The Earliest Products

Margaret on July 13th, 2006 at 6:54PM

Aseptic Gauze and Cotton Products 

Aseptic gauze and cotton were among the first Johnson & Johnson products.  Many of these early products were impregnated with antiseptic agents or medication, and sealed in glass or metal containers to keep them sterile. These antiseptic gauzes and cottons helped revolutionize surgical care by greatly reducing mortality rates from surgical infection.  Many of the names of the Company’s early products, such as the ones above, were descriptive of the product or its ingredients.  Others — such as Dr. Grosvenor’s Bellcapsic Plaster — were named after physicians who contributed ideas for new products to the Company. 

Open Response to The Earliest Products

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  1. Hi Margaret –
    Some time ago I acquired a one pound box of Johnson & Johnson Oakum.
    The product was still in the original cardboard box with the Johnson & Johnson logo.

    Can you tell me what this product was used for, and approximately which years was it sold?


    William Berg

  2. Hi William,

    Oakum was used as a hospital surgical dressing material. It’s listed in our first price list from 1887, so we made it from the very beginning. We still made it in 1924, and I’m still checking for an end date. I will reply with what I find out in the comments section for this post.



  3. We recently moved into a new home where there were old metel cabinets. We removed the cabinets and I was looking under them to find a manufacturer and I found a small bottle hiddeb on the rails. The bottle reads 1/8 fluid ounce METHAPHEN and is made by Johnson and Johnson. Would you know what year this was made? Thanks for your time!

  4. Hi Jenny,

    I did a quick search through our historical price lists and haven’t been able to locate the product in our price lists. A quick google search on the name brings up the fact that it was a germicide, used to kill germs. Here’s a reference from 1927: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2531422/pdf/postmedj00869-0001b.pdf

    I will need to do some more research. If you could send me a picture of your bottle through the blog’s email (there’s a link to my email on the “About the Author” page), it might help me find some more information about it for you.



  5. In the book Industrial minerals & rocks: commodities, markets, and uses, by Jessica Elzea Kogel; et al, 7th edition, 2006, p.971:
    Johnson’s baby powder was introduced in the 1880s based on imported Italian powder. Commercial production began in 1904 near Johnson.
    Could you tell me if this is correct (the second sentence)?
    Thank you.

  6. Hi John,
    JOHNSON’S® Baby Powder was introduced in 1893 and first went on the market in 1894. It was originally Italian talc. In the 1890s, all of our manufacturing was done in New Brunswick, New Jersey (where our World Headquarters is still located!), so JOHNSON’S® Baby Powder was originally manufactured in New Brunswick. Here’s a post about how it was invented, which was the result of close communication with doctors and consumers: http://www.kilmerhouse.com/?p=122

    Best Regards,


  7. Margaret,
    Thank you for your prompt response.
    Although it was manufactured in NJ, might the raw talc have come from Vermont as noted in the article I quoted?

  8. Margaret,
    And now I note that I failed to give the complete quote. It should read “…Johnson, VT.”

  9. John,

    I looked it up and the talc did come from Vermont, at least for part of the history of the product.



  10. Margaret,
    One more question, please.
    Do you know the dates it came from VT?
    Thank you, again.

  11. John,

    I don’t have any information on the dates, unfortunately.


  12. Margaret,
    Thank you for looking.
    I hope you’ll keep me in mind, so that if you ever come across the dates, or the source of the first talc used, I’d very much appreciate it.

  13. Hi Margaret
    I bought a large original drawing from a fellow who stated he worked at Johnson and Johnson in Montreal in the 60’s as a sales rep. He said the painting was commissioned by a Montreal artist for the packaging for Chix diapers. It is not signed but is an incredible rendition of a baby with a teddy bear. It’s difficult to tell if the baby is male or female but sooooo cute!! I would love to know who the artist is as I collect vintage prints and originals of babies (if I can find them.)Could I send you a picture of the picture and take the chance this story is true? Maybe it nevr was used on the packaging but it may be reported in the archives somewhere in the 60’s or 70’s.

    Thanks so much, Shannon

  14. Hi Shannon,

    The drawing sounds wonderful from your description! Please feel free to send me a picture of it through the blog’s email, and I will try to track down some information about it for you. The blog’s email is: KilmerHouse@its.jnj.com.



  15. Hello,

    Maybe you can help me. I recently came into possession of my Great Grandfathers homemade telescope. He made an eyepiece from a Johnson & Johnson 1 1/2 inch by 5 yard “ZO” Adhesive Plaster cartridge spool. It’s a black tin with brownish areas and red outlines were the writing is. I’m trying to figure out how old the telescope may be. If possible, any information on the year (or years) this type of adhesive plaster cartridge was used would be helpful.

    Thank you,

  16. Hi Chris,

    What a great family heirloom! Your great grandfather sounds like he was really inventive, to use a ZONAS® adhesive plaster spool to make an eyepiece for his telescope. I will need to do some checking in our archives to come up with a range of dates for you, which will take a few days. I will post my answer to you in the comments section of the blog, so please check back in a few days.



