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Joyce Kilmer

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By Margaret Gurowitz
Nov 09, 2007

What did the New York Times Sunday Magazine and the Funk and Wagnall’s Standard Dictionary have in common with some of our early Johnson & Johnson publications?  Hint:  they shared a famous writer.

Joyce Kilmer

Joyce Kilmer

That writer was Joyce Kilmer, who is best known for his poem “Trees.” Joyce was the son of Johnson & Johnson scientific director Fred Kilmer.  Joyce (full name: Alfred Joyce Kilmer) was born in New Brunswick in 1886, the same year Johnson & Johnson was founded.  He was three years old when his father joined the Company, so like the children of Robert Wood Johnson the first, Joyce Kilmer grew up with Johnson & Johnson.   The Kilmer family had four children but tragically had lost three of them, which made them cherish their remaining child, Joyce, even more.  Joyce went to school at Rutgers Prep, where he was seven years ahead of Robert Wood Johnson (later to be known as General Johnson).  Joyce then attended Rutgers College for two years and completed his education at Columbia University, graduating in 1908.  He married a local girl from Metuchen, Aline Murray, who was also an accomplished poet and writer.  Joyce Kilmer’s abilities were inherited from both parents, and he grew up watching his father Fred Kilmer write countless scientific articles and publications on behalf of Johnson & Johnson.  After his graduation, Joyce made his living as a writer and editor.  During that time, he helped his father by contributing articles to some Johnson & Johnson publications, such as the RED CROSS NOTES

Red Cross Notes

Like Seward Johnson, Joyce Kilmer served in World War I.  He was assigned to the “Fighting 69th” Infantry Regiment, later the 165th Regiment, where he earned the rank of Sergeant.  Joyce volunteered for dangerous duties and in 1918 transferred to the Regimental Intelligence Section, in which he went on scouting missions.  It was on one such scouting mission in France that Joyce Kilmer was killed on July 30, 1918, in the ending days of World War I.  He was posthumously awarded the Croix de Guerre by the French government.

Annie Kilmer, mother of Joyce Kilmer Fred Kilmer Fred Kilmer

Annie Kilmer Holding Photograph of Joyce Kilmer (L), and Fred Kilmer (R)

The Kilmer family – Joyce’s wife Aline, their children, and parents Fred and Annie -- were devastated.  At Johnson & Johnson, Fred Kilmer threw himself even further into his work while Annie Kilmer worked tirelessly to keep Joyce’s memory alive.  She made numerous appearances at area schools to read his poetry and talk to students about her son.  Here’s a website by Joyce’s granddaughter (and Fred Kilmer’s great-granddaughter) that has photos and more information about Joyce Kilmer. 

There are numerous parks, buildings and other sites throughout New Jersey and the U.S. named after Joyce Kilmer.  At Johnson & Johnson, the Kilmer name commemorates Joyce’s father, Fred Kilmer, our scientific director in the early years of the Company. 

Fred Kilmer's Signature on a Letter

Fred Kilmer's Signature ("F.B. Kilmer") on a Letter from our Archives


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Wendy Mccann
NOVEMBER 14, 2007 04:43 PM

I saw an interview with actor Val Kilmer recently. He said he is related to Joyce Kilmer. Can this be traced??

NOVEMBER 16, 2007 11:50 AM

I've heard that Val Kilmer is distantly related to Joyce Kilmer (and of course to Joyce's father Fred Kilmer!), but I have no concrete proof or information on how they're related. I believe it could be traced if someone had the information on the people concerned going back generations. Here's a link to Joyce's granddaughter Miriam Kilmer's website, on which she has a Kilmer Family tree:
Here also is a link (which can be found on Miriam Kilmer's website, to a Kilmer Family Geneology Forum, which may answer your question:

JANUARY 02, 2008 11:56 AM

There are many locations in New Jersey (including Rutgers University) that claim to have had the tree that inspired Joyce Kilmer's poem. According to Joyce Kilmer's granddaughter, Miriam Kilmer, "Trees" was written in Mahwah, NJ and may not have been inspired by any one tree in particular. Here's a link to her website, which has a lot of information about Joyce Kilmer:

Miriam Kilmer quotes her father's book, "Memories of My Father, Joyce Kilmer," which says, in full: "It was in an upstairs bedroom of this house [in Mahwah, NJ] which served as Mother's and Dad's bedroom and also as Dad's office, that Dad wrote "Trees" on February 2, 1913. I have his notebook with that title and date written down. The window looked out down a hill, on our well-wooded lawn -- trees of many kinds, from mature trees to thin saplings, oaks, maples, black and white birches, and I don't know what else." (Memories of My Father, Joyce Kilmer" by Kenton Kilmer, Joyce Kilmer Centennial Comission, 1993, p. 89)

Sheldon Gosline
FEBRUARY 16, 2008 06:22 PM

From my research, Fred and Joyce Kilmer were related to Dr. S. Andral Kilmer who was most famous for inventing "Swamp-Root" - a patent medicine that made much money for a cousin named Willis Sharpe Kilmer.

