|Article in Textile Colorist "5Oth Anniversary" Edition 1879 - 1928, Published 1928
HALF CENTURY of
THE UNITED STATES DYE INDUSTRY
By August Merz
The Heller & Merz Company
All honor to the pioneers who blaze the trail. With abiding faith in their ability and with the courage of their convictions, they brave the unknown. Success brings
honor, glory and fortune. Failure brings regret and disappointment.
While the industrial pioneer may not have to bear the same physical hardships, he still has the same desire to achieve. Success is just as precious and failure
is just as heartbreaking.
Success or failure-how vastly different, and yet how narrow may be the margin by which the result is determined. A product or process successfully developed
may be made worthless by a whimsical change of fashion. A change in process in some other industry eliminating it as a source of raw material, or as a
consumer of the pioneer's finished product, these and many other factors beyond control are circumstances which may without a moment's notice turn
success into failure.
Pioneers in industry rarely write the history they make. They are too busy seeking their goal. By the time success crowns their efforts, new goals are in sight.
The old struggle is in the past-and has become a matter of too little consequence to the pioneer to justify a record. Should the efforts result in failure, no one
considers the story worthwhile, and the unfortunate pioneer more than anyone else wishes to forget the dream that failed to come true.
The record of the early struggles to develop a coal tar dye industry in the United States is very scant and hazy. It has been reported that in 1866 Henry Gould of
Boston, Mass., imported a thousand pounds of aniline dyes. He had difficulty in disposing of this amount within six months. In the next six months, he imported
dyes to the amount of $75,000.00 which were easily sold; The quantity of these importations is not definitely known. The first official record of importations of
dyes is found in 1867 when 27,000 lbs. worth $85,000.00 were entered, paying a duty of $1.00 per pound plus 35% ad valorem. By the tariff act of 1871, this duty
was reduced to 50 cents per pound plus 35% ad valorem. The tariff act of 1885 further reduced the duty, removing the 50 cents per pound specific, leaving only
35% ad valorem.
Bv this time ten factories were in operation. Comparatively soon after this cut six of the ten plants in existence suspended operations.
It is our good fortune that Bloede and Hendrick have reduced to writing their recollections of their early experiences at Parkersburg, West Virginia, and at
Albany, N.Y. Their reminiscences are extremely interesting in that they tell not only of the difficultles they encountered both with and without success, but also of
the men with whom they worked and strove. Their records were presented in papers read before the meeting of the American Chemical Society at New Haven
in April, 1923. At the same time, Prochazka told of his achievements. He gives a chronological record of things accomplished by himself and his brother John at
Newark, N.J. Charles E. Munroe and Aida M. Doyle also presented a paper in which they gave interesting historical Information and names of the early
The papers of Bloede and Hendrick read at New Haven were all too brief. But since the authors gave all they had, we should be grateful for their contributions
even though we may regret that true to the habits of pioneers they failed to fully record the history they made.
Bloede states that his records were lost in fire and in flood. Hendriok allows us to infer that the owners of the bonds mortgaging the Albany plant, were more
interested in their dollars than in the development of chemical industry.
It is to be regretted that J.F. Schoellkopf, who was so active in the industry for almost forty years, did not contribute to the reminiscences presented at New
Haven. These men could in collaboration write the complete story of the industry in the United States from its inception in the early sixties to the beginning of the
During the early days of the war when the daily question was "when and where will dyes be available" much was said in explanation of our national weakness in
the industry. Some references were made to the dates of the founding of the then existing plants. Many papers were presented at conferences and meetings,
but as interest centered more in future performance than in past history, very little of historical value is to be found in them. Norton's "Census of Dyes Imported
in the Year 1913-1914" and the Annual dye Census published by the United States Tariff Commission give some authoritative information regarding the major
facts. Statements made before congressional committees conducting tariff hearings also throw some light on the history of the industry.
We are indebted to Bloede for information regarding the first attempt to manufacture coal tar dye in this country. In the early sixties, a Dr. August Partz, a
German chemist, undertook the promotion of a company to manufacture fuchsine. A plant was built on the banks of Gowanus Creek, Brooklyn, N.Y. It was
evidently the intention to import a mixture of aniline and toluidine with arsenic acid, which was to be converted into fuchsine by heating.
