Robert Wood Johnson, I

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Robert Wood Johnson, I

Birthdate: (64)
Birthplace: Carbondale, Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania, United States
Death: February 7, 1910 (64)
New Brunswick, Middlesex County, New Jersey, United States
Place of Burial: New Brunswick, Middlesex County, New Jersey, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Sylvester Johnson, III and Frances Louisa Johnson
Husband of Evangeline Brewster Johnson
Ex-husband of Ellen Johnson
Father of General Robert Wood Johnson, II; J. Seward Johnson; Evangeline Love Brewster Merrill and Roberta Johnson
Brother of Sylvester H. Johnson; Edward Mead Johnson; James Wood Johnson; Anna Johnson; Frances Johnson and 5 others
Half brother of Edward Mead Johnson

Occupation: Businessman, One of the three brothers who founded Johnson and Johnson Pharmaceutical Co
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Robert Wood Johnson, I

Robert Wood Johnson I was an American entrepreneur and industrialist. He was also one of the three brothers who founded Johnson & Johnson.

Robert Wood Johnson I (February 20, 1845 – February 7, 1910) was an American industrialist. He was also one of the three brothers who founded Johnson & Johnson.

Early life

Johnson was born in Carbondale, Pennsylvania. His father was Sylvester Johnson III,[citation needed] and his mother was Frances Louisa Wood. Johnson grew up with two siblings: James Wood Johnson and Edward Mead Johnson.


In 1861, Johnson accepted an apprenticeship in Poughkeepsie, New York from his uncle James Wood to work for the apothecary of Wood & Tittmer. This was a method to keep him from fighting in the Civil War.[citation needed] However, this was to become his training for a lifelong career. He later left Wood & Tittmer in 1864, to work in New York City for Roushton & Aspinwall.


While working for Rouston & Aspinwall, Johnson met George J. Seabury and they decided to leave the firm and go into business together under the name of Seabury & Johnson. Both men were interested in Joseph Lister's discovery of the implications of sterile surgery and tried to make products that would assist in the surgery room. Johnson worked 12 hour days to try to invent aseptic surgery equipment. By 1878, the firm was making $10,000 a month (or in 2006 dollars $214,000.)

Neither Seabury nor Johnson could agree on how to distribute the profits of the firm. Seabury also didn't approve of having Johnson's brother, James Wood Johnson in the firm. In 1880, Johnson sold his shares to Seabury, and agreed to not go into the medical business for ten years.

Johnson & Johnson

James Wood Johnson and Edward Mead Johnson started a family business called Johnson & Johnson. However, the firm was struggling to stay afloat, as it didn't have enough capital for a startup company. While the two brothers were going at it alone, Seabury was unable to pay RWJ the monthly payments that had been agreed upon when he left the partnership. Seabury agreed to let Johnson re-enter the medical industry if he didn't have to pay the monthly payments, anymore. Johnson agreed, and joined his brothers' firm, providing the capital for a fresh start.

The new partnership gave Johnson half of the company's shares in return for management of the company. His brothers would receive thirty percent of the company. Johnson worked all hours of the day going back and forth from the factory in New Brunswick, New Jersey to the office in New York, and by early 1888, J&J was making $25,000 a month.


Dr. Frederick Barnett Kilmer owned a local pharmacy in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Johnson met Kilmer in early 1887, and developed a lifelong friendship. After meeting Johnson, Kilmer became more involved in J&J. He eventually became an employee and he would introduce one of the first medical research laboratories.

Kilmer was responsible for making many of the innovations in sterilized dressings. The first marketing items Kilmer introduced were medical manuals, guides for how to react when injured on board trains, such as when feet are squashed or when legs are broken at train stations or depots.

In time, Kilmer would influence most of America with his new products. By the late 19th century, railroads had taken most of the nation by storm. Americans were traveling more and farther than ever. To address the medical needs of travelers, Kilmer decided to introduce first-aid kits. The Red Cross symbol became as well known as the Bald Eagle. Soon, people believed that the first-aid kits were as important to their daily lives as railroads, light bulbs, and family. It became an American way of life to grab a first-aid kit when in need of help.

In 1890, Kilmer received a letter from a colleague asking for advice on treating a skin irritation on one of his patients. The patient had used medicated plasters and it was assumed that the plaster caused the irritation. Kilmer sent him a small tin of Italian talc. With the success of this treatment, J&J started including containers of talc with its plasters.

Personal life

In 1880, Johnson married Ellen Cutler. They had one child: Roberta Johnson.

Johnson later married Evangeline Brewster Armstrong. They had three children: John Seward Johnson I, Robert Wood Johnson II, and Evangeline Johnson.

In 1910, Johnson died of chronic renal insufficiency (Bright's disease) at the age of 64.

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Robert Wood Johnson, I's Timeline

February 15, 1845
Carbondale, Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania, United States
April 4, 1893
Age 48
New Brunswick, Middlesex County, New Jersey, United States
July 14, 1895
Age 50
New Brunswick, Middlesex County, New Jersey, United States
Age 51
New Brunswick, NJ, USA
February 7, 1910
Age 64
New Brunswick, Middlesex County, New Jersey, United States
New Brunswick, Middlesex County, New Jersey, United States