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From humble beginnings in Plainview, Minn., to a multi-national company, one thing has always stayed thesame: Our commitment to making hard-working productsfrom high-quality natural ingredients.
Wash and iron; cook and clean; repeat. Such was life for many women in 1868. But times were changing. Elizabeth Blackwell opened the first Women’s Medical College. Louisa May Alcott captured the period’s ideals and values in Little Women. And, hard-working wives and mothers with tired, aching muscles found relief in a new, all-natural liniment manufactured and sold by Joseph Ray Watkins.
Working out of his Plainview, Minn., home, J.R. Watkins made the one-of-a-kind pain reliever with camphor from evergreen trees and capsicum from red peppers. Still sold today, the Pain Relieving Liniment is now 96.5% natural and uses eco-friendly packaging.
From the beginning, J.R. Watkins has been committed to providing high-quality products and excellent customer service. Watkins first introduced the “Trial-Mark Bottle” and America’s first money-back guarantee in 1869. Relying on door-to-door sales, Watkins gave customers a risk-free way to try his products by adding a molded “trial mark” to each bottle. Customers who used the natural products and stayed above the mark could get a full refund.
Alexander Graham Bell makes his first telephone call.
Winona, Minn., was a thriving logging town, a transportation hub for southeastern Minnesota and the state’s 4th largest city. J.R. Watkins selected the bustling town as the second home for Watkins Incorporated. By 1894, Watkins had renamed his business as The J.R. Watkins Medical Company.
The Lumière Brothers make the first motion picture.
The Lumière Brothers made their first motion picture, media moguls spiced up the newspaper with cartoon comicstrips and Watkins spiced up its product offerings. The expanded line up included Vanilla Extract, Cinnamon, BlackPepper, Ginger, Cloves, Peppermint Extract, and Lemon Extract.
Watkins put knowledge and know-how behind its products with the debut of the “Watkins Almanac, Home Doctor and Cook Book.” Customers referenced the Almanac for tips on feeling better and eating well. And, with the introduction of the company’s first personal care product, Watkins Face Cream, Watkins helped women look good, too. Today, the first facial care product has been reformulated into Divine Day Cream and Nourishing Night Cream.
The first Model T Ford rolls off the line.
One short year after J.R. Watkins’ death, the company celebrated completion of its Winona, Minn., administration building. Watkins had commissioned the famous architect George W. Maher to design the monumental building, which is accented with a 70-foot high rotunda dome coated in 24-carat gold leaf, a blue Bedford stone façade, 224 stained-glass skylights and three, custom-made Tiffany stained glass windows.
Considered architecturally and historically significant, the building is part of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts’ multi-media prairie school collection and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Between 1889 and 1914, Watkins constructed six manufacturing building behind the Winona Administration Building. In 1914, a prominent ten-story building, designed by George Washington Maher to complement the look of the Administration Building, was completed. 250,000 visitors toured the Watkins manufacturing plant between 1937 and 1939. As many as 5,000 people a day would take the tour at its 150 Liberty Street location.
Watkins introduced its Pure Vegetable Oil Soap with no animal by-products, fillers or colors, and children everywhere began to fear that parents would actually wash their mouths out with soap.
Prohibition is instituted as the 18th Amendment.
Watkins advanced natural nutrition with its herb tablets (a.k.a. vitamins). The ultramodern notion of dietary enhancements was ahead of its time, and has endured for decades. Today, these cutting-edge dietary supplements include a Superfood Multiple as well as custom formulations to support Eyes and Skin, Hair & Nails.
The New Yorker magazine publishes first issue.
Ah, Paris—home of the International Exposition. Where Art Deco emerges as the predominant style and the recently renamed J.R.Watkins Company wins gold medals for its Vanilla Extract, Cinnamon and Black Pepper—medals you can still see on our packaging today.
J.R. Watkins displayed its progressive products at the ChicagoWorld’s Fair: A Century of Progress International Exposition.