It is not clear whether Partz ever actually produced fuchsine in his plant. But to him appears to belong the credit for making the first attempt even though it may
have been a false start.
A history of the British dyestuff industry states positively that Thomas Holliday began the manufacture of magenta in Brooklyn, N.Y. in the year 1864. He is also
said to have been the first to make aniline in New York.
Hendrick tells of the early attempts at Albany. It is the old story of the shoemaker forsaking his last. The other side of the street always has its attractions.
James Hendrick, Ellwood Hendrick's father, having been successful in business was attracted by the prospect of greater success in a field which promised
much but yielded nothing save bitter experience.
According to Ellwood Hendrick, Arthur Bott was the first to make magenta in this country, but since Thomas Holliday started in Brooklyn in 1864 and Bott started
in Albany in 1868 the credit for the first actual production belongs to Holliday unless Partz antedated Holliday. Of the latter fact we have no definite proof. There
is also a statement to the effect that T. and C. Holliday manufactured magenta in Albany in or before 1866, and later sold out to a company of which James
Hendriok was president.
Ellwood Hendrick states that Bott incorporated the Albany Aniline & Chemical Company at Albany in April, 1868, and began to manufacture late in 1868 or early
1869. The original plant was located in a residential section of Albany, but soon became a nuisance.
In 1870, a new site was acquired on the river bank and a plant erected there. In 1871, Bott retired, resuming his former business, the manufacture of
cardboard. Bott had become enthusiastic about the production of magenta after several visits to August Hoffmann the famous German chemist. Associated
with Bott were James Hendrick, Robert H. Pruyn, Chauncey P. Williams and Paul Cushmann. They continued the enterprise after Bott retired.
The raw material, a mixture of aniline for red and arsenic acid, was imported from Germany. Other colors were made, but the record is not definite. Friedrich
Bayer of Barmen, Germany, acquired an interest in the Albany factory. Hermann Preiss, a German was specially instructed in the process of manufacture of
magenta in the German plant of Bayer and sent to Albany to take charge of production there. Preiss was successful and with the protective tariff of 50 cents per
pound specific and 35% ad valorem, the business prospered. Hendrick adds "and without a real chemist in the organization."
It is interesting to note in a report on the Centennial Exhibition at Philadelphia in 1876 that Fried. Bayer & Co., Barmen, Germany, exhibited 160 specimens of coal
tar dye and products used in their manufacture. No mention is made of any exhibit of American made dyes. However, an award was made to the U.S. Salicylic
Acid Company, owned and operated by Wm. Zinsser & Co., for an exhibit of synthetic acid made by the Kolbe process.
In 1881 William Lesser, who was experienced in the production and sale of aniline blues for paper, joined the Albany organization. At this time, Ellwood Hendriok
returned from Europe where he had migrated to acquire a chemical education to fit him to become a dye manufacturer. He brought with him, Dr. Emil Wahl, a
German, a fine chemist, but lacking in the temperament suited to the production of alkali blue. They soon parted company.
Lesser and Preiss, feeling that their services were not properly appreciated, decided to start a company of their own. Late in 1881, the Hudson River Aniline and
Color Company was organized with Louis Waldmann, president and treasurer; William Lesser, vice President and general manager; P.A. Mann, Hermann Preiss
and E. Sehlbach, as directors. Sehlbach was American sales agent for Bayer & Company who wanted a controlling interest, but were finally satisfied to accept
$10,000.00 of the $41,000.00 capital. Thus Bayer & Co. appears to have had a hand in both companies. It is not clear just when they withdrew from the older
Albany concern, but Hendrick later states that the lack of an efficient sales organization was at least partly the cause of the ultimate failure of his company.
Hendrick continued to make the fuchsine, but engaged German chemists, Dr. Wolff and Dr. Froelioh to take charge of other processes. Froelich came from the
Germany aniline factory K. Oehler at Offenbach. An engineer, Voelck, came from the Badische plant.
