Who We Are
History & Heritage
In 1858, 21-year-old Henry Ward Johns “set up shop” in the basement of his New York City tenement building. Using his wife’s new clothes wringer and a household tea kettle, he applied hot tar to cloth and created the company’s first roofing shingles. By 1868, he had moved operations out of the basement and was on his way to success with the award of his first patent for an asbestos product – the foundation for Johns Manville’s business for the next 100 years.
In 1886, Charles B. Manville and his three sons founded a pipe insulation company in Milwaukee called the Manville Covering Company. Manville soon became a selling agent for products made by Johns’ company. Fifteen years later, the two organizations merged and became the Johns-Manville Corporation (JM). Under the Manville family’s leadership, the company's product line expanded to include sheet packaging for cylinders, brake linings, asbestos cement and acoustical products. Sales grew to $45 million and profits were in excess of $3.3 million before JM went public on the New York Stock Exchange in 1927.
In the decades that followed, the company continued to challenge itself with a focus on innovation and a refusal to be satisfied with the status quo. JM survived and even thrived through difficult times including the American Civil War, two world wars, the great depression and most significantly, the advent and demise of the “miracle mineral” – asbestos. The lessons learned from the asbestos odyssey helped foster the commitment to health and safety that we continue to live by today.
In 2001, JM became a wholly owned subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., which gave us a strong financial foundation and renewed our commitment to providing innovative solutions for our customers’ needs. In 2018, as we celebrate our 160th anniversary, we are focused on developing new products to reduce energy costs, improve indoor air quality, conserve energy and provide comfort. At our state-of-the-art research and development facility in Littleton, Colorado, our engineers and building scientists are leading the way – continually building on our leadership position in the sustainable building products industry. We are confident our most significant accomplishments are yet to come.
Explore our rich history and get a glimpse at our first 160 years.