From the Invention of Vee-Wire to Operations Around the World

Our Story

In 1904, Edward E. Johnson founded Johnson Screens after developing the world’s first continuous slot, wire-wrapped screen to be used in a water well.

The first continuous slot well screen made with Vee-Wire was used for an irrigation well in St. Paul, Minnesota. This well screen, installed in 1932 and removed from the well in 1961, was nearly in perfect condition after 30 years, testifying to the durability of a Johnson Screen.

From The Johnson National Driller’s Journal

A Snap Shot in Time

Edward Johnson was at the train station on a cold February morning when he received word that a well screen he had been waiting for wouldn’t be arriving on the next train. He had ordered the screen more than a month ago and now his crew was going to be held up longer. Johnson’s impatience was obvious when the railroad station master suggested he make the same screen himself.

Johnson’s rely was “Nope! If I ever make one it will be something different and better. Any fool can copy somebody else’s idea. The thing that makes me mad is when I see how much blank space I get. You don’t get any water out of a blank tubing. I’ve got some ideas, and one of these days I’m going to come up with a well screen that will have a lot more open space for the water to come through.”

This conversation prompted Johnson to begin thinking about how to build a better well screen.

During the train ride home that very day, Johnson started drawing and making calculations on how to make a better well screen. In March of 1904, Johnson had completed his first well screen and forever changed the water well industry.

After finding a company that could provide the material necessary for a brass strip screen. Johnson made modifications to his machine and was able to make the first Johnson well screen.

Johnson envisioned the continuous slot well screen in the early 1900’s but had to wait until the 1930’s for technology to catch up with him.

He reasoned that the continuous slot screen would provide more open area per square foot of screen, allowing more water into the well.

“In a nutshell, that is the story of the birth of the Johnson Well Screen. Behind it lay years of thought and experience and beyond it were years of struggle, study and improvement.” (The Johnson National Driller’s Journal)

In the End it was Vee-Wire and a Lot of Sweat

After the railroad contract, Mr. Johnson offered the brass screen for sale to the public. The sales of this brass strip screen invented in 1904 gradually increased. However, the volume was not enough to keep the factory busy.

One hundred years ago, hand pumps and windmills were common, so Johnson manufactured and sold metal pump rod connectors by the box (they sold for only three cents each).

They also did custom machining for other shops in the St. Paul Midway area.

Edward Johnson’s son, Donald Johnson, took over sales and office administration to enable Edward to spend more time improving existing products and inventing new ones. In 1929, W. M. Bollenbach joined the company and Johnson started its run patents.

The widespread use of electric welding and its rapid development in the late 1920’s led Edward Johnson to complete his dream of a continuous slot welded screen using the Vee-Wire concept. At first, research and experiments to weld Vee-Wire to rods were unsuccessful because no supplier could provide an electrical control switch that would turn on and off.

Finally, a method was found to resistance weld (spot weld) the wire and rod without a switch. In July of 1930, a patent was applied for this method of manufacturing screens. Later, a patent was obtained for the Electric-Master-Weld machine to make the screens.

These were the greatest advancements in the field of well screens since 1904, and it was announced in the Johnson National Driller’s Journal in January 1932. The rest is history.

“As the company grew and prospered, it maintained the basic principles that were laid down by Mr. Johnson in 1904. These principles have guided Johnson Screens, Inc. during its first hundred years. They stern from the character and integrity of Edward E. Johnson.” (W. M. Bollenbach, 1954)

Today, we strive to continue that policy of giving our customers the best products no matter what the application.

Know the important moments of our history

Johnson Screens’ history is made of important milestones that defined our global presence

Learn more about them here!

As the company grew and prospered, it maintained the basic principles that were laid down by Mr. Johnson in 1904. These principles have guided Johnson Screens, Inc. during its first hundred years. They stem from the character and integrity of Edward E. Johnson.

—W. M. Bollenbach, 1954