A corner in the aniline oil market made it necessary to manufacture aniline at Albany. A Frenchman named Chavant designed, built and operated the plant
successfully. A young Irishman named Casey, graduate of Worcester Polytechnic Institute, was assistant in the laboratory. The Albany plant might be said to
have been a league of nations. George Weiss and Dr. Mann, another chemist from the Oehler plant, also joined the staff.
Successfully producing aniline, toluidine, dimethylaniline, fuchsine rosaniline blues, methyl violet, benzaldehyde green, nigrosine, nitric and arsenic acids, but
lacking the proper selling agency, the company piled up a stock of finished products, but not enough dollars to pay the interest on their mortgage bonds. The
duty on dyes had been reduced by the tariff revision of 1882-5 to the extent of removing the 50 cents per pound specific. By 1884 the mortgage was foreclosed
and Ellwood Hendrick stepped out. The bondholders committee, objecting to the employment of so many German technicians, Froelich, Mann and Voelck left.
Casey the Irishman remained. Reorganization was attempted, but in a few years the attempt to continue production was given up. In tariff hearings, the
company appears as a signer of a statement presented before a Congressional Committee under the
name of Albany Aniline Company. In 1893, at a similar hearing, the Albany Coal Tar Dye and Chemical Company, was represented by William J. Matheson who
represented himself as a manufacturer as well as an importer of dyes. He stated that his company was one of five in operation at that time.
About this time, Matheson discontinued the manufacture of dyes at Albany. His manufacturing activities were transferred to Brooklyn and finally abandoned
altogether. Howard S. Neiman, now editor of the TEXTILE COLORIST, was engaged in the activities at Albany. Henry N. Herman, A Harvard graduate, was also
employed there and came to Brooklyn. Later Herman joined the staff of the Heller & Merz Company at Newark.
It now becomes necessary to go back to 1873 when Bloede went to Pomeroy, Ohio, to engage in the production of bromine. Later he joined the staff of Oakes &
Rathbone, operating a small sulphuric acid plant at Parkersburg, West Virginia. Oakes withdrew in 187S and the firm became Bloede and Rathbone. New
products were added to their line. Having some contact with textile manufacturers, they became interested in the production of dyes. As the necessary raw
materials were not readily available to them, they decided to begin at the bottom. Gas house distillates had to be rectified, in order to obtain benzol and toluol.
Fractional distillations being out of their line, they consulted James Moffat who was in charge of the Standard Oil Refinery at Parkersburg. The young
enthusiasts having convinced Moffat that there were millions in it, he consented to contribute his distillery experience together with some of his hard earned
dollars to the venture of dye manufacture.
It appears that Moffat’s experience supplied brains, and the Standard Oil junk pile furnished some material for the undertaking. After obtaining benzol, the
production of nitrobenzol was the next step.
Moffat sneered at the puny operations the chemist proposed to make. An old boiler shell of 1000 gallons capacity equipped with a horizontal shaft and paddles
constituted their nitrator. The acid flow was controlled from a distance by a wire attached to the lever of the cook. A thermometer inserted through the shell of
the apparatus indicated the temperature. As a precautionary measure, the nitrator was set up in the open, in a gully some distance from the rest of the plant.
Water from a spring was sprayed against the sides of the apparatus to keep the temperature within safe limits. At intervals the operator would dash up to read
the thermometer and then baok to a safe point from which he controlled the acid flow by means of the wire fastened to the cock.
Bloede's description of the procedure is amusing. But those were pioneering days. Pioneers take great chances. Providence is said to take care of fools,
drunks and children. These pioneers were certainly childish in their faith, nevertheless they made nitrobenzol successfully. The next step was to convert it into
aniline. They sold their aniline to Schoellkopf of Buffalo. Schoellkopf, being their only customer, dictated the price. And as the price was not satisfactory to
Bloede & Rathbone, they decided to
undertake the manufacture of magenta. Their success was moderate. In the course of the few years of their existence, they produced possibly 150,000 pounds
of aniline and about 20,000 lbs. of fuchsine of various grades.
Bloede does not state when the Kanawha River rose in its wrath to prove that neither fuchsine nor plant were water resistant. The Kanawha solved their
problem by removing the plant. Adverse tariff conditions resulting from the revision of 1882-3, offered no incentive to rebuild in a better location. And so ended
Bloede & Rathbone's venture and with it the American Aniline Works of Parkersburg, West Virginia.
