in the company’s sales force. Since we had strong sales in Latin America and we had Spanish-speaking retail customers in the United States, it made sense to have members of our sales force reflect that: the 1908 listings of Travelers, as salesmen were called in that era, included Manuel Royo, Luis Ortiz, Alberto Ditz Guerra and J. Jimenez. A 1917 listing of the sales force included Louis Ortiz, Andres Del Valle, Joaquin Garcia, Ernesto G. Ealo, P.M. Rodriguez, and C. G. De Quevedo. During the 1910s, Johnson & Johnson advertised in the United States in around 15 languages in order to reach its new customers – the more than 15 million immigrants who had come to the U.S. between 1900 and 1915. It was an early recognition that the company needed to meet its customers where they were and to communicate with them in a way that would reach them. Our early Spanish Language Department was part of that effort – a very early example of the ways in which Johnson & Johnson fulfilled its responsibilities to the medical profession, to the people who use our products, and to our retail partners.

JOHNSON’S® Shaving Cream Soap ad, early 1900s.  From our archives.

JOHNSON’S® Shaving Cream Soap ad, early 1900s. From our archives.

 

BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandages ad, 1928, from our archives.

BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandages ad, 1928, from our archives.

BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandages were featured on the CBS Sunday Morning annual design show, Sunday Morning by Design, on May 31st. An iconic consumer product and a design classic, BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandages are instantly recognizable as a symbol of caring for 94 years.

You can watch the show on the CBS website at this link.  

The show focused on design and the role it plays in so many aspects of our lives – from places, to comedy, to everyday items, to health care. One of the themes of the show was how design can change the world.

1921 ad for BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandages, from our archives. A design that changed the world.

1921 ad for BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandages, from our archives. A design that changed the world.

 

In the BAND-AID® Brand segment, Sarita T. Finnie, Senior Director, Compromised Skin GFO in our consumer operating company, took CBS This Morning on-air correspondent Susan Spencer through the history of the BAND-AID® brand, starting with the product’s invention by cotton buyer Earle Dickson in 1920 to help his wife and its introduction in 1921, to its inclusion in The New York Times list of greatest all-time innovations in 2013, to today.  Sarita explained the staying power of BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandages, the first pre-made commercial dressing for small wounds: “A good design will solve a problem, but a great design is intuitive and simple and timeless,” she explained.

Earle Dickson, inventor of the BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandage. From our archives.

Earle Dickson, inventor of the BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandage. From our archives.

 

In fact, BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandages are such a great design (and a great innovation) that it seems unthinkable that there was ever a time without them. Before Johnson & Johnson put them on the market in 1921, people tried a variety of makeshift and not very successful ways to protect small cuts and scrapes, such as tying strips of fabric or gauze around their fingers.

Original patent for BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandages, from our archives -- as featured on CBS Sunday Morning!

Original patent for BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandages, from our archives — as featured on CBS Sunday Morning!

The product was such a new concept when it launched that Johnson & Johnson had to show people how to use it. Since then, BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandages helped sponsor a groundbreaking 1950s television show, they have gone to the Moon with the Apollo 11 astronauts and into World War II with soldiers, they’ve had a song written for them by Barry Manilow (“I am Stuck on BAND-AID® Brand…”), and they’ve been decorated with beloved cartoon characters and by leading designers. Through that evolution, the brand has continued to innovate, using more advanced designs and materials as technology and science have progressed over the decades since their invention. The product is such a design icon that it’s featured in the permanent design collection of the Museum of Modern Art. (Their website lists Earle Dickson as the artist!)

Some of the items from our archives used in the CBS Sunday Morning piece.

Some of the items from our archives used in the CBS Sunday Morning piece.

We sent a range of historical BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandage tins, ads and images (including the original patent for the product, which was shown on-air!) from the Johnson & Johnson archives to CBS This Morning for the story.

Some of the classic tins from the 1940s and 1950s in our archives that were part of the production of the segment on BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandages.

Some of the classic tins from the 1940s and 1950s in our archives that were part of the production of the segment on BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandages.

The tins each reflect their particular decade in a number of ways, from the forward-looking new possibilities of the 1920s square tin, to the intricately designed 1930s tin, to the clean, simple lines of the 1940s and 1950s, to the Pop Art Sheer Strips tin of the 1960s, to the neon colors of the 1980s. These tins – as iconic as the product they held – were like honorary members of the family in the medicine cabinets of generations of households, and their design was so valuable that they were repurposed in sewing boxes, workshops and toy chests to hold a variety of items that people wanted to protect and keep safe.

LIFE Magazine ad for BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandages, 1943, from our archives.

LIFE Magazine ad for BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandages, 1943, from our archives.

The historical ads were matched to the tins we sent, and included some of the earliest BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandages ads that demonstrated how to use the newly-introduced product. They included 1940s ads that showed the ways in which the product was there to protect not only families but soldiers.

Saturday Evening Post ad, 1960, from our archives.

Saturday Evening Post ad, 1960, from our archives.

The 1960 Saturday Evening Post ad for the new BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandages in extra large size proclaimed “Need this many?  Try this,” an example of design as part of the product’s innovation throughout its history.

