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.

 

 

202

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.

 

There’s a saying that the best place to hide something is in plain sight.  Anyone who has frantically tried to find his or her keys certainly can attest to that being the case.  But did you know that it’s also true for Johnson & Johnson history?  Here are some surprising people and things from Johnson & Johnson history that have been hiding in plain sight.

Drawing of the first Johnson & Johnson building, 1886.  From our archives.

Drawing of the first Johnson & Johnson building, 1886. From our archives.  Wouldn’t it be great to have a photograph too? Well, as it turns out, we have more photos than we thought…

1.  The first Johnson & Johnson building:  the four-story former wallpaper factory rented by James Wood Johnson in 1886 played a huge part in our early history.  It was where the company began operations with just 14 employees.  As Johnson & Johnson rapidly grew and expanded and built more and larger buildings, that original four story building became a storehouse. While we have an artist’s rendering of the building, we’re still hoping to find a good, unobstructed photograph of it.   Here’s a photograph of the building from our archives that was taken long after the building was out of use and probably shortly before it was replaced.  The first Johnson & Johnson building is the one all the way on the right of the photo, behind the three side-by-side 1887 Johnson & Johnson buildings.

Photograph circa 1909 of the first Johnson & Johnson building from 1886, from our archives.

Photograph circa 1909 of the first Johnson & Johnson building from 1886, from our archives.

But if you look closely at some early photos of Johnson & Johnson and the surrounding area, you can see that 1886 building hiding in plain sight.

It’s here, in this section from a 1908 panoramic view of the Johnson & Johnson campus:

The first Johnson & Johnson building, from a panoramic illustration of the Johnson & Johnson campus in 1908.  The cotton storage shed, formerly the railroad freight house, also can be seen in this image.  From our archives.

The first Johnson & Johnson building, from a panoramic illustration of the Johnson & Johnson campus in 1908. The cotton storage shed, formerly the railroad freight house, also can be seen in this image. From our archives.

And here, in this photo of New Brunswick taken from the corner of George and Albany Streets:

Undated photograph of New Brunswick, showing the first Johnson & Johnson building.

Undated photograph of New Brunswick, showing the first Johnson & Johnson building.

Chances are good that if you look at enough pre-1909 photos of the area bordered by George, Hamilton and Albany Streets in New Brunswick, you might find the first Johnson & Johnson building in the photos.  In fact, it’s very possible that someone has a yet undiscovered photograph of our first building without even realizing it!

Undated photo of Pennsylvania Railroad train freight cars next to George Street -- and near the first Johnson & Johnson building --  from our archives.  Rutgers University’s Schenck Observatory can be seen in the background.

Undated photo of Pennsylvania Railroad train freight cars next to George Street — and near the first Johnson & Johnson building — from our archives. Rutgers University’s Schenck Observatory can be seen in the background.

2.  The old Pennsylvania Railroad Freight House:  New Brunswick’s early Pennsylvania Railroad freight house also played a role in the Johnson & Johnson story.  In March of 1886, James Wood Johnson wrote the first check from Johnson & Johnson.  It was made out to John Ware, the Pennsylvania Railroad freight master in New Brunswick – whose family is STILL associated with Johnson & Johnson more than 125 years later.  Ware worked in and around the freight house.  So what did that freight house look like?  It turns out it’s been hiding in plain sight in the Johnson & Johnson archives!

The Johnson & Johnson cotton storage shed, formerly the Pennsylvania Railroad freight house.  Alert blog readers will notice the chimney and peaked roof of the elusive first Johnson & Johnson building from 1886 at the edge of the photo on the right, above the stone railroad wall.

The Johnson & Johnson cotton storage shed, formerly the Pennsylvania Railroad freight house. Alert blog readers will notice the chimney and peaked roof of the elusive first Johnson & Johnson building from 1886 at the edge of the photo on the right, above the stone railroad wall.

After the old wooden railroad freight house was decommissioned, it became the cotton storage shed for the Johnson & Johnson Cotton Mill.  Here’s another photo of the building as a new shipment of cotton was being unloaded:

Johnson & Johnson cotton storage shed, from our archives.

Johnson & Johnson cotton storage shed, from our archives.