Thomas Campbell
JULY 13, 2008 01:08 AM

I remember as a young boy in the 1960's driving past Camp Kilmer (Edison, NJ I believe) to visit relatives. By then the base had pretty much been abandoned. It was only later when I became older that I found out how significant Camp Kilmer was during WW11.

Several months ago I paid a visit to the American Legion, Joyce Kilmer Post 25 in Milltown, NJ. Joyce has not been forgotten and he lives on especially among America's veterans.

Raymond De Stefano
JULY 30, 2008 04:34 PM

Probably the only poem that I remember from my grammar school days, in Brookly, NY. 80 years ago.

Many of my friends remember it but were unable to remember all the words. I have resolved the problem by going to the internet. I have EMailed them all a copy

Raymond De Stefano

fred Moeller
AUGUST 26, 2008 12:39 PM

My father, Frederick Moeller, Sr., was born in 1897 and worked for J&J at New Brunswick, New Jersey in his early to mid-twenties. He knew and worked with Dr. Kilmer who was the father of Joyce Kilmer. (My dad died at 95 years.)

In 1920, Earle Dickson, combined gauze, adhesive and fabric to create a sheet of material that could be cut to fit over wounds of varying sizes. My father was one of the first sales persons to demonstrate the 2" x 18" "wonder bandage" to doctors who cut cut the material into convenient sizes. He remembered that it was about 1924 when Band-Aids were machine made.

My father was considered a promising young executive and was asked to open J&J's first office in Johannesburg, South Africa. He and my mother were thrilled at the opportunity but my maternal grandparents were convinced they would never see their daughter again. To "keep peace" my father resigned from J&J in the belief that other such opportunities would be slow in coming, if at all. It was also a matter of honor to have accepted the transfer only to renege.

During my college years at Rutgers I spent a summer at Seward Johnson's farm in Oldwick, New Jersey. He worked in the fields with the crew several days a week and was a good boss who did his share.

Some male students at Rutgers tested adhesives by wearing bandages on their backs for a week or so. The ladies tested personal products and both men and women were paid.

Two of my father's most treasured poems were "Trees" and "The House with Nobody in it" by Joyce Kilmer. My photograph of the tree hangs in the Kilmer House and at the Parks and Shade Tree Department in New Brunswick and is, perhaps, the only full view of the magnificent oak before its removal in 1963.

Thank you for permitting me to reminisce.

Frederick Moeller, Jr.

Eleanor Kilmer
OCTOBER 29, 2008 11:12 PM

is it possible that all kilmers are related? i know a bunch of them immigrated from germany to western new york (upstate) in the 1700's then spread out after that. i also know that my grandfather, denver kilmer came from that part of new york state.

so is it possible that all kilmers from that part of the world are related?

just wondering if i can legitimately make a tenuous claim to fame :)

why don't we all submit to a dna test and settle the question.

one of the things i like about the kilmer name is that a LOT of accomplished people have it.

OCTOBER 30, 2008 12:45 PM

Hi Eleanor,

I don't know if all Kilmers are related, but here's some information from our archives that might help you. According to biographical information we have on Fred Kilmer, who was Joyce Kilmer’s father, Fred’s and Joyce’s family descended from Palatine emigrants who settled in Livingston Manor, in upstate New York about 1711. Here's a link to Miriam Kilmer's website. She's the granddaughter of Joyce Kilmer, and has information about the family on her site:

I'm also including a link to an online genealogy forum about the Kilmer family that might help you find some answers:

FEBRUARY 23, 2009 09:28 PM


I am a kilmer by birth and was adopted out at age 7. Am interested to connect with biological relatives. Born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada 1962.

FEBRUARY 24, 2009 10:42 AM

Hi Kelly,

I'm going to refer you to Miriam Kilmer's website. She is the granddaughter of poet Joyce Kilmer (and the great-granddaughter of Fred Kilmer, who this blog is named after!). She has a Kilmer Family Tree/FAQ on her site here:

There is also a Kilmer Family genealogy forum here:

I hope these will help you connect with other Kilmer family members. Best of luck!


Eleanor Kilmer
FEBRUARY 27, 2009 07:10 PM

Hi Kelly,

What I co-incidence! I have a sister named Kelly who was born in Toronto and adopted out at age seven too!!!

I reverted back to my bio-name, not that there's any real cache in it, but it can't hurt.

To tell the truth, it feels like a meaningful way to reconnect with my identity and roots.

