Ault & Wiborg Co.
Cincinnati, Ohio

The Ault & Wiborg Company, a manufacturer of printing inks and dry color dyes and pigments, was established in 1878 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  Levi Addison Ault was born in Ontario in November
1851, one of seven children of a French-Canadian cloth manufacturer whose family lived in the village of Mille Roches on the St. Lawrence River. (1)

In his late teens, he left home with an older brother, settling in Wisconsin, where he worked for a railroad and as a bookkeeper for several companies. After his brother moved to Cincinnati, Ault
joined him here in 1876 to take a job with a dealer in lampblack, pitch and rosins.  During his two years there, he became the company's top salesman. What he learned about the lampblack
operation gave him an idea for a business that he hoped to start - ink manufacturing - provided he could find an investor.

Frank Bestow Wiborg, had been born in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1855, the son of Henry P. Wiborg, a Norwegian immigrant. He left home to seek his fortune and found his way to Cincinnati, where he
was admitted to the Chickering Institute, a select college preparatory academy emphasizing the classics and sciences. Wiborg graduated in 1874, paying his way by peddling newspapers, and
got work as a salesman for Levi Ault, impressing him with his abilities.

Wiborg was willing to put up $10,000 capital as an equal partner with Ault, so Ault launched the Ault & Wiborg Co. in July 1878 and boldly told friends he was to become the top producer and
distributor of inks and lithograph supplies in America, perhaps the world.  The first plant was a small building on New Street in Cincinnati.  After five years the business did so well that Ault took
his wife on a delayed honeymoon trip to Europe, the first of many worldwide voyages.  These travels led Ault to establish sales offices in Toronto, London, Buenos Aires, Shanghai, and Manila.  
The company motto was "Hic et Ubique", meaning Here and Everywhere. (2)

In its early years, Ault & Wiborg capitalized on two innovations - the use of coal-tar dyes to produce brightly colored inks and the development of lithography. Both developments helped to
expand the ink business beyond the simple black product that had been produced for centuries.  Around 1890 the company hired its first chemist, a German named Rose, and then Robert
Hochstetter, an American who had studied in Germany.  Hochstetter saw the possibilities of lithol reds as ink pigments.  They were inexpensive, nonbleeding, fast and bright and became widely
used under the name "U.S. Reds."  The firm also introduced "Reflex Blues" and many other special colors.  It pioneered in lithography, rotogravure, steel die and mimeograph printing, carbon
papers, and typewriter ribbons.

This was the great period of printmaking, when newspaper lithographs, sheet music, poetry broadsheets, glossy magazines, and posters were the predominant mode of graphic expression,
and the new company of Ault and Wiborg, which manufactured and mixed its own dry color to produce high-quality lithographer's ink, found its product in great demand, not only in the United
States but worldwide. Toulouse-Lautrec was just one of the artists who used Ault and Wiborg inks for his prints; and the company commissioned him to create an advertising poster, using as a
model the beautiful Misia Natanson, patron and muse of Vuillard, Proust, Bonnard, Faure, and Ravel. (3)

A new, larger inks plant was established in St. Bernard, near the present day Procter & Gamble facilities.  Around 1905 a Varnish Department was formed, housed in a separate factory built in
Norwood to supply coatings, lacquers, varnishes and finishes for metal products.   Wiborg withdrew from active management in 1906.  He wrote two books:  
A Commercial Traveller in South
(1905) and Printing Ink-a History with a Treatise on Modern Methods of Manufacture and Use (1926).  By 1910 Ault had homes in San Francisco, Havana, Mexico City and Paris.

When World War I broke out, the supply of imported German dyes and intermediates was disrupted.   Robert Hochstetter, now vice president, led the staff of chemists and engineers to
duplicate the manufacture of the German products.   The company increased its capital stock from $2.0 million to $10 million to substantially enlarge dye manufacturing capacity. (5)  Soon the
production of the key intermediates such as aniline, beta-napthol, Tobias acid was underway along with an ample range of dyes.  By the end of the war the dye plant had far overshadowed the
adjacent varnish works.  In November 1918 the Ault & Wiborg employee band performed in the Cincinnati celebration of the signing of the armistice.  The musicians regaled the cheering
crowds with patriotic selections from the steps of City Hall, and a large delegation from the company marched in the subsequent peace parade. (6)

In December 1918, Ault's son Lee B. Ault died suddenly at the age of 32. (7) He was secretary-treasurer of the company and had been taking on more administrative responsibilities in
anticipation of one day succeeding his father as head of the company.

