On this day in economic and business history...

Johnson & Johnson (JNJ 1.49%) went public on Sept. 25, 1944. It was already a well-diversified medical products company by that time, with 31 operating segments (17 international), most of which were engaged in wartime production. Servicemen with scrapes and cuts could make use of Band-Aids. Leaky tents and unsecured materiel could be sealed with duct tape -- which Johnson & Johnson invented in 1942 to seal ammo cases. The company's burgeoning business brought it to market with a first-day share price of $34.75, a bit lower 1 million shares outstanding, was $34.8 million.

Johnson & Johnson closed out its first year as a public company with $3.1 million in net income on revenue of approximately $93 million. Its next major move came nearly 15 years later, when the company acquired McNeil Laboratories and its future blockbuster Tylenol. By this point (the 1958 fiscal year ended days before the McNeil acquisition), Johnson & Johnson had grown into annual sales of $260.3 million, with net income of $12.6 million. A first-day shareholder from 1944 would have enjoyed total returns of more than 800% by this time, thanks to several stock-based dividends and one split that took place just before the McNeil buy.

Six decades after its IPO, Johnson & Johnson had become a $170 billion company with $47.4 billion in revenue and $8.2 billion in net income -- these figures represent annualized growth of 11% on the top line and 14% on the bottom line. A first-day shareholder who had held on that long had seen a single share grow into a hoard of 2,500 shares, not counting any reinvested ordinary dividends, worth $141,400. That works out to an annualized growth rate of 14.9% for 60 years.

Another day, another implosion
JPMorgan Chase (JPM 2.51%) acquired the assets of failed bank Washington Mutual on Sept. 25, 2008, adding another extraordinary twist to the ongoing saga of the mortgage-driven financial crisis. WaMu had gone under with $307 billion in assets and $188 billion in deposits, making it the second-largest bankruptcy in history -- in any other year, it would have claimed the top spot over WorldCom's $107 billion failure, but Lehman Brothers's collapse had erased nearly $700 billion in value less than two weeks earlier. As CNNMoney reporters David Ellis and Jeanne Sahadi wrote:

To put the size of WaMu in context, its assets are equal to about two-thirds of the combined book value assets of all 747 failed thrifts that were sold off by the Resolution Trust Corp. -- the former government body that handled the S&L crisis from 1989 through 1995.

In exchange for scooping up WaMu, JPMorgan Chase will pay approximately $1.9 billion to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

Separately, JPMorgan announced Thursday that it plans to raise $8 billion in additional capital through the sale of stock as part of the deal. The bank expanded the offering to $10 billion on Friday.

The acquisition is JPMorgan Chase's second major purchase this year following the mid-March acquisition of investment bank Bear Stearns, a deal that was also engineered by the government.

"We think it is a great thing for our company," JPMorgan Chase Chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon said in a conference call with investors late Thursday night.

As a result of the acquisition, the New York City-based JPMorgan Chase will now boast some 5,400 branches in 23 states.

WaMu had fallen victim to the same housing weakness that was wrecking many of its peers. The bank's shares, trading at $0.16 apiece, were in worse penny-stock shape than even Fannie's and Freddie's, shortly after depositors withdrew 10% of WaMu's total deposits in a single day. JPMorgan publicly acknowledged the toxicity of WaMu's mortgage-loan portfolio and made known its intent to mark down an incredible $31 billion of its new acquisition's loans.

The market response to this move was unexpectedly positive -- the Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI 0.56%) closed at 11,022.06 points, a gain of 1.8% on the day and a higher level than that reached on the day of Lehman's bankruptcy. Of course, that was far from the end of the crisis, which brought the Dow 41% lower than its Sept. 25 level before the stock market slide was over. The Dow's average daily change from WaMu's failure to the bear market bottom was 2.5%, a level of volatility surpassing even that of the early Great Depression, which experienced a stomach-churning 2% daily change from 1929 to 1932.

Generations of innovation
The Galvin brothers, Paul and Joseph, founded Galvin Manufacturing in Chicago on Sept. 25, 1928. You might not know this company, but you're probably familiar with its most popular early product. Two decades after its creation, Galvin Manufacturing changed its name to Motorola (MSI 0.06%), after its flagship line of radio products.

Long before the adoption of its present name, Motorola displayed the innovative streak and the passion for communication technology that would drive its corporate existence. The company's very first product was a "battery eliminator" that allowed battery-powered radios to connect directly to household electrical outlets. In 1930, Motorola launched one of the first successful car radios under the Motorola name, which was chosen to signify sound (-ola) in motion (motor-). Police departments across the country soon flocked to Motorola's car radios, and for much of the 1930s the men in blue would be among the company's best customers. Motorola continued to develop portable radio technology well into the 1960s -- Motorola radios were used on both the battlefields of World War II and on the surface of the Moon.

The mobile-phone Motorola most consumers are now familiar with -- which has been a subsidiary of Google since 2012 -- got started in 1973, when Motorola researcher Martin Cooper made the first cellphone call in history. A decade later, Motorola maintained its mobile technological lead when it released the DynaTAC, the first cellphone ever sold and the end result of a 15-year, $100-million research effort. Motorola mastered the art of mobile miniaturization at the end of the 1980s when it launched the world's first "flip" phone, the MicroTAC.

Motorola separated its mobile segment and its enterprise-focused communications segment (the one with the radios) in 2011. Motorola Solutions generated $6 billion in sales from government sources and $2.7 billion in sales from enterprise clients in its first full year as a separate company. Motorola Mobility, the Google subsidiary, sold 34 million mobile phones around the world.

Laboring forward
Ford (F 0.66%) shifted all of its front-line employees to a five-day workweek on Sept. 25, 1926. This was the second major labor-force liberalization at the world's largest automaker in 12 years -- a minimum guaranteed daily pay of $5, promised in 1914, had sent shock waves throughout the manufacturing industry. Ford later raised the daily pay to $6 in 1919, and implemented a bonus plan worth $10 million that same year.

The five-day workweek was not greeted with the same amazement as the $5 workday, because, as The New York Times wrote, "Henry Ford announced more than ten years ago he believed the five-day week practicable and has been experimenting along that line since." The Times offered more detail:

Such workmen as seem to deserve, it was indicated, will receive as much for the five-day week as they had been getting for six days. But this will depend solely on merit, it was asserted. ...

Another feature of the policy adopted by the organization is that eight hours will constitute a day's work and that there will be no extra labor, classified as overtime. ...

For the past four years Ford employees have been working on an average of but five days per week and being paid accordingly. Two days the 100,000 or more employees have been idle without pay, while plans for a 40-hour week were being worked out. It was something that could not be decided in an overnight conference.

Experience during the past few years showed that the plan now adopted can be successful financially both to the employer and the employees.

Ford's pioneering labor decision reverberated across the country, and within a few years many blue- and white-collar workers had been placed on a Monday-to-Friday weekly schedule. If you happen to enjoy two days off per week -- no matter which two days they happen to be -- you might want to thank Henry Ford, who understood the importance of a well-paid and well-rested workforce better and earlier than most of his big business peers.