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CHAPTER 21

The Birth of Our Baby Products

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By Margaret Gurowitz
Apr 30, 2007

Early Baby Products Grouping

Some of the most enduring images from the history of Johnson & Johnson are those associated with the Company’s baby products.  Generations of families have used these products to care for their children, and consumer identification with them has been so strong that, despite the depth and breadth of its product lines, the Company has enjoyed a longstanding reputation as “the Baby Company.”  But the earliest products of Johnson & Johnson were medical products.  So how did we become known as “the Baby Company?”  Believe it or not, we owe it to the fact that         Johnson & Johnson made medicated plasters.  As mentioned in my previous post, some patients who used medicated plasters had complained to the Company that some of the plasters irritated their skin.  In response, Scientific Director Fred Kilmer sent them small containers of Italian talc to soothe the irritation.  These patients discovered that the talc also helped alleviate diaper rash, and they told the Company.  As a result, JOHNSON’S® Baby Powder made its debut in 1893, went on the market in 1894, and the Company’s baby products business was born. 

Early Baby Powder Tin

The earliest Baby Powder was in a metal tin with an orange and white label, which stated it was “For Toilet and Nursery.”  JOHNSON’S® Baby Powder was a success, and the Company began expanding its line of baby products to include creams, soaps, and more.  Over time, JOHNSON’S® Baby Powder, with its instantly recognizable scent, became one of the most familiar and trusted products in the world.   This product, a result of consumer interaction with the Company -- and the other baby products that followed --became a part of the baby care routines of new parents, who wrote in to Johnson & Johnson, happy to share their stories and happy occasions. Parents delighted in sending photographs of their babies holding the Baby Powder tins to the Company, which reciprocated by published the photos in its early newsletters.  With the rapid growth of advertising in the Nineteen-teens after World War I, Johnson & Johnson advertised Baby Powder with the largest ad campaign in its history, with the result that the powder – and the Company’s other baby products – really took off and became trusted components of the way families across the world cared for their children.  The products, by their very use, promoted close interaction between parents and their babies, and became associated in people’s minds with the parent-infant bond.  Here are some classic JOHNSON’S® Baby ads:

img_baby_powder_02_pic1.jpg img_baby_powder_03_pic1.jpg img_baby_various_13_pic1.jpg

These products to care for babies were paralleled from the earliest days of the Company with maternity and obstetric kits that addressed the health of mothers and infants, as illustrated by Dr. Simpson’s Maternity Packet from the late 1800s. 

Dr. Simpson's Maternity Packet

These packets included obstetric sheets, cotton, umbilical tape, antiseptic soap, and more.  One early kit, the JOHNSON’S® First Dressing Packet for Infants, included nitrate of silver, used to prevent infections in babies that could lead to blindness.  At a time when most births occurred at home, these kits were designed to help make births safer for mothers and babies.   The obstetric kits came with detailed instructions that mostly were centered on preventing infection in the baby and mother in the days after birth.  Here’s an early example, a booklet from the Company titled “Hygiene in Maternity.”

img_publications_07_pic1.jpg

The Company started from its earliest days with products to ensure the health and safety of babies and mothers at birth.  But it was the addition of products to help parents care for their babies and young children that earned Johnson & Johnson the reputation as “The Baby Company.”

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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!
Griff
MAY 05, 2007 10:41 AM

Nicely done, Margaret! All the entries are wonderfully informative and concise. Great resource for Company history.

Kenneth Pawlak
JULY 23, 2007 09:04 AM

I am working on a book on the history of plastics in medicine and surgery. J&J has been and is a leader in medical plastics. I reviewed the web sites which are great. Can you direct me to more specific sources of historical information on plastics, plastic products and sterilization in J&J's history?

Margaret
AUGUST 06, 2007 04:24 PM

Kenneth, I'm sorry to say I don't have a more specific source of historical information on plastic, plastic products and sterilization in Johnson & Johnson history. However, I will be writing future posts about early sterilization methods for products, but will concentrate on the really old stuff -- i.e., cotton, gauze, etc. in the 1800s and early 1900s.

Carl
APRIL 25, 2008 05:08 PM

This is a fantastic website.
I just stumbled here by googling for baby products but I just couldn't stop reading.

Simply a perfect blog.
Kudos Margaret, keep it up.

