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.

197

John J. Heldrich: 1926-2014

Margaret on October 29th, 2014 at 6:41PM

John J. Heldrich

John J. Heldrich

John J. Heldrich, retired vice president of administration and retired member of the Executive Committee and Board of Directors at Johnson & Johnson, passed away this week at age 88.  Born in New Brunswick, N.J., during the Great Depression, Mr. Heldrich would later lead the transformation of the city based on a commitment to the community as outlined in the Johnson & Johnson Credo.

John Heldrich was born January 15, 1926, in New Brunswick and was raised in Highland Park, across the Raritan River from Johnson & Johnson.  The youngest of five boys, he recalled playing baseball as a child near the company’s campus.  [Interview with John Heldrich, “John J. Heldrich Banks on Leadership to Maintain the Momentum of New Brunswick’s Turnaround,” Business News, October 11, 1999, page 15, from our archives.]

The former Permacel building in North Brunswick, from our archives.

The former Permacel building in North Brunswick, from our archives.

Upon his graduation from Rutgers University, Mr. Heldrich began his Johnson & Johnson career in 1950, starting at the Company’s’ Permacel division (home of Duct Tape) in North Brunswick, N.J.  When Mr. Heldrich arrived at Johnson & Johnson, General Robert Wood Johnson was Chairman of the Board.  Also on the board at that time were future Chairman Philip Hofmann and Earle Dickson, the inventor of BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandages and vice president of the Company’s Hospital Division.  During that same period, the classic children’s book, Doctor Dan the Bandage Man, featuring Earle Dickson’s invention, had just hit store shelves, the new Johnson & Johnson Research Center had opened in North Brunswick and the Company was expanding globally and developing new products.

After progressing through positions of increasing responsibility at Johnson & Johnson operating companies, Mr. Heldrich was promoted to vice president of operations planning and control in 1964, and became corporate vice president of administration in 1970.  He was elected to the Johnson & Johnson Board of Directors in 1971 and became a Corporate Officer that same year.

Letter to Johnson & Johnson Chairman Richard Sellars from the U.S. Department of the Treasury, 1975, detailing a story about John Heldrich’s lifelong commitment to public service. From our archives.

Mr. Heldrich was dedicated to public service.  As a teenager, he earned recognition from the U.S. Department of the Treasury for having the fourth highest total sales of War Savings Stamps among newsboys across the U.S.   He is best known for his legacy in the revitalization of New Brunswick, the hometown of Johnson & Johnson since the company began in 1886.  Mr. Heldrich was the founding chairman (from 1975 to 1995) of New Brunswick Tomorrow, the private, non-profit organization that has spearheaded the economic, social and cultural revitalization of the city.  He was instrumental in seeing that a restored cultural center could serve as an economic engine for revitalization, and he volunteered his time and resources to help restore the historic State Theatre, one of the cornerstones of the city’s renaissance.

John Heldrich (second from left) and Richard Sellars (center) in a meeting during the early stages of New Brunswick's revitalization, 1976.  From our archives.

John Heldrich (second from left) and Richard Sellars (center) in a meeting during the early stages of New Brunswick’s revitalization, 1976. From our archives.

Hand-in-hand with the revitalization effort, Mr. Heldrich focused on workforce development in the region. He was the founding chairman of the New Jersey State and Employment Training Commission, the state agency responsible for preparing the state’s workforce to meet the needs of employers,  employees and the economy.

John J. Heldrich retired from Johnson & Johnson in February of 1991 after a career spanning nearly 41 years with the company.  He remained active in community organizations and in workforce development, continuing to volunteer his time, energy and considerable expertise.  Throughout his retirement, he continued to visit the company to catch up with colleagues, meet new people and stay up to date on events at the company he loved.

Public domain photo of the restored State Theatre, courtesy of Wikimedia commons, at this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:State_Theatre_NJ.jpg

Public domain photo of the restored State Theatre, courtesy of Wikimedia commons, at this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:State_Theatre_NJ.jpg

Mr. Heldrich’s legacy – and his name – live on in the beautifully restored landmark State Theatre, one of the cornerstones of New Brunswick’s cultural life and revitalization; in the Heldrich Hotel and Conference Center, designed to bring more visitors to the downtown and to celebrate the city’s history of innovators and artists; and in the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development, part of the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University. Equally visible, his legacy continues in the improved quality of life and growing number of resources for the men, women and children who live in New Brunswick and for everyone who continues to make the city their home during the workday.

The year 2014 is a big year in New Jersey, the state in which Johnson & Johnson was founded in 1886.   This year is New Jersey’s 350th anniversary and, as part of the celebrations, the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce is counting down the Top 25 innovators in New Jersey history.  Number nine on that list – which so far also includes inventors, scientists, astronauts, entrepreneurs and activists – is General Robert Wood Johnson.

Congratulations, Robert Wood Johnson!  Number nine on the All Time New Jersey Innovators List!  Photo of Robert Wood Johnson, taken by Cecil Beaton, from our archives.

Congratulations, Robert Wood Johnson! Number nine on the All Time New Jersey Innovators List! Photo of Robert Wood Johnson, taken by Cecil Beaton, from our archives.

The New Jersey Chamber of Commerce is revealing the name of one New Jersey innovator each week, counting down to the organization’s October 27th Gala, at which they will release the names of the Top 5 greatest New Jersey innovators.  On its website, the Chamber of Commerce recognizes Robert Wood Johnson as being one of the Top Ten for transforming Johnson & Johnson into a global, decentralized and broadly-diversified health care company, for his work heading the Smaller War Plants Corporation in Washington, D.C. during World War II, for his pioneering insights into hospital management and the founding of a school for hospital management at Northwestern University, for pioneering innovations from Johnson & Johnson during his tenure, and for the creation of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.  

General Robert Wood Johnson in a rare candid photo at his home in Princeton, New Jersey.