 

BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandages 1930s tin, from our archives, one of the items featured in the CBS Sunday Morning segment.

BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandages 1930s tin, from our archives, one of the items featured in the CBS Sunday Morning segment.

BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandages continue to evolve and innovate since their invention in 1920, with new ways to heal and protect wounds, with new designs and even with an app (the Muppets MAGIC VISIONTM mobile app). But the same basic idea that motivated Earle Dickson – designing an easy to use, effective premade dressing to help people – remains the same today.

Again, the segment is at this link on the CBS website.

207

Nursing History at Johnson & Johnson

Margaret on May 6th, 2015 at 8:05PM

Johnson & Johnson ad in support of nursing, circa 1930s.  From our archives.

Johnson & Johnson ad in support of nursing, circa 1930s. From our archives.

Support for nursing is a fundamental part of the history of Johnson & Johnson.  Its roots go back to the founding of the company, and to the beginnings of modern nursing itself. Nurses are featured in the first paragraph of Our Credo, second only to doctors: “We believe our first responsibility is to the doctors, nurses and patients, to mothers and fathers…” Employees at Johnson & Johnson have understood nurses’ vital importance to patients, to health care, and to our company for more than a century.

 

Brochure showing a painting of Florence Nightingale, commissioned by Johnson & Johnson in 1946. From our archives.

Brochure showing a painting of Florence Nightingale, commissioned by Johnson & Johnson in 1946. From our archives.

 

Both Johnson & Johnson and the modern profession of nursing were founded in the 1800s, and both were on the cutting edge of medical innovation. Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing, led a team of nurses who improved sanitary conditions at a British hospital treating wounded soldiers during the Crimean War in the 1850s. Nightingale made sure the hospital wards were scrubbed clean, and she insisted that the medical professionals wash their hands — a practice that drastically reduced infection rates and saved many lives. Nightingale was an early pioneer in infection control, a practice central to the mission of Johnson & Johnson, founded in 1886 to make the first mass produced sterile surgical dressings and sutures to save the lives of surgery patients. (In an interesting sidelight, Florence Nightingale also was an early user of the pie chart and was a pioneer in representing statistical data graphically way back in the 1800s — so not only does nursing owe her a huge debt, so do modern infographics!)

Johnson & Johnson employee demonstrating sterile gauze manufacturing, 1897, from our archives.

Not a nurse, but a Johnson & Johnson employee in 1897 demonstrating sterile gauze manufacturing. Photo from our archives.

Johnson & Johnson pioneered large scale sterile manufacturing, and was the first company to have its employees wear sterile uniforms. Those uniforms looked a lot like the nursing uniforms of that era.  They were meant to convey the rigorous standards and high quality of our sterile manufacturing and the strength of our employees’ commitment to patients, and what better way to do that than to model them after the uniforms that nurses wore?

Fred Kilmer – a strong supporter of nursing and nurse training. Photo from our archives.

Fred Kilmer – a strong supporter of nursing and nurse training. Photo from our archives.

Scientific Director Fred Kilmer, a founder of St. Peter’s University Hospital in New Brunswick, was a strong advocate for nursing.  He gave the hospital its nurses’ library, donated in memory of his son Joyce. Kilmer was interested in the scientific training of nurses, and many of the nurses in training there during the early 1930s saw him as a friend and mentor.

General Robert Wood Johnson, from our archives. Johnson was a lifelong supporter of the nursing profession.

General Robert Wood Johnson, from our archives. Johnson was a lifelong supporter of the nursing profession.

General Robert Wood Johnson also was a lifelong supporter of nursing. He believed that well-trained nurses should have a more important role in patient care and they should be given greater responsibilities.  He sponsored several programs to elevate the professional status of nurses in the United States and he funded a nursing program in Brazil. Later in his career — when a nationwide shortage of nurses began to develop — Johnson put together a plan to help meet the shortage by having the early Robert Wood Johnson Foundation increase its funding for nurse training programs, and by bringing back to the profession nurses who had left work to raise families.

Nurses at St. Peter’s Hospital pose on the hospital's front porch for an early photograph more than 100 years ago. From our archives.

Nurses at St. Peter’s Hospital pose on the hospital’s front porch for an early photograph more than 100 years ago. From our archives.

One of his ideas – an intensive refresher course for nurses pioneered at Middlesex Hospital (now Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital) in New Brunswick – was adopted at 24 hospitals. Johnson also urged the Johnson & Johnson Board of Directors and the company’s operating units to provide financial support for nursing training at hospitals local to them. During one of Robert Wood Johnson’s visits to the nurses’ training program at St. Peter’s Hospital in New Brunswick, he was so impressed by the nurses that he gave them a monthly stipend to provide them with spending money for the duration of their studies. Johnson’s interest in nursing later inspired the founding of the Johnson & Johnson Wharton School Fellows Program in Management for Nurse Executives at the University of Pennsylvania, which became the leading program of its kind in the United States.  In 2002, to address another nursing shortage, Johnson & Johnson created The Campaign for Nursing’s Future, a multi-year commitment that continues today.

Aseptic package seal from 1899, signed by nurse Elizabeth W---.  From our archives.