3.  Fred Kilmer:  Frederick Barnett Kilmer was one of the people who made Johnson & Johnson the company it is today.  Kilmer was responsible for our strong early foundation in science, and he also did the company’s early communication and public outreach.  He was content to stay mostly behind the scenes, but here’s an employee group photo from the 1890s, which has Fred Kilmer — in his white lab coat, with a book under his arm — hiding in plain sight in the front row at the far right of the photo.

Johnson & Johnson employee group photo with Fred Kilmer, from our archives.

Johnson & Johnson employee group photo with Fred Kilmer, from our archives.

4.  Robert Wood Johnson:  old photographs are wonderful windows to the past, because they allow viewers to glimpse a moment from a world long gone.  Here’s a window to the Johnson & Johnson past (to 1895, to be specific) with a surprise: company founder Robert Wood Johnson hiding in plain sight!  He’s in the window of the office on the right.  In the window to the left of him can be seen the company’s early head of sales, A.R. Lewis, meeting with a colleague.  By the way, the large bound books hiding in plain sight on those 1895 office desks can be found in the Johnson & Johnson archives today.

Robert Wood Johnson and the Johnson & Johnson business office, 1895.  From our archives.

Robert Wood Johnson and the Johnson & Johnson business office, 1895. From our archives.

Does anyone have a piece of Johnson & Johnson history that’s hiding in plain sight?  If so, we’d love to see it!

 

It’s hard to believe that December is here!  In celebration of the 12th month of the year and the colder weather it brings, here are 12 cool things from Johnson & Johnson history.

Members of the Laurel Club at Johnson & Johnson, 1910s.  From our archives.

Members of the Laurel Club at Johnson & Johnson, 1910s. A decade earlier, some of their fellow club members met the President! From our archives.

1.  Ken Burns’ latest documentary, The Roosevelts: An Intimate History, is a detailed look at three people who helped shape the modern world:  Theodore, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. Did you know that there are connections between two of those Roosevelts and Johnson & Johnson?  In 1908, five women employees from Johnson & Johnson were selected to travel to Washington, D.C. as delegates from the Laurel Club to attend a national meeting of women employee clubs.  They attended a special reception with President Theodore Roosevelt at the White House.  Johnson & Johnson’s first female scientist, Edith von K, was among the Johnson & Johnson delegates, as was Elizabeth P—-, who was depicted in one of the Company’s stained glass windows.  

Personal letter from President of the United States Franklin Delano Roosevelt to General Robert Wood Johnson, from our archives.

Personal letter from President of the United States Franklin Delano Roosevelt to General Robert Wood Johnson, from our archives.

2.  Several decades later, when Franklin Delano Roosevelt won the presidential election, Robert Wood Johnson wrote him a letter detailing his ideas for helping to get the United States out of the Great Depression.  That helped put Robert Wood Johnson on FDR’s radar, and during World War II, Franklin Delano Roosevelt appointed Johnson as head of the Smaller War Plants Corporation in Washington, D.C. – which is how he earned the title of General.  FDR also played a part in the invention of duct tape, since Vesta Stoudt, the woman who had the idea for duct tape, sent Roosevelt a letter when no one else would listen to her idea, and FDR set the wheels in motion to make it happen.

Damp and rainy AGAIN?  Not only can we not make mustard plasters until the weather gets better, you should see what this humidity is doing to my hair!

Damp and rainy AGAIN? Not only can we not make mustard plasters until the weather gets better, you should see what this humidity is doing to my hair!

3.  In the early 1900s, before the days of air conditioning, damp and rainy weather in New Brunswick, New Jersey shut down the Company’s mustard plaster department, because the humidity interfered with the manufacturing process.

Close up view of part of the Johnson & Johnson offices in 1895 showing one of the company's candlestick phones on the left.  From our archives.

Close up view of part of the Johnson & Johnson offices in 1895 showing one of the company’s candlestick phones on the left. From our archives.

4.  In 1908, Johnson & Johnson had 64 Bell Telephones throughout its manufacturing buildings connected to the Company’s central exchange, to facilitate instant communication between the departments.  The “ ’phones,” as they were referred to in the June, 1908 RED CROSS® Messenger (because, in 1908, the abbreviation for the word “telephone” was still new), all had long distance capabilities as well.