Men joined the armed forces, women entered the workforce and Watkins devoted 90% of its production capacity to support the Allied war effort. To fill government contracts, Watkins produced dried eggs, powdered juice packets, vitamin tablets, hospital germicide and DDT and insecticide powder.
I Love Lucy is broadcast for the first time on CBS.
The unstoppable Bill Porter began his career as a Watkins Man, walkingdoor-to-door in his Portland, Ore., sales territory despite cripplingcerebral palsy. His indomitable spirit and steadfast perseverancepropelled him through a 50-plus year career with Watkins, inspiredothers along the way. He has been featured in countless news stories andwas the subject of a 2002 Emmy award-winning television movie, “Doorto Door” on TNT.
Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss is published by Random House.
Amidst Space Age promises and Baby Boomer optimism,the company displayed its goods at the 1964–1965 NewYork World’s Fair. Now called Watkins Products Inc., thecompany was also gaining more visibility with televisionadvertising, including live segments on NBC’s “Today”show hosted by Dave Garroway.
The Beatles' Abbey Road is released on Apple Records.
In 1970, not every woman was born to bake, so Watkins began selling its All-Natural Pure Extracts in 2 oz. glass cruet bottles. Watkins unsuccessfully adapted to women’s emerging needs and changing shopping habits, which caused a sales slump until 1978 when the Jacobs family took ownership of the company from bankruptcy, and changed the name to Watkins, Incorporated. By 1990, Jacobs had helped Watkins quadruple in size.
Saturday Night Fever starring John Travolta hits the big screen.
After 88 years in operation, The Watkins Print Shop closes, ceasing all printing operations. Its most famous publication was the 1948 “Watkins Almanac, Home Doctor and Cook Book.” The print shop space becomes the Watkins Museum & Store in 1993, a popular Winona, Minn. tour stop.
American Idol debuts on Fox.
The journal Nature reports that 350,000-year-old footprintsof an upright-walking human were found in Italy, modernmen and women march to war or in protest of war in Iraq, andJ.R. Watkins celebrates 135 years since the original WatkinsMan roamed from door-to-door throughout Minnesota.
The J.R. Watkins Medical Company complex in Winona, Minn., was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Visitors continue to tour the Museum & Store, located at 150 Liberty Street in Winona, Mondays through Fridays from 10:00 AM -4:00 PM, and Saturdays from 10:00 AM – 2:00 PM.
Wii Game Console released by Nintendo.
A pure classic returned to the Watkins line up. The 1869 Trial-Mark Bottlewas reintroduced in 2006 along with a fresh commitment to the WatkinsWay of providing high-quality products and excellent customer service.Also, in 2006: Watkins increases its commitment to naturals byreformulating its home care line to a higher natural standard.
Cy Young Award-winner and former Minnesota Twin pitcher JohanSantana endorsed Watkins Liniment after his Minnesota Twins trainer recommended it to him. “Nothing gave me the necessary relief and comfort for my sore and tight muscles until I tried J.R. WatkinsApothecary Liniment,” said Santana. Much like the original product soldin 1868, Natural Pain Relieving Liniment uses camphor and capsicum to stimulate nerve receptors. Since then, Watkins has eliminated all tracesof artificial red coloring, resulting in a product that is 96.5% natural.
J.R. Watkins offers a new way to refresh your home with its Natural Home Care line, introduced in August of 2007. The non-toxic, plant-based formulas are biodegradable and phosphate free. And, the launch of the J.R. Watkins Natural Apothecary line brings back tried-and-true, over-the-counter remedies, many of which are NPA-certified. Customers who already love J.R. Watkins Vanilla, Pepper and Cinnamon rejoice when the line is expanded to include more than 20 spices and seasoning blends. And in 2008, we continue to increase our standards of natural.
Avatar is the highest-grossing film of the year.
When the “J. R. Watkins Naturals” store opened, one blogger said, “This is what I want my master bathroom to look and feel like. It’s beautifully designed, smells heavenly and everything is perfectly placed.”
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