|Maas & Waldstein Company
Newark, New Jersey
Martin E. Waldstein was born in 1854 in New York. He was awarded a Ph.D. at Heidelberg in 1875. Waldstein and Adolphus H. Maas were founders of the Maas &
Waldstein Company, which was established around 1876. The company had an office in New York at 100 William Street and a manufacturing plant along the Passaic
River at 437 Riverside Avenue, Newark near the border with Belleville. Waldstein was also head of the Atlantic Chemical Works, a coal tar products plant in
Bayway (Elizabeth), in the early 1900s.
Over the years Maas & Waldstein produced flavoring extracts for soda water, essential oils, lacquers, explosives, colors, and specialized coatings. The firm
became the main supplier of nail enamel to Revlon. This business started when Gus Klinkenstein was president. He gave a line of credit to Charles Revson, who
was a co-founder of Revlon.
A new building was erected in 1905 at a cost of $4,000. Nitrocellulose for lacquers was made by nitration of cotton. The solvent amyl acetate was manufactured for
coatings. These operations required highly flammable and corrosive raw materials. Five men were burned, one seriously, in an explosion in the acid unit in 1915.
The men were all of Italian descent and one, Louis Gizzone, was only 16 years old. The explosion hurled the men about the room in which they were working and
shook houses in the neighborhood.
In 1916, 125 men went on strike for a 10 hour workday and an increase in wage from $.25 to $.30 per hour. At the time, employees were working 12-hour shifts. But
the day after the strike, half the men returned to their jobs and the company hired new workers. The strike was a failure and by the time it was settled, 20 jobs
During World War I the Butterworth-Judson Company, located in the Newark meadows at Plum Point Lane and Avenue R along the Passaic River (see location no. 6
on map below), received a major order for gun cotton from France. Maas & Waldstein helped to fulfill the contract and built a special plant for this product on
property nearby Butterworth-Judson, which likely supplied the acid needed for nitration. The firm earned $2.6 million net income in 1917, 90 percent coming from
the gun cotton contract. The firm also made for the French government the highly explosive picric acid, used in artillery shells.
African-Americans were an important part of the workforce. The chemical, explosives and rubber industries of the North needed large numbers of workers during
World War I. The proliferation of chemical plants and munitions works in New Jersey and New York gave attractive targets for German saboteurs. Sabotage by
German agents was a constant threat after the explosion of the Black Tom munitions depot in New York harbor in 1916. Staffing explosives manufacturing units
with African-American made it difficult for German saboteurs to infiltrate their ranks. (See "Spies and Dyes")
Agents were sent to the South to recruit African-American men with the promise of good pay and housing assistance. They received $1 for every man recruited
with ads such as:
"Men wanted at once. Good steady employment for colored. Thirty and 29.5 cents per hour. Weekly payments. Good warm sanitary quarters free. Best community
privileges. Towns of Newark and Jersey City. Fifteen minutes by car line offer cheap and suitable homes for men with families. For out of town parties of ten or more
cheap transportation will be arranged. Only reliable men who stay on the job are wanted."
African-American newspapers had an important role in recruiting Southern African-Americans for work in Northern industries. Some ads used blatant scare tactics
as in The Chicago Defender’s National Edition, read widely in the South, which placed Northern help wanted ads along side detailed accounts of lynching in the
South. The Chicago Defender exclaimed, “To die from the bite of frost is far more glorious than at the hands of the mob.”
In 1918 Maas & Waldstein employed 1,000 men in the wet nitrocellulose area and 100 men in chemicals production. A major fire took place in 1919, caused by
friction in the machinery in a long concrete building filled with benzene vapor. This building was near the Passaic River end of the plant and the fire spread to the
bridge of the adjoining Erie Railroad. The Kearny Fire Department was called and put out the bridge fire. Newark's fireboat responded and threw water on the
buildings from the Passaic River. The fire luckily started when hundreds of employees were at lunch so there were no casualties. Three buildings were
damaged. Drums of benzene and alcohol stored in the yards exploded, sending up a shower of iron shrapnel. The entire plant was worth $1,000,000 with the
damage estimated at $100,000.
When the war ended in 1918, orders for guncotton and picric acid were cancelled. The manufacturing units that Maas & Waldstein had built on property just south
of the Butterworth-Judson plant was now surplus. In 1919 the Tanners Products Company of Chicago purchased the "B-1" plant situated at Avenue R and the
Passaic River, near the Newark Transfer (see location no. 30 on map below). Newark was the leather manufacturing capital of the U.S. and provided a ready market
for tanning compounds.
The Organic Salt and Acid Company, established in 1917 in Long Island City bought the "B-2" plant from Maas & Waldstein, including a 12-acre plot on the west side
of Avenue R (see location no. 22 on map below). The existing buildings were modified and new buildings were erected on the vacant plot. This company made
organic chemicals for pharmaceuticals. Their product line included salicyclic acid and its salts and derivatives; ortho, meta, and para cresotinic acids; triphenyl
phosphate; tricresyl phosphate; benzyl alcohol; and benzyl benzoate. The company was sold in 1925 to the Purity Commercial Alcohol Corporation.