In 1879, J.F. Schoellkopf of Buffalo, N.Y., became interested in the production of aniline dyes. Dr. Koehler appears to have been engaged at Buffalo. The company
was organized as the Schoellkopf Aniline & Chemical Co. Very little has been published regarding its efforts. It is said that J.F. Schoellkopf, Sr., a man of ample
means was both willing and anxious to help his sons, J.F. Schoellkopf, Jr. and C.P. Hugo Schoellkopf, make a success of the venture. Their success was more
important to him than the dollars necessary to keep going.
The Schoellkopfs are said to have designed and built a plant for the production of aniline. They made a contract with a large gas works for the material from
which they expected to obtain the benzol. But just as they were ready to start, the gas works with which they contracted for the distillates changed to water
gas. As a result, the by-products which Schoellkopf had contracted to take were useless. The Schoellkopfs’ plans were ambitious and they were reasonably
successful, at least they stayed in business in spite of the drastic tariff reduction in 1882-3.
In 1880, Heller & Merz at Newark, N.J. undertook the production of methyl violet. A Dr. Bredt was their first importation. Fuchsine was to be produced shortly. But
Dr. Bredt did not last long.
Heller & Merz started on this venture with their eyes open. In the late sixties, Frederick Heller and Henry Merz had formed a partnership. Their purpose was to
engage in a manufacturing business to which they could devote their energies and in which they hoped to make their success.
Quite by chance they selected ultramarine as the object of their endeavors. Why they chose this complicated and difficult product is easily explained. They were
both possessed of keen business instincts and high aspirations. The fact, that ultramarine sold at a high price, that it was produced from cheap material and
that the entire domestic demand was supplied by importation from abroad, decided the question for them.
Little did they know of the waste in production and of the difficulties in operation of the process. After absorbing what little information was obtainable in hand
books on industrial chemistry, they started in an experimental way and produced a satisfactory product.
A plant was rented in Newark, N.J., and commercial production was undertaken. They succeeded in making a good blue, but for some time they did not succeed
in selling their product. Calico printers and paper makers were the largest consumers of ultramarine. The managers and superintendents in these industries
were either Scotch or English and their long suit was conservatism. They had always used foreign blues and could see no reason to change to a product made
By the latter part of 1870, the outlook was a very dismal one. But fortune smiled and the whole aspect changed suddenly. The Franco-Prussian War of 1870
brought the threat of a blockade of German shipping by the French Navy. The consumers of imported products had every reason to expect a shortage of German
goods. Orders for the domestic ultramarine came in from consumers and were promptly filled. The blockade never became effective, but the consumers were
stocked with American made ultramarine. After using these stocks they were convinced that their prejudice was unfounded. Furthermore, the domestic plant
made prompt deliveries which obviated the necessity of carrying the long stocks which had been necessary in order to guard against the uncertainties of ocean
Thus the new American manufacturers gained a film hold in the paper, textile and other trades using ultramarine. The industries with which they stood so well
were also interested in coal tar dyes as these gradually came into more general use. It was logical to add products demanded by the firm's customers to the
commodities already being sold. Heller & Merz imported aniline dyes from Switzerland, representing the firm of P. Monnet & Cie.
Dr. Bredt, under whom the manufacture of Methyl Violet and Fuchsine was begun, left and in 1881, Dr. George Prochazka joined the organization. Under his
direction, new products were added to the list. In 1881 eosine was successfully produced. Safrosine, erythrosine and rose bengale were added in 1885. In 1885,
Dr. Prochazka's brother John, who had studied under Noelting in Mulhouse, joined the staff. Rosaniline blues were added in 1886 and by 1889 nigrosine,
induline, chrysoidine and bismark brown. In 1890, the production of Orange II, including sulphanilic acid as an intermediate was undertaken. In this year the use
of arsenic acid in the production of magenta was abandoned, the Coupler, or nitrobenzol process being introduced. A process for the better separation of
fuchsine from its by-product phosphine had been worked out. This eliminated the production of the so called garnet mixtures which were no longer readily
salable. Later the purer phosphine became a valuable product in the leather industry when tan shoes were in vogue. In 1894 fast red was added to the line as
were also several oil soluble dyes useful in the paint and varnish trade.