Aseptic package seal from 1899, signed by nurse Elizabeth W—. From our archives.

Not only has Johnson & Johnson supported the profession of nursing for more than a century, the company also has employed nurses throughout our history. Over a century ago, Elizabeth W—- was the head nurse in the Johnson & Johnson Aseptic Department, our pioneering aseptic manufacturing rooms for sterile surgical products. Elizabeth was responsible for inspecting each sterile surgical product to ensure it was sterile and sealed, and the labels placed over the sealed, inspected containers bore her signature and her title of graduate nurse. Elizabeth’s signature was a symbol of the trust that doctors and nurses had for the company’s products that helped make surgery sterile and save patients’ lives.

Katherine Hannan, a Johnson & Johnson employee who had a distinguished career in nursing.  From our archives.

Katherine Hannan, a Johnson & Johnson employee who had a distinguished career in nursing. From our archives.

Another amazing nurse in Johnson & Johnson history is Katherine Hannan, our first female employee to volunteer to serve in the military, during World War I.  A second generation employee (her father John Hannan ran our early power house), Katherine worked in our advertising department. She was a trained nurse and in 1917 she volunteered as a field nurse for the U.S. Army. Due to her leadership skills, Katherine was rapidly promoted to head nurse and superintendent of the General Hospital #6 at Fort MacPherson in Georgia. She went on to serve with the American Expeditionary Forces in Siberia in 1918, earning the position of Chief Nurse of the Evacuation Hospital in Vladivostok, Siberia. She and her team of nurses treated soldiers suffering from the deadly 1918 influenza epidemic and, when the war ended, Katherine brought the last contingent of nurses from the hospital in Siberia back to the U.S.

Today, Johnson & Johnson and its employees continue to have a close connection to nursing –through the company’s longstanding support for nursing, and because so many employees have family and friends who are nurses.  The company continues its support for this vital profession that has its caring roots so closely tied to the roots of Johnson & Johnson.

Since 1970, April 22 has marked Earth Day. The first Earth Day is widely considered to have inaugurated the modern environmental movement and, since then, the day is celebrated annually around the world. The theme of this year’s Earth Day is “It’s Our Turn to Lead.” Johnson & Johnson and its operating companies have long taken leadership roles in sustainability, and this legacy has some surprising early roots. Here’s a look at five of those stories in Johnson & Johnson history.

General Robert Wood Johnson in uniform, Washington, D.C., 1943.  From our archives.

General Robert Wood Johnson in uniform, Washington, D.C., 1943. From our archives.

1.  General Robert Wood Johnson wrote about the need to use renewable natural resources to protect the environment in 1947, three decades before the start of the modern environmental movement. He felt that in order for businesses to be sustainable, they needed to ensure that resources also were sustainable. Here’s one of the things he said:

 “We must use our resources wisely, avoiding waste of both raw materials and scrap, while we seek substitutes for things already in short supply. We must employ replaceable materials where we can, must let forests restore themselves as we cut, must prevent loss and pollution of water, and must halt wasteful erosion of soil. Means to these ends are known but are now neglected through habit and ignorance of the fact that they pay. Sound business demands their employment, just as it demands reduction of waste in a factory or store.” [Or Forfeit Freedom, by Robert Wood Johnson, Doubleday & Company, Garden City, New York, 1947, pp. 37-38]

 

Johnson & Johnson Bulletin cover showing employee Constance H---, an inspector in the First Aid Department, tending to her Victory Garden in 1943. From our archives.

Johnson & Johnson Bulletin cover showing employee Constance H—, an inspector in the First Aid Department, tending to her Victory Garden in 1943. From our archives.

2.  Johnson & Johnson has its own employee garden! In 2014, the garden not only grew fresh vegetables for participating employees, it also supplied the Johnson & Johnson World Headquarters cafeteria with fresh, local produce. This garden calls to mind the Victory Gardens grown by many Johnson & Johnson employees in the 1940s, which provided fresh, sustainable local produce for families.

 

The diesel electric boat Edward Farrington during construction.  from our archives.

The diesel electric boat Edward Farrington during construction. from our archives.

3.  Beginning in the early 1900s, Johnson & Johnson ran its own steamboats to take our products to port. In 1928, Johnson & Johnson launched what was hailed as “the world’s first diesel electric freight boat.” Named the Edward Farrington (named after a former Mayor of New Brunswick), The Farrington was built with a diesel electric engine in order to cut down on coal usage and harbor smoke.

 

Copy of Joyce Kilmer's poem "Trees" in his handwriting.  From our archives.

Copy of Joyce Kilmer’s poem “Trees” in his handwriting. From our archives.

4.  The poem “Trees,” by Joyce Kilmer has frequently been used to highlight the beauty of nature and the importance of trees. Joyce Kilmer was a member of the extended Johnson & Johnson family through his father, Scientific Director Fred Kilmer. Joyce also wrote articles for some of the early Johnson & Johnson publications.

 

Horse-drawn wagons and drivers at Johnson & Johnson, 1910. From our archives.

Horse-drawn wagons and drivers at Johnson & Johnson, 1910. From our archives.