General Robert Wood Johnson in a rare candid photo at his home in Princeton, New Jersey.

Most people are familiar with General Robert Wood Johnson for his far-reaching ideas about the responsibilities of business. But Johnson was also an innovative thinker in a number of other areas, such as advertising and hospital management.  During the 20th century, advances in medical science were adding complexity to the management of hospitals.  Surprised that there was no formal training for hospital administrators, in 1943 Robert Wood Johnson set out to do something about it:  he provided the funding to establish the School of Hospital Administration at Northwestern University – the first hospital management school in the United States.  Johnson’s partner on the project was Dr. Malcolm T. Mac Eachern of the American College of Surgeons.  During the 1930s, Johnson worked with one of New Brunswick’s hospitals – then called Middlesex Hospital, now Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (it was named in his honor due to his many contributions to improving health care)  – on some ideas that were decades ahead of their time.  One of those ideas was to organize the medical staff into departments according to medical specialty (something that became common practice at larger general hospitals decades later).   He also helped start nurse training programs, including one in Brazil.  His experiences as a patient led to immediate improvements in hospital beds and noise control that benefitted thousands of patients, according to Robert Wood Johnson: The Gentleman Rebel, by Lawrence G. Foster.

Our Credo

 

Robert Wood Johnson’s innovative ideas about the responsibilities of business found their expression in his 1935 pamphlet Try Reality and in Our Credo, written in 1943, and in projects like the building of the first modern textile plant in the U.S. in the late 1920s, along with a community for employees that emphasized health and well-being.

In his 1949 book, Or Forfeit Freedom, Robert Wood Johnson wrote about the importance of businesses using renewable natural resources to protect the environment.

In his 1949 book, Or Forfeit Freedom, Robert Wood Johnson wrote about the importance of businesses using renewable natural resources to protect the environment.

Here’s another example of how far ahead of the curve Johnson was:  he wrote about the necessity of using renewable natural resources in 1949 – decades before the modern concept of sustainability.    

General Robert Wood Johnson

General Robert Wood Johnson

Although General Robert Wood Johnson retired from Johnson & Johnson in 1963, he remained active both at Johnson & Johnson and in helping the community until his death in 1968. As the author of Our Credo and the driving force behind the growth of Johnson & Johnson into a global decentralized health care company that touches over a billion lives each day, General Robert Wood Johnson and his ideas continue to make an impact not only at the company he helped build, but on global healthcare, on business and on corporate social responsibility.

This week, as part of United Nations General Assembly Week in New York, Johnson & Johnson is participating in discussions about the U.N. Millennium Development Goals and the Company’s progress in its five year commitment to goals four, five and six.  Those goals focus on reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, and combating HIV-AIDS, malaria and other diseases.  Johnson & Johnson has been committed to maternal and child health and disease prevention for more than a century, and the roots of that commitment go back to the 1890s.

Dr. Simpson's and Dr. Cooke's Maternity Kits from Johnson & Johnson, from our archives.

Dr. Simpson’s and Dr. Cooke’s Maternity Kits from Johnson & Johnson, from our archives.

In the early 1890s, Johnson & Johnson was less than a decade old.  The Company had been making its pioneering mass produced sterile surgical products, it had pioneered the first commercial First Aid Kits, it began selling toothpaste in a tube way back in 1889, and employees were continuing to identify health care needs and find ways to meet them.  One of those needs was maternal and child health. During the 1890s, most children were born at home, and expectant parents did not always have a doctor’s help with the birth.  Many expectant mothers relied on midwives or, in very rural areas, a neighbor.  (These conditions – or worse conditions – remain in place for many women in developing nations today.)  In addition, expectant parents generally were the ones responsible for getting any medical supplies that might be needed for childbirth.  Without access to medical care — and before the age of the automobile brought the paved roads that enabled easier access to hospitals — there was a higher incidence of maternal and child mortality surrounding childbirth.

Dr. Cooke's Maternity Kit label for international version of the kit, circa 1920.  From our archives.

Dr. Cooke’s Maternity Kit label for international version of the kit, circa 1920. From our archives.

So to help make childbirth safer, Johnson & Johnson collaborated with two leading obstetricians of the day, Dr. Simpson and Dr. Joseph Brown Cooke (Surgeon to the New York Maternity Hospital and lecturer on obstetrics to the New York City Training School for Nurses), to develop Maternity Kits.  The company put the first kit – Dr. Simpson’s Maternity Kit — on the market beginning in 1894.  The Maternity Kits contained everything in one box that the doctor, nurse or midwife would need to ensure a safe delivery for the mother and child, plus instructions on delivering a baby and caring for the mother.  Just as the Company highlights the work its partners do today, Johnson & Johnson put the doctors’ names on the kits.  The Company made Maternity Kits until the 1920s.

A close up look at Dr. Cooke's Maternity Kit, 1920s.  From our archives.

A close up look at Dr. Cooke’s Maternity Kit, 1920s. From our archives.

Today, Johnson & Johnson works with partners like text4baby to provide free information for expectant mothers on prenatal and newborn care.  In the modern world, that’s done via text messaging on mobile phones, since even in areas without much infrastructure, people have access to mobile phones.  More than a century ago, Johnson & Johnson provided the same type of free information, using the technology of that era – small booklets that women could carry with them in a pocket.

Johnson & Johnson Hygiene in Maternity Booklet, 1902 (left) and 1927 (right).  From our archives.

Johnson & Johnson Hygiene in Maternity Booklet, 1902 (left) and 1927 (right). From our archives.

These booklets provided free, science-based information for expectant and new parents.  Johnson & Johnson also had a campaign called Every Child Has the Right to be Well Born in the early 20th century that sought to improve newborn and infant health.

"Save the Babies" information from early New Brunswick, New Jersey infant health campaign.  from our archives.

“Save the Babies” information from early New Brunswick, New Jersey infant health campaign. from our archives.

