The Laurel Club
One of the most interesting organizations in the history of Johnson & Johnson was formed by employees in 1907. One hundred years ago, women employees of Johnson & Johnson formed the Laurel Club for social and educational purposes. The club’s charter, which was signed by its president, Nellie E. Rea, stated that the Laurel Club’s purpose was “…to create a center where all may find opportunities of enjoyment and education.” (Laurel Club Charter, February 14, 1907). The Laurel Club had a basketball team, a Glee Club and a lending library, and provided lunches and dinners to members. Monthly dues of 25 cents helped support the club’s charity work at New Brunswick orphanages.
Laurel Club Women's Basketball Team, Circa 1907
Besides basketball, the Laurel Club also offered lawn and indoor tennis, music, dancing, and swimming, which was taught at the Company’s swimming pool. The club gave classes in hygiene, dress making, embroidery, basket making and “physical culture,” or exercise. Classes in English were held for employees who had recently immigrated to the U.S. Scientific Director Fred Kilmer was a frequent guest at the club to give lectures on public hygiene and other subjects.
Laurel Club Dining Room
Lunches and dinners were provided for members, and cooking classes were held two evenings a week and were taught by a prominent New Brunswick caterer. The meals were cooked on an electric stove donated by C. A. McCormick, the Johnson & Johnson Treasurer. It was one of the first electric stoves in New Brunswick. The club also held a baby clinic with a doctor, who gave advice to parents on how to care for their infants.
Undated Photo of Laurel Club Members of the "Entertaining Committee"
Aside from recreation and education, the Laurel Club saw the beginnings of the tradition of Johnson & Johnson employees volunteering in the community. Its charter instructed that money was to be kept in the club’s account for “any act of kindness the club members may deem advisable.”
The Laurel Club invited 100 children from two local orphanages – St. Mary’s and the Children’s Industrial Home -- to its December holiday parties, gave them dinner and distributed gift to them. Club members bought hats, sweaters and mittens for the children annually. An early Laurel Club Halloween Social raised $25 to buy a bed for Middlesex General Hospital. And during World War I, Laurel Club members helped entertain wounded soldiers from the United States Hospital in Colonia, New Jersey, transporting them to the club’s headquarters for dinner and a dance.
Laurel Club Members with Injured World War I Soldiers
The Laurel Club existed only until 1925, but two of its important traditions – educational courses for employees and volunteering in the community – live on at Johnson & Johnson.