The General Aniline Works had its origins with the Grasselli Chemical Company, which was one of the oldest chemical businesses in the U.S. Eugene R. Grasselli founded the company in 1839
in Cincinnati, Ohio. When he died in 1882, his son Caesar A. Grasselli, a young chemist, took over the company.
In 1889, Grasselli Chemical purchased the Standard Chemical Works in the Tremley section of Linden, New Jersey. The plant was located in a marshy area on the Arthur Kill waterway. The
major product was sulfuric acid, used in large quantities by the emerging oil refineries in the metropolitan area. Acetic acid was added after 1900.
By 1915 the Grasselli Chemical Company had assets of $30 million and fourteen manufacturing sites and warehouses in various states. Adolph Wock, a chemist who worked for Verona
Chemical in Newark, an intermediates producer, encouraged Caesar A. Grasselli to manufacture dyes. Grasselli went into the dyes business with some hesitation, knowing the risks involved of
entering a field in which he had no experience.
The dyes plant was started in 1915. Grasselli wanted to keep the dyes separate from the heavy chemicals production, so he built the unit across the Jersey Central R.R. tracks from the heavy
chemicals plant. This area became known as Grasselli, New Jersey and today it is a section of the City of Linden.
Sulfur dyes, mainly the large volume sulfur blacks, were the first dyes produced. Alizarin dyes were added in 1918 along with some intermediates.
When the U.S. declared war with Germany in 1917, the Bayer Company plant in Rensselaer, New York was seized. The Alien Property Custodian sold the plant and patents at auction to the
Sterling Products Co. Sterling only wanted the aspirin business, so it sold the dyes business to Grasselli Chemical for $2.5 million.
The Grasselli Chemical dye business was severely impacted by the depression of 1921. In early 1922, the company strongly supported the enactment of a protective tariff against foreign
competition. William T. Cashman, vice president, testified at a Congressional hearing that the company had invested $4.5 million in the dye business but was losing money. Grasselli then
sought financial and technical assistance from Bayer. Bayer was receptive since the they were eager to have dyes manufacturing capacity once again in the U.S. The two companies came to
an agreement in 1924 to form the Grasselli Dyestuff Corporation, which operated the plants in Linden and Rensselaer and distributed Bayer dyes in the U.S. The main office was at 117 Hudson
Street in New York City.
The Grasselli Dyestuff Corporation had its own sales and technical organizations, but these functions were taken over by the General Dyestuff Corporation when it was formed in July 1925.
Adolph Kuttroff was chairman of the board, H.A. Metz was president and
Ernest K. Halbach was secretary-general manager. General Dyestuff Corporation had the American selling rights of the largest German dye producers before and after they were merged into
I.G. Farbenindustrie. The Grasselli Dyestuff Corporation continued only as a manufacturer.
The infusion of new capital from Bayer resulted in the production of H-acid, gamma acid and other intermediates at the Linden plant, whose production was coordinated with that of the
Rensselaer plant. In 1927 the Rensselaer plant became the first U.S. producer of solid diazo salts, marketed with a broad range of napthol AS colors. The product line was continuously
expanded with nitrosamines and rapid fast colors, and dyes of the triphenylmethane, azine, euchrysine, and phoshpine classes.
Grasselli Dyestuff Corporation operated the Linden and Rensselaer plants until the 1928 acquisition by I.G. Farben. The name of the business was changed to General Aniline Works, Inc. In the
same year, the Grasselli Chemical Company was purchased by Du Pont, which took over the heavy chemicals section of the Linden complex. One of General Aniline Works first investments
was for the Vat Color Department.
Reproduction of Article with Photos: James A. Lee, "Versatility in Dyestuffs Equipment", Chemical & Metallurgical Engineering, Vol. 44, No. 3, March 1937, pp. 124-127:
|Producing intermediates in the Linden, N.J.
plant of the General Aniline Works
"The American dyestuffs industry has made great strides since the World War which cut off our supply and forced the manufacture of the domestic requirements. At present there are several
very large plants in this country producing immense quantities of colors for the purpose of dyeing cotton, wool, silk, rayon and other fibers, and such other materials as paper, rubber and
synthetic resins. One of the most modern and interesting of these plants is the General Aniline Works located near Linden, N. J. Here between 200 and 300 dyes are produced. In addition 300 to
400 intermediates are made for use in this plant and for conversion into dyes at General Aniline’s Albany, N. Y., works, another large producer of dyes. Many textile assistants such as detergents,
wetting out agents and stripping agents are also produced in this New Jersey plant.
