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Do You Have a Piece of Johnson & Johnson History?

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By Margaret Gurowitz
May 18, 2014

Alert blog readers may remember that we put out a call for historical Johnson & Johnson artifacts on April 23rd.  Why are we looking for historical artifacts?  We’re restoring and revitalizing our Museum, and are hoping to fill in some gaps with your help.  Since Johnson & Johnson has been part of people’s lives since 1886, we recognize that many pieces of our history are pieces of your history as well – and that many people preserve not only historical J&J artifacts, but stories from ancestors and family members who have worked here.  Our call for Johnson & Johnson historical artifacts and stories continues this week, with a takeover of @JNJNews, @JNJCares, @JNJParents and @JNJHistory Twitter handles, our corporate Facebook page, Google+ and, of course, this blog.   So…do you or a member of your family hold a piece of Johnson & Johnson history, or a story from our history?  If you do, please let us know by emailing us at [email protected], or contact me through this blog.

The new artifacts are here!  The new artifacts are here! Quick -- tell everyone!
The new artifacts are here! The new artifacts are here! Quick -- tell everyone!

We’ve received some amazing pieces of J&J history (artifacts as well as stories) so far, and we’d love to hear from more of you.  Special recognition goes to C.W., a Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies employee in Livingston, Scotland, for being the very first person to answer the call!  Her reply brought us one of the coolest and rarest Johnson & Johnson historical artifacts in existence:  a Zonweiss Clock!   (How rare is it?  This blogger, who’s seen many, many rare Johnson & Johnson historical artifacts, had never seen one before.  Ever.)

A Zonweiss Clock, now part of the Johnson & Johnson Museum thanks to our call for artifacts!
A Zonweiss Clock, now part of the Johnson & Johnson Museum thanks to our call for artifacts!

Zonweiss tooth cream was our first consumer product 128 years ago – a tooth cream whose ads said it would make your teeth sparklingly white -- and the Company had alarm clocks produced as a promotional item for the product, showing a woman brushing her teeth with Zonweiss. From the looks of it, our new very old Zonweiss Clock is perhaps from the 1890s or the first decade of the 1900s.  And believe it or not, the alarm on the clock still works – how cool is that!

A Lister's Fumigator and its instruction booklet, more than 100 years old.
A Lister's Fumigator and its instruction booklet, more than 100 years old.

J.M. brought us another artifact that we didn’t have in our archives – a Lister’s Fumigator, an early Johnson & Johnson public health product.  The Lister’s Fumigator (named in honor of Sir Joseph Lister, the father of modern antiseptic surgery) was designed to help prevent the spread of contagious diseases like typhoid and diphtheria in the era before and antibiotics and most vaccines.  Although we had drawings of the product in our historical price lists and other publications, we didn’t have an actual Lister’s Fumigator, and we’re happy to welcome this artifact back to Johnson & Johnson!

Here’s the full list of some of the specific items we’re looking for.  One of those items is a wooden Johnson & Johnson shipping crate – which was used to ship our products before the era of cardboard boxes.  If anyone has one of these items, or other items from our history, or if you had a parent, or grandparent, or great-grandparent who worked for Johnson & Johnson, please share your story with us – we’d love to hear it!

Next post – some rare historical consumer products from our call for archives, and a surprising story.  Stay tuned!  And for everyone else who holds a piece of Johnson & Johnson history, we'd love to hear from you!   The email address again is [email protected].  

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Carrie Watts
MAY 19, 2014 04:53 AM

I was happy to help you, I'm so glad the clock is in excellent condition! Maybe one day I will get to come by the museum and see it in person. :-)
- Carrie Watts, LIfeScan Scotland (Inverness, Scotland)

JUNE 03, 2014 07:19 PM

Hi Margaret,
I have a piece of Johnson & Johnson advertisement that I was hoping you could give me some information about. It is a "Johnson & Johnson Medicated Plasters" advertisement that has a backlighted Rx sign. It is made of wood and wood veneer. It measures 9" wide x 3 1/2" deep x 12" high. I think it was made to either sit in a window or on a counter. I also have a nice five drawer medicated plasters cabinet. I do know that these items came from my grandfather's drugstore. He was a pharmacist and had his own drugstore in Detroit from about 1920 - 1965. Unfortunately anyone in my family who would have more direct knowledge about these items has passed away. I have some nice pictures, but I do not see where I can attach them. I would like to sell the sign, but not before I know more about its age and history. Any information you have would be greatly appreciated. Please let me know if there is some way for me to post pictures of these items. They are really "cool" and I believe any Johnson & Johnson history enthusiast would enjoy seeing them !

JUNE 04, 2014 10:55 AM

In reply to by Carol

Hi Carol,

I would be happy to give you more information about your historical Johnson & Johnson pharmacy advertisement and medicated plasters cabinet. Johnson & Johnson provided them to retail pharmacists who sold our products. The cabinet with drawers was designed to make it easier to display and sell single medicated plasters, which were patches that delivered medication directly through the skin, and were a very popular product in the 1800s and early 1900s. Please send me photos of your items through the blog's mailbox, and I will be happy to take a look at them and give you more information. The blog's email is: [email protected]

Looking forward to seeing the pictures!


Dalene Smith
SEPTEMBER 04, 2015 07:03 PM

Hi I am a desendant of the New Ampsterdam and Conneticut Johnsons that John Johnson born 1688 who married Mary Chatterton. I was able to just this Last August come to see where these familties lived and there are so many intersesting stories I have found. I was so amazed that the Johnson and Johnson Company was in this part of New Jersey where I was at that I got to thinking How neat it would be if that was just one more amazing story to add to my 15 long years of searching these wonderful Johnson ancestors. My Johnson first came to Morris County New Jersey in 1722. I feel this would be of Historic nature as without the first Johnsons the Johnson and Johnson wouldn't be there probably . Really excited to hear form you. Dalene Smith

SEPTEMBER 11, 2015 05:14 PM

In reply to by Dalene Smith

Hi Dalene,

The brothers who founded Johnson & Johnson were from Crystal Lake, Pennsylvania, but according to The Gentleman Rebel, the biography of General Robert Wood Johnson written by Lawrence Foster, the family did trace its roots back to a John Johnson who came to the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1638. The family moved to Rhode Island and then Connecticut before going to Pennsylvania. Best of luck in researching your family history!