Carl

Jill
OCTOBER 04, 2009 03:37 AM

I have a small 1/4 oz tin of Johnson's baby powder. it is cream and has an orange border around the top and bottom of the tin. Underneath the Johnson and Johnson at the bottom it says New Brunswick NJ Chicago Ill. Could you tell me how old this is.

Thanks Jill

Margaret
OCTOBER 05, 2009 10:24 AM

Hi Jill,

Without seeing a picture, it's hard to give you a firm date, but based on what you've told me, your tin is most likely from perhaps the 1920s but more likely the 1930s. We have a reference in our archives that shows a JOHNSON'S® Baby Powder tin marked 1920 with the legend "New Brunswick, NJ, Chicago, ILL" on the bottom. In the early 1930s, we opened a manufacturing plant and distribution center in Chicago, so your tin would likely date from around that time. Incidentally, we packaged our Baby Powder in tins until 1963, when the product went to plastic packaging -- with the exception of the years during World War II, when JOHNSON'S® Baby Powder was in cardboard packaging, because the metal in the tins was needed for the war effort.

Margaret

Pearl
OCTOBER 12, 2009 03:29 PM

Hey Margaret,
Just ran into this post while browsing around, and loved it.
Are you related to Johnson & Johnson by any chance?

I find this to be one of the most fascinating blogs on the web! loving it!

My parents actually told me about the factory in Chicago, they had friends who worked there. I was absolutely shocked that this brand is so historic:)

Pearl

Dee
OCTOBER 29, 2009 12:09 AM

The inventor of J & J's baby powder, Dr. Fred Kilmer, is a second cousin of actor Val Kilmer (Top Gun, Batman, The Saint, The Doors, etc.) Just a fun bit of trivia.

Deborah
MARCH 21, 2010 12:44 PM

I have a cream and orange 9 ounce baby powder tin. Underneath the Johnson and Johnson logo it says New Brunswick New Jersey. Can you tell me how old it is?

Margaret
MARCH 22, 2010 02:14 PM

Hi Deborah,

Without seeing a picture of your tin, it's hard to be exact, but it could potentially be from any time between the late 1800s and the early 1930s. Would you be able to email me a picture of your tin through the blog's mailbox? The link to email is on the "About the Author" page. Thanks!

Margaret

Sarah Dormer
NOVEMBER 23, 2010 11:59 AM

I am having my 1800 cottage re wired and the electrician found a a page from an old book wedged in the pipe work behind some plasterboard. It is a two sided advert for Johnson's Baby and Toilet powder, advertising the promotion of free caskets with every purchase of johnsons powder. Available at chemists in Coral, Sapphire, Jade, Daffodiil, Ivory and Ebony. One of the pages is in colour. I love it! It was advertised at one shilling and the company are Johnsons and Johnsons based in Slough.

Are you bale to give me the age, I am guessing 1894?

Margaret
NOVEMBER 23, 2010 12:13 PM

In reply to by Sarah Dormer

Sarah,

Without seeing a picture of your advert it's hard to tell, but it sounds as if your ad may be from circa 1924, the earliest days of our operating company in the U.K. The opening of the U.K. operating company, located in Slough, was the first step in our overseas global decentralized expansion. Before that, from the late 1800s to 1924, we sold our products in the U.K. through a U.K. based sales agent. Since it's advertising Johnson & Johnson based in Slough, it sounds as if it would not be earlier than 1924, the year that operating company opened. So you have a great piece of Johnson & Johnson Limited history!

Margaret

Christian D'andrea
NOVEMBER 30, 2010 02:26 PM

Great post. And interesting comments/discussion. Margaret, I admire how you're able to run an impromptu Antiques Roadshow for Johnson & Johnson artifacts!

Rafaele Siqueira
JUNE 20, 2011 12:12 PM

I'm loving your posts!!! Tks very much for share us so beautiful Johnson & Johnson'history!!!

Trish
OCTOBER 07, 2011 08:33 PM

Hi!

In the picture at the top of this site is a box with "miniature baby and toilet requisites" It's the little blue-green box...can you tell me when this came out? Thank you so much!!

