Dr. Harry W. Grimmel (1898-1988)
Founder of Metro Dyestuff Corporation
Photo:  
Pronounced Success:  America and Hoechst 1953-1978
Metro Dyestuff Corporation, West Warwick, Rhode Island, a subsidiary of Metro-Atlantic, Inc., Centredale, Rhode Island, was founded in
1948 by Dr. Harry Wilhelm Grimmel.  Grimmel was born in Hamburg in 1898 and after serving in the army in World War I, entered the
University of Goetingen.  He studied under four Nobel laureates in chemistry and received a doctorate degree in lipid chemistry.  He then
became assistant professor of chemistry at the Forest Academy of Tharndt where he taught for a year.  In 1922 Grimmel joined the
Dyestuff Division of Farbenfabriken Bayer as a chemist in the Leverkusen plant.

Grimmel immigrated to the U.S. in 1926 where he became plant manager of the Grasselli Dyestuff Corporation plant at Rensselaer, New
York.  Grasselli Dyestuff Corporation was a joint venture of the Grasselli Chemical Company and Bayer.  The
Rensselaer plant, which
dated to 1882, had deteriorated but under Grimmel’s leadership the plant was completely rebuilt and dye production increased by 700
percent.  The plant eventually became part of the
General Aniline and Film Corporation (GAF). In 1942 Grimmel was transferred to the
Easton, Pennsylvania Central Research Laboratory where he was group leader of azo and triphenylmethane dyes research.  He left GAF
in 1947 to form his own dyestuff company.  By this time he was the author of several chemical publications and 25 patents in the U.S.
and abroad.

In early 1948 Grimmel met four entrepreneurs who manufactured and sold textile chemicals in Rhode Island.  In February 1948 this
group organized the Metro Dyestuff Corporation.  A 19th century textile mill in Coventry, known as the King Philip Mill, was remodeled
for dye production.  The staff consisted of Dr. Alfred E. Guenther, a colleague from GAF, an additional chemist, a foreman, a colorist, an
office clerk, and several chemical operators.  Grimmel was named general manager of  Metro Dyestuff Corporation.   Officers of the
parent company Metro-Atlantic, Inc. were Ernest Nathan, chairman; Joseph E. Buonanno, president; and Harry Papini, vice president.

The dyes were sold through the Metro-Atlantic Chemical Corporation in Rhode Island and a branch office in the Greenville, South
Carolina textile center.  The business was well established by 1952 but capital funds were needed for expansion.  Grimmel arranged a
meeting that year with Konrad Weil and Karl Ziegler of Farbwerke Hoechst in New York.  He proposed that Hoechst establish a
bridgehead in the U.S. by buying a majority share in Metro Dyestuff.  In 1953 Grimmel, then president of Metro Dyestuff, visited Hoechst
in Frankfurt and discussed the acquisition with the top executives.  Emil Thiel, Hoechst’s technical chief, inspected the Metro plant in
1954 and gave his approval.  The acquisition was concluded in New York on April 1, 1954.

The King Philip Mill had dimensions 70 by 180 feet and was three stories high.  The building, with granite walls three feet thick at the
base, was erected in 1856 by the brothers A. and W. Sprague.  The location was in the village of Quidnick on the banks of the Pawtuxet
River where many textile mills were built in the 19th century.  When the mill was purchased in 1948 by Grimmel and his partners, it had
been vacant for years.  After repairs were made, a 750 gallon reactor and other equipment, both new and used, were installed.  



























The first batch of Metrovat Blue 4BR was made on August 10, 1948, soon followed by Metrovat Brilliant Pink R, Orange R, Red Violet RH,
and Sarcosin.  In 1949 a line of 31 azoic colors was begun.  An explosion at the plant in February 1951 injured ten men including
Grimmel.  Three workers were critically burned.  Acetate fumes may have caused the explosion in a chemical vat, which was followed
by a flash fire.

In 1953 the Textile Pigments Department was formed which produced pigments and clears for printing which were sold under the
trade name "Metrotones".  John J. Fantry was the chemist in charge of this department.   An agreement with Plastex GmbH, Krefeld,
Germany, led to a new line of "Emboprint" colors for the simultaneous  printing and embossing of resin-treated cotton fabrics.  

Vat colors, however, were the staples of Metro Dyestuff.  By 1954 the company supplied a third of the U.S. market requirements for Vat
Pink and Orange R and from 12 to 15 percent for Golden Yellow GR and Blue 4BR.  Total company sales in 1954 were $1.2 million.

Farbwerke Hoechst invested more money in the plant.  Additional land was purchased and new buildings erected:  a warehouse in
1956; pharmaceutical and pigments buildings in 1957; in 1959 another warehouse, application laboratory and Remazol reactive dyes
plant were added.  

In 1957 the second, larger Sprague mill on the property, known as the Marlboro Mill, was purchased.  It had dimensions 58 by 300 feet
and was four stories high with a basement.  The building, dating from 1849, was converted into an office facility.

Metro Dyestuff was renamed the Hoechst Chemical Corporation in 1957 after Farbwerke Hoechst purchased the rest of the shares.   
Carbic Color & Chemical Co., Inc., New York became the selling agent  for the Anthrasols (soluble vats), Hostagens (stabilized azoics),
Hostavats and other specialties manufactured by the West Warwick plant.   Dr. Harry W. Grimmel was president of Hoechst Chemical
Corporation until his retirement in 1964.  He remained active in dyestuff research for the company until 1970.  After a long and
distinguished career in the dye industry, Grimmel died in 1988.  The plant site continued to grow and became known as the Rhode
Island Works of American Hoechst Corporation.
The "Forty-Eighters", veterans of the founding of  the Rhode Island Works in 1948, gathered at the Grimmel
home in the early 1960's.  Standing, left to right, are Walter Ogrodnick, Ed Ogrodnick, Harry Grimmel,
Genevieve Michalec, Frank Lazaire, Alfred Guenther, Calvin Croucher and Arthur Perras.  Seated are Irwin
Graf, Mrs. Grimmel and Louie Copice.

Photo:  
Pronounced Success:  America and Hoechst 1953-1978
Metro Dyestuff Plant Location
Click Here for 3D Aerial Photo of Site Today
References:

1)  Edward van Vlaanderen, Pronounced Success:  America and Hoechst 1953-1978, American Hoechst Corporation, 1979
2) "Personnel", American Dyestuff Reporter, Vol. 40, No. 5, March 5, 1951, p. 174
3) "Names In The News", American Dyestuff Reporter, Vol. 42, No. 7, March 30, 1953, p. 218
4) "News", American Dyestuff Reporter, Vol. 42, No. 19, September 14, 1953, p. 640
5) "Carbic to Handle Hoechst Line",  American Dyestuff Reporter, March 25, 1957, p. 227

ColorantsHistory.Org thanks Leander Ricard and Dr. Harlan B. Freyermuth for supplying valuable information for this history.
Metro Dyestuff Corporation
West Warwick, Rhode Island
ColorantsHistory.Org
Metro Dyestuff Plant Established in Former King Philip Mill-1949
Photo:  
Pronounced Success:  America and Hoechst 1953-1978