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Our Heritage J&J Museum Find of the Month
Scaring Up the Past: A Look at Spooky Johnson & Johnson Consumer Ads
With Halloween just around the corner, we dig into our archives to spotlight frighteningly clever advertisements from as far back as 1887.
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An 1887 ad for the company's first consumer product, Zonweiss Tooth Cream

Image courtesy Johnson & Johnson archives

When you’re a company that has been around for 130 years, you have archives teeming with rich historical materials just waiting to be unearthed.

That’s why, each month, we’re tapping our resident historian, Margaret Gurowitz Margaret GurowitzChief Historian, Johnson & Johnson, to comb through our museum records for fascinating finds from our past.

To kick off the series this October, she’s giving us the skinny on two spooky ads—one for tooth cream and the other for an iconic bandage product—just in time for Halloween.

The Find: Zonweiss Tooth Cream

According to Gurowitz, this 1887 advertisement for Johnson & Johnson’s first consumer product—Zonweiss Tooth Cream—was likely inspired by a broom-toting character from a popular children’s nursery rhyme of the era, “There Was an Old Woman Went Up in a Basket.” But in place of a broomstick, this woman flies the night sky with an old-style toothbrush and a canister of tooth cream.

Zonweiss was an innovative offering when it debuted in 1886: It was a tooth-cleaning product that could be used by multiple family members without cross-contamination. The Zonweiss pot came packaged with a small spoon that each person could use to spread the cream onto a toothbrush.

“Until that point, everyone would dip their toothbrushes into the same jar, which was really unhygienic and an easy way to spread germs," Gurowitz explains.

The Find: Waterproof BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandages

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Image courtesy Johnson & Johnson archives

It looks like a Halloween nightmare waiting to happen: One slip of that big butcher knife and the picture-perfect mom carving a jack-o-lantern in this ad will be reaching for a box of BAND-AID® Brand Adhesive Bandages.

Gurowitz explains that when Johnson & Johnson first launched the BAND-AID® brand in 1921, advertising focused on how the product worked. But by the 1930s, when the ad at right appeared, messaging pivoted to focus more on creating a need for the bandages, such as having them on hand for your kids to help protect cuts and scrapes.

Here’s hoping that the moms who saw this ad spent Halloween dealing with more “boos” than “boo-boos.”


Look for another installment of “J&J Museum Find of the Month” in November, when we’ll spotlight a special publication produced by Johnson & Johnson to mark the end of World War I.

When You’ve Been Around for Over 130 Years …
Johnson & Johnson has a new virtual museum where you can learn more fun facts about its rich history.
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