In 1920 the Ault & Wiborg dye factories in St. Bernard and Norwood were sold to the Swiss conglomerate of Ciba, Geigy and Sandoz.  But the ink-making and other departments were not
affected and continued to operate under the management of the Ault & Wiborg Co.  Anti-German sentiments were still strong just after World War I, and Ault stipulated for the sale that "Not one
mill of German money, directly or indirectly, remotely or otherwise, would or could be used at any time, either in the acquisition or the expansion of the industry." (4)  The new dye company
became known as the Cincinnatti Chemical Works, which was incorporated in Delaware.  Ault remained a director of the new company until just before its 50th anniversary in 1928, when he
sold his interest to the Swiss.  Also in 1928, Ault sold the ink business for $14 million to the International Printing Ink Corp.,  which later became Interchemical Corp.  At the time of the sale, Ault
& Wiborg was the international leader in the inks field, with plants and operations on four continents.

Both Ault and Wiborg died in 1930.  Ault was regarded as the "Father of Cincinnati Parks", since he served as chairman of the Cincinnati Board of Park Commissioners from 1908-1926.  He
donated 204 acres of land to the city to create Ault Park.

Ault is credited with the development of the pigment flushing process which eliminated the need to first dry the wet pigment before grinding it into the ink vehicle.  In the flushing process, the
pigment presscake is placed in a high-shear mixer with the organic solvent used in the ink formulation.  After a period of intensive mixing, the pigment migrates into the organic solvent,
allowing the water layer to be separated and discarded.  In recognition of Ault's invention, the Color Pigments Manufacturers Association (CPMA) awards the Ault Award to a member at its
annual meeting. (8)

Robert Hilton, who had changed his last name from Hochstetter, and chemist A. Brooking Davis, objected to the sale of the Ault & Wiborg  dye business to a foreign company and resigned in
1921.  They established a small chemical consulting laboratory in 1922 that led to the Hilton-Davis Co. of Cincinnati, which became a major producer of dyes, pigments, organic intermediates
and optical brighteners for the detergent industry. (8)

During the 1890s-1920s period, Ault & Wiborg Co. placed full page color ads in the trade magazine
Inland Printer.  The art work was impressive and the rainbow of colors well illustrated the full
range of the firm's printing inks.  Some of the best examples of these are shown below:

ColorantsHistory.Org thanks
Mr. Andy Moursund for his kind permission to reproduce the historical ads of the Ault & Wiborg Co.


1) Barry M. Horstmann, "Levi Ault:  Father of Cincinnati Parks",
Cincinnati Post, September 13, 1999
2) Williams Haynes,
American Chemical Industry, Vol. VI, 1949, pp.224-225
3) Amanda Vaill,
Everybody Was So Young:  Gerald and Sara Murphy:  A Lost Generation Love Story, Houghton Mifflin, 1998
Annual Chemical Directory of the United States, Williams & Wilkins Co., 1920, p. 647
5) "Notes of the Trade",
American Dyestuff Reporter, Vol. 2, No. 9, April 1, 1918, p. 6
6) "Notes of the Trade",
American Dyestuff Reporter, Vol. 3, No. 22, November 25, 1918, p. 18
7) "Notes of the Trade",
American Dyestuff Reporter, Vol. 3, No. 25, December 16, 1918, p. 18
8) Mr. Abraham Reife, personal communication, September 6, 2007
        Levi A. Ault                                    Frank B. Wiborg
Founders of Ault & Wiborg Co., Ink Manufacturer
Image:  Williams Haynes,
American Chemical Industry.  Click to Enlarge
Ault & Wiborg Advertising Poster by Toulouse-Lautrec,
1896   Click to Enlarge
Ault & Wiborg Co., Cincinnati, Ohio
Operator Discharging Finished Printing Ink from Three Roller Mill
Art-Deco Tile Mural by Winold Reiss, ca. 1930
Ault & Wiborg Advertisement, 1903
Image:  Courtesy of
The Woods Elf Store.  Click to Enlarge
Ault & Wiborg Co. Ads in the Inland Printer, ca. 1890s-1920s.  Images copyright of The Georgetown Bookshop and reproduced here with
permission.  For more information, contact
Mr. Andy Moursund.  Click images to enlarge.
Click Here for History of Cincinnati Chemical Works
Ault Park, Cincinnati, Ohio
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