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Celebrating all things paper: The wonder and the legacy, continued
Ladies and gentlemen, Kimberly-Clark has more than 43,000 employees working at manufacturing facilities in 37 countries. The company boasts that nearly a quarter of the world's population purchases its products every day, adding that it had US $18.6 billion in sales a year ago.

The business was founded in March of 1872 - more than 144 years ago - by John A. Kimberly, Havilah Babcock, Charles B. Clark and Franklyn C. Shattuck in Neenah, Wisconsin, with $42,000 of capital. Each proprietor kicked in $7,500 to found Kimberly, Clark and Company and built the first newsprint mill in Wisconsin.

As we continue our series of papermakers who have been enshrined in the Paper Industry International Hall of Fame in Appleton, Wisconsin, let's profile Mr. John Kimberly, one of the founders who was born nearly 178 years ago.

Mr. Kimberly was born in Troy, New York, on July 18, 1838 and moved with his family to Neenah, Wisconsin, when he was just 9 years old. Before moving west, he had obtained the rudiments of an education in the schools of Troy, and his education was completed in the pioneer schools of Neenah and at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin.

Always ambitious to begin a business, he quit school to turn his attention to commercial pursuits. He was identified with the dry goods trade until 1870, and for several years prior to that, he had interests in the flour and lumber trades.

In 1872, Mr. Kimberly and Havilah Babcock, who were partners in a general store, formed a partnership with C.B. Clark, a junior partner in a hardware store, and Franklyn C. Shattuck, a traveling salesman. As we mentioned earlier, each man contributed $7,500 to capitalize Kimberly, Clark and Company and built the Globe Mill, the first newsprint mill in the state. In the first 25 years of its existence, the company expanded from one mill with a two ton-per-day capacity to 14 mills and a daily capacity of 150 tons.

During World War I, the company's absorbent Cellucotton (made with the cellulose from wood pulp fibers, which is more absorbent) was used extensively overseas and in American hospitals by the Red Cross and the U.S. Army as a substitute for cotton. The company found greatly expanded usage for the product after the war. Its best known products are Kotex, Kleenex and Huggies.

Mr. Kimberly was still president of the company in 1928 when he died in his 90th year. He had long outlived his partners. An obituary described him as "a man of national reputation as a businessman; keen in his commercial perceptions, broad in his grasp of the problems of humanity -- perhaps these were among the prominent traits in the fine and strong character of J.A. Kimberly, who after a long and useful life passed to his reward last Saturday morning (Jan. 21, 1928)."

Another tribute, written in The American Way, said of Mr. Kimberly, "He is an example of the free enterprise system at work. In his lifetime the fruits of his labors made him a man of wealth, but he did not lose touch with his fellowmen with whom he lived and worked."

Mr. Kimberly and his wife, Helen Cheney Kimberly, had seven children. A son, James Cheney Kimberly, served as an executive officer of Kimberly-Clark Corporation for many years.

The town of Kimberly, Wisconsin, which is just east of Appleton, is named after Mr. Clark. It had been known as The Cedars until 1889 when it was renamed after Mr. Clark.

And today, with brands like Kleenex, Scott, Huggies, Pull-Ups, Kotex, Poise and Depend, Kimberly-Clark holds the No. 1 or No. 2 brand share in 80 countries.

Steve Roush is Vice President, Publisher and Editor and in charge of the International Desk at Paperitalo Publications. He can be reached by email at steve.roush@taii.com. Many thanks go to the Paper Industry International Hall of Fame, Inc., for biographical information on Hall of Fame inductees.

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