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Johnson & Johnson and the Electric Light

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By Margaret Gurowitz
Feb 28, 2007

Thomas Alva Edison invented and perfected many of the things that shaped modern life, such as the phonograph, an improved stock ticker, carbon microphone and commercially practical electric lighting.  But what was his connection to the early days of Johnson & Johnson?


 Fred Kilmer's Opera House Pharmacy

Edison’s connection to the Company was through a personal relationship.  Thomas Edison was friendly with Frederick Barnett Kilmer, the Company’s scientific director.


Fred Kilmer

Before joining Johnson & Johnson, Kilmer ran the Opera House Pharmacy in downtown New Brunswick.  Along with company founder Robert Wood Johnson, Edison was a frequent visitor to Kilmer’s pharmacy.  As a fellow scientist, Edison was interested in what Fred Kilmer had to say about the science behind pharmacy, and would join Kilmer behind the counter to watch him work.  On the occasions when Mrs. Edison managed to persuade her husband to attend the opera in New Brunswick, they would make a quick stop at Dr. Kilmer’s pharmacy to make sure the inventor was presentable before heading to the event.  Aside from the more social aspects of their friendship, Thomas Edison also bought supplies from the Opera House Pharmacy that he would use in his Menlo Park laboratory.  In fact, Fred Kilmer sold Edison some of the carbon, charcoal and other materials he used in developing the first commercially practical incandescent light, thus forming a connection, albeit a very small one, between the electric light and Johnson & Johnson. 

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William Berg
JUNE 02, 2010 03:01 PM

Margaret -
Some years ago I had acquired a one pound box of the Johnson & Johnson product Oakum. The product is still in the original cardboard container.
Can you find out what this product was used for, and approximately which years it was sold?

William Berg