Dyestuffs manufacturers have the problem of producing a very large number of different colors. While many of the dyes are standard and are consumed in large quantities year after year, many
of the colors fluctuate in demand from one season to another due, among other causes, to the constant changing of women’s clothing fashions. The producer must be prepared to meet this
demand, and to do so economically his equipment must be extremely flexible. To be flexible means that it must be capable of resisting alkaline and acid solutions, high and low pressures, high
and low temperatures, and the like. And above all the equipment must be easily cleaned of all traces of the dyestuffs previously processed, for even minute amounts of a color remaining in the
kettle or filter press would affect the next batch of colored material that would be put into the equipment.
The company engineers, when designing new equipment, place great emphasis on flexibility and their goal is to make each machine capable of carrying out every type of reaction and operation.
The Linden plant of the General Aniline Works is divided into groups of buildings designated A, B and C. The buildings are arranged in rows separated by broad roadways and railroad spurs.
Each block is made up of both large and small brick structures. In most cases the buildings are modern steel and brick or concrete structures, sup-plied with large windows which give adequate
light and ventilation.
The plant is composed of the power house; machine shop; lead burning shop; cooperage; laboratories (research, control, analytical and semi-commercial scale) ; manufacturing buildings for
black and other sulphur colors; alizarine vat colors; inter-mediates ; soapless detergents, and other textile assistants.
The location of the various operations in the processing depends upon several factors: effect of one dye on another, volume annually produced and nature of the processing, operation or product.
Intermediates for the azo dyestuffs are produced in two buildings, each bridged to a four-story ware-house in between, in which are stored the raw materials for use in the two intermediates
buildings as well as the finished products from these buildings. The warehouse building also houses the control laboratory which is used in guiding the production of intermediates.
The older unit is utilized for the manufacture of intermediates which require a long cycle (two to ten days) for processing. In one section of this unit is a long row of kettles suitable for acid
reactions, such as sulphonations and nitrations. In these kettles reactions at temperatures of 0 to 150 deg. C. are carried out. The products are transferred through iron or lead pipe lines by
compressed air to diluting kettles or tubs, which are brick lined with the aid of acid resistant cement. In these tubs or kettles, the next step of the separation is carried out by precipitation with
salts of various kinds, or by neutralization of excess acid with lime or limestone.
The product is then separated by suitable filter medium, which may be filter presses or brick-lined suction filters. In some instances the processing is completed at this stage, the finished
product being discharged into barrels. In other cases the filter residue is waste material and the product is in solution. It may require further processing.
In this section of the building are located kettles suitably designed for the reduction of nitro compounds to amino compounds. The tubs previously mentioned are also usable for separation of the
The second section of the building is devoted to the alkaline reactions such as fusions with caustic soda or ammoniations. In this section is found an arrangement of batteries of several kettles
in each group. These kettles are grouped for reactions without pressure, for reactions involving moderate pressures and for reactions involving high pressures. And, of course, any of these
kettles can be used for lower pressures when and if the need occurs.
The flow from the kettles goes to brick-lined tubs, some of which are suitable only for alkaline solutions, others for acid solutions. This last equipment can also be used for processing products
from the first mentioned section (acid section).
This flexibility of equipment makes it possible to process from 8 to 14 different products simultaneously. One hundred different products have been made in this building. The third section of the
building is the tower in which are stored acids and other liquid raw materials.
The newer intermediates unit in contrast to the older one is intended to accommodate the manufacture of products requiring shorter cycles. Here also are located all intermediates in which
solvents are used in the processing, as well as a still for the recovery of solvents either used in this building or elsewhere in the plant. Every piece of equipment is so designed and laid out that it
may be regrouped for the process flow of production required at the moment. In this same block of buildings is located the engineering department, machine shops, repair and maintenance
The principal structures in the next block are two large buildings connected by a bridge housing the control laboratory for the work done nearby. Here vat dyes and alizarine colors are produced.
Trucks may drive in on the ground floor of the north building in order to deliver raw materials and receive packages of finished dyes. On the second floor of this building are located the kettles in
which the raw material is converted into the dyestuffs. The dyestuffs which are usually in liquid suspension are separated through suitable filter presses located on the third floor. From here they
are conveyed in paste form across the bridge to the other building where they are dried or mixed as pastes. The drying is done on the third or top floor, the grinding on the second and the milling
on the ground floor. Not only are the pastes from the adjoining building dried, milled or mixed in this department, but dyes and intermediates in the form of pastes from all over the plant are
brought here for finishing. There are several types of dryers in use, vacuum shelf dryers, hot air dryers and horizontal, cylindrical dryers in which the paste is stirred by revolving blades until dry.
The remaining blocks include the production of the black and dark blue sulphur colors, warehouse, power house, and administration quarters.
