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CHAPTER101

Wonderful Mother

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By MargaretGurowitz
Nov 20, 2009

Some of the most beautiful and appealing ads in the history of the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies are the historical ads for JOHNSON’S® Baby Powder.  One of the most popular of those ads – and still a favorite today -- is the Wonderful Mother ad from 1922.  But did you know that the ad was inspired by Abraham Lincoln?  Read on to find out why.

Wonderful Mother Ad, 1922

The Wonderful Mother ad appeared in the leading magazines of its day, such as Women’s Home Companion.  The centerpiece of the ad is a beautiful illustration of a mother looking down at her sleeping baby.  Her arm is protectively around her other child.  The ad conveys nurturing, trust and comfort, and perfectly captures the parent-child bond and the love between the mother and her children.

So what did all of that have to do with Abraham Lincoln?

Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln, Sixteenth President of the United States...and the inspiration behind one of our most popular ads.

Believe it or not, the title of the ad and the inspiration behind the text comes from a quote from Lincoln, which is reproduced in the body of the ad:   “‘I had a wonderful mother, said Lincoln. ‘All that I am, I owe to her.’”

Here’s a close up of the text:

Wonderful Mother Ad, 1922 closeup of text

The ad begins by talking about how parents can help shape their children’s futures, mentions the ways in which the product could help mothers soothe their babies so they can get the sleep they need, and finishes by bringing in another theme that ran through the Company’s advertising from the very beginning:  the scientific basis, reliability and trustworthiness of the Company’s products.

A small paragraph on the left side of the ad (as it appeared in magazines) mentioned a new Baby Gift Box that contained the three baby products we made in 1922:  JOHNSON’S® Baby Powder, JOHNSON’S® Baby Cream and JOHNSON’S® Baby Soap.  The paragraph on the lower right, under the baby powder tin, was a shout-out to the retail pharmacists who sold our products to the public at that time, in the days before supermarkets became widespread.

Wonderful Mother ad, 1922:  paragraph about retail pharmacists.
Closeup of Your Druggist is More Than a Merchant paragraph of the 1922 Wonderful Mother ad

This was a reference to a national public awareness campaign the Company initiated that talked about the important role of the retail pharmacist as a trusted, ethical expert who could help people with their own and their family’s health.  It was done to give a boost to community retail pharmacists, in the face of the growing impact of the popularity of the automobile – which let people travel farther to shop.  (The campaign was thought up by Scientific Director Fred Kilmer, himself a former retail pharmacist.)

The Wonderful Mother ad was such an all-time favorite that, approximately 70 years later, our consumer operating company brought it back.

Wonderful Mother Ad Remake
Wonderful Mother ad circa 1990

The mother and little girl in the new Wonderful Mother ad have updated clothing and hairstyles, but the basic image is the same.  They’re in the same pose, and they’re dressed in just about the same colors as their 1922 counterparts.  The orange and white baby powder tin from 1922 is now the more modern white container of the late 1980s/early1990s.  Looking at the two ads together really gives you a sense of the history of JOHNSON’S® Baby Powder (since 1893!) and the multiple generations of parents and children it has touched.

Wonderful Mother ad, 1922 and 1990s.
Wonderful Mother ad, 1922 and 1990s.

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Conrad Person
NOVEMBER 23, 2009 07:41 AM

Very interesting bit of history. Some may remember that during the 1980's we had a beautiful print ad for BABY that featured a Black family. I think it was among the first times that we included African Americans in print ads. I'd love to learn more about how we began those early steps toward diversity in marketing. Conrad

Margaret
NOVEMBER 23, 2009 11:06 AM

Conrad,

That's a great subject for a future post! I will definitely do some research on it. Thanks for your comment.

Margaret

Patricia Rodrigues
NOVEMBER 25, 2009 06:40 AM

Yes, The classic Mother and Child icon is so powerful and potent even in India. I guess universally so. Surely it is featured globally countrywise. A strong Johnson & Johnson Worldwide link. A Trusted Name.

Proud to be a Johnsonian

Patricia

Seetharaman Veeraraghavan
NOVEMBER 25, 2009 07:26 AM

I do not think any company will have a legacy that goes beyond a century in every thing they have achieved. We are proud of our association with this institution beyond continent.

We must make a book, which contain all these advertisements, and which appeared 50 years back.

Pang Chee Huat
NOVEMBER 29, 2009 08:55 PM

Very interesting ad! I have been working with Johnson & Johnson Singapore for 34 years and yet I don't have a clue when and how Johnson & Johnson first started in Asia Pacific region? can you tell me some history of Johnson & Johnson development in Asia Pacific? Thanks!

Margaret
NOVEMBER 30, 2009 02:48 PM

Dear Chee Huat,

I'm getting ready to do some posts on our history in the Asia-Pacific region, so please keep reading! We sold our products through sales agents in Asia-Pacific countries for many decades before opening operating companies there -- in many cases going back to the early part of the 20th century. When the business reached a critical mass in a particular country, an operating unit was opened. In terms of Asia-Pacific, we opened operating companies in Australia in 1931; India in 1957; Malaysia in 1960; Pakistan in 1965; Thailand in 1970; Singapore and Indonesia in 1974; Japan in 1978; Korea in 1983; and China in 1985. Hope that helps!

Margaret

Bill News
APRIL 09, 2010 11:01 AM

I am trying to locate a photograph a picture of J&J Baby Powder bottle that may have been in retail stores from about 1960 through 1972. Does anyone have a photograph they could share. Thank you.

Mark Stachowski
APRIL 12, 2010 03:19 PM

Great article (as usual). Any chance of getting high-quality images or reprints of the ads as a gift for our wife, sister, mother, etc?

Margaret
APRIL 13, 2010 12:33 PM

Mark,

We are working on making reprints of the Wonderful Mother ad available...so stay tuned for more information on that!

Margaret