What was the first major acquisition of Johnson & Johnson? Hint: it was a medical devices and medicinal plasters company, and it was in 1905. The J. Ellwood Lee Company of Conshohocken, Pennsylvania was a major company in the medical products business in the early 20th century, and had a product line similar to that of Johnson & Johnson, manufacturing sutures, ligatures, medicinal plasters, catheters and more. Under the terms of the acquisition, both companies would list the others’ products in their catalogues, but otherwise continue their separate ways.
Johnson & Johnson gained not only new products lines, but also a new board member, Charles Heber Clark, who wrote under the pen name Max Adeler, and was a leading humorist of the day. After the acquisition, Fred Kilmer and Clark collaborated on a book called Handbook of Ligatures, which was widely accepted by hospitals and surgeons. Oddly enough, around 1910, when Lee constructed an automobile tire factory, this also temporarily put Johnson & Johnson in the auto tire business, until all connections between the Company and the Lee Tire and Rubber Company were ended.