A visitor to the Linden plant of General Aniline is impressed by the many large buildings of modern design and construction and layout of the works."
Site Location-Grasselli (Linden), NJ
Click on Photos to Enlarge
|GAF Site Aerial Photo-1995. Source: USGS
|GAF Site Topographic Map-1981. Source: USGS
|GAF Site Environmental Photos-March 1999
Photos Courtesy of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Click to Enlarge
View downstream of bridge over Piles Creek, including spur channel of
creek and entrance to GAF.
View of old landfill and drainage ditch system, looking away from ponded
area toward Arthur Kill.
View of old dump landfill and ponded area.
View of central drain (historic wood covered drain) in center of picture. It
received wastewater drained through pipes in buildings adjacent to central drain.
View from shore of Arthur Kill across to Pralls Island heron rookery.
1) Allen Johnson, Dumas Malone, Editors, "Caesar A. Grasselli", Dictionary of American Biography, Vol. IV, pp. 502-503
2) Williams Haynes, Chemical Pioneers, pp. 88-107 (Freeport, NY: Books for Library Press, 1970 Reprint of 1939 Edition)
3) Williams Haynes, American Chemical Industry, Vol. VI, pp. 174-177, pp. 183-185 (New York: D. Van Nostrand, 1949)
4) "Grasselli Chemical Co. To Acquire Dye Department of Bayer Co.", American Dyestuff Reporter, Vol. 3, No. 26, December 23, 1918, pp. 7-85) "Grasselli Company Claims To Be Losing on
$4,500,000 Dye Investment", Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering, Vol. 26, No. 13, March 29, 1922, p. 610
6) "General Aniline & Film Opens New Research Laboratory", Chemical and Engineering News, Vol. 21, No. 4, February 25, 1943, p. 273
7) "Seized Companies Merge", The New York Times, November 6, 1953
8) "General Aniline Plans New Plant", The Post Standard (Syracuse, NY), March 19, 1956
9) Tom Johnson, "GAF to Conduct Pollution Study at Site Targeted for Waste Burner", The Star Ledger (Newark, NJ), June 20, 1989
10) Farnaz Fassihi, "The Battle of Tremley Point", The Star Ledger (Newark, NJ), December 19, 2000
11) Glenn Nyback, "N.J. Factory Demolition Causes Stir", Staten Island Advance (Staten Island, NY), February 10, 2003
12) Ken Serrano, "A Walk Around the Block: Tremley Point Reeks with Shades of History", Home News Tribune (East Brunswick, NJ), February 20, 2003
13) William Turley, "Mountain of Metal: Metals Recovery Is the Focus of a New Jersey Industrial Plant Demolition Project", C & D Recycler, March-April 2003
14) L. Ricard, personal communication on Central Research Laboratory, March 29, 2005
The parent company of General Aniline Works was the General Aniline & Film Corporation, which included Ansco photographic products and Ozalid dry development whiteprint machines. The
I.G. Farben influence on the company began in the unique arrangement between Bayer and Grasselli in 1924 and ended in early 1941. The U.S. Government seized the company as enemy
property and placed four American businessmen in charge in order to redirect its activities to the war effort. General Aniline supplied 50% of the federal requirements for vat dyes and became
the largest producer of this dye class in the U.S. The company had a distinguished war record, with each manufacturing plant awarded the Army-Navy "E" production award. The American
management also created a research organization with a laboratory at Easton, Pennsylvania eventually employing 400.
The Central Research Laboratory opened in early 1943. The modern, fireproof industrial building was acquired in 1942 from the Stewart Silk Corporation and had 70,000 square feet of space.
The initial staff of 50 chemists, engineers, physicists and technicians worked under the direction of E.C. Williams, who was vice president of the corporation and chemicals director. He was
formerly head of the Shell research laboratory in California. The research staff came from both the corporation and leading scientific institutions in the U.S. The initial effort was focused on
dyes chemistry, but was soon extended into broader fields of the chemical industry.
The Easton laboratory was some distance from the General Aniline plants: 65 miles from Linden, New Jersey and 195 miles from Rensselaer, New York. Under normal circumstances, a
company’s research facility would usually be located closer to a production site to allow field visits and promote the exchange of information. However, war with Germany was underway and
the U.S. Government was anxious to protect the technology developments of the seized company. This likely factored into the decision to site the research laboratory in a rather remote
location. German chemists who were believed to have close ties with their homeland were reassigned to the Easton laboratory. Treasury Department agents closely monitored the activities
and communications of the research staff, offices and plants to secure sensitive technology information.