Johnson & Johnson Scientific Director and public health pioneer Fred Kilmer also helped lead campaigns to reduce infant mortality, beginning in the Company’s hometown of New Brunswick.  This included a day nursery staffed with trained nurses to help sick children, as well as numerous campaigns to reduce the spread of contagious disease.

Inside cover of the Johnson & Johnson Household Hand Book, showing some of the Company's early public health products.  From our archives.

Inside cover of the Johnson & Johnson Household Hand Book, showing some of the Company’s early public health products. From our archives.

On a broader scale, Johnson & Johnson made a wide range of public health products – disinfectants, antiseptic soaps and more – to help protect people against contagious diseases such as typhoid, diphtheria, and smallpox.  The Company also published information for the public to help people protect themselves and their families.

 

More than a century later, maternal and child health and disease prevention remain two major focuses for Johnson & Johnson.  In 2010, the Company became one of the first private sector companies to pledge its commitment to the MDG health goals.  Today, working with its partners, Johnson & Johnson has reached more than 200 million women and children across the world.  You can learn more about this work here, but there’s more:  you can also participate!  Through the Company’s Donate a Photo app, you can donate a photo from your smartphone to help one of the organizations that’s helping meet these goals, such as Save the Children or DoSomething.org.  So now interested blog readers will have the opportunity not just to read about the history of our commitment in these areas, they can also be a part of it.

Two Johnson & Johnson employees in uniform during World War I, from our archives.

Two Johnson & Johnson employees in uniform during World War I, from our archives.

To mark the centennial of World War I this year, Britain’s National Archives is putting more than a million pages of war diaries from WWI online, and museum exhibits, articles and commemorations are bringing that era — and how it changed society — back into focus.  World War I, which began in the summer of 1914 (a century ago this month) brought profound changes to the world:  it redrew the political map and marked the end of the Edwardian era and the birth of the modern world.  World War I also changed Johnson & Johnson and its employees in many ways, and it planted the seeds that would lead Johnson & Johnson to change its successful early business model and create the modern global company that we know today.

New building construction at Johnson & Johnson, early 1900s, from our archives.  Alert blog readers will recognize two of the Company's first set of 1886-1887 buildings in back of the construction.  The new building is on the site of the first Johnson & Johnson building from 1886.

New building construction at Johnson & Johnson, early 1900s, from our archives. Alert blog readers will recognize two of the Company’s first set of 1886-1887 buildings with their distinctive peaked roofs directly in back of the construction. The new building is being built on the site of the first Johnson & Johnson building from 1886.

Johnson & Johnson, founded in 1886, had enjoyed steady growth that continued with the advent of the new century, opening an addition to its Cotton Mill in 1908, introducing new products, continuing the first of many advertising campaigns that would capture the public’s imagination and continuing to strengthen its relationships with the sales agents and retail pharmacists who sold its products worldwide.  Looking back over the years since Johnson & Johnson was founded, Fred Kilmer in 1913 wrote about scientific progress and medical advances in that period, and said “To make the world better because of our existence, to build up a better environment, a better life…is the end towards which the onward movement of the history of our time and day is directed.”  [The RED CROSS® Messenger, Vol. V, No. 8, January, 1913, "The Years Glide By, p. 1]  But as 1914 progressed, a tangle of European alliances and agreements, rising nationalism and multiple other factors were catalyzed by the tragic events in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914.  By August, the world was at war.  In the September, 1914 issue of the RED CROSS® Messenger, a full page notice acknowledged the situation and the growing scarcity of resources.

Announcement in the RED CROSS® Messenger, 1914, from our archives.

Announcement in the RED CROSS® Messenger, 1914, from our archives.

By 1915, shortages of raw materials were presenting new challenges, and employees worked to secure the raw materials they needed to continue production with no interruption of service to retail pharmacists, doctors, hospitals and consumers. When the war reduced European supplies of belladonna (an ingredient in some medicated plasters), Johnson & Johnson stepped up its experiments in growing its own belladonna, and increased its cultivation of the plant in Highland Park, New Jersey.  (For New Jersey readers, the site on which it was grown is now part of Johnson Park!)

Shadowbox in our museum showing the Johnson & Johnson wound dressing packet for soldiers developed in 1914.

Shadowbox in our museum showing the Johnson & Johnson wound dressing packet for soldiers developed in 1914.

Sterile gauze, dressings, first aid kits and other wound care products from Johnson & Johnson were in great demand.   The Company developed a wound dressing packet for soldiers, which consisted of layers of cotton encased in gauze, a gauze pad and roller bandages, one of which was attached to the cotton and gauze dressing.  This was designed to treat the new types of severe wounds from shrapnel and shells.  Johnson & Johnson also produced Carlisle dressings – wound dressings in small, watertight metal containers that could be carried in a pocket.  When the United States entered the war in 1917, Johnson & Johnson began making bandages and dressings for the U.S. military and stepped forward to mass – produce kits for the Carrel-Dakin method of antiseptic wound treatment, developed in a battlefield hospital as a new technology to treat wounds.  The Company also improved upon a novel new burn dressing developed in European field hospitals, putting it on the market as Redintol.

Cotton Mill employees stand in front of bandages and dressings produced to help injured soldiers, 1915.  From our archives.

Cotton Mill employees stand in front of bandages and dressings produced to help injured soldiers, 1915. From our archives.

By 1916, with the war in Europe at the two-year mark, Johnson & Johnson was running its manufacturing around the clock to meet the demand for surgical dressings.  Although Johnson & Johnson had perhaps the highest capacity for production output of any American or European company at that time, demand for sterile dressings grew even faster than the Company’s ability to keep up.  So in 1916, in order to increase capacity to meet those needs, Johnson & Johnson made a significant acquisition: the Chicopee Manufacturing Company of Chicopee Falls, Massachusetts.  An historic textile mill founded in 1823 and part of the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies until the mid-1990s, it remains to this date the oldest business ever acquired by Johnson & Johnson.