5.  Before the era of cardboard shipping boxes, supplies were delivered in wooden crates. In the early days of Johnson & Johnson, the company driver and wagon delivered the wood from broken shipping crates to employees in New Brunswick to use for kindling in their stoves, an early instance of recycling.

 

 

205

Know Your Value and Our Heritage of Empowering Women

Margaret on April 9th, 2015 at 10:37PM

Women demonstrate pioneering sterile preparation of gauze and ligatures in 1891, in one of the earliest photos in the Johnson & Johnson archives.

Women demonstrate pioneering sterile preparation of gauze and ligatures in 1891, in one of the earliest photos in the Johnson & Johnson archives.

Johnson & Johnson is proud to partner with MSNBC and Mika Brezezinski on her Know Your Value platform, which is designed to empower women at work and encourage them to be actively healthier as part of that effort. This partnership is particularly meaningful to Johnson & Johnson in a variety of ways that go back to the company’s earliest roots.

The first Johnson & Johnson building in 1886. From our archives.

The first Johnson & Johnson building in 1886. From our archives.

 

Johnson & Johnson has recognized the value of women and the importance of their unique contributions since the company was founded. Today we’re the world’s most comprehensive global health care company, but in 1886 Johnson & Johnson was a tiny little startup with just 14 employees, on the fourth floor of a rented former wallpaper factory in New Brunswick, New Jersey. More than half of those first employees – eight out of fourteen — were women. They were handpicked by company founder James Wood Johnson for their willingness to take a chance on a new company formed around a big idea: making the first mass produced sterile surgical dressings and sutures to save the lives of patients in American hospitals. These employees helped get Johnson & Johnson off the ground, and our founders certainly recognized their value: a number of these earliest employees – including some of those eight women – rose to positions of responsibility in the company.

Johnson & Johnson in 1908, from our archives.

Johnson & Johnson in 1908, from our archives.

 

By 1908, Johnson & Johnson had grown considerably and had 36 different departments. These departments managed the manufacturing of the company’s many different products, and also included the lab, purchasing, shipping, advertising, finance and more. Out of those 36 departments, eight of them had female supervisors – including our sterile surgical products manufacturing, the most rigorous area of the company. In 1908 our sterile manufacturing was managed by Nora H—-. She joined her colleagues M— Denman, Gussie D—, Elizabeth P—, Kate B—, Emma T—, Laura R— and Nettie B— in supervising critical areas of the company’s manufacturing. But that’s not all. In 1907/1908, in an era when very few women attended college (in 1902 it was less than three percent) and even fewer were hired by companies as scientists, Johnson & Johnson hired its first female scientist, Edith von K—. She was a University of Minnesota graduate in chemistry, and she moved halfway across the United States to take the position as one of four staff scientists in our Scientific Department.

Women employees in front of the Laurel Club building in 1929. From our archives.

Women employees in front of the Laurel Club building in 1929. From our archives.

 

Many of these woman belonged to The Laurel Club, a company-supported social organization for women employees formed in 1907. The Laurel Club gave women a venue in which to build leadership skills, and its members began two longstanding employee traditions that help our women employees know their value today: volunteering in the community and exercising at work.

Employee exercise facilities in the Laurel Club building, from our archives.

Employee exercise facilities in the Laurel Club building circa 1907, from our archives.

 

Today we know that health and wellness play a critical role in allowing employees to fulfill their potential and increase their energy so that they can bring their best selves to work and to their families. More than a century ago, Johnson & Johnson understood that employee health was crucial, and the company provided exercise facilities in the workplace (they were in the Laurel Club building) as well as bringing in instructors to teach classes. These classes included lawn and indoor tennis, dancing, swimming during the 1910s (in the company’s employee swimming pool!), and exercise. The March 27, 1907 edition of The New Brunswick Home News noted that the Laurel Club women “perform healthy physical exercises” wearing the latest in exercise clothing. In 1907 that meant matching blue flannel bloomers and blouses, black stockings and a type of shoe that was gaining in popularity called “sneakers” – which got their name because their rubber soles were so quiet that wearers could sneak up on people. The women of the Laurel Club also formed a women’s basketball team.

Emma T--- holding a basketball in 1907. From our archives.

Emma T— holding a basketball in 1907. From our archives.

 

Here’s a look at one of those high performing, valuable women. In 1907 Emma T—– was the supervisor of the Lister’s Fumigator Department at Johnson & Johnson. Her department made an early public health product designed to help people protect themselves and their families against contagious disease. Emma was one of eight women who managed departments at Johnson & Johnson in that year, a responsible position that put her on the company’s superintending and management staff.   Emma also exercised at work and played on the basketball team. As a Laurel Club member, she volunteered in the New Brunswick community in her spare time, helping the city’s underserved women and children.

The 1907 Johnson & Johnson women’s basketball team, made up of Laurel Club members. From our archives.

The 1907 Johnson & Johnson women’s basketball team, made up of Laurel Club members. From our archives.

 

The opportunity to exercise at work would have helped Emma and her colleagues maintain their energy levels and would have given them renewed focus and confidence. Those qualities are apparent as she and her teammates gaze confidently at the camera in the iconic photograph that captures the Johnson & Johnson 1907 women’s basketball team, and they are reflected in the dignity and strength of Elizabeth P—-, which shines through her stained glass portrait from so long ago.

