Our Athletic Employees
As a company that will be 125 years old in 2011, Johnson & Johnson has many traditions: some recent, and some dating back almost to our founding. One of the most fun traditions throughout our history has been our employee athletes and sports teams.
For well over 100 years, employees at Johnson & Johnson have participated in organized sports. The earliest record we have of our employee athletes is from 1895: an article in The New Brunswick Times about a widely anticipated and very spirited baseball game played between a team of Johnson & Johnson employees and a team from the Norfolk and New Brunswick Hosiery Company, located across Hamilton Street from Johnson & Johnson. The teams trained beforehand (the Johnson & Johnson employee team practiced for two weeks, and the game was such an anticipated event that Company management gave them time during the work day to practice). The two businesses, situated right across the street from each other, managed to work up a healthy rivalry by game day. Many tickets were sold for the game, which was played on Nielson Field in New Brunswick. Johnson & Johnson hung a huge banner out of the windows of one its buildings in a show of support for its employee team. Not to be outdone, the Norfolk and New Brunswick Hosiery Company workers decorated their office cat with colored ribbons as part of the show of support for their team. Employees from both companies came to the game to cheer on their co-workers. To the great shock of spectators, because the teams were said to be evenly matched, the Johnson & Johnson employee team lost the game 18-8.
Just a few years later, by the early 1900s, many of our employees belonged to a variety of sports teams that competed against each other, and against teams from other companies in local and regional leagues. We had a 1907 women’s basketball team, made up of members of the Laurel Club.
Basketball was a long tradition among our women employees. Alert readers will have noticed the change in uniforms from 1907 to 1955, which no doubt made it much easier to play.
Bowling was another popular sport through our history, with our employees not only playing on Johnson & Johnson employee teams, but on multi-company teams as well.
In 1900 a small bowling team from Johnson & Johnson joined the New York area league of teams from other health care companies. Our 1902 team was drawn from the Company's business office, and consisted of our assistant treasurer, the Company's cashier, a statistician and two bookkeepers. In 1902 three of them started to represent the Company on a broader “New York” team that had three employees from Johnson & Johnson, two from Colgate & Company, several from Parke Davis & Company, Dodge & Olcott and, interestingly enough, one from Seabury & Johnson, our founder Robert Wood Johnson’s first business, which had continued on for some years without our founders, keeping its original name.
In 1916, Johnson & Johnson employees formed a larger men’s bowling team, with 36 members…including Robert Wood Johnson. (In case readers are wondering, his bowling scores are not, unfortunately, recorded in our archives.)
In 1917 he presented the prize in the Johnson & Johnson Bowling Club Second Annual Tournament. The team was a mixture of employees from a variety of levels in the Company, and it probably provided the teammates with a good opportunity to socialize and (as we would say over 90 years later) network.
In 1942, an official employee athletic association for women employees was formed, with a president, vice-president, treasurer and other officers. They decided to participate in eight sports, including swimming, tennis, bicycle riding, archery, horseback riding, softball, and bowling. As was fitting, they met in the former Laurel Club headquarters, which four decades earlier had been home to our pioneer women athletes on the basketball team and the site of our earliest employee exercise facilities. Here’s a photo of one of our employee athletic association for women employees bowling:
As Johnson & Johnson decentralized and grew, our employee teams expanded out of New Brunswick and into our operating companies. With the growing popularity of softball, our employees participated in inter- and intra-company softball leagues, many with impressive records. In 1969 our Finance organization’s men’s softball team boasted a 7-0 regular season record and won the playoffs in their league 3-0.
In basketball, the Johnson & Johnson Industrial League men’s team had a longstanding tradition as tough competitors on the court. They topped the New Brunswick league in 1942 and, during the 1969 season, they defeated other New Jersey health care company teams to win the championship.
Employees in the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies participated in employee sports teams from 1895 until about the mid-1980s. Today, our employees around the world go to the gym to help improve their health or they play sports in their local communities. We’ve even had some employees around the world who have been Olympic athletes. New Brunswick, our hometown since 1886, no longer has the organized “industrial sports leagues” of the past century. But during the heyday of those industrial leagues, Johnson & Johnson employees played a big part.