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CHAPTER 18

After 120 Years -- Our First Building?

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By Margaret Gurowitz
Mar 13, 2007

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: 

Drawing of First Johnson & Johnson Building

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: 

Johnson & Johnson First Building Photo

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.” 

1886 Newspaper Clipping

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 Button Factory, New Brunswick, NJ

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.

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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!
Tiffany
MARCH 19, 2008 10:47 AM

I am doing a project on The Company of Johnson & Johnson, and I find it so fasinating. I didn't realize that the company was recognized for so many things. I just want to thank you for all that you do for the world.

Margaret
JULY 10, 2008 04:21 PM

Jared,

I don't have a timeline on the blog, but you can go to www.jnj.com, to the Growth & Expansion part of the history section, for a verbal timeline. Here's the link: http://www.jnj.com/connect/about-jnj/company-history/healthcare-growth/

Laura Questell
AUGUST 23, 2008 07:57 PM

Margaret,

I have enjoyed exploring your site and learning the history of the Johnson & Johnson company. I was doing some geneological research on my grandfather Americo Questell and from the records at Ellis Island he came by ship from Ponce, Puerto Rico in 1918. The ship's manifest showed his destination was Johnson & Johnson in New Brunswick, New Jersey -employee. I was wondering if you have any employee records from 1918 and could tell me what my grandfather's first job in America would have been? He was a World War I veteran. He and my father were not close, so I know little about him. I do know his ancestors were French who escaped to the Caribbean in 1790 fleeing the French Revolution. His ancesteral name is actually Questel.

Any information about him or workers brought in from Puerto Rico in 1918 would be appreciated.

Regards,
Laura Questell

Margaret
AUGUST 25, 2008 04:40 PM

Hi Laura,

I'm glad you've enjoyed reading Kilmer House and learning about Johnson & Johnson history. Unfortunately, we don't have employee records as far back as 1918, so I wouldn't be able to find out where at Johnson & Johnson your grandfather worked. The employee records back then were hand-written in ledger books. We have a very few of them from about 100 years ago, but nothing from the time period around 1918. I don't know if you've checked, but you can also try census records since they sometimes listed a person's occupation. If I find any information, I will post it for you in another comment. Best of luck in your research.

Shayla
FEBRUARY 09, 2009 04:39 PM

just wanted to say thank you for having this site i was doing a school project and this site was really help full!!! so i just want to say thank you

Rosa Gabriela Leyva
APRIL 21, 2009 07:59 AM

J&J It is a fascinating history to all of us who are in the wellness industry. The desire that they had back them made history , change the world and improved our life, those are the results, that inspires me on my journey, and to continue what i am doing. This information is really useful. I have a class project for one of my undergraduate business classes, Thanks

Dale Caldwell
FEBRUARY 24, 2010 11:38 AM

The Caldwell family were of Scotish origin and came from Glascow about 1866 to work as dyers and designers in the Stanton Wallpaper Co. in Toronto, Canada. About 1888 our line moved to Buffalo where they worked for the Martin H. Birge & Sons Wallpaper factory. They then followed their trade to New Brunswick about 1884, where most likely, they worked in the Janeway & Carpenter building. By 1900 they had moved on to York, PA where they worked for the York Wallcoverings Company which still thrives.

Margaret
FEBRUARY 24, 2010 11:50 AM

Dale,

Thanks for leaving your comment! It's very likely that some of your family members worked in the first Johnson & Johnson building, when it was still the Janeway & Carpender wallpaper factory! The stone wall that you can see on the right side of the picture of the building -- that your family members would have seen every day on their way to work -- is still here, right next to Johnson & Johnson World Headquarters. By the time the Johnson brothers rented the building in 1886, Janeway & Carpender had moved to a larger location in New Brunswick and in 1907, after a fire destroyed their larger New Brunswick factory, they moved to Highland Park, right across the river. Johnson & Johnson has remained on roughly the same site your ancestors worked at since 1886. Thanks for sharing that story from your family history.

Margaret

Dale Caldwell
MARCH 23, 2010 03:31 PM

Thank you Margaret for your added information. The more I look into the families tenure in New Brunswick I believe they probably worked at the site on PAtterson, Schuyler & Church Streets as they arrived from Buffalo around 1886. I NOTICED AN ERROR IN MY ORIGINAL BLOG AS THEIR MOVE TO BUFFALO WAS IN 1880 NOT 1888.