 

The editors of the British and Australian editions of The RED CROSS® Messenger in 1916, from our archives.

The editors of the British and Australian editions of The RED CROSS® Messenger in 1916, from our archives.

Although the United States had not yet entered the war in 1916, employees of the Company’s trusted sales agents in Canada, the U.K. and Australia were serving their countries on the front lines, and periodically the RED CROSS® Messenger, the Company’s publication for retail pharmacists, would list their names.  The January, 1916 edition of the RED CROSS® Messenger noted that two of the publications editors – for the English and Australian editions – enlisted in the military, as did staff members of the Company’s various sales agents in Canada, Europe and Australia.  According to the Messenger,

“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.”]

A rare photograph of the Johnson & Johnson Cotton Mill at night, from our archives.  This is how the Mill would have looked as employees worked around the clock to meet the demand for dressings and bandages to treat wounded soldiers.

A rare photograph of the Johnson & Johnson Cotton Mill at night, from our archives. This is how the Mill would have looked as employees worked around the clock to meet the demand for dressings and bandages to treat wounded soldiers.

When the United States entering the conflict in April of 1917, Johnson & Johnson began running its manufacturing day and night, seven days a week to keep up with the demand for bandages and dressings, which now included the American Expeditionary and Allied Forces as well as military and civilian hospitals.

Two of the many Johnson & Johnson employees who fought in World War I.  From our archives.

Two of the many Johnson & Johnson employees who fought in World War I. From our archives.

Increasing numbers of employees in New Brunswick were also serving in the military overseas, including Katherine H—, our first female employee to volunteer for military service.  As a result, Johnson & Johnson – a company that had always had many female employees since its founding in 1886 – began hiring more and more women to fill the gaps left by employees in the military.  Fred Kilmer encouraged employees who were serving to write letters, and they sent letters, photographs and postcards back to their colleagues at Johnson & Johnson from training and from the trenches.  Today, those letters and photographs – preserved and collected in a thick scrapbook by Fred Kilmer – are a fascinating part of the Johnson & Johnson archives.

Two examples of the letters employees wrote to their colleagues, from the Johnson & Johnson archives.

Two examples of the letters employees wrote to their colleagues, from the Johnson & Johnson archives.

With his own son Joyce fighting in France, Fred Kilmer kept meticulous track of not just Johnson & Johnson employees who were serving, but also the employees of the Company’s sales agents in the U.K., Canada and Australia.

One of the most remarkable things in our archives:  a thick scrapbook put together by Fred Kilmer containing postcards, letters and photographs from Johnson & Johnson employees, World War I.

One of the most remarkable things in our archives: a thick scrapbook put together by Fred Kilmer containing postcards, letters and photographs from Johnson & Johnson employees, World War I.

A century later, the incredible scrapbook he assembled provides a window into our employee-soldier’s lives, their impressions of training, of the brutal conditions in the trenches, their pride in seeing Johnson & Johnson medical supplies used to treat injuries, and their joy and gratitude at receiving letters and care packages from their Johnson & Johnson colleagues.

Members of the Laurel Club at Johnson & Johnson with wounded soldiers, WWI.  From our archives.

Members of the Laurel Club at Johnson & Johnson with wounded soldiers, WWI. From our archives.

World War I ended on November 11, 1918.  In the U.S., the aftermath of the conflict and the tremendous toll it took gave rise to an increased desire for isolationism, a feeling that the United States should look inward and pull back from international involvement.  At Johnson & Johnson, the prevailing opinion was that the Company should continue to expand its successful existing network of overseas sales agents and distributors.

Robert Wood Johnson:  when everyone wanted to pull back from global involvement, his idea was to get involved globally.

Robert Wood Johnson: when everyone wanted to pull back from global involvement, his idea was to get involved globally.

But 29-year-old Robert Wood Johnson realized that the Company’s export business model was not going to be sustainable in this new era, and that new opportunities for growth would have to be found.  At a time in which the U.S. was pulling back from global involvement, Johnson understood that the way forward was not to work through sales agents, but to get involved globally:  his idea was to open locally-managed Johnson & Johnson operating companies around the world, since they would better understand and be able to meet local needs. He also was keenly aware of the shortages in raw materials and the difficulties in getting crucial products like sterile sutures to surgeons during World War I, and he felt that local operating companies also would help ensure that the movement of critical products was not interrupted.   So in 1922, Robert Wood Johnson persuaded the Company’s senior management to send him and his younger brother on a year-long, worldwide trip to study and assess business conditions.  As a result of their study, by the 1930s, Johnson & Johnson had locally managed operating companies in the U.K., Canada, Australia, South Africa and Latin America.   Not only were these operating companies better able to anticipate and meet local needs, they did make a difference for the Company’s supply chain – and for the people who needed the products — during World War II.  In his book Robert Johnson Talks it Over, Robert Wood Johnson gave an example of how that worked:

“…we had everything in order long before World War II.  At first, the war brought shipping to a standstill, when vessels did begin to come through, they carried almost nothing for civilians.  Because of Johnson & Johnson, however, Australia was able to make all the surgical dressings needed by both her civilian population and her military forces.  [Robert Johnson Talks it Over, Robert Wood Johnson, Johnson & Johnson, New Brunswick, N.J., 1949, p. 115]

Manufacturing at the Johnson & Johnson operating company in Australia, 1931.  Photo courtesy of Johnson & Johnson, 75 Years of Caring, Australia and New Zealand, by Peter Donovan, 2006.

Manufacturing at the Johnson & Johnson operating company in Australia, 1931. Photo courtesy of Johnson & Johnson, 75 Years of Caring, Australia and New Zealand, by Peter Donovan, 2006.