The legacy of these pioneering women and the company’s support for them helps the messages of the Know Your Value campaign resonate so powerfully at Johnson & Johnson.

Elizabeth P---, as depicted in a Johnson & Johnson stained glass window. Image of the Johnson & Johnson stained glass window courtesy of The Wolfsonian – Florida International University, Miami Beach, Florida, the Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection of Decorative and Propaganda Arts, Promised Gift.

Elizabeth P—, as depicted in a Johnson & Johnson stained glass window. Image of the Johnson & Johnson stained glass window courtesy of The Wolfsonian – Florida International University, Miami Beach, Florida, the Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection of Decorative and Propaganda Arts, Promised Gift.

 

This week is #MuseumWeek, a global celebration of museums on Twitter. Johnson & Johnson is proud to participate in Museum Week this year for the first time, and we’ve been sharing some of our museum secrets, favorites, iconic products, and cool things. As part of that, we asked people to identify five mysterious items from the Johnson & Johnson Museum. Here are the mystery items:

 

 

And here are the answers and some background on each item!

 

 

Mystery Item #1:   Although Johnson & Johnson didn’t invent this item, we were the first to mass produce it in 1898, making it affordable for the first time. Before nylon was developed, it was made from silk, which was what made it expensive. Today, it’s part of recommended daily oral health routines. What is it? It’s dental floss!

 

 

Mystery Item #2: Alert history fans will note part of a very familiar logo on the left side of the image – a logo that families have had in their homes for generations. If you guessed BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandages, you would be correct! This image shows a BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandages tin from the early 1960s – one of our most popular and iconic tins. (By the way, did you know that BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandages were the first pre-made commercial dressing for small wounds? The product was such a new concept that we had to show people how to use it.)

 

 

Mystery Item #3: this item went on the market in 1894, the result of conversations with doctors and parents. Since then it’s become a global icon and led to the creation of one of the oldest heritage businesses at Johnson & Johnson. It’s JOHNSON’S® Baby Powder, in a tin from the 1890s.

 

 

Mystery Item #4: This image shows the company’s first beauty product, something that was wildly popular in the 1910s. What is it? Beauty Spots! Beauty Spots were small adhesive shapes – moons, stars, dots, hearts – that women put on their faces a century ago. Not only did Johnson & Johnson make beauty spots, we also provided tiny tins so that women could carry extra beauty spots in case they needed to reapply one.

 

 

Mystery Item #5: This mystery item is another part of modern life resulting from a conversation, between company founder Robert Wood Johnson and a railroad surgeon. It’s a First Aid Kit. Johnson & Johnson made the first commercial First Aid Kits in 1888. The idea came from the need to treat injured railroad workers and, within a few short years, the company was producing First Aid Kits for homes, workplaces, public buildings, travelers and more.

 

We hope you enjoyed identifying the Johnson & Johnson mystery items and learning the stories behind them. They’re just a small part of the stories we’re telling during Museum Week, and as we restore the Johnson & Johnson Museum.

 

Since its origins in 1911, International Women’s Day has been a day to recognize the leadership of women and to mark their economic, political and social achievements. This year’s theme is Make it Happen, and women have been making things happen at Johnson & Johnson since our founding in 1886. In recognition of the contributions of women everywhere, here’s a look at ten ways that women have shaped Johnson & Johnson.

Some of the amazing women from Johnson & Johnson history pose for a photo circa 1900.  From our archives.

Some of the amazing women from Johnson & Johnson history pose for a photo circa 1900. From our archives.

1.  1886: Women helped start the company! When Johnson & Johnson was founded in 1886, eight of our first 14 employees – more than half! – were women. Those employees were recruited by founder James Wood Johnson for their willingness to embrace new ideas, and to take a chance on joining a tiny new company with a big goal: making the first mass produced sterile surgical dressings and sterile sutures to save the lives of patients in American hospitals. The Johnson & Johnson archives show that many of these founding women went on to serve in positions of responsibility.

A corner of the Scientific Department lab at Johnson & Johnson in 1906, from our archives.  our first female scientist worked in this lab over 100 years ago.

A corner of the Scientific Department lab at Johnson & Johnson in 1906, from our archives. Our first female scientist worked in this lab over 100 years ago.

2.  1907/1908: As pioneering scientists! In 1907/1908, Johnson & Johnson hired its first woman scientist. Edith von K—, a chemist, moved halfway across the United States to take the job at Johnson & Johnson, becoming one of four staff scientists in the company’s Scientific Department. At the time, fewer than three percent of American women attended college, and far fewer of them majored in science. Today, women scientists at Johnson & Johnson operating companies across the world are helping to develop the innovations that will continue to revolutionize health care in the future.

Katherine Hannan, from our archives.

Katherine Hannan, from our archives.