Dale

Dale
AUGUST 01, 2010 09:57 PM

Margaret
I have finally found record of the Wallpaper Co in Toronto where my Caldwell family first worked in 1866. The "M (Moses) Staunton & Son" company brought them over from Belfast around 1866. I was able to find the correct company name from Ancestry.com and their City Directories of Toronto; what a resource.

Alison S
OCTOBER 03, 2010 03:58 AM

The second photograph is of Janeway and Carpender, Wallpaper Manufacturers, at one time the US's biggest makers of wallpaper. I think the complete name is somewhere else on your blog. It has an interesting history of it's own.

Connor
DECEMBER 14, 2010 05:19 PM

the time line does not work, i did some more research, the photo with the two men in front of the large building is actually the Janeway Wallpaper factory, never J&J. it was in operation in 1886 until 1907(destroyed by fire). this area of town is map 9 not map 5. Map 5 does show where J&J was and is today.

Margaret
DECEMBER 14, 2010 05:45 PM

In reply to by Connor

Connor,

There is an online photo of the big Janeway and Carpender wallpaper factory taken in 1907 during the fire, here: http://kenlew.com/collections/postcards/nb/nb114-l.jpg It's hard to tell by the perspective in the 1886 shot if it's the same building or not. That larger image could be the tower in the center of the larger building, but in the older photo it doesn't look as if it comes up high enough. The tower in the 1907 photo is much pointier. For some reason the Sanborn map #9 is not online, so I couldn't check it against map#5, which shows the Johnson & Johnson location. Before I put the post up, I checked with three individuals who know a lot about New Brunswick history and they confirmed that the building in the photo may be the one that became the first Johnson & Johnson building. The jury's still out on whether it's an actual photograph of our first building, or of the later Janeway building at Peterson, Schuyler and Church Streets. Unfortunately, we don't have any photographs of the first Johnson & Johnson building in our archives to compare it to. If a photo of that earlier building exists, I would love to see a copy!

Margaret

Jeff
DECEMBER 17, 2011 01:05 PM

Interesting, I just put up some old postcards , probably around 1905-1910 on ebay of a JAneway and arpender factory before and after fire destroyed the building. It looks a lot like the building with the tower, pictured, but the signs on it said Chicago and Philadelphia so I didn't think of New Brunswick until I happened on this site. My family from that era lived in New Brunwick and several worked for J&J.

Bo Sullivan
JULY 01, 2015 12:43 AM

This is probably old old news as this thread is long dormant, but the first rendering of the early J&J building is not the same building as the Janeway & Carpender building in the photograph.

The early J&J building is four windowed stories with no openings in the gable area. The Janeway & Carpender building had five windowed stories plus a pair of windows and a distinctive pair of round or oculus windows flanking them - unmistakable, visible in the train tracks photo, and not in the early J&J image.

One should note that a family-related wallpaper manufacturer, Janeway & Company, was also in New Brunswick, thus the "old wallpaper factory" may be related to Janeway & Co., not Janeway & Carpender. John Waldron, manufacturer of wallpaper printing machines, was also in New Brunswick.

Margaret
JULY 01, 2015 06:08 PM

In reply to by Bo Sullivan

Bo,

It’s indeed a mystery! However, the artist’s rendering of the first Johnson & Johnson building is an interpretation, and the actual building turns out to have looked quite different than the illustration. The building was the original four-story Janeway & Carpender wallpaper factory in City Alley near the original railroad depot and freight house. An 1886 newspaper article referencing Johnson & Johnson refers to the building as the old Janeway & Carpender factory. Janeway & Carpender quickly moved to a larger and more ornate facility on Water Street, directly in front of the Delaware & Raritan canal. The first Johnson & Johnson building backed directly onto three other buildings at a 90 degree angle, and the distinctive roof overhang of the building at the left of the photograph does look like the overhang on the original railroad depot and its freight house. Many people who have studied the old photograph have been unable to come to a conclusive decision about it. The mystery is one of the things that makes this old photograph so much fun!

Margaret

Jason
MAY 09, 2016 01:44 AM

I'm sure this thread has long since moved on, however I came across this drawing at the Library of Congress, that shows the "new" Janeway & Carpender bldg (the location they had moved into after leaving the bldg that would become J&J's first factory).
https://www.loc.gov/item/98507615/
You can clearly see the relation to the 1907 fire photo.

Max Rand
NOVEMBER 06, 2017 10:45 PM

I have their wallpapet as layer 1 in my 1915 Califoria Victorian. Spotted silver and light grey green pattern. It is like leaves in an old manuscript as I peel it off my lathe and pkaster wall.