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Twentieth-Century Business Archives

Kimberly-Clark Corporation - Lehman Brothers Collection

Kimberly-Clark Corporation

List of Deals

Kimberly, Clark & Company was founded in Neenah, Wisconsin, in 1872 as a partnership of four men—John A. Kimberly, Charles B. Clark, Frank C. Shattuck, and Havilah Babcock. The company's first product was newsprint made from linen and cotton rags. It opened the first paper mill in Wisconsin at its inception, and within six years the company expanded by acquiring a majority interest in the nearby Atlas paper mill, which converted ground pulpwood into manila wrapping paper. The company was incorporated in 1880 as Kimberly & Clark Company. In 1889 the company constructed a pulp and papermaking complex on the Fox River.

Among the company's early innovations was the paper used for rotogravure, a procedure for printing photographs with a rotary press. In 1914 researchers working with bagasse, a pulp by-product of processed sugar cane, produced creped cellulose wadding, or tissue. During World War I this product, called cellucotton, was used to treat wounds in place of scarce surgical cottons. At that time field nurses also discovered that cellucotton worked well as a disposable feminine napkin. The company later recognized the commercial potential of this application and in 1920 introduced its Kotex feminine napkin.

In 1924 the company introduced another disposable tissue product, Kleenex, to replace the face towels then used for removing cold cream. Consumers preferred to use Kleenex as a disposable handkerchief, which prompted the company to alter its marketing strategy. Nationwide advertisements promoting Kleenex for its current used began in 1930, and sales doubled within a year. The company created a separate sales company, International Cellucotton Products, to manufacture Kotex and Kleenex.

During the 1920s Kimberly & Clark built a Canadian pulp mill and power plant called Spruce Falls Power and Paper Company. In 1925 the company formed what would become Canadian Cellucotton Products Limited, for marketing cellucotton products internationally. The next year the company, in partnership with the New York Times, added a newsprint mill to the Spruce Falls complex and expanded its pulping capacity.

The company was reorganized and reincorporated in 1928 as Kimberly-Clark Corporation. That year, the company offered shares for the first time on the New York and Chicago stock exchanges.

During World War II the company devoted many of its resources to the war effort. Kimberly-Clark also contracted Margaret Buell, creator of the cartoon strip "Little Lulu," to promote Kleenex. Buell and Little Lulu continued to promote Kleenex into the 1960s. After the war, the company initiated a growth program to handle revived consumer product demand. Facilities were built or acquired in Balfour, North Carolina, and Memphis, Tennessee, in 1946.

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