3.  In military service. During World War I, Katherine Hannan, an employee in the Johnson & Johnson advertising department and a trained nurse, became our first woman employee to volunteer for military service in 1917. Recognizing her leadership and nursing skills, the army rapidly promoted Katherine, and in 1918, she was promoted to serve with the American Expeditionary Forces in Siberia, becoming the Chief Nurse of the Evacuation Hospital in Vladivostok. Katherine Hannan treated soldiers during the 1918 influenza epidemic, and she personally brought the last contingent of nurses at her hospital back to the United States. Today, women veterans at Johnson & Johnson bring the leadership skills they developed during their service to a wide variety of roles at Johnson & Johnson.

Josephine and Earle Dickson, from our archives.  Josephine was the inspiration behind Earle's 1920 invention of BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandages.

Josephine and Earle Dickson, from our archives. Josephine was the inspiration behind Earle’s 1920 invention of BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandages.

4.  As partners in coming up with some of the most iconic consumer products from the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies. Ideas and feedback from women throughout Johnson & Johnson history helped give the world JOHNSON’S® Baby Powder and the first mass produced sanitary protection products for women.   Josephine Dickson was the inspiration for her husband Earle Dickson’s invention of BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandages. Today, women continue to provide valuable insights and feedback to our operating companies.

Johnson & Johnson women employee volunteers with wounded soldiers, World War I.   From our archives.

Johnson & Johnson women employee volunteers with wounded soldiers, World War I. From our archives.

5.  As volunteers. Women employees began the more than a century-old tradition at Johnson & Johnson of employees volunteering in the community. Members of the Laurel Club, an organization for women employees, began volunteering in the community in 1907 (helping the community was part of the club’s charter!). They helped underserved children, held well-baby clinics, and helped rehabilitate wounded soldiers after World War I. Today, more than 80% of Johnson & Johnson employees worldwide – women and men – volunteer in their local community.

Healthy employees at Johnson & Johnson in 1907.  From our archives.

Healthy employees at Johnson & Johnson in 1907. From our archives.

6.  As healthy employees.  Johnson & Johnson had on-site exercise facilities and exercise classes for employees more than 100 years ago. Both were in the Laurel Club building, and the March 27, 1907 edition of The New Brunswick Home News reported that women employees at Johnson & Johnson were exercising wearing blue flannel blouses, bloomers, black stockings and sneakers. Our women employees also have been enthusiastic participants in employee sports teams, dating back to the formation of a basketball team in 1907. In later decades, many of the women’s teams went on to earn championship records in the local sports leagues.

Headquarters of the Laurel Club, from our archives.

Headquarters of the Laurel Club, from our archives.

7.  In starting employee organizations. Johnson & Johnson has a long history of employee organizations. Today, employees have a number of employee resource groups based on shared interests and experiences. These groups support employees, provide networking and enrichment opportunities, and help our businesses in a number of ways. Women employees at Johnson & Johnson pioneered the formation of our first employee organization — the Laurel Club – way back in 1907.

List of trained employee first responders and stained glass window of Elizabeth P----, one of those early first responders.  Stained glass window image  courtesy of The Wolfsonian – Florida International University, Miami Beach, Florida, the Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection of Decorative and Propaganda Arts, Promised Gift.

List of trained employee first responders and stained glass window of Elizabeth P—-, one of those early first responders. Stained glass window image courtesy of The Wolfsonian – Florida International University, Miami Beach, Florida, the Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection of Decorative and Propaganda Arts, Promised Gift.

8.  As trained first responders! Johnson & Johnson pioneered the first commercial First Aid Kits and the first First Aid Manuals. So it was only natural that the company would train its employees in the latest first aid techniques. In the first decade of the 1900s, Fred Kilmer led the training of an employee first aid squad, and a number of women were members, trained to provide first aid to their coworkers in the case of illness or injury.

9.  On our Board of Directors and as senior leaders. For many decades, women have held senior leadership positions at Johnson & Johnson. This includes our pioneering female VPs almost half a century ago, to Joan Ganz Cooney and Anne Dibble Jordan — the first women to serve on our Board of Directors in 1978 and 1981 — to countless others. Today, women occupy some of the most important leadership positions at Johnson & Johnson. In fact, Johnson & Johnson was highlighted recently by Forbes Magazine as one of Ten Great Companies for Women in 2015.

10.  As community partners. Johnson & Johnson has one of the oldest and largest global giving programs, working with community partners around the world to make life-changing, long-term differences in human health. Many of these partners are women or women-founded organizations, and they include Save the Children, founded almost a century ago by Eglantyne Jebb; Catherine Hamlin, co-founder of the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital in Ethiopia; and the more than 1,000 women mentors of mothers2mothers, who have saved and improved countless lives.

 

 

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1907: The New Cutting-Edge Power House at Johnson & Johnson

Margaret on February 20th, 2015 at 5:01PM

The Johnson & Johnson Museum, formerly the company's Power House.

The Johnson & Johnson Museum, formerly the company’s Power House.

Today, the oldest building on the Johnson & Johnson New Brunswick campus – and the only one remaining from the days of our founders – is our museum building.  At first glance, the building may look like the steadfast, unchanging reminder of an earlier era.  But behind the timeless, rich patina of the brick, that peaked roof and those mullioned windows, it’s an example of the continuing path of cutting-edge innovation at Johnson & Johnson.  The museum building originally was the new Power House, built in 1907 to generate electrical power to run the company’s manufacturing machinery.