By 1948, General Aniline Works employed almost 4,000 and produced 75 million pounds of dyes and intermediates per year. The product line of dyes grew to a full range of vats, azos,
triphenylmethanes, alizarins, algosols, heliogens, naphthols, rapidogens, cellitons/cellitazols, lake colors, azosols, nigrosines, and sudans. Postwar research led to significant developments in
acetylene chemistry which were later commercialized in a new plant built in Calvert City, Kentucky in 1956. In the same year the company announced plans to construct an $8 million unit to
produce ethylene oxide and glycols at Linden. The Linden plant became diversified, manufacturing detergents, surface-active chemicals, and emulsifiers for the textile, industrial, and
household products markets.
The Government had also taken control of the company's exclusive selling agent, the General Dyestuff Corporation. In 1953, the Justice Department announced the merger of the two
corporations. In 1965, the government sold the company stock to the public, and General Aniline & Film again became a public American corporation. In 1968, it officially changed its name to
In the 1970's GAF faced competition from imported intermediates and dyes, along with rapidly escalating environmental control costs. In 1978 the dyes business, including the Rensselaer
plant, was sold to BASF Wyandotte, the American subsidiary of BASF AG. The chlorine-caustic soda operation, begun in 1961 with the mercury cell process, was spun off to LCP Inc., headed by
Chris Hansen, a former GAF executive. The Linden plant production was reduced to making some photographic dyes and specialty chemicals, but these product lines were also eventually shut
down. Samuel J. Heyman, CEO of GAF Corporation, took the company private in 1989 with a leveraged buyout. It became the ISP Corporation, a publicly owned company, in 1991.
In the mid-1980's, the New Jersey Hazardous Facilities Siting Commission tried to site a hazardous waste incinerator in New Jersey. After the Commission rejected the proposed locations, GAF
came forward and recommended the hazardous waste incinerator be located at its dormant 140 acre Linden site. This would give GAF a way to contain its costs in remediating the seriously
contaminated site. GAF would use the incinerator to cleanup the site as well as handle the wastes generated by other plants in the area.
Neighborhood opposition to the incinerator plan was vociferous. Residents of the Tremley Point area, many living in the 300 homes originally built in the 1920's by Grasselli Chemical and Du
Pont for their workers, were especially opposed to the plan. GAF fought for twelve years but failed to obtain the permit. The surrounding plants, LCP, Du Pont and American Cyanamid, had also
closed so there was less reason to build a hazardous waste incinerator.
Twenty-two buildings remained empty at the site for years. They were mostly steel and brick structures as high as 75 feet, built on 30 foot pilings. The last three buildings were finally
demolished with explosive charges in 2003. The ISP remedial action plan involves installing a steel barrier, 18-20 feet deep, in the ground to control shallow groundwater. Deeper wells were
planned to prevent off-site groundwater migration, along with capping the site with fill material.
A recent proposal was made to build an auto racetrack at the site, but this idea also failed. ISP hopes the site can be redeveloped in the future as a distribution center.
Some of the raw materials are stored in tanks on the third floor of the intermediates buildings.
Chemicals flow by gravity to the processing kettles on the lower floors
Reaction kettles in a corner of the
plant. Much rubber hose is used
One of the kneading machines in the position of emptying the contents
Receiving tanks in one of the dyestuff buildings at the Linden Works
Adequate space surrounds each of the combination vats as is shown in the
illustration. Notice the rubber hose which is extensively used to convey both
raw materials and compounds being processed
One end of a processing floor in an intermediate building at
the Linden works of General Aniline
A dissolving kettle in the General Aniline Works Linden plant
An operating floor showing the top of a reaction kettle. Notice the large windows
that give splendid day-light
A group of ball mills in the finishing department of the Linden plant
Refrigeration units are installed in each of the processing buildings
|General Dyestuff Corporation Ad for Dyes Made by
Grasselli Dyestuff Corporation
Source: American Dyestuff Reporter, October 15, 1928
Click to Enlarge
|Caesar A. Grasselli (1850-1927)
Click to Enlarge
|Plan of Standard Chemical Works 1880-1894
Source: Williams Haynes, Chemical Pioneers (1939)
Aerial view looking east of the GAF Linden, NJ Plant, ca. 1961. The new ethylene oxide/gylcols unit is seen in the lower left corner. The wastewater
treatment unit in the foreground belongs to the Linden-Roselle Sewage Authority. Photo: City of Linden, New Jersey 1861-1961. Click to enlarge.
The derelict GAF Linden, NJ site included the intermediate production buildings no. 46 on the right (built in 1925) and no. 48 on the
left (built 1934-1938). The bridge allowed fork lift trucks to move materials between the buildings. Photo Courtesy of NJDEP.
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