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Fathers and Sons in J&J History

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By Margaret Gurowitz
Jun 16, 2012

Some famous fathers and sons in Johnson & Johnson history: from left, Company founder Robert Wood Johnson and his son, General Robert Wood Johnson; Fred Kilmer and his son Joyce Kilmer

When you think of Johnson & Johnson, probably the most enduring image that comes to mind is that of a mother and baby.  Mothers and babies have been a feature of our consumer advertising for 90 years, beginning with print ads and encompassing some very classic television commercials.  But fathers have also played a significant role in Johnson & Johnson history.

Robert Wood Johnson

Company founder Robert Wood Johnson, the father of four children, put the stamp of his personality and business philosophy on Johnson & Johnson, in the Company’s early transparency, its pioneering mass produced sterile surgical products and advocacy of sterile surgery, and the development of first aid kits and other innovations.  Johnson and his brothers incorporated their personal beliefs on how to run a business into Johnson & Johnson – and they emphasized putting patients and customers first, caring for employees, giving back to the community, and making sure the company was flexible and managed for the long term.

Grey Terrace, Robert Wood Johnson's house in New Brunswick, from our archives

Even though he was tremendously busy with Johnson & Johnson, Company founder Robert Wood Johnson walked home from work each day to have lunch with his family before returning to the office.

General Robert Wood Johnson as a small child, from our archives

Johnson instilled those values in his children, and they grew up with a strong sense of responsibility to the community.  Johnson frequently brought his oldest son – the future General Robert Wood Johnson – to the office starting at a very young age, and employees were no doubt used to having the small boy around and answering his many questions about the business.

Company founder James Wood Johnson and one of his daughters, from our archives

James Wood Johnson, the father of two daughters, also lived in New Brunswick within walking distance of Johnson & Johnson.  Although his daughters didn’t join the Company, they did come to work to help roll bandages to treat wounded soldiers during World War I, when Johnson & Johnson’s sterile surgical dressing production was running around the clock to meet the needs of army medics and surgeons.

Robert Wood Johnson, son of Company founder Robert Wood Johnson, as a teenager, from our archives

After his father’s sudden passing in 1910, Robert Wood Johnson the younger began working at Johnson & Johnson while still a teenager, starting as a mill hand and working his way up through the ranks.  When he took over the leadership of Johnson & Johnson in 1932, he continued and built on the business philosophy he learned from his father.  In 1943 he put those ideas about responsibility to patients, consumers, employees and the community into Our Credo, which remains the guiding philosophy of Johnson & Johnson.  His son, also named Robert Wood Johnson, left his mark on the Company with the modern, cutting edge marketing techniques he introduced during his tenure with Johnson & Johnson.

Fred Kilmer and his son Joyce Kilmer, from our archives

Fred Kilmer was another well-known father in Johnson & Johnson history.  Although his son, the poet Joyce Kilmer, didn’t work for us, Joyce did do some freelance writing for the Company…a result of his father being the editor of Johnson & Johnson’s publications.  Joyce Kilmer wrote articles for The RED CROSS® Messenger, our publication for retail pharmacists, as well as a booklet about advertising, and he helped his father co-write the first First Aid Manual, which was published in 1901.

Three Johnson & Johnson employees who served during World War I, from our archives.

With his own son serving overseas as part of the Fighting 69th Infantry during World War I, Fred Kilmer kept tabs on the many Johnson & Johnson employees who served, writing to them, worrying about them and encouraging them to send letters and photos back to Johnson & Johnson, which he preserved in a scrapbook.  Kilmer also provided fatherly advice to the future General Robert Wood Johnson, the son of his friend, during Robert’s early years with the Company.

Employee group photo, from our archives, showing more fathers from Johnson & Johnson history

It was very common among Johnson & Johnson employees to have multiple family members working at the Company – parents and children, siblings, aunts and uncles, and there were many fathers at Johnson & Johnson whose sons and daughters worked here throughout our history, a tradition that still continues today.

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Satu Glawe
JULY 18, 2012 07:12 AM

Again a very interesting article from the kilmerhouse! The blog in general helps to have a better understanding of history of medicine and serve as a platform for identification with J&J - for Janssen employees as well. In addition they are just fun to read - with great pictures!
Thanks .