This whole development was accomplished in spite of the reduced tariff of 1882-3 and was continued even when the lower tariff of 1892-3 went into effect. Its
ultramarine business stood the firm in good stead in times of stress in the coal tar field.
In 1889 the partnership had been incorporated as the Heller & Merz Company, the stock being closely held in the two families. About 1895-6 Henry N. Herman,
already mentioned as having been with the Albany company, joined the staff and remained with it until his death in 1917.
The Hudson River Aniline & Color Works, as has already been mentioned, was started as an off-shoot from the old Albany works. Bayer and Co., held an interest
and the Bayer agents in America also sold at least a portion of the production of the Hudson River Works. But as long as Lesser retained an interest in the
organization, he sold dyes, particularly rosaniline blue to the paper industry.
The tariff of 1883 wrought havoc in the industry. There were ten plants in operation. Six of them, Dan. Dawson's Sons,-Philadelphia, Pa.; Empire Aniline Dye
Works, Brooklyn, N.Y.; John Holliday, Brooklyn, N.Y,; Williams Brothers & Eakin, Woodhaven, N.Y.; Hoerlin & Kupferberg, Brooklyn, N.Y.; and Bloede & Rathbone's
American Aniline Works, Parkesburg, West Virginia; suspended. The four continuing were the Schoellkopf Aniline & Chemical Company, Buffalo, N.Y; The
Hudson River Aniline and Color Works, Albany, N.Y.; The Heller & Merz Co., Newark, N.J.; and the Albany Aniline and Chemical Works, Albany, N.Y. the last named
soon getting into financial difficulties.
A report privately received by Professor Schultz, the author of a standard German book, on coal tar chemistry, was published in the edition of 1882. It states that
there existed in America two coal tar dyestuff factories, both located in the State of New York. The one had a daily production of 450 pounds of scarlet, brown,
chrysoidine, violet and orange. The other produced 12,000 pounds of fuchslne and 5,000 pounds of blue and violet per month. Both plants were soon to be
enlarged. The same author states that in 1880, the importation of dyes into America amounted to 700,000 lbs. worth $2,800,000. These importations paid a duty
of $1,300,000. Sohultz indicated that this high duty was naturally a great incentive to production of dyes in the United States.
The three factories continued as best they could hoping for more favorable tariff conditions which, however, did not materialize.
At the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1895, no American producers of dyes appear to have exhibited their products. Otto N. Witt, professor of
chemical technology at Charlottenburg, Germany, visited the exposition as offical observer for Germany. His report was published in 1894. In it he says "the
coaltar industry of the United States is unimportant and will remain so until the Americans overcome their prejudice against by-product coke. Meanwhile the
United States will continue to be an excellent market for coal tar products of all kinds." In commenting on the coal tar dye industry, he says, "the few coal tar
factories in America are small and unimportant, and are not able to supply more than a very small fraction of the domestic demand for these products. The
major portion of these products will continue to be imported from Europe, principally from Germany.”
The tariff act of 1894 reduced the 35% ad valorem to 25%. All industry and business were badly disturbed by the hard times and things were exceedingly dismal.
Fortunately, the Dingley Act which went into effect in 1897 brought a great improvement in general conditions, even though it did not give the dye industry
materially better protection. The duty was advanced from 25% to 30% ad valorem.
In 1891, Klipstein and Company organized the Bulls Ferry Chemical Company at Shady Side, N.J. This plant was managed by Adolph Hemmer. Dr. Joseph Janney
was the chemist in charge. Orange II and a few azo dyes were produced. In 1907, Hemmer died and operation of the plant was discontinued, but resumed during
In 1897, Dr. Prochazka and his brother John, severed their connection with the Heller & Merz Company and in 1898 started to manufacture a limited line of dyes
under the firm style of Central Dyestuff and Chemical Company.