Johnson & Johnson has been in business since 1886, so it goes without saying that the company employed manufacturing power before 1907. In our first building, power to run the manufacturing machinery was generated by a 200 horsepower engine in the building’s basement.

The engine room of the Old Mill at Johnson & Johnson, 1894. From our archives.

The engine room of the Old Mill at Johnson & Johnson, 1894. From our archives.

Our next generation engine room was in the Old Mill building, seen here in 1894, with the company’s chief engineer John Hannan at work.  (The Old Mill was on the lower part of the campus, directly on the Delaware & Raritan Canal and Raritan River.) Alert blog readers will notice the oil cans on the shelf at the left of the photograph, and the large flywheel behind Mr. Hannan.  The flywheel was part of what looks to be a Corliss engine, a steam-powered engine to generate power to run manufacturing equipment, and one of the driving forces of the Industrial Revolution.

The Johnson & Johnson Gauze Mill: example of the type of steam-driven line shaft and belt machinery used in industry over a century ago, from our archives.

The Johnson & Johnson Gauze Mill: example of the type of steam-driven line shaft and belt machinery used in industry over a century ago, from our archives.

During the late 1800s and up to the mid-20th century, centrally-generated power was transmitted throughout manufacturing facilities using line shafts that ran along the ceiling, with a system of belts and pulleys to power each machine.  Beginning with steam power, these systems were converted to electricity before the development of individual motors to run machinery.

In the January, 1913 edition of the RED CROSS® Messenger, Fred Kilmer discussed the constant innovation and re-invention of processes, products and manufacturing techniques at Johnson & Johnson – which was necessary in order for the company to continue to push the boundaries of product innovation and position itself for the future.  Even mechanical power was not exempt.  “One radical change consisted of the demolishing of all steam-driven machinery, including shafting belts and the like, and the substitution of electric machines in every part of the establishment.”  [The RED CROSS® Messenger, Anniversary Number, Johnson & Johnson, Vol. V, No. 8, January, 1913, p. 212]

Loading equipment into the Power House during construction.  From our archives.

Loading equipment into the Power House during construction. From our archives.

That radical change involved building a new Power House next to the Cotton Mill, which would generate enough electrical power to ensure capacity into the future. Construction was begun under the supervision of the company’s architect, John M—-, who designed and built our early buildings.  In 1908, Fred Kilmer gave an update on the almost-completed building:

“This electric power plant is nearing completion and is the very latest thing in electrical construction.  Sixteen hundred horse power capacity, would arc light quite a large city.”  [The RED CROSS® Messenger, Johnson & Johnson, Vol 1, No. 1, May, 1908, p. 21] 

Johnson & Johnson Power House, 1910.  From our archives.

Johnson & Johnson Power House, 1910. From our archives.

The new Johnson & Johnson Power House used an array of high-powered, large Crocker Wheeler generators.  Crocker Wheeler was a major manufacturer of electrical equipment, located in the “Ampere” section of East Orange, New Jersey.  (They were so large a manufacturer that they, er, generated an electricity-derived name for an entire section of East Orange.)

That same year, Fred Kilmer reported: “An engine of 1,600 horse-power is used to supply electric power for the entire plant.  Under this system belts and pulleys are discarded and very cleanly methods substituted on all apparatus.”  [The RED CROSS® Messenger, Johnson & Johnson, Special 1908 edition, p. 8]  At 1,600 horsepower, the new high-tech power plant operated at eight times the capacity of the company’s original power plant.

Interior of the Power House, showing the large windows and tiled walls.  From our archives.

Interior of the Power House, showing the large windows and tiled walls. From our archives.

The new Johnson & Johnson Power House was constructed with the same exacting standards as the sterile manufacturing buildings.  Its large, mullioned windows and ceiling clerestory let in plenty of light. And the company’s emphasis on a surgical level of cleanliness did not stop at the Power House door:  the interior walls were covered in glazed subway tile so that the Power House could be kept scrupulously clean.

Subway tile in the Power House behind a section of wall removed in the early part of the restoration, revealed for the first time in many decades!

Here’s a special behind-the-scenes glimpse of the glazed subway tiles, seen today.  Uncovered as part of the Museum restoration, the cream and light gray-green tiles with dark grouting still look gorgeous more than a century after they were installed.

Panoramic interior view of the Power House in 1919, from our archives.  Note the pressed tin ceiling, the gantry crane, and check out those indoor streetlamps!  Maybe we can reintroduce them as a lighting trend!

Panoramic interior view of the Power House in 1919, from our archives. Note the pressed tin ceiling, the gantry crane, and check out those indoor streetlamps! Maybe we can reintroduce them as a lighting trend?

In the 1910s, a teenaged Robert Wood Johnson began his career as a mill hand in the Power House.  It was there, working side by side with the mill workers, that he would begin to formulate his ideas about the responsibilities of business that would later be expressed in Our Credo, and in his writings such as Human Relations in Modern Business.

Interior of the Museum, 2014, before restoration.

Interior of the Museum, 2014, before restoration.