Some of the amazing women employees at Johnson & Johnson pose inside the company's water tunnel in 1908 during excavation.  From our archives.

Some of the amazing women employees at Johnson & Johnson pose inside the company’s water tunnel during excavation. From our archives.

5.  How impressive are women employees throughout Johnson & Johnson history?  Not only did some of them meet with President Theodore Roosevelt in 1908, they were fearless enough to pose for a 1909 photo in the Company’s under-construction water tunnel!

6.  By the way, that Johnson & Johnson water tunnel to the Raritan River was eight feet wide and 275 feet long.  It drew water from the Raritan to power the Company’s new state-of-the-art electricity-generating Power House – which today is our Museum building.

A section of the kitchen that provided free hot meals for the company's night shift workers, complete with rows of coffee cups.  From our archives.

A section of the kitchen that provided free hot meals for the company’s night shift workers, complete with rows of coffee cups. From our archives.

7.  On August 23, 1909, Johnson & Johnson began its practice of serving free hot meals to its manufacturing night shift workers.  The Company hired a French chef who prepared hearty soups and coffee for employees on the night shift.  Although other businesses charged their employees for similar services, Johnson & Johnson assumed the cost for the meals at no charge to employees.  There was a different soup each night and, according to the New Brunswick Times, fish soup was a particular favorite.

ZONAS® Corn Leaf Ad, from our archives.

ZONAS® Corn Leaf Ad, from our archives.

8.  Who here has ever suffered with uncomfortable shoes for the sake of fashion?  We think of that as a very modern phenomenon, but people have been doing that for at least 128 years: corn plasters were among the first Johnson & Johnson products in 1886.

Exterior of the former Ethicon building on Route 1 in North Brunswick, showing its marble exterior.  From our archives.

Exterior of the former Ethicon building on Route 1 in North Brunswick, showing its marble exterior. From our archives.

9.  Built in the 1940s, the former Ethicon building on Route 1 in North Brunswick, New Jersey, was one of the company’s most beautiful buildings.  Part of General Robert Wood Johnson’s “Factories Can Be Beautiful” campaign, the building was faced with white marble and had distinctive imported blue glass windows, complemented by apple trees on its expansive lawn.  But here’s something you didn’t know:  the building was the idea of Earle Dickson, the inventor of BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandages!  At that time, Earle was the vice president of the Company’s Hospital Division.  Here’s the story direct from Robert Wood Johnson:  “Earle Dickson, our Vice President in Charge of the Hospital Division, told the Directors that the value of the suture department was greatly reduced by its housing.  He felt that when doctors, nurses and hospital authorities came to visit us, they should see the suture laboratories in a fine looking factory.  In fact, he thought it should be the showpiece of all our New Jersey plants.”  [Robert Johnson Talks it Over, Johnson & Johnson, New Brunswick, New Jersey, 1949, p. 51]

Employees at the dance celebrating the opening of the Johnson & Johnson Cotton Mill Addition in 1908 (left), and a view of the Cotton Mill empty interior (right) with hardwood floors – perfect for dancing!

Employees at the dance celebrating the opening of the Johnson & Johnson Cotton Mill Addition in 1908 (left), and a view of the Cotton Mill interior (right) with hardwood floors – perfect for dancing!

10.  One cool early custom at Johnson & Johnson was celebrating the company’s growth by holding a dance for employees. When Johnson & Johnson completed a new building, before the manufacturing equipment was loaded in, the company held an employee dance in the finished but empty building to celebrate, complete with live music and food.  Johnson & Johnson did that in 1908 with the opening of the Cotton Mill addition and again in 1912 with the opening of the new storehouse buildings on Nielson Street in New Brunswick.

The 1901 Cotton Mill Time Capsule (left) and the Cotton Mill in 1901, from our archives.

The 1901 Cotton Mill Time Capsule (left) and the Cotton Mill in 1901, from our archives.

11.  Who doesn’t love a time capsule?  They provide fascinating windows to a particular moment in time.  Here’s a time capsule in the Johnson & Johnson Museum, which preserves the first thread and gauze produced by the new Cotton Mill in 1901.

The Johnson & Johnson men's employee baseball team, circa 1913.  It's very possible that the company's baseball superstar Jimmy A-- is somewhere in this photo!  From our archives.