Under the arrangements existing between the Hudson River Aniline Color Works and their German partner, the Albany plant was required to obtain the approval
of Bayer & Co., before adding new products to those already manufactured at Albany. Waldman, the president of the Hudson River Company, resenting this
restriction, organized the American Color & Chemical Company. Dr. Emanuel von Salis, a Swiss Chemist employed in a dye plant in Manchester England, was
engaged. A plant was erected on a site of Van Rensselaer Island near Albany. Associated with Waldman in this venture were Martin Waldstein of Maas and
Waldstein, New York; William Lesser, Waldman’s partner in the original Hudson River Plant; F.E Atteaux, Boston, an importer and dealer in dyes; and James
Lyon, Albany, a printer. Later, H.A. Metz, New York, who had the agency for Farbwerke Hoechst, Germany, joined the venture. Dr. von Salis was vice-president
and general manager. The first product was empire black, a dye similar to diamond black. Benzo purpurine, congo red, acid blacks and naphtol yellow followed
in the program of production.
In 1903, Bayer and Company engineered a plan by which this competition was successfully eliminated. The end result was that the plants of the American Color
& Chemlcal Company and the Hudson River Aniline Works were both in possession of Bayer. The American Color & Chemical Company plant was dismantled
and the production of dyes at Albany was limited to fuchsine blue and other dyes which had been sanctioned by Bayer & Co. In addition, Bayer & Co. developed
the production of phenactin and aspirin at the Hudson River plant. Dr. von Salis was in charge.
During the war the Alien Property Custodian seized this German owned plant. The Sterling Products Company bought it at public sale because of its aspirin
rights, but resold the dyestuff department and patents to the Grasselli Chemical Company.
Believing the interests of American industry would be best served by a quasi public ownership of German patents under conditions which would make them
available to all truly American manufacturers, the Chemical Foundation was organized for the purpose. President Wilson ordered the patents sold to the
With the organization of the General Dyestuff Corporation, the dyestuff interest of the Grasselli Chemical Company, together with its patents and the plants at
Albany and Grasselli, N.J. passed into hands of those who also had the American Agency for the sale of dyes made by the great I.G. Farbenindustrie of Germany.
It now becomes necessary to go back more than forty years to pick up the trail of another pioneer. H.W. Jayne, after havlng studied here and abroad, returned to
the United States In 1879 imbued with the idea of developing chemical industry. He believed that quality, rather than quantity, production should be the basis of
such an industry. In 1880, he formed a partnership with his cousin Chace, a very able business men. Chace, the financier and Jayne, the pure scientist gave
promise of a well balanced organization. Jayne & Chace at the outset established a standard of purity of product. They had not decided what to produce, but
whatever they decided on should have a purity of at least 99.75%.
A building was planned at Frankford, Pa. When the architect presented plans, Jayne was much disturbed to find that the dimensions were in feet and not in
meters. Jayne was not satisfied until all the dimensions had been translated to the metric system. When the plant was put in operation, the metric System of
weights and measures was used in spite of the fact that the sales were made in pounds.
They had no definite plans as to what they would manufacture. Iodine was one product suggested. Another was terebene. A pharmaceutical house had made
inquiry for this product and Jayne undertook its manufacture. There must have been some misunderstanding as to the demand for terebene since the quantity
made was sufficient to last for many years. Chace soon withdrew from the firm, leaving Jayne to continue alone under the name of H.W. Jayne Chemical
In 1883, nitrobenzol was made. About 1887 Barrett interested Jayne in the refining of light oils from the gas works. The rectification was undertaken and a very
pure benzol produced. At that time, there was practically no market for toluol. Jayne decided to dispose of it in the form of nitrotoluol. About 1889 Jayne planned
to make aniline and toluidine to meet the domestic demand for these products. He never made much headway. The quality of his products was excellent, but he
could not meet the foreign prices. Dlnltrobenzol and dinltrotoluol were also made with the same result.
In 1896, Jayne's company was absorbed in the formation of the Barrett Manufacturing Company. The new company continued its efforts to produce basic
materials for the dye industry, but their main business took other directions. In 1901, the Barrett Manufacturing Co. completed a contract to furnish
nitronaphthalene to the United States Government.
