After 120 Years -- Our First Building?
An earlier post tells the story of how James Wood Johnson saw a building for rent when he was on a train going through New Brunswick. It was a four-story former wallpaper factory near the railroad tracks. Johnson got off the train and rented it for the new company he and his brothers were starting. The only image we’ve ever had of that first building is this illustration:
Well, that’s about to change. For the first time ever, here is what is most likely a photograph of the first Johnson & Johnson building:
The photo is from this Rutgers University archive, courtesy of the New Brunswick Free Public Library, and is part of the New Brunswick Free Public Library’s postcard collection. It’s included here as well as linked to from the original site. The building on the left with the pointed roof is four stories high, right next to the railroad tracks, and says “Ja----- and Carpender, Manufacturers of Wallpaper.”
New Brunswick Times article, 1886
This newspaper clipping from 1886 confirms that the name of the wallpaper manufacturer was Janeway and Carpender. Since it’s highly unlikely that there was more than one four-story former wallpaper factory right next to the railroad tracks in New Brunswick in the late 1800s, that means that the building on the left is the building that James Wood Johnson saw from the train window, causing him to get off his train in New Brunswick…the first-ever building occupied by Johnson & Johnson. Here’s a zoomed-in view of a map from the Old New Brunswick section of the Rutgers University archives that shows this section of the city in 1886 (section 43 on the map), with a building by the railroad tracks marked “to be Johnson’s Porous Plaster Mfy.” The building on the map is located right next to a spur of the railroad tracks, just like the building in the above photo.
The Company expanded into other nearby buildings as it grew, including this former button factory.
Former Novelty Button Factory (with tower)
These early buildings were close to the Raritan River (where the Company’s world headquarters remains today), which was a necessary source of water and transportation for New Brunswick’s early industries.