The Johnson & Johnson men’s employee baseball team, circa 1913. It’s very possible that the hope of the Johnson & Johnson vs. Michelin match up, Jimmy A—, is somewhere in this photo! From our archives.

12.  Many people look forward to the excitement of watching sports, whether it’s cheering their children’s games, or taking in a game by major or minor league professional sports teams.  Over a century ago, you could also take in a baseball game from the New Brunswick Factory League, an amateur baseball league in which Johnson & Johnson employees fielded teams.  The New Brunswick Home News devoted pages to covering these games and listing upcoming games.  During the summer of 1913, the Johnson & Johnson baseball team battled the Michelin team for the league championship.  An August 12, 1913 article in the New Brunswick Daily Home News titled “Immense Crowd Will See Michelin and J. & J. Teams Battle for Lead Saturday,” contained the kind of in-depth analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the teams and their members that you might see about the Yankees or Mets today.  The article noted that the J&J team was getting back its ace center fielder, Jimmy A—, who was expected to give his team the edge in the contest.

 

Every Veterans Day in the U.S. and Remembrance Day across the world, we honor and remember the men and women who have served and who continue to serve their countries.  This year commemorates the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I, the conflict that gave rise to Veterans Day.  To mark that anniversary, here’s a look at that first Armistice Day through the eyes of a Johnson & Johnson employee who served on the front lines in France.

 

Johnson & Johnson employees, World War I.  From our archives.

Johnson & Johnson employees, World War I. From our archives.

World War I began in the summer of 1914, the result of a complex system of alliances, growing nationalism and other causes, catalyzed by a single tragic event.  Many people optimistically thought the war would be over by the end of December that year.  Instead, it lasted a grueling and brutal four years, ending November 11, 1918.  When it was over, the political map had been redrawn, the Edwardian era was over, and the world was forever changed.

Women employee members of the Laurel Club at Johnson & Johnson with wounded World War I veterans, 1919.  From our archives.

Women employee members of the Laurel Club at Johnson & Johnson with wounded World War I veterans, 1919. From our archives.

Originally called Armistice Day, November 11 commemorates the moment when the fighting stopped – the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. Commemorations are being held worldwide this year to mark the centennial of the start of World War I, one of the most visible being the installation of more than 800,000 ceramic poppies surrounding the Tower of London. 

Johnson & Johnson employee (left) with fellow soldier during the Spanish American War, 1898.  From our archives.

Johnson & Johnson employee (left) with fellow soldier during the Spanish American War, 1898. From our archives.

With Johnson & Johnson being founded in 1886 by the younger brothers of veterans, the company has a long history of supporting those who serve.  Johnson & Johnson employees have served in the military since 1898.  During World War I, a number of employees – and employees of the company’s sales agents worldwide – served.  These veterans included not only employees from New Brunswick, but employees of the company’s sales agents in Canada, Australia, the U.K., Italy and Germany.

“Johnson & Johnson representatives are fighting with practically all of the armies now engaged at the theatre of war.  From the English, German, Australian, Canadian and Italian branches comes the same news – that the staffs have been greatly reduced by valued men joining their Colors.  The London office gave a dozen of its employees, while the Hamburg office gave practically its whole force.  Two editors of the foreign editions of the Red Cross Messenger have gone to the front and are ‘doing their bit.’”    [The RED CROSS® Messenger, Vol. VIII Nos. 7 & 8, January, 1916,p. 461, “Two Editors Enlist.”]

 In the U.S., a number of Johnson & Johnson employees volunteered for military service when the United States entered the war in 1917.  Those employees included Katherine H—, a member of the company’s advertising department and a trained nurse, who became our first female employee to volunteer to serve in the military.  Today, many female veterans at Johnson & Johnson carry forward the tradition she started.  The volunteers also included a young employee named Otto B—-.

The Johnson & Johnson Box Room in 1910, the year Otto B--- joined the company.  From our archives.

The Johnson & Johnson Box Room in 1910, the year Otto B— joined the company. From our archives.

Otto B—- was an employee from the Johnson & Johnson Box Room who had joined the company in 1910.  During World War I, he served as a cannoneer with the 101st Field Artillery, Battery E, in the American Expeditionary Forces in France.  Otto kept up a regular correspondence with his colleagues at Johnson & Johnson, and he included in his letters vivid descriptions of life in the military.