Meanwhile competition amongst the domestic manufacturers of dyes became more and more severe. The craze to expand led to over production and drastic
price reduction. The foreign producers, with their efforts to crowd the domestic manufacturers, did not improve matters.
The Payne Aldrich Act of 1908-9, in no way helped the industry. The textile industry was ever present in force to object to any increase in tariff rates on
dyestuffs, and they succeeded so well that later when a strong and fully developed industry in dyes would have saved them much worry and trouble, the
industry was still a puny infant hardly out of its swaddling clothes.
Schoellkopf at Buffalo sought to strengthen his position by establishing his own acid plant. This was a separate concern known as the Contact Process
Company. In line with this development, Schoellkopf undertook the manufacture of acid and direct blacks. The foreigners were in agreement as to prices and
Schoellkopf made good progress in acquiring a considerable tonnage at reasonably satisfactory prices. Suddenly the foreigners agreed to disagree and prices
were soon cut to about one-half.
Domestic competition became so severe that standard Orange II sold as low as 12.5 cents in single barrels lots. In 1910, a group decided to establish a more
basic coal tar dye industry. The Benzol Products Company was organized. This was to be a community of interest, the General Chemical Company furnishing the
acids, Semet-Solvay, the benzol, and the Barrett Manufacturing Company, manufacturing the nitrobenzol and aniline. Aniline was still on the free list. The tariff
act of 1913 gave this new industry an ad valorem duty of 10% on aniline oil and aniline salt. The Benzol Products Co. made aniline oil and the foreigners absorbed
the duty, but did not find it necessary to absorb the duty on aniline salt since the Benzol Products Co. was not making aniline salt. The quality of products offered
was excellent, but the foreigners offered satisfactory quality at better prices.
The tariff act of 1913 made matters worse. Business in general was on the verge of cracking badly. Stock had piled up. Production had been curtailed and the
stocks of imported intermediates were allowed to dwindle. There was very little thought of expansion in the coal tar industry in 1914.
When war was declared in 1914, there were seven dye plants in operation in the United States. They had 528 employees. The capital invested was about
$3,500,000 and the output was about 6,600,000 lbs. valued at about $2,400,000.
The seven companies engaged in the industry and their approximate shares of the business were:
The Schoellkopf Aniline & Chemical Works, Buffalo, N.Y. 50%
The Heller & Merz Co., Newark, N.J. 21%
The Bayer Co. (Hudson River), Albany, N.Y. 17%
Becker’s Aniline and Chemical Works, Brooklyn, N.Y, 5%
Central Dyestuff & Chemical Co., Newark, N.J. 3-4%
Consolidated Color & Chemical Co., Newark, N.J. 2-3%
Hub Dyestuff & Chemical Co. Boston, Mass. Less than 1%
The domestic production has been estimated at about 10% of the domestic consumption. The importations, therefore, must have supplied about 90% of the
needs of the American market.
With the declaration of war, there came an almost immediate embargo on all products originating in Germany. Arrangements were made whereby a few
shiploads of dyes came over from Holland. Every importer remembers the wild scramble to get representatives into Holland to reserve as much space as
possible on the Matanzas which bad been chartered to transport a shipload-2752 tons, about one month's supply, to this country. Shipments like this continued
to March 1915, keeping the market just about supplied. But no intermediates came and the dye manufacturers could not make dyes without intermediates.
It soon became evident that the war would be somewhat prolonged. Schoellkopf undertook an extensive expansion. To guard against being left high and dry,
long term contracts at safe prices were negotiated with those to whom that company furnished dyes.
Picric acid and T.N.T. were the most easily salable commodities and commanded exorbitant prices. Hence, they were most attractive commodities for
manufacturing programs. Plants sprang up like mushrooms. Equipment was difficult to obtain. Acids and other chemicals were quickly cornered by those
contemplating the manufacture of explosives. Benzol and toluol soared in price and stocks disappeared from the market. All these materials were essential in
the processes of dye manufacture.
The Benzol Products Company, with its ability to produce aniline, instead of being almost a subject for ridicule, became an object of worship.