As the decades passed and Johnson & Johnson grew and decentralized, the company’s manufacturing moved to larger spaces.  The Power House was reinvented first as meeting space and then — when the company museum moved from its original location in the old Laurel Club building – as the Kilmer Museum, named in honor of Fred Kilmer.  General Robert Wood Johnson spent many an hour there, connecting with and drawing inspiration from the long (and continuing!) history of the company’s innovation and caring.

Now, more than a century after it was built, the Power House is ready to reinvent itself yet again, and reclaim its heritage of innovation as we restore the building, uncover its original architectural features and transform the Johnson & Johnson Museum into a state-of-the-art, modern interactive museum in the last of the innovative early Johnson & Johnson manufacturing buildings.

Stay tuned for updates as the project progresses!

Giving back to the community is one of the oldest traditions at Johnson & Johnson.  It began in the company’s hometown of New Brunswick, New Jersey, and spread throughout the world as Johnson & Johnson expanded globally.  Our earliest records of helping the community previously have dated back to the 1898 donation of dressings to treat wounded soldiers, disaster relief after the Galveston Flood of 1900 and help for the citizens of San Francisco after the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906.  But now that legacy of giving can be traced back much further:  to the spring of 1887 when Johnson & Johnson was a brand new company just celebrating its first year in existence.

Johnson & Johnson employees in front of the Old Mill, 1888.  From our archives.

Johnson & Johnson employees in front of the Old Mill, 1888. One of the earliest photos we have, it was taken a year after our first recorded product donation. From our archives.

In the early months of 1887, Johnson & Johnson was a fledgling company, just a year old.  James Wood Johnson’s historic train ride to New Brunswick had happened in January of 1886.  In March of that year, The New Brunswick Times mentioned that a new company named Johnson & Johnson would be setting up operations in the city.  In May, the newspaper carried an article saying that James Wood Johnson and Edward Mead Johnson were still getting the business ready.  In September, the progress of the tiny young company accelerated when Robert Wood Johnson published a letter to the health care industry stating that he would be joining his brothers at Johnson & Johnson.

Robert Wood Johnson, from our archives.

Robert Wood Johnson, from our archives.

The arrival of Robert Wood Johnson brought his business expertise, industry connections and much-needed capital and, in the early spring of 1887, Johnson & Johnson was rapidly gaining its feet.  By April of 1887 the company occupied about 8,000 square feet in three buildings (the original 1886 building and two adjoining buildings), and had grown from its original 14 employees to a little more than 125 employees, according to an article in the Detroit Pharmaceutical Era.

Illustration of Johnson & Johnson in 1887, from the Detroit Pharmaceutical Era, April, 1887, from our archives.

Illustration of Johnson & Johnson in 1887, from the Detroit Pharmaceutical Era, April, 1887, from our archives.

“The factories of the house of Johnson & Johnson stand back from the depot of the Pennsylvania Railroad at New Brunswick, N.J., about 150 feet…In the neighborhood of 35,000 square feet of flooring are used in the manufacture of all the products of the firm, and over 125 men, boys and girls are given continual employment the year round.”  [Detroit Pharmaceutical Era, April, 1887, “The Manufacture of Medicinal Plasters.”  From the Johnson & Johnson archives.]

 

1887 First Product Donation News Clip

 

At the beginning of that same month – on April 2, 1887 – The New Brunswick Times noted that Johnson & Johnson donated “quite a quantity of mustard and porous plasters” for distribution to the underserved citizens of New Brunswick.  (Mustard plasters and porous plasters were two of the company’s earliest products – patches that delivered medication directly through the skin. A porous plaster was a medicated plaster that had small perforations running through its surface – like the holes in a modern BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandage.  Mustard Plasters, as the name suggests, used compounds in mustard seed as their active ingredient.)

Example of a porous plaster, from our archives.

Example of a porous plaster, from our archives.

The brief article about the donation appeared in the newspaper’s City Matters column, which covered a variety of short news items about New Brunswick, its businesses and its citizens.  The donation was distributed to underserved residents in the city and those who had to take refuge at the local poor farm.  During the 19th and early 20th centuries, poor farms and poor houses were residential facilities that people were required to go to if they were unable to support themselves.  On the farms, which were common in the United States in that era, able-bodied residents were expected to work. The citizens of New Brunswick who found themselves in that situation would have had the fewest resources and, coming out of a cold winter, the donated health care products would have made a huge impact.

Johnson & Johnson ad for Mustard Plasters, late 1800s.  From our archives.

Johnson & Johnson ad for Mustard Plasters, late 1800s. From our archives.

Since the article appeared on April 2, the donation would have happened either at the end of March — or perhaps on the first day of April, 1887, if the newspaper was quick in reporting it.  To put that date into perspective, Johnson & Johnson made its first recorded large scale product donation two months before the company issued its first professionally printed price list, and seven months before Johnson & Johnson was incorporated. (The company was a partnership before its incorporation.)

This shows that giving back to the community has been a part of the very fabric of Johnson & Johnson since its earliest days.  Although the words “We are responsible to the communities in which we live and work and to the world community as well” would not be written until 1943, Johnson & Johnson was already taking that responsibility seriously in 1887 – 56 years before the writing of Our Credo.

 

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