Dr. Henry V. Walker, president of Maas & Waldstein, reported in 1921 "Our plant for a number of years has been located on the Passaic River in Newark. We have
enjoyed, during all these years many advantages of what we consider an ideal location, and as a demonstration of our opinion of Newark Bay we, during the war erected
on its shores a plant costing upward of a million dollars for the manufacture of gun cotton, and from this plant we were able to deliver our product for export to our Allies
with but a single transfer. Furthermore we have found the local authorities most liberal in their treatment of us, always willing to cooperate and aid in the development
of our industry."
Maas & Waldstein experienced another devastating fire in 1928 after an explosion. The three alarm fire drew hundreds of spectators. The damage was limited by
the courageous action of 125 workers to remove 500 drums of lacquer from the danger zone. A total of 25 fire engines and 5 fire boats responded, confining the
blaze to one building.
The plant expanded in 1944 with the purchase of three acres with 245 feet of frontage on the Passaic River. A new lacquer was developed for military use in the
tropics. The application of this lacquer to communication equipment gave protection from high humidity and fungus.
Gus Klinkenstein was president of the company from the mid-1930s. He was previously director of the research staff which included 9 chemists, 2 engineers, and
8 technicians. Research was devoted to finishes for wood, metal, composites and leather; synthetic resins; and plasticizers.
The "Plextone" finishes were introduced in the mid 1950s. These were novel multicolored lacquers for floor and wall coverings. The unusual lacquer looked like
colored rice particles floating in water.
In 1975 a two alarm fire followed an explosion at the plant. The plant closed around 1990 and was named a Superfund site. The abandoned facility had
approximately 370 containers, mostly 55-gallon drums, containing hazardous wastes. A large number of 5-gallon containers of off-specification paint were stored
in one of the buildings. Containers at the facility contained flammable or combustible material, and primary contaminants included paints, lacquers, thinners,
flammable solvents, pigments and corrosives. There were the threats of direct contact and fire and/or explosion. The site was secured and leaking containers
were repacked. All containers outside the building were restaged and stored inside another building for security.
Today the site is still standing with derelict buildings that are popular with graffiti artists and hobos seeking shelter.
|Martin E. Waldstein-Manufacturing Chemist
Photo: Haynes, American Chemical Industry, Vol. I
1) "5 Hurt in Acid Explosion", New York Times, November 19, 1915
2) Annual Report, New Jersey Bureau of Industrial Statistics, 1916, p. 272
3) New York Times, July 31, 1919
4) "Big Chemical Plant Burns at Newark", New York Times, August 1, 1919
5) "Jersey Meadows Development", New York Times, August 24, 1919
6) E.J. Maier, "A 'Chemical' Analysis of the Jersey Meadows", Chemical Age, Vol. 29, No. 9, September 1921, p. 378
7) "Workmen Brave Flames", New York Times, May 19, 1928
8) New York Times, January 24, 1944
9) "New Lacquer for Tropics", Edwardsville Intellingencer, April 29, 1944
10) Industrial Research Laboratories of the United States, National Research Council, 1946, p. 197
11) "Explosion Strikes Factory in Newark", New York Times, July 8, 1975
12) Superfund Emergency Response Actions Library, http://www.rivermedia.com/consulting/er/hazsubs/sitelib/6852.htm, accessed March 27, 2009
13) Sherry E. Spector, "Understanding the Great Migration", http://asp1.umbc.edu/newmedia/sites/chetah/pdf/Spector_PFV.pdf, Accessed March 29, 2009
14) Roger Ames, personal communication, November 2, 2010
Copyright © 2009-2010 by ColorantsHistory.Org. All Rights Reserved.
|African-American Employees of
Pharma Chemical Corporation,
Bayonne, New Jersey. ca. 1920s
Click to Enlarge.
|"Maas & Waldstein Company, Newark, New Jersey"
By Robert J. Baptista, Updated April 5, 2011
|Location Map of Passaic River and Newark Bay Industries. The Maas & Waldstein Plant on Riverside Avenue Is Not Depicted, But Is In the
Upper Left Corner Near the Crossing of the Erie Railroad on the West Bank of the Passaic River. Image: Chemical Age, 1921
Maas & Waldstein Co. Annual Christmas Party at Essex House Hotel, December 17, 1955. Click to enlarge. Photo courtesy of Judy Wright. Her father Harold
Marshall was a paint mixer at the plant. Her Uncle Raymond Marshall and friend Charles Corrum also worked there. These men were African-Americans who
found good jobs at Maas & Waldstein after serving in WW II. They worked from 1946 until retiring in the late 1970s. They were able to support their families and
send their children to college. But exposure to hazardous chemicals may have contributed to the death of the men from cancer.
Harold Marshall, Paint Mixer at Maas & Waldstein, WW II. Photo Courtesy of Judy Wright
Closeup of the 1955 Maas & Waldstein Co. employee Christmas Party. Judy Wright has kindly made the following identification:
1) Raymond Marshall 2) Edith Marshall (Mrs. Harold Marshall) 3) Harold Marshall 4) Charles Corrum 5) Marilyn Corrum
|One of Several Devastating
Fires the Plant Experienced.
Click to Enlarge.
Closeup of the dais table at the 1955 Maas & Waldstein Co. Christmas Party. Pictured left to right: Melvin Kaye, Hope Kay,
Roger Ames, Edith Ames, Bertram Ames, Gus Klinkenstein (president), Ada Klinkenstein, Robert Magnus, Mrs. Magnus.
ColorantsHistory.Org thanks Roger Ames for this identification.