Five Generations of Johnsons

Samuel Curtis Johnson

Samuel Curtis JohnsonSamuel Curtis Johnson didn’t find success quickly or easily. But when he finally stirred it up – in a bathtub in Racine, Wisconsin – it was success that stuck. More than 120 years later, his perseverance and commitment remain the foundation for SC Johnson.

Samuel’s Story
Samuel Curtis Johnson set out to earn a living with the railroads. He took a job helping develop a new railway, so confident in its potential that he invested half his salary. And the business went bankrupt, taking his savings with it.

Soon after, Samuel became a partner in a book and stationery store. Within a few years he had built up the capital to buy out his partner. But despite Samuel’s reputation for honesty and integrity, this business, too, failed.
Orignal company workers
Starting Over at Age 49
In 1882, nearly 50 years old, Samuel moved to Racine, Wisconsin with his family, and started over again.  This time he became a parquet flooring salesman for the Racine Hardware Company. It won’t surprise you to hear that after only four years, he bought out the business.

But this time, Samuel’s investment succeeded beyond measure. His company grew into our company, and it bears his name today.

With just four employees, Samuel worked diligently as salesman, bookkeeper and business manager. Five days a week, he toured the countryside selling flooring to contractors for fine homes, churches, hotels and public buildings. The first year, his company showed a net profit of $268.27.

Bounty from the Bathtub
Sales multiplied – and so did letters from customers who wanted help caring for their new floors. So Samuel did what any entrepreneur would do: He rolled up his sleeves and started mixing up batches of floor wax in his bathtub.Johnson's Prepared Wax for Floors

Soon, every Johnson parquet floor came with a can of Johnson’s Prepared Paste Wax. Even people without Johnson floors were knocking on his door, hoping to buy the product.

And by 1898, sales of Johnson floor wax, finishes and wood fillers exceeded those of flooring.

At Last, a Family Company
Samuel’s tenacity and unconventional ideas were finally paying dividends. By the time he died in 1919, “Johnson’s Wax” had become a household name in the United States and beyond.

And speaking of households....his son, Herbert F. Johnson, had joined the company as well. What began in a bathtub had become a thriving family business.

But it was always about family in the larger sense, too. Throughout his life, Samuel donated 10% of his income to his community – particularly programs that supported young people. Among the many family memories of him, this commitment to community, along with his perseverance, are the most enduring.
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