For Johnson & Johnson – as it did for the rest of the world – World War I marked the end of an era and the beginning of a new one.  The changes in society that would come with the 1920s – the rise of the automobile, the growth of advertising, expanded roles for women – would leave their mark on the Company, which was well-placed to grow with these changes.  And because of Robert Wood Johnson’s realization in the wake of the dislocation caused by World War I that the Company’s global growth had to be approached in a new way, Johnson & Johnson has been a local, trusted presence in communities around the world for generations.

Public domain NASA photo of the Apollo 11 astronauts, whose medical kit contained BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandages!  Pictured from left to right are Neil A. Armstrong, commander; Michael Collins, command module pilot; and Edwin E. Aldrin Jr., lunar module pilot.  Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons at this link:  http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Apollo_11#mediaviewer/File:Apollo_11.jpg

Public domain NASA photo of the Apollo 11 astronauts, whose medical kit contained BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandages! Pictured from left to right are Neil A. Armstrong, commander; Michael Collins, command module pilot; and Edwin E. Aldrin Jr., lunar module pilot. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons at this link: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Apollo_11#mediaviewer/File:Apollo_11.jpg

1.  Today (July 16) is the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission, which landed human beings on the moon for the first time.  But did you know that BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandages were part of the medical kit on the Apollo 11 command module?  Here’s a photo of the open medical kit – with its BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandages clearly visible – on the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum website.

 

2.  The Apollo 11 mission wasn’t the first time that BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandages went into space – they also accompanied the Mercury astronauts in 1963, and Johnson & Johnson First Aid products orbited the moon with the Apollo 8 astronauts in 1968.

 

The Johnson & Johnson business office, 1916.  From our archives.  The "computing machine" is not, unfortunately, shown in this photograph.

The Johnson & Johnson business office, 1916. From our archives. The “computing machine” is not, unfortunately, shown in this photograph.

3.  Johnson & Johnson had a computer in its offices in 1916.  Wait… a computer?  Well, sort of.  It was a “computing machine” that used punch cards to keep track of sales data. Here’s how a visiting retail pharmacist described it:  “On the third floor I saw the addressing and statistical departments.  Here I witnessed mechanical bookkeeping for the first time.  By punching holes in cards, by machinery, and running these cards through a computing machine, like the government uses when it counts noses at census time, Johnson & Johnson are able to keep accurate account of the volume of each kind of products sold in any given territory. “  [RED CROSS® Messenger, Vol. VIII, Nos. 9 &  10, March, 1916, “Four Floors of Brains and Energy," p. 490.]  So what was this mystery machine?  Probably something a lot like this, one of the forerunners of the modern computer.

A Johnson & Johnson building, circa 1912, with a fire escape.

A Johnson & Johnson building, circa 1912, with a fire escape.

4.  In 1908, Johnson & Johnson had its own fire department, consisting of employees located in every building and department.  All buildings had automatic fire sprinklers, and hose-houses occupied numerous places throughout the Johnson & Johnson campus.  [RED CROSS® Messenger, Vol. I, No. 5, September 1908, p. 50.]

A photo of Admiral Byrd and his 1928 Antarctic Expedition, with the dental floss they took with them.

A photo of Admiral Byrd and his 1928 Antarctic Expedition, with the dental floss they took with them.

5.  BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandages and First Aid Kits are not the only adventurous products from the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies.  In 1928, the members of Admiral Byrd’s legendary First Antarctic Expedition (1928-1930) brought Johnson & Johnson Dental Floss with them so that they could take care of their teeth while on expedition to the Antarctic.

PUBLISHED IN: Uncategorized

192

NJ350: Vote for Your Favorite New Jersey Innovations

Margaret on June 27th, 2014 at 4:09PM

This year – 2014 – is the 350th birthday of New Jersey.  The year-long celebration focuses on three major themes that run through New Jersey’s history:  innovation, diversity and liberty.  (Why those three themes?  New Jersey has brought an incredible amount of innovation to the world; it was one of the most diverse of the original thirteen colonies and retains that diversity today; and the state played a large role in the creation of the United States.)  As part of the 350th anniversary activities, The New Jersey Chamber of Commerce is conducting a public survey to choose the greatest innovations from New Jersey that had a nation-changing and world-changing impact.   Johnson & Johnson is proud to have four innovations included in the survey:  BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandages, the commercial First Aid Kit and disposable contact lenses in the Health Care category; and the coronary stent in the Medical category.  Here’s a quick snapshot of the Johnson & Johnson innovations in the voting:

 

BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandages in 1923, two years after they were introduced.

 

BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandages:  invented in 1920 by a young cotton buyer for Johnson & Johnson named Earle Dickson, BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandages were the first ever premade commercial dressings for small wounds.  (Before their invention, people tied strips of fabric or gauze around cut fingers to bandage them.)  Earle came up with his idea as a way to help his wife, who was prone to cutting and burning her fingers in the kitchen.  Company president James Wood Johnson loved Earle’s idea and, in 1921 Johnson & Johnson put his invention on the market.  BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandages were such an entirely new concept at the time that Johnson & Johnson had to explain to people how to use them.  Ninety-four years later, they’re an iconic consumer product – invented in New Brunswick and Highland Park, New Jersey.

 

Railroad First Aid demonstration with a Johnson & Johnson First Aid Kit, 1916.  From our archives.

Railroad First Aid demonstration with a Johnson & Johnson First Aid Kit, 1916. From our archives.

The First Commercial First Aid Kits:  this piece of modern life came about as the result of a train journey by Johnson & Johnson founder Robert Wood Johnson.  Nineteenth century railroad work was so dangerous that trains had surgeons on board to treat workers’ injuries. While on a Denver & Rio Grande Railway train in 1888, Johnson learned from a fellow passenger, the chief surgeon of the railroad, that railroad workers were frequently injured, but medical help was too far away to do any good.   Johnson had the idea of packing his company’s sterile gauze, dressings and sutures in boxes that could be kept close to the workers to treat and stabilize injuries.  So in 1888, after getting a lot of feedback from railroad surgeons, Johnson & Johnson put on the market two first aid kits: one for the railroads, and one for general use.  In 1901, the Company published the first First Aid Manuals.  Today, life without a First Aid Kit and without basic first aid best practices would be unthinkable.