  17. Thanks Margaret,

    This info may help narrow things done for you…He died in 1936 so it obviously has to be before then. We have a picture of him with the telescope and i’m guessing it was taken sometime in the 1920’s or possibly even earlier.


  18. Hi, I just found a J&J Products hinged door first aid wall cabinet with 3 removable drawers. The drawers are black with a small gold colored drawer ring pull and with gold writing listing the drawers’ contents. The cabinet measures 16″ x 11″ x 7″ high. The exterior of the metal cabinet appears to have been black but is now painted silver (black paint shows through where the cabinet has been scratched). There are two packages of Mine Safety Appliances Co. compresses in the box, so perhaps the box was painted silver so it could be seen in a mine. I would be very interested in learning more about this box. Thanks! Carolyn

  19. Hi Carolyn,

    Without a photo, I can’t know exactly which model First Aid kit you have, but you definitely have a vintage Johnson & Johnson First Aid Kit. As you can see from your kit, the original color of the kit was black, and it would have had gold and red lettering. Your kit was designed for use at a business or industry, and since yours contained compress dressings relating to mine safety, yours likely was used in a mine. I don’t know whether that explains the silver paint, but your explanation sounds like a logical one to me! The kits were designed to be refilled. The larger kits (such as the First Aid Cabinet No. 1 or the Insurance First Aid Cabinet) were designed to hold a wide variety of first aid materials. We also made smaller, more specialized kits as well. Johnson & Johnson made the first ever First Aid kits in 1891. The earliest kits were designed to treat injuries to workers laying cross country railroad track in the U.S. Soon after, states passed laws that all industries and public buildings had to have a First Aid Kit. Johnson & Johnson also researched First Aid best practices and in 1901 came out with the first ever First Aid manuals, which were packaged with the kits. Here’s a post about the origin of First Aid Kits:

    Best Regards,


  20. Hi – I have a J&J AEROKIT. It is a black tin hinged container with red and gold lettering. I’m sure it was my uncles’ who worked for National Air Transport and then United Air Lines. It has never been used and has all the items in it. The liquid containers of course have dried up. There is no number or date on the container or in the various directions within it.

  21. Ed,

    Your Aerokit sounds like a wonderful memento of your uncle. The Johnson & Johnson Aerokit was a first aid kit specifically designed for airplanes. It first appeared in our 1933 price list, and was designed to be small and lightweight, due to size and weight limits on airplanes. The early Aerokits were black with red and gold lettering on the front. It is amazing that yours still has the contents. Johnson & Johnson made the first ever first aid kits in 1890/1891. The original kits were for the railroads, but we soon made kits for businesses, industries and homes. When automobiles and airplanes came into use, we made first aid kits for those as well.

    Best Regards,


  22. Thank You for the information on the Aero Kit. Do you have any idea what it might be worth? I’m at that point in life where we are starting to declutter.

  23. Hi Ed,

    I don’t have any information on what your Aerokit might be worth, but you can try searching through online auction sites. Historic Johnson & Johnson First Aid Kits frequently turn up on these sites, and that may give you an idea of potential value. This blog also has a reader who was looking for a vintage Aerokit, so if he’s reading, he may be interested in your Aerokit.


  24. Hello Ed,
    I am Mark Stewart in Erie, PA and I would be very interested in purchasing your Aerokit for my 1936 J-2 Piper Cub airplane. Please call me at 908-246-0585 or email stewartmw@aol.com

  25. Hello Margaret,

    A few weeks ago I sent some pictures of my great grandfathers J&J Adhesive Plaster eyepiece, i was just wondering if you got them?


  26. Hi Chris,

    I did get the pictures. Your great grandfather was really ingenious to make an eyepiece out of one of our Adhesive Plaster tins. I have done some looking in our archives but have not yet found an exact match in terms of dates. As soon as I do, I will post the information on the blog for you to see, so please keep checking back.



  27. Hi Margaret,
    My husband bought a 1937 Ford couple years ago. The car came out of a farmers field and is currently being restored. It probaby was their since the 40’s. In the car was a very old J & J waterproof Band Aid tin. blue and cream in color and it was made in canada. the towp of the tin states to open press sides of box and slide cover. Would you be able to tell me how old this tin is. the tin is full of band aids. Also on the tin it says Plain Pad. thanks

  28. Sandra,

    Without seeing a photograph, it would be difficult to tell. Is it a flat square tin or an upright rectangular tin? If you can send me a picture through the blog’s email, that would be helpful in identifying your BAND-AID ® Brand Adhesive Bandages tin. The blog’s email address is kilmerhouse@its.jnj.com.



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All comments will be reviewed before posting. Since this blog is about history, topics that don’t directly relate to the history of Johnson & Johnson and its operating companies won’t be posted. Product comments generally will not be posted unless they are of historical interest. Some unrelated issues may be forwarded to Johnson & Johnson folks for follow-up as appropriate. I’m also not going to post any comments that have inappropriate language...so be nice!