The stocks of dyes dwindled. Prices soared. Products of almost any quality could be disposed of with ease. The inexperienced manufacturer who produced
inferior qualities sold them at fancy prices bringing profit and cash for new trials. Never was experience so rapidly and so cheaply obtained. Much time was
spent in conferences planning how to solve the problems. Much time was wasted which might better have been spent in actual development. Those who knew
least about the industry promlsed most.
The trade journals carried full page announcements proclaiming that the XY2 Company would have an ample production of certain complicated dyes on the
market in thirty days, to be followed by a second series in sixty days. The war ended without fulfillment of the promise.
Sometime in 1913, one of the dye companies sold a barrel of an intermediate to a customer for less than thirty cents per pound. In 1915, it gladly repurchased
the barrel at $6.00 per pound. The same company sold 100 lbs. of Rhodamine B Conc. to a paper mill at about $1.00 per pound shortly before the war and it was
happy to be able to repurchase it for $5,000.00. The amusing part of this transaction was that the owner of the small mill having this color in its stock room
acquired the whole plant in settlement of a comparatively small debt. The brand marks on the package had been effaced and the former owner did not know
what it contained. The trademark on the package identified the shipper and when a sample was sent for identification, the offer for repurchase was made.
Within a week practically every dealer in dyes in New York made an offer for all or any part of the 100 pounds. Bids as high as $75.00 per pound were
The development of the dye industry may be best appreciated by a comparison of the figures given in the Norton Dye Census for 1914, with the United States
Tariff Commission's Dyes Census for 1927.
In 1913-14 the seven American companies produced about 6,600,000 pounds valued at about $2,400,000.00. The total consumption was estimated to be about
60,000,000 to 66,000,000 pounds.
In 1927, there were fifty-five companies operating. They produced 95,000,000 lbs. valued at about $37,000,000.00 about 94% of the domestic demand. In 1915,
the industry employed 528 men, and in 1927, it employed almost 10,000 men.
New and complicated colors, a» well as the simpler dyes, have been added to the list of products made. Indigo was produced by DOW of Midland and very soon
thereafter by du Pont and also by National Aniline & Chemical Company.-the new name of the Schoellkopf Company. Sulphur Black was produced by many. Vat
colors were the especial object of the efforts of the du Ponts and also of Newport. The Calco Company paid particular attention to intermediates as did other
In 1915, practically all of the intermediates used in the dyes produced here were imported. In 1927, practically all the intermediates used here were also
produced here. Thus we see that the industry has made progress by leaps and bounds. The nation has acquired an industry which supplies the major portion of
the domestic demand for dyes and intermediates. It also has an industry which covers very well the wide range of one thousand more products listed in the
various indices; of commercially made dyes.
Much has been said about the economic advantage to the dyes consuming industries in being practically independent of foreign sources of supply.
The consumer of dyes should show no hesitance in expressing his preference for a source of his supply, when his choice lies between domestic dyes made
here where combinations in restraint of trade are illegal, and abroad where cartels with all that is implied by that term, are not only sanctioned, but fostered by
The possession of such an industry gives the American consumer opportunity to be independent. In addition to this advantage there is also the further benefit to
other industries dependent on the coal tar chemical Industry as an outlet for their products. The dye and intermediate industry is a heavy consumer of
chemicals and supplies made by other branches of the chemical industry. The heavy chemical industry finds an outlet for over one billion pounds of its products
consumed in the production of dyes and intermediates.
Whatever may be necessary to maintain the business for the industries below; and whatever may be necessary to maintain the independence of the industries
above; whatever that may be it should be regarded in the nature of an assurance for business activity and independence, and not in the nature of a tribute
exacted for the benefit of a favored few.
Bloede, Hendrick, Schoellkopf and probably others still living, are the pioneers who strove to build an industry. Others, who have passed on, did their share in
the heroic, heartbreaking mind racking work. Then followed those who took up the trail. Their efforts also were worthwhile for our American dye industry is now
on a firm foundation.
It is truly a wonderful monument to the pioneers who blazed the trail.
Celebrating 50 Years Service with American Cyanamid and Heller and Merz Co.
Photo: American Dyestuff Reporter
August Merz "Half Century of The United States Dye History"