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Why Johnson & Johnson once had an entire team of glassblowers

The company debuted its iconic catgut sutures in June of 1887, cementing its reputation as a healthcare innovator—and these unexpected artisans played a pivotal role.

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With more than 130 years of history on the books, Johnson & Johnson has employed all kinds of specialists who’ve helped build the business into what it is today—one of the largest healthcare companies in the world, with 130,000+ employees.

Given this rich history, we’re kicking off a new series, “J&J Job Blast From the Past,” in which we’ll spotlight unique gigs from back in the day.

For our first installment, we’re revisiting a curious but crucial job description from the turn of the 20th century: glassblower.

You may be asking yourself: Why would a healthcare company need to hire a craftsperson who specialized in molten glass?

Since we don’t have an actual help wanted ad for a Johnson & Johnson glassblower from 118 years ago, we decided to get creative and envision what one might have looked like based on intel unearthed in our company archives ...

What a glassblower job ad from 1900 might have looked like

Job Title: Glassblower

Company: Johnson & Johnson, New Brunswick, New Jersey

Founded in 1886, Johnson & Johnson is currently the largest producer of sterile surgical dressings and sutures in the world. Under the scientific direction of Fred Kilmer, an experienced pharmaceutical chemist and proponent of sterile surgery, the company is on a mission to advance the science and technology of antiseptic medical practices—a new approach to medicine that’s gaining traction with today’s doctors.

Inset- Jobs Blast from Past Glassblowers- Glass suture

Image courtesy of Johnson & Johnson Archives

Job Responsibilities: As one of nine glassblowers on staff at Johnson & Johnson, you will be responsible for creating small glass tubes (shown above) meant to house the company’s sterile sutures, including its popular absorbable catgut ligatures, of which the company produces 10 million feet per year.

Our sutures are put through a thorough, weeklong disinfection process, and the glass tubes are essential to keeping them sterile.

Beyond an ability to craft vials quickly and competently, you should also be conscientious and thorough. As a member of the Aseptic Department, these characteristics are essential to ensuring that our products adhere to an incredibly high standard of quality. As a glassblower at Johnson & Johnson, you will be helping our company create products that can save lives.

Editor’s note: Johnson & Johnson distributed its catgut sutures in glass tubes for more than 50 years, until lighter-weight packaging was introduced in the 1960s.

When you’ve been innovating for over 135 years …

Johnson & Johnson has a virtual museum where you can learn more fun facts about its rich history.

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