Eagle-Picher Lead Company
Newark, New Jersey
Former Eagle-Picher Lead Co. Building, Passaic River, Newark, NJ-2007
Photo Courtesy of
Mike Sullivan.  Click to Enlarge.
"Eagle-Picher Lead Company, Newark, New Jersey"
By Robert J. Baptista,
Updated April 9, 2009
In 1843, two brothers named Conkling began manufacturing paint pigments under the brand name Eagle.  In 1916 Judge Oliver Picher merged his lead
mining company in Joplin, Missouri with the Eagle paint company of Cincinnati to form the Eagle-Picher Lead Company.  The integrated company became
an industry leader by offering the most advanced products and technology of the time.  

Also in 1916 the company built a 4-story building at 70 Blanchard St., at the foot of the Passaic River, in Newark.  The building cost $140,000 and served the
eastern markets.  In 1918 the plant had 50 employees.  Some of the nearby industries included Butterworth-Judson (chemicals), New Jersey Zinc Company,
Atha Tool Company, Sherwin-Williams Company, Lister Agricultural Chemical Works, Creosote Company, and the Universal Caster & Foundry Company.  The
combined industries along the Passaic River in Newark employed 36,000 men and women in 1919.

The company conducted a lead processing operation on the premises in which lead was smelted, pulverized, and processed into lead oxides for use in
lead-based paints.  Lead(II) oxide is the chemical compound with the formula PbO.  Lead(II) oxide occurs in two forms: red, having a tetragonal crystal
structure and yellow, having an orthorhombic crystal structure.  Both forms occur naturally as minerals: the red form is known as litharge and the yellow
form is known as massicot.

Lead oxide is prepared by heating lead metal in air at 600 C. It can also be obtained by the thermal decomposition of lead(II) nitrate or lead carbonate.  Lead
oxide is a component of lead paints and is used extensively in manufacturing of lead glasses and ceramic glazes.  It is the main ingredient of the paste
used for filling the plates during manufacturing of lead-acid batteries. A mixture of lead oxide and glycerine sets to a hard, waterproof cement that has
been used to join the flat glass sides and bottoms of aquariums, and was also once used to seal glass panels in window frames.

Eagle lead pigments produced for paints included Basic Carbonate White Lead, Sublimed White Lead (mixture of lead sulfate, lead oxide and zinc oxide),
AAA Orange Mineral (93 % lead tetroxide), Sublimed Blue Lead (mixture containing 49.8 % lead sulfate) and Paint Grinders Red Lead (88.8 % lead tetroxide).
Red lead was also used for batteries, lead glass, and rust-proofing primer paint.

Eagle-Picher moved the lead oxide operation to Joplin in 1956 and sold the Newark site to the Norpak Corporation, a manufacturer of paper products for
packaging.  Despite the health hazard, lead was slowly phased out of paint manufacturing until 1978 when Congress banned lead-based paint altogether
for residential use.

However, childhood lead poisoning from ingestion of paint chips containing lead continues to be a problem in older homes and buildings.   Researchers
have linked the paint to brain damage in children.  In New Jersey a total of 26 cities and counties, including Newark, filed a lawsuit in 2001 to force
manufacturers to pay millions of dollars to remove the paint, which covers homes, schools and other public buildings.   But Sherwin-Williams, DuPont and
other paint makers won dismissal of the lawsuit in the New Jersey Supreme Court in 2007.  The justices said ``the conduct that has given rise to the public
health crisis is, in point of fact, poor maintenance of premises,'' not the fault of paint makers selling an 'unregulated consumer product.'


1) The Bridgemen's Magazine, January 1916, p. 369
2) Industrial Directory of New Jersey, 1918
3) Henry A. Gardner, "Papers on Paint and Varnish and the Materials Used in Their Manufacture", University of California, 1920, p. 265, 279
4) "Plan for a Zone System of Fares upon the Lines of Public Service Railway Company", Public Service Railway Company, New Jersey, 1919
5) New York Times, December 6, 1956
6) "Norpak Corporation, Appellant, v. Eagle-Picher Industries, Inc., Appellee. No. 95-4128."  http://lw.bna.com/lw/19980106/954128.htm, accessed
March 30, 2009
7) "Lead(II) Oxide", Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lead(II)_oxide, accessed March 30, 2009

8) "Sherwin-Williams, Paint Makers Win Lead Suit", Bloomberg.com, http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=aDZGdAubTPqg&refer=home,
accessed April 9, 2009
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Eagle-Picher Lead Mine and Refinery in Joplin, Missouri
Trade Ads for Eagle White Lead Paint-ca. 1920s.  Click to Enlarge.
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