Margaret
OCTOBER 10, 2011 10:07 AM

In reply to by Trish

Hi Trish,

The Baby Gift Box was released in 1921. It held small containers of JOHNSONS® Baby Powder, Baby Cream and Baby Soap, and was designed as a small gift that people could take when visiting a family with a new baby.

Margaret

Becki
NOVEMBER 09, 2011 02:46 PM

I have a white glass Johnson's baby cream jar with a white metal lid. The front and back labels are both intact. The front label is off white with pink and blue lettering. It says: Johnson's baby cream ALLERGY FREE 3/4 down on the right side in a pink banner withwhite lettering. Below that ot says Johnson & Johnson in cursive. On the left at almost the bottom it says 2 1/8 OZS in blue lettering. There is a pink strip on the very bottom of the label.

The back label is also off white and says Johnson's baby cream is a mild, soothing, all purpose cream. Protects tender skin. Promotes healing of minor rashes and irritations. DIAPER RASH . SUNBURN . WINDBURN . CHAPPING . HEAT RASH . DRY SKIN . CRAWLER'S KNEES . ROUGH ELBOWS
Hypo - allergenic, won't stain.
Active Ingredients: White mineral oil, paraffin, lanolin, white beeswax, ceresin.
Also says on the bottom NEW BRUNSWICK NEW JERSEY. Also, the price is printed on the label on the bottom left as 59 cents.

Could you please tell me how old this may be or what years it was manufactured?
Thanks

Margaret
JANUARY 30, 2012 11:06 AM

In reply to by Becki

Hi Becki,

Without seeing a picture of your Baby Cream jar, it sounds like it could be post-1955, and perhaps 1960s era, since it has the pink ribbon. Does the jar have horizontal ridges going down the sides, or is it smooth? Without seeing a photo of the jar, it's hard to say. If you are able to send me a picture through the blog's email, I would be able to give you some more information. The email is kilmerhouse@its.jnj.com.

Thanks,

Margaret

Scott Borcherding
JANUARY 28, 2012 06:10 PM

Margaret - I just spent the better part of a Saturday at an area auction, and ended up picking up a few things, one of which is a 4-1/8 oz round container of Baby Powder. The bottom of the container is metal, but the top is paper/cardboard, as is the tube itself. There is an red/orange band at the top and bottom of the tube, and the other printing is in red or blue. The top still turns, and there is still product inside. Can you help with an era/date? I could send a photo or two if that would help. Thanks, Scott

Margaret
JANUARY 30, 2012 09:51 AM

In reply to by Scott Borcherding

Hi Scott,

Sounds like a great way to spend a Saturday! From your description, it sounds like your JOHNSON’S® Baby Powder package is from circa 1943. During WWII, since metal was needed for the war effort, both JOHNSON’S® Baby Powder and BAND-AID® Brand Adnesive Bandages went to mostly cardboard packaging. If you send me some photos, I could be more specific with identification. You can send them to the blog's mailbox, which is kilmerhouse@its.jnj.com. Thanks!

Margaret

Janet Alexander
MARCH 06, 2012 05:15 PM

I have an old round container of Johnson's baby powder with powder puff, bottom is tin, top and sides are cardboard-6 oz. under the name on the bottom are the numbers 3029 BA and underneath that is stamped 225A7. Any idea when this was made and what it might be worth? Thanks.

Margaret
MARCH 06, 2012 05:55 PM

In reply to by Janet Alexander

Hi Janet,

Without seeing a picture of your Baby Powder container, it's hard to tell. If you can email a picture to me through the blog's email, I will be happy to do some research and let you know. The email is: kilmerhouse@its.jnj.com.

Thanks, and I look forward to seeing what your vintage Baby Powder container looks like!

Margaret

Chantal
APRIL 06, 2012 05:34 AM

We found an exact same tin like the one on the site in a cellar underneath the house. It says johnsons toilet and baby powder new brunswick, N.J U.S.A. At the bottom it says antiseptic perfumed talcum.It has a red border on the top and bottom. Can u tell me how old this is?

Margaret
APRIL 06, 2012 11:18 AM

In reply to by chantal

Hi Chantal,

What a cool thing to find in your cellar! Without seeing a picture of your Baby Powder tin, it's hard to tell, but given the fact that it just says "New Brunswick, NJ" on it, it may be pre-1933. If you could email me a picture of the tin, I would be happy to give you some more information about it. My email is: kilmerhouse@its.jnj.com.