 

 

The Disposable Contact Lens:  In 1987, Johnson & Johnson’s Vision Care business revolutionized the contact lens industry and contact lens wearing for the public with the introduction of ACUVUE® Brand Contact Lenses, the first disposable contact lenses that could be worn for up to a week, thrown away and replaced with a fresh pair. In 1995, 1-DAY ACUVUE® Brand Contact Lenses became the first daily disposable contact lens, eliminating the need for cleaning, disinfecting solutions and storage.

 

Illustration of the PALMAZ-SCHATZ® Balloon-Expandable Stent, from our archives.

Illustration of the PALMAZ-SCHATZ® Balloon-Expandable Stent, from our archives.

The Coronary Stent:  In 1994 a Johnson & Johnson operating company launched the PALMAZ-SCHATZ® Balloon-Expandable Stent, the first coronary stent, which revolutionized cardiology.  (Coronary stents keep vessels open so blood can flow to the heart.)   As health care continued to evolve, the Company exited the coronary stent business in 2011, but the first coronary stent remains an historical innovation from the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies that changed cardiology.

Examples of one of the earliest Johnson & Johnson innovations: the first mass produced sterile surgical dressings.

Examples of one of the earliest Johnson & Johnson innovations: the first mass produced sterile surgical dressings.

Founded in 1886, when New Jersey was just a mere 222 years old, Johnson & Johnson began by making the first mass-produced sterile surgical dressings and sterile sutures, helping drive the revolutionary change from non-sterile to sterile surgery.  As it expanded worldwide to become a global healthcare company, Johnson & Johnson has continued to innovate, first in New Brunswick and then worldwide, finding new medicines, medical devices and consumer products that represent practical applications of the major developments in science over the last century and a quarter to save and improve the lives of patients and consumers.  That tradition continues today with the Company’s Innovation Centers, which will unleash the innovations of the future.

Johnson & Johnson is proud to be among the innovators included in the NJ350 survey.  If you’d like to vote for your favorite New Jersey innovations, the survey is at this link.

191

More Cool Things from Our Museum Call for Artifacts!

Margaret on June 17th, 2014 at 5:34PM

 

Our public call for artifacts for our Museum restoration is a few weeks old and, so far, Kilmer House readers have seen two of the coolest items – a Zonweiss clock and a Lister’s Fumigator – that have come back to Johnson & Johnson from employees and members of the public.  Thanks to everyone who has answered the call so far!  The artifacts and stories keep coming in, and they continue to amaze.  Here are some more cool things from our artifacts drive.

A brick from the early history of Johnson & Johnson, along with its certificate of authenticity!

A brick from the early history of Johnson & Johnson, along with its certificate of authenticity!

1.  A brick!  But not just any brick – this one is from Kilmer House, an historical Johnson & Johnson building that shares a name with this blog.  Built circa 1896 — when Johnson & Johnson was only a decade old — Kilmer House originally housed the Company’s offices and shipping department, but later grew to encompass, storage, packaging and even some manufacturing.  The building eventually was named in honor of Fred Kilmer.  During the building’s tenure (from 1896 to 1993), Johnson & Johnson grew from a small medical products firm to a global healthcare company.  If you want to know where Company founders Robert Wood Johnson and James Wood Johnson had their offices, they were in Kilmer House.  How about General Robert Wood Johnson’s office?  In Kilmer House as well.

The building that would be named Kilmer House, circa 1901. This particular brick is hidden somewhere in this photo, if only we could get it to raise its hand and wave to the camera.

The building that would be named Kilmer House, circa 1901. This particular brick is hidden somewhere in this photo, if only we could get it to raise its hand and wave to the camera.

When the building was removed, bricks from Kilmer House were given out to employees in recognition of how far Johnson & Johnson had come since 1896.  Thanks to Kathy T. for donating this piece of Johnson & Johnson history!

 

ZONAS® Adhesive Plaster and Dental Floss.  Two of the very cool products that Vince P. sent as part of our call for artifacts

ZONAS® Adhesive Plaster and Dental Floss. Two of the very cool products that Vince P. sent as part of our call for artifacts. The Dental Floss container is around the size of a U.S. quarter coin.

2.  Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies employee Vince P. donated an entire box of cool artifacts, including a 1950s BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandages tin in fabulous condition; a rare and beautiful (and tiny!) ZONAS® Adhesive Plaster tin (adhesive plaster is adhesive tape, for all of us 21st century folks); an early metal flat container of RED CHAIN silk dental floss made for export; an art deco 1930s BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandages box; a Johnson & Johnson book for the medical profession, Professional Uses of Adhesive Tape, first published in 1944; a Johnson & Johnson Standard Industrial First Aid Kit from 1980; and historical ads for classic first aid products from our consumer operating company from the 1940s to the 1960s.

 

Photo of James E. Burke and his brother.

Photo of James E. Burke and his brother.

3.  From retired Johnson & Johnson executive F.B. comes two photographs from Johnson & Johnson history, one showing Johnson & Johnson Chairman and CEO from 1976-1989 James Burke and his brother, and the other showing Chairman and CEO from 1989-2002 Ralph Larsen, both of whom led Johnson & Johnson through times of tremendous transformation and growth.

 

Johnson & Johnson medicated plaster from 1887, with a close up of the early "double J" logo.

Johnson & Johnson medicated plaster from 1887, with a close up of the early “double J” logo.