I have contact info on JFK, and Wil. If interested look me up on facebook and I'll get the info to you then.

Don't you think it's just really super coincidental that Fred Kilmer worked for Johnson and Johnson? Of course Johnson would have to have the same significance to you as it does me.

Eleanor Kilmer
FEBRUARY 27, 2009 07:12 PM

Hi Margaret,

Sorry it took so long to get back. I had no idea there were any responses. Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my question and send the link. I will definitely have a look!

Best Regards,

Eleanor Kilmer
JULY 15, 2009 07:25 PM

Hi Margaret,

I've started a group on facebook called Out of Kilmerosity. It's just for fun, posting little or well known facts about little or well known Kilmers. It's an open group, however people who are either Kilmers, or write about them are definitely encouraged to join and contribute. So I'm inviting you to join. I just started it, so there might not be much to see for a few days. My first entry will go in today or tomorrow. I hope to see you there! It's easy to find - just type "Out of Kimerosity" into the facebook search engine.

Eleanor Kilmer

JULY 16, 2009 10:08 AM

Hi Eleanor,

Great to hear from you again! Thanks for the invitation to join Out of Kilmerosity -- I will definitely do so!

All the Best,


Mary Kilburn
JULY 09, 2010 09:41 PM

My fathers older brother Wilbur Kilburn started doing a family history on the Kilburn family. When Wilbur died in 1993 one of his sister-in-laws took it over and completed it. As it turns out I am an ancestor of Annie Ellen Kilburn Kilmer.

JULY 12, 2010 10:25 AM

In reply to by Mary Kilburn


Congratulations on your discovery! So you have a connection (through marriage) with the early days of Johnson & Johnson, because Annie Kilburn Kilmer's husband Fred Kilmer was our scientific director and chief publicity officer from 1889-1934...and he started the archives that allow me to write this blog. If you're interested, Joyce Kilmer's granddaughter (and Annie Kilburn Kilmer's great-granddaughter) has a website with some family history, mostly centered around Joyce Kilmer:



Mary Kilburn
AUGUST 01, 2010 10:36 PM

Hi Margaret: I have been in touch with Miriam Kilmer. I have sent her a copy of the Kilburn family history book that my father's brother started. She finds it quite interesting. My maiden name is Kilburn. Miriam Kilmer and I have been in touch with each other several times by email.

AUGUST 02, 2010 04:32 PM

In reply to by Mary Kilburn

Hi Mary,

Sorry it's taken me so long to reply --even bloggers take vacation sometimes! Glad to hear that you and Miriam Kilmer have made contact, and that you shared your Kilburn family history book with her. I'm glad that the blog could help faciliate the connection!

Best Regards,


SEPTEMBER 16, 2010 03:25 AM

going thru a box of my grandmothers. She passed 15 years ago @ age 102. In there is a (in a frame with glass) is a beautiful poem TREES. Im sure its an original from around 1914. It measures 5 1/2 x 10 1/2 with the beautiful tree and a young man along the bottom of the tree. In the signed area it is printed in print joyce kilmer. Can anyone tell me how I mite go about selling this beautiful peice of history.Dont know if it has any value or not??? If anyone knows, plz e-mail @ [email protected] Thanks, John

SEPTEMBER 16, 2010 10:12 AM

In reply to by john


I don't have any information on the value of your framed copy of "Trees." If you are interested in selling it, there are several avenues you could pursue. The first would be to have it evaluated, and an antiques dealer near you may be able to help you with that. Without seeing it, it's hard to tell, but since it dates from Joyce Kilmer's lifetime, you should certainly have it evaluated and see if you can find out any information on where it came from. You can also check online sites that sell or auction items such as that. There are many people who are interested in Joyce Kilmer and his writing, so you may find a collecter who would have a particular interest in your piece. Another option might be to contact Joyce Kilmer House in New Brunswick, New Jersey and see if they are interested. Joyce Kilmer House is the house in which Joyce Kilmer was born, and it houses a museum to Kilmer. I couldn't find an email address for them, but here is the phone number: 732-745-5117.

Hope that helps!


Geoffrey Kilmer
JULY 09, 2011 10:08 AM

We have been told by Carol Kilmer Cornell, our family geneologist, that we are related to Joyce Kilmer as well. How would I go about proving this. My father was Gordon Lawrence Kilmer and his father William Kilmer. My family was living in Ohio, and specifically William Kilmer was living in Toledo, Ohio.
We also have several bottles of Dr. S. Andral Kilmer's bottles (full & empty)
Swamp Root.