Thanks!

Margaret

Kellsey
AUGUST 03, 2012 07:03 PM

Hello, I have a Johnson and Johnson Baby Needs Kit, In Original Box With Baby Soap, Baby Oil, and Baby Powder, It's all in great condition and the Baby Powder Container is Cardboard with a bit of tin on the bottom, Says Johnsons Baby Powder, 4 1/8 oz, All unopened. If you could give me an idea of what it is worth or any extra info on it it would be greatly appreciated and i would be glad to send you a photo of it if needed :)

Thanks,

Margaret
AUGUST 03, 2012 10:04 PM

In reply to by Kellsey

Hi Kellsey,

JOHNSON'S Baby Oil was introduced in the 1930s, so your kit would be from that decade at the oldest. If you send me a picture through the blog's email, I would be able to give you more information.

The email is kilmerhouse@its.jnj.com

Thanks,

Margaret

Shelly Maples
APRIL 22, 2013 10:40 AM

I found a little glass jar of Umbilical Tape at an estate sale. It sort of looks like shoe string width. There is a silver tone metal screw lid. 24 yards (21.94 Meters) made in New Brunswick, N.J. U.S.A. but no date. Do you have any idea how old that is, does it still come that way. The little slip of paper inside has a yellow and red diamond pattern and the bottom two corners have the red plus medical sign. Cute, but would love a date?

Margaret
APRIL 22, 2013 03:57 PM

In reply to by Shelly Maples

Shelly,

Without a photograph of the item, it’s hard to give a date, but from your description it sounds like it has the red and yellow basketweave pattern that was used on many Johnson & Johnson products up to and through the 1920s. So it’s possible that your item is from the early 1900s to 1920s, and it would either have been in a doctor’s bag, or part of a Maternity Kit from Johnson & Johnson. Here’s the link to a post with more information on Maternity Kits, which helped make childbirth safer in an era when babies were generally born at home: http://www.kilmerhouse.com/2010/04/mothers-day-120-years-ago-maternal-and-baby-health-kits/

If you can email me a photo of your Umbilical Tape, I should be able to provide you a more accurate date range for the product. The blog’s email is: kilmerhouse@its.jnj.com

Margaret

Val
JULY 06, 2013 04:41 PM

HI Margret,
we were getting some demo done on our home and one of the workers found a tin of Johnson's Toilet Baby Powder for toilet and nursery.
Johnson&Johnson New Brunswick, NJ U.S.A. Antiseptic Borated Talcum .

its about 5 inch little tin with red trim .

Margaret
AUGUST 18, 2015 11:12 AM

In reply to by betty king

Betty,

Without seeing a picture of your container, it would be difficult to give you a date. Can you email me a photo or photos through the blog's mailbox? kilmerhouse@its.jnj.com. Thanks!

Margaret

Deb Caswell
FEBRUARY 17, 2017 04:58 PM

I’m 75 years old and my mother used a type of baby soap that had a wonderful scent. Once in a great while I catch a whiff of it in a product, which I can’t remember…..I just remember the wonderful smell of this soap. Any ideas what this scent could be?

Margaret
FEBRUARY 28, 2017 02:27 PM

In reply to by Anonymous

Hi Deb,

Smell is one of the senses that most powerfully evokes memories. Unfortunately, we don’t have any information in our archives that could point to the specifics of the scent from the 1940s.

Margaret

Katrina Sheppard
APRIL 15, 2017 11:24 PM

Hi there , I have found an old Johnson and Johnson baby powder tin in the wall while having the plaster replaced. My house is over 100 years old and I just wondered if anyone could please tell me the year that the tins were made?? When you unscrew the lid the holes are directly in the tin. Thanks....kat

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Margaret Gurowitz
APRIL 19, 2017 04:21 PM

In reply to by Anonymous

Hi Kat,

What a great find!  Without seeing your tin, it's hard to say.  If you send me a photo through the blog's mailbox, which is kilmerhouse@its.jnj.com, I may be able to give you a rough estimate of the date. 

Margaret

Sarah Hicks
FEBRUARY 09, 2018 09:32 AM

We have a tin of war time j&j still full of original powder- what woul this be worth ? Look forward to your response.