J. R. Watkins Company, Winona, Minnesota

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

"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.