• Women and men standing in front of Watkins Company Administration Building in Winona, Minnesota. Courtesy of the Winona County Historical Society via Minnesota Digital Library.

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    Women and men standing in front of Watkins Company Administration Building, Winona, Minnesota
    • Description
    • Exterior view of the Watkins Administration Building. A group of women and men stand in front of the building. This building was designed by George W. Maher.
    • Rights
    • Rights unknown.
    • Partner
    • Minnesota Digital Library
    • Contributing Institution
    • Winona County Historical Society

  • A Watkins' Lax-Tone advertisement from "Watkin's Almanac Weather Forecasts, Home Doctor and Cookbook." Courtesy of the Winona County Historical Society via Minnesota Digital Library.  

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    Watkins' Almanac Weather Forecasts, Home Doctor and Cookbook, The J.R. Watkins Medical Company, Winona, Minnesota
    • Description
    • Almanac produced by the J.R. Watkins Company of Winona, with information on patent medicines, weather, etc.
    • Rights
    • No known U.S. copyright restrictions.
    • Partner
    • Minnesota Digital Library
    • Contributing Institution
    • Winona County Historical Society

  • Myrtle Huntley in a Watkins Company advertisement. Courtesy of Winona County Historical Society via Minnesota Digital Library.

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    Myrtle Huntley in a Watkins Company advertisement, Winona, Minnesota
    • Creator
    • Huntley, Ben A
    • Description
    • Hand tinted photograph of Myrtle Huntley. Dressed in a black lace slip, hair down and holding a mirror and powder puff. Cloth wrapped around her chair. Taken for a Watkins ad.
    • Rights
    • This image may not be reproduced for any reason without the express written consent of the Winona County Historical Society.
    • Partner
    • Minnesota Digital Library
    • Contributing Institution
    • Winona County Historical Society

  • “Interior view of Watkins Company Administration Building, Winona, Minnesota.” Courtesy of the Winona County Historical Society via Minnesota Digital Library.

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    Interior view of Watkins Company Administration Building, Winona, Minnesota
    • Description
    • Interior view of the work stations of the company, includings desks, lamps and a water cooler. This building was designed by George W. Maher.
    • Rights
    • Rights unknown.
    • Partner
    • Minnesota Digital Library
    • Contributing Institution
    • Winona County Historical Society

"When you deal with a Watkins' agent, you patronize a reliable man."

—J. R. Watkins Company slogan, 1904

The J. R. Watkins Company was founded by J. R. Watkins in 1868 in Plainview, Minnesota. Watkins concocted products which he began selling door-to-door. The company moved to Winona, Minnesota in 1885. In the late 1800s Winona was a thriving lumber town, conveniently located on the Mississippi River. By the early twentieth century, the Watkins Company was one of the largest direct-sales companies in the United States.

The Watkins product line began in 1868 with the original J. R. Watkins Liniment made with camphor from pine trees and capsicum from red peppers. It is still sold today for the relief of minor muscle aches, soreness, and stiffness. Eventually the product line expanded to include baking ingredients and spices, as well as bath soaks, cough rubs, menthol drops, vitamin supplements, and cleaning supplies.