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Ten More Really Cool Things From Our Archives!

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By Margaret Gurowitz
Dec 18, 2012

With the month of December, the holiday time is upon us, as is the cold weather.  So, to get everyone into the spirit of the holiday that they celebrate, and in keeping with the cooler temperatures outside, here are ten more really cool things from our archives!

Two of the Johnson & Johnson steamboats in the icy Raritan River during the winter of 1917, from our archives.

1.    Here’s a very cool photo.  In fact, it’s so cold that it’s below freezing, and readers may want to put on a sweater just to look at it.  Here are two of the Johnson & Johnson steamboats huddled together  -- perhaps to keep warm? -- on the frozen Raritan River in 1917.


Not from our archives, but even cooler! Our very own Spring House Choir performs at the recent TEDx JNJ event at the Liberty Science Center.

2.    Meet the Spring House Choir, a group of employees from our Spring House, Pennsylvania location who are carrying on a tradition that goes back over 100 years at Johnson & Johnson:  employee singing groups.  From the all male employee RED CROSS® Choral in 1910 to the men and women of the Glee Club in the 1940s and 1950s, our employees have been using their singing talents to entertain for more than a century -- and the Spring House Choir is keeping that heritage very much alive at Johnson & Johnson.  (Here’s something else that’s cool -- although readers unfortunately can’t see the men of the Spring House Choir in the back row, they’re wearing white shirts and red ties to perform – just like their counterparts did 102 years ago!)

Is this the RED CROSS® Choral at the time of their first performance in 1910? Undated photo, from our archives.

3.    The members of our RED CROSS® Choral were described as wearing matching white linen jackets and red ties for their first concert in 1910.  Is this undated photo from our archives – of male employees in matching white linen outfits, wearing ties, sitting on a stage – a photo of our first employee musical group?

Shadowbox showing WWI dressing in our museum

4.    Johnson & Johnson has been making products to treat wounded soldiers since 1898.  Here’s a shadowbox in our Museum showing a wound dressing packet developed by Johnson & Johnson to treat soldiers during World War I.  Alert blog readers will notice that there’s no ending date on the handwritten description card in the shadowbox -- because when this display was put together, the European War (as it was known then) hadn’t ended yet.  (It ended in 1918.)

The mystery box in our museum. What is it? Read on to find out!

5.    What is this big wooden box in our Museum?  Is it a storage container?  Maybe an old footlocker?  Nope – it’s a first aid kit!  In fact it’s one of the oldest first aid kits in history.  Johnson & Johnson made the first commercial first aid kits in 1888, and we made those first kits for the railroads after Company founder Robert Wood Johnson discovered that there was a tremendous unmet need for a way to treat injured railroad workers. This big wooden box is one the earliest railroad first aid kits we made.  It would have been kept in a railroad depot or on a steam train. Here’s a look at the inside of the lid:

The inside of the lid in one of our earliest First Aid kits, showing a list of contents and some basic first aid instructions for railroad injuries.


6.    BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandages were invented by employee Earle Dickson in 1920, and we put them on the market in 1921.  Here, from our archives, are two of the earliest ads for the product, from 1921 and 1923.

BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandages ad from 1921, the year the product was introduced.


BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandages ad from 1923, showing a mother and child, from our archives.

The ads encouraged consumers to ask their retail pharmacist for a demonstration of the product.  Why?  Because BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandages were the first product of their kind, and they were so new a concept that people at the time didn’t know how to use them without a demonstration!

1890 Johnson & Johnson ad from the U.K., from our archives

7.    Speaking of ads, here’s a Johnson & Johnson ad from 1890 – from the United Kingdom.  Although we didn’t open an operating company there until 1924, we had sales agents in London very early in our history.  In 1890, those sales agents would have been the sons of our original sales agent there, Mr. Henry M---, who Robert Wood Johnson most likely knew from his Seabury & Johnson days, since Mr. M--- was the British sales agent for Seabury & Johnson.  You can read about our original London sales agent in this 1889 issue of The Chemist and Druggist, a UK publication.


View of a train on George Street, undated photo from our archives.

8.     Want to know what the view was like from our very first building?  Well, now you can!  Employees looking out of the windows of our original building would have seen the sight in this photo many times -- before the railroad tracks in New Brunswick were elevated above street level.  (Alert readers who are familiar with New Brunswick will notice Rutgers University’s Schenck Observatory in the background, which today is right across George Street from our parking deck.)  This undated photo from our archives shows a Pennsylvania Railroad train stopped on the railroad spur that ran in front of our very first building.  It’s a view that would have been familiar to our first employees…and to James Wood Johnson, whose January, 1886 train journey brought Johnson & Johnson to New Brunswick.

So is this business dress or business casual? Women employees at Johnson & Johnson in the 1890s, from our archives.

9.    Here’s a glimpse of what some of our ever-fashionable employees were wearing to work in the 1890s, from our archives.


Who's up for some coffee? The kitchen area in one of our historical manufacturing buildings, complete with coffee pot and coffee mugs!

10.    When employees today want to get a cup of coffee during the work day, they head to the nearest coffee machine.  Our employees over 100 years ago equally enjoyed having a cup of coffee at work, and here are their tin mugs – and a tin coffee pot – lined up on the shelves waiting to be used.

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Patricia Massimino
DECEMBER 27, 2012 10:41 PM

My mother gave me a "Johnson and Johnson" Ligature box that states it's from New Jersey. The box is made of wood and has a sliding lid. My mother, born in 1913, was told that the box was at the hospital bedside when she was born and then sent home with her mother.

Do you have any information concerning "ligature" boxes" from that era?

JANUARY 02, 2013 12:47 PM

In reply to by Patricia Massimino

Hi Patricia,

The Johnson & Johnson ligature box you have from 1913 would have been used to hold surgical ligatures – which are generally defined as sutures used to tie off an anatomical structure, such as a blood vessel. I checked one of our 1913 price lists, which listed both sterile sutures and ligatures; your wooden box would have held sterile sutures, one of Johnson & Johnson’s oldest products. (We made the first mass produced sterile sutures in the U.S., starting in 1887.) The box was an outer container that would have held packets or vials of sterile ligatures. It’s possible that the ligatures were needed for your grandmother during childbirth, and then the wooden exterior box – which the hospital would have discarded -- was given to your grandmother as a keepsake. Another possibility is that it was given to your grandmother to use to hold something she had with her during her stay in the hospital when your mother was born, and that they sent it home with her, again as a keepsake.

Hope that helps shed some light on it!


JANUARY 07, 2013 12:45 PM

Margaret - thanks for these additions to the Kilmer House blog. It's great to see your ongoing research in to the history of J&J and our roots in New Brunswick!

NOVEMBER 09, 2014 06:26 PM

Nice to see the information above on the wooden boxes. I also have one of the wooden Sterile Ligatures, Johnson & Johnson, New Brunswick, New Jersey boxes. I think it may have come from a cousin, born in '25, but not sure if it was given at her birth or earlier? Any way to tell the age of one of these?, and how common are they?

NOVEMBER 10, 2014 10:57 AM

In reply to by Peggy


Without seeing a photo of the box, it's difficult to tell its age, but it likely dates from the 1920s or earlier. If you send me a photo through the blog's email -- [email protected] -- I can try to get a more specific date range for you. I don't think the wooden Sterile Ligatures boxes are tremendously common.