|The Chemical Industry of Shadyside (Edgewater), New Jersey
The Chemical Industry of Shadyside (Edgewater), New Jersey
A History by Robert J. Baptista-Updated December 16, 2012
Shadyside, now part of Edgewater, was a narrow strip of land along the Hudson River, three miles south of Fort Lee and just east of the Palisades. Perhaps an early settler named it after the long
shadows cast by the afternoon sun over the Palisades. Shadyside, originally known as Bulls Ferry, was the site of a Revolutionary War skirmish in 1780. There was a blockhouse garrisoned by
British soldiers, who protected the loyalists in the area. The loyalists would confiscate the rebels’ cattle and horses that strayed into their vicinity. Gen. Washington dispatched “Mad Anthony” Wayne to
attack the garrison and return the livestock to their owners. Wayne attacked the blockhouse with three Pennsylvania companies and cannon fire, but the attack was repulsed and Wayne lost 60
soldiers in the fight.
Shadyside would eventually become home to some of the earliest chemical operations in New Jersey. The railroads brought Pennsylvania coal to the area, which led to the development of the coal tar
industry. This sticky, smelly byproduct of the illuminating gas plants, formerly discarded, became the source of valuable raw materials such as benzene and aniline. Deep-water piers on the Hudson
River facilitated shipping of in-bound raw materials and out-bound finished goods to markets in the U.S. and overseas. And there was a plentiful supply of both skilled and unskilled labor in the
I) Hudson River Chemical Works of James L. Morgan & Co.
The first chemical producer in Shadyside was probably the Hudson River Dye Wood Mills, which began to manufacture sulfuric acid (oil of vitriol) in 1843. The site was directly across from West 90th
Street. It was absorbed by the James L. Morgan & Co. in 1862 which was capitalized at $500,000. This company was originally Morgan & Partridge, wholesale druggists with an office at 47 Fulton
Street in New York City. The company switched from selling drugs to natural dyes and chemicals for textile dyers. Just before the Civil War the business mainly sold the chemicals made by Martin
Kalbfleisch, whose New York plant was the largest in the metropolitan area. Kalbfleisch terminated the sales contract on January 1, 1861, putting the Morgan firm in a difficult position since the threat
of war stoked the demand for chemicals. James L. Morgan and his partners realized they had to start manufacturing themselves, so they hired a tugboat and cruised the Hudson and East Rivers
looking for a suitable site. They found the 20-acre Hudson River Dye Wood Mills site, purchased it and built a new sulfuric acid plant, based on the chamber process, in record time. (1)
The Hudson River Chemical works produced the sulfuric acid for coal oil and the rapidly emerging petroleum refining industry in the metropolitan area. The plant also supplied hydrochloric acid
(muriatic acid), caustic soda and soda ash. Organic products included textile dyes extracted from dyewoods. Some of the more important were Brazilwood from Brazil, producing a red dye; Catechu or
cutch from Acacia wood, producing a dark brown dye; Old Fustic from India and Africa, producing a yellow dye; and Logwood from Belize, producing a red dye. The facility was later named the Hudson
River Chemical and Dyewood Co