JULY 11, 2011 11:50 AM

In reply to by Geoffrey Kilmer


Fred Kilmer (and hence his son Joyce) were distantly related to the branch of the Kilmer family that manufactured Dr. Kilmer's Swamp Root. From information we have in our archives from the Broome County Historical Society in Binghamton, NY, Fred and Joyce Kilmer's branch of the family and Willis Sharpe Kilmer's branch of the family were both descended from a common ancestor in the 1700s. Here's the link to a website by Joyce Kilmer's granddaughter that has a family genealogy:

Hope this information proves helpful!


Joseph Murphy
NOVEMBER 05, 2011 08:10 AM

The House with Nobody in It - is a family favorite, recited to us over our childhood years by our father. Having grown up in NE NJ, I have always wondered if there was truly a house that inspired this poem. I know of one such house along the Erie Track that could have fit the description. The Hermitage in Franklin lakes was abandoned and in broken down condition when I was young (in the 1960's) and has significant historical background. It is now a museum and restored to it's former glory. I have been the foundation that it is unlikely as the house was occupied in 1914, was in good condition and you would not likely see the house from eye level while walking the tracks.
I still wonder - Does anyone know?

Nicole Kilmer
APRIL 06, 2012 09:38 PM

I noticed someone here posted that their grandfather's name is Denver Kilmer. That is my grandfather's name also! Are we relatives?


Nicole Kilmer
APRIL 06, 2012 09:40 PM

Ahh... yes, it was Eleanor who posted that. And I agree Eleanor ... Kilmer's are very brilliant people as a rule!

E-mail me at [email protected] if in fact you think you and I share the same grandfather.. Denver Kilmer.


Steven Martin
MAY 24, 2012 01:31 PM

Funny I should come across this website while searching for Spanish American War photos. I used to live at Camp Kilmer in New Brunswick New Jersey when my dad was in the service stationed there from 1961 -63. I learned later that the camp was named after joyce kilmer from WWI and the author of the poem trees.

JULY 03, 2012 10:38 AM

I have learned that "The House with Nobody in It" was written about an old home in Mahwah (a few blocks from where Joyce lived) and became a popular bar in town called "Nobodys Inn" (fo figure!). About 2006 the popular establishment was pruchased and renovated to what is now a new popular eatery called "Roxannes". It is right on the ERIE tracks on the way to Suffern (next train stop after the Mahwah stop)...

Christine Randolph
NOVEMBER 29, 2012 04:43 PM

I have a memorial book from the funeral of Annie Kilburn Kilmer - Joyce Kilmer's mother. It contains a photo and reprints of articles from The Home News. My husband's family grew up in new Brunswick and his grandmother attended the funeral and got the book.

NOVEMBER 29, 2012 04:58 PM

In reply to by Christine Randolph

Christine, what an incredible memento from your husband's family. Were they reprints of articles that Annie Kilmer had written? She wrote articles from time to time for the local paper, and she was, from all accounts, a very well-loved person in the New Brunswick community.


OCTOBER 31, 2013 01:18 PM

Hey Howard - my family and I spend many a Sunday night at Nobody's Inn listening to a then up-start young jazz guitarist named John Pizzarelli ply his trade. Sometimes we would be the only ones there.

Elaine Labranche
JULY 20, 2014 07:38 PM

I'm looking for information on Denver Alling Kilmer and wonder if he may be related to Joyce. His spouse was Lottie Charlotte Mumford, think his mother may have been Elizabeth Wolcott. Can anyone help with this family tree. Not sure if they may be in your history of Johnson & Jonson, Thank you very much for your time. Regards Elaine

JULY 21, 2014 05:11 PM

In reply to by Elaine Labranche

Hi Elaine,

We don't have information about Kilmer family history or genealogy at Johnson & Johnson, but here are two resources that may be helpful. The first one is a family tree at the Rising Dove website, which is run by Joyce Kilmer's granddaughter: The next one is the text of a Kilmer family history book at this link:

Best of luck in your search!


Nicole Kilmer
APRIL 04, 2018 01:10 AM

In reply to by Elaine Labranche

Denver Kilmer is my grandfather. He was, however married to Lailie. Please get in touch!

Nicole Kilmer

Lynn McAllister
JUNE 04, 2018 08:57 PM

I am looking to establish verification for a silver Christening cup given by Ann Kilmer to my mother, Rose Ann (or Ann Rose as Mrs. Kilmer would call her) Chabrak. This would have been @ 1921.
Her mother was Kate Pisko, a young Ukrainian immigrant who was a maid in the Kilmer’s New Brunswick home. I had been told that Mrs. Kilmer was very fond of my grandmother and in fact, dedicated a book to her. While the book was in the family, and I recall seeing it as a child, upon my grandmother’s death I don’t know for certain who
has it, so I do not recall if it was the dedication page or a handwritten notation.
Any information you could provide would be appreciated.