Photo of Otto B ---, from our archives.

Photo of Otto B —, from our archives.

On May 2, 1918, Otto wrote a letter back to his colleagues describing conditions in the trenches in France.  “Now where we have to go for our meals is across a big field to another battery and the field is full of shell holes for the Germans are shelling the field nearly all the time; so we take a chance going across for we don’t know when they will open up and shell us…”  On the positive side, he mentioned that he was able to speak “quite a little French now.”  In his understated fashion, he asked everyone to keep the letters coming and said would write as soon as he could, since being in the trenches made him “sometimes very busy.”  He closed the letter saying “The mail comes in today.  Here is hoping that I get a letter from good old N.B.”  [Letter from Otto B—, May 2, 1918, from the Johnson & Johnson archives.]

Two weeks later, Otto wrote another letter to Johnson & Johnson:

“Over there, May 16th, 1918,

“It has been quiet the last few days but you can never tell what is going to happen the next minute; the Germans are shelling us now while I am writing to you but I am in my dug-out about 10 feet under the ground, so they will have to hit right square on top of the dug-out to do any damage to us. You can feel the jar when the shells land a little ways off and they blow out the candle by the force of the shock.”  [Letter from Otto B—, May 16, 1918, from the Johnson & Johnson archives.]

By then, Otto had been at the front since April and he wrote to his colleagues that he had taken part in some of the biggest battles of the war.  The support from New Brunswick was tremendously important to him, and he thanked his co-workers for sending him letters, packages and the New Brunswick Home News – he mentioned in his letter of May 16, 1918 that he looked at the newspaper nearly every day.  In the same May 16th letter, Otto wrote:  “Well as I am only allowed four letters a week I will send one home and the rest to J. & J.”  He signed the letter with “Regards to all, I remain the boy from the box room over there.”  On December 5, 1918, Otto expressed those same sentiments in a letter he wrote from Culey, France to a coworker named Mary:

“I know you all don’t realize what great friends and wonderful help you all have been to me while I have been over here with all your welcome letters that I have received; don’t know what great help it has been to me, it sure made me do my best every day.”  [Letter from Otto B—, May 16, 1918, from the Johnson & Johnson archives.]

JOHNSON’S® Shaving Cream Soap, one of the products requested by Otto from his colleagues back in New Brunswick.  From our archives.

JOHNSON’S® Shaving Cream Soap, one of the products requested by Otto from his colleagues back in New Brunswick. From our archives.

Good soap was a prized commodity and very difficult to obtain in the field, and it was an item much requested by Otto and others in their letters from the front.  The superintendent of manufacturing at Johnson & Johnson and other employees sent soap and shaving cream from the company’s product lines to Otto and their other colleagues, for which they were thanked in the letters the soldiers wrote to New Brunswick.

Otto B -----.  From our archives.

Otto B —–. From our archives.

At the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918, the guns went silent, signaling the end of fighting.  Here’s how Otto described that moment:

“I was up at the front the morning that the war was called off just before eleven o’clock on the morning of November 11th.  Every gun around me was sending them over as fast as they could and just at eleven o’clock, they all stopped.  It sure did feel queer that afternoon when everything was so quiet and you could walk around where you pleased; everyone started celebrating that night and I took a hand in it myself; it sure was a great sight.”  [Letter from Otto B—-, December 5, 1918, Johnson & Johnson archives.]

A month later, Otto wrote about his anticipation of returning home and coming back to Johnson & Johnson:

“Culey, France, December 11, 1918

Dear Bett,

Just a month today Bett when the big fight was called off and I guess a month from today, why, we may be back to the good old U.S., and then it sure will be a great day for the boys and I know it will be for me, when I walk up in the good old box room again and see all of my friends and to see the flag that is hanging there it sure makes me feel proud…”

Otto’s colleagues in the Johnson & Johnson Box Room, from our archives.

Otto’s colleagues in the Johnson & Johnson Box Room, from our archives.

To Otto B— , to every veteran who has ever served, and to those still serving, a huge thank you for your service from everyone at Johnson & Johnson.

← Older posts
X