4.  From Johnson & Johnson retiree J.S. comes a very rare and beautiful Johnson & Johnson medicated plaster in its container from 1887, an extremely rare early first aid kit from 1903 in a paperboard container, and a very old Johnson & Johnson aseptic jar from the 1920s that would have been used to hold sterile bandages or gauze in a doctor’s office.  The medicated plaster container displays the very early double “J” logo (which only appeared on the earliest Johnson & Johnson products) as well as the handwritten Johnson & Johnson logo at the bottom.

Johnson & Johnson Aseptic Jar and 1903 First Aid Kit, donated by J.S. as part of our call for artifacts.

Johnson & Johnson Aseptic Jar and 1903 First Aid Kit, donated by J.S. as part of our call for artifacts.

J’s grandfather worked for Johnson & Johnson too, in one of the historical buildings next to the Delaware & Raritan Canal and Raritan River, and he preserved the Johnson & Johnson aseptic jar and passed down through his family with a great deal of pride.  It returns to Johnson & Johnson as a one-of-a-kind artifact from the Company’s early years, preserved for three generations.

BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandages tin from 1926 and its contents, donated by J.S.

BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandages tin from 1926 and its contents, donated by J.S.

J. also donated a rare 1926 BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandages flat tin, and an incredibly gorgeous and rare Permacel tape tin from Australia.  (Alert blog readers will remember Permacel as the historical Johnson & Johnson operating company that created Duct Tape.)

The rare and beautiful Permacel Cellulose Tape tin from Australia in mint condition!

 

5.  L.T. shared the amazing story that every generation of her family has worked for Johnson & Johnson since the company’s founding in 1886, and that one of them worked directly for James Wood Johnson.   Her family is descended from James Ware, the freight master for the Pennsylvania Railroad in New Brunswick, to whom James Wood Johnson wrote Johnson & Johnson’s first check in March of 1886.  Ware left the railroad and came to work for the Company and, 128 years later, two of his descendants continue their family tradition of working at Johnson & Johnson.

 

6.  S.W. contributed some glass containers of historical Ethicon sutures that were donated by a retired product engineer, a reminder of the Company’s legacy in making surgery sterile.  Sterile sutures remain one of the oldest continuous product lines in the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies, dating back to 1887.

 

A Johnson & Johnson Boy Scouts First Aid Kit from 1945, from the Boy Scouts of America!

A Johnson & Johnson Boy Scouts First Aid Kit from 1945, from the Boy Scouts of America!

7.  M.S. contributed this wonderful Johnson & Johnson Boy Scouts First Aid Kit from circa 1945, donated to Johnson & Johnson by the Boy Scouts of America.

 

TYLENOL® physician’s sample bottle from circa 1978.

TYLENOL® physician’s sample bottle from circa 1978.

8.  And just in from employee S.D., this beautiful glass TYLENOL® physician’s sample bottle from circa 1978.

Our call for artifacts and stories continues, so if anyone has a Johnson & Johnson artifact you would like to donate or a story that you or your family have passed down, please let us know by emailing us at artifacts@its.jnj.com.  Here’s more information about our call for artifacts as we restore our Museum.

190

Do You Have a Piece of Johnson & Johnson History?

Margaret on May 18th, 2014 at 9:35PM

 

Alert blog readers may remember that we put out a call for historical Johnson & Johnson artifacts on April 23rd.  Why are we looking for historical artifacts?  We’re restoring and revitalizing our Museum, and are hoping to fill in some gaps with your help.  Since Johnson & Johnson has been part of people’s lives since 1886, we recognize that many pieces of our history are pieces of your history as well – and that many people preserve not only historical J&J artifacts, but stories from ancestors and family members who have worked here.  Our call for Johnson & Johnson historical artifacts and stories continues this week, with a takeover of @JNJNews, @JNJCares, @JNJParents and @JNJHistory Twitter handles, our corporate Facebook page, Google+ and, of course, this blog.   So…do you or a member of your family hold a piece of Johnson & Johnson history, or a story from our history?  If you do, please let us know by emailing us at artifacts@its.jnj.com, or contact me through this blog.

The new artifacts are here!  The new artifacts are here! Quick -- tell everyone!

The new artifacts are here! The new artifacts are here! Quick — tell everyone!

We’ve received some amazing pieces of J&J history (artifacts as well as stories) so far, and we’d love to hear from more of you.  Special recognition goes to C.W., a Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies employee in Livingston, Scotland, for being the very first person to answer the call!  Her reply brought us one of the coolest and rarest Johnson & Johnson historical artifacts in existence:  a Zonweiss Clock!   (How rare is it?  This blogger, who’s seen many, many rare Johnson & Johnson historical artifacts, had never seen one before.  Ever.)

A Zonweiss Clock, now part of the Johnson & Johnson Museum thanks to our call for artifacts!

A Zonweiss Clock, now part of the Johnson & Johnson Museum thanks to our call for artifacts!

Zonweiss tooth cream was our first consumer product 128 years ago – a tooth cream whose ads said it would make your teeth sparklingly white — and the Company had alarm clocks produced as a promotional item for the product, showing a woman brushing her teeth with Zonweiss. From the looks of it, our new very old Zonweiss Clock is perhaps from the 1890s or the first decade of the 1900s.  And believe it or not, the alarm on the clock still works – how cool is that!

A Lister's Fumigator and its instruction booklet, more than 100 years old.

A Lister’s Fumigator and its instruction booklet, more than 100 years old.

J.M. brought us another artifact that we didn’t have in our archives – a Lister’s Fumigator, an early Johnson & Johnson public health product.  The Lister’s Fumigator (named in honor of Sir Joseph Lister, the father of modern antiseptic surgery) was designed to help prevent the spread of contagious diseases like typhoid and diphtheria in the era before and antibiotics and most vaccines.  Although we had drawings of the product in our historical price lists and other publications, we didn’t have an actual Lister’s Fumigator, and we’re happy to welcome this artifact back to Johnson & Johnson!

