February 9, 2007


And the men behind the brand are...
John Kimberly and Charles Clark

In 1872 four young men between the ages of 28 and 35 invested $7500 each to manufacture paper in Neenah, Wisconsin. They were 300 miles west of the nearest important paper mill and they figured they could become the primary supplier to the growing western newspaper market. They selected Neenah for its location next to the fast-flowing Fox River and set out to make quality printing paper.

From the beginning expansion was always a priority. All earnings were ploughed back into the business. In 1874 the partners bought out the only local mill. John A. Kimberly and Charles B. Clark handled the management of the operation and Frank C. Shattuck and Havilah Babcock supervised merchandising and milling. The business prospered.

At the time linen rags, straw, and jute were the chief sources of supply for paper mills. In the 1880s wood pulp supplanted the traditional sources and the company moved into the tree business. New technologies generated specialty papers as paper-making became a chemical process.

In 1906 John Kimberly was the only remaining partner and he incorporated the Kimberly-Clarke Corporation. With cotton in short supply company technicians developed Cellucotton - a fluffy, absorbent material used in surgical hospitals in World War I. After the war Kimberly sought a way to reduce his burgeoning inventories for Cellucotton.

First came Kotex, a new feminine napkin. In 1921 Kimberly-Clarke introduced Kleenex Cleansing Tissues as a substitute for the unsightly cold cream towel.
A glamourous magazine campaign showing Hollywood and Broadway stars removing make-up with the new paper tissue kick-started sales. But unexpectedly consumers wrote the company praising the tissue as a disposable handkerchief.

At his death in 1928, at the age of 90 and still the president, John Kimberly and his management were still undecided how to best promote their popular product. He would not live to see the Kleenex pass from a Kimberly-Clarke product into common use and the dictionary.

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