Here’s the full list of some of the specific items we’re looking for.  One of those items is a wooden Johnson & Johnson shipping crate – which was used to ship our products before the era of cardboard boxes.  If anyone has one of these items, or other items from our history, or if you had a parent, or grandparent, or great-grandparent who worked for Johnson & Johnson, please share your story with us – we’d love to hear it!

Next post – some rare historical consumer products from our call for archives, and a surprising story.  Stay tuned!  And for everyone else who holds a piece of Johnson & Johnson history, we’d love to hear from you!   The email address again is artifacts@its.jnj.com.

 

Eight models wearing Charles James gowns, in French & Company's eighteenth century French paneled room.

Eight models wearing Charles James gowns, in French & Company’s eighteenth century French paneled room. Charles James Ball Gowns, 1948. Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Photograph by Cecil Beaton/Vogue/Condé Nast Archive. Copyright © Condé Nast.

 The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York just launched Charles James: Beyond Fashion, a new exhibit at its Costume Institute.  James, one of the 20th century’s most innovative fashion designers, was a man ahead of his time.  Some of his gorgeous dresses were featured in a series of ads by Johnson & Johnson during the 1940s that solved the problem of how to advertise a product that nobody wanted to talk about.  The ads were part of the iconic MODESS®…Because campaign, and the Met’s exhibit features not only some of those Charles James dresses, but one of our historic ads as well (and another of the ads in the exhibit catalog), from a campaign that married innovation in fashion design to innovation in advertising.

Charles James and Johnson & Johnson:  innovation meets innovation in an ad featuring a Charles James gown.

Charles James and Johnson & Johnson: innovation meets innovation in a MODESS® ad featuring a Charles James gown. You can see this ad in the exhibit!

Johnson & Johnson had pioneered mass produced sanitary protection products for women in the 1890s, providing a needed alternative to the homemade methods that women were forced to come up with for most of history.  Although these products played their part in empowering women, they were notoriously difficult to advertise, because the public from the Victorian era onward considered them to be extraordinarily, well…unmentionable.  So Johnson & Johnson came up with a variety of ways to advertise the products through the decades, including silent purchase coupons beginning in 1928 – which allowed women to buy the product and take it home without speaking a single word.  

No need to say a word.  A silent purchase coupon from a MODESS® ad.  From our archives.

No need to say a word. A silent purchase coupon from a MODESS® ad. From our archives.

But that still wasn’t enough, because women did not want to be seen anywhere near an ad for the product.  So during the late 1940s — the result of a really perceptive idea by General Robert Wood Johnson, and with the help of Cecil Beaton, dress designer Charles James and others — Johnson & Johnson took its advertising of the product to an entirely new and tremendously creative level.

General Robert Wood Johnson during the 1940s, photographed by (who else?) Cecil Beaton.  From our archives.

General Robert Wood Johnson during the 1940s, photographed by (who else?) Cecil Beaton. From our archives.

Like his father, General Robert Wood Johnson was interested in advertising, and he had a keen eye, a sense of what would work and an ability to get to the essence of an issue.  Johnson was in a strategy meeting to discuss MODESS® advertising, and he came to a conclusion:  if women didn’t like to read ads for sanitary protection products, then the ads (which had previously been rather wordy) should have fewer words, maybe just a paragraph.  Maybe just a sentence.  Maybe just two words, and Johnson suggested “MODESS®…Because.”  He also suggested linking the campaign to high fashion.  And who better to link it to than innovative fashion designer Charles James and innovative photographer Cecil Beaton for some of the earlier ads?  It was a brilliant idea.

Designer Charles James pinning a suit on model (possibly Ricki Van Dusen)

Designer Charles James pinning a suit on model (possibly Ricki Van Dusen). Charles James with Model, 1948. Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Photograph by Cecil Beaton, Beaton/Vogue/ Condé Nast Archive. Copyright © Condé Nast.

Charles James was a fashion designer decades ahead of his time.  Largely self-taught, he came up with unique and creative ways of draping fabric to make stunningly  beautiful dresses.  Among his pioneering innovations are the wrap dress, the infinity scarf and puffer jackets, but he was so far ahead of the curve that he frequently didn’t get credit for his innovations.  Perhaps through the connection with Cecil Beaton (a friend of General Robert Wood Johnson and his wife Evie), some of James’s distinctive gowns were featured in MODESS®…Because ads, worn by leading fashion models of the day.  (Models in the ads included Dorian Leigh and Susie Parker, and photographers included Beaton, Ruzzie Green, Valentino Sarra and others.)

 

If you didn’t know what the MODESS®…Because ads were advertising, they could be high fashion ads for designer clothing – and that was entirely the point.  Since the meaning of the ads was obvious only to the women who bought the product, and not to anyone else who might be looking at the ad at the same time, women did not feel uncomfortable with the advertising.  In fact, they loved the ads.  Women could imagine themselves in those beautiful and sophisticated dresses from Charles James and other leading designers, posed in beautiful settings.  The two words in the ads allowed them to supply their own reasons for buying the product.  The MODESS®…Because ads connoted elegance and innovation, and they elevated something previously viewed as an unmentionable necessity that no one wanted to think about into something aspirational.  You bought the product because

 

 

The MODESS®…Because ad campaign was tremendously successful.  It ran until the 1970s, and is considered to be one of the most iconic and effective advertising campaigns of the 20th century.  And now you can see Charles James’s creations and one of our MODESS®…Because ads at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s new Anna Wintour Costume Center, from May 8 to August 10, 2014.

Charles James: Beyond Fashion exhibit, Metropolitan Museum of Art Gallery View, First Floor Special Exhibitions Gallery.  Image: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Charles James: Beyond Fashion exhibit, Metropolitan Museum of Art Gallery View, First Floor Special Exhibitions Gallery. Image: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

In the meantime,  The New Yorker has a great biographical article about Charles James.  Charles James’s gowns contributed to a meeting of fashion innovation and advertising innovation, which formed one of Johnson & Johnson’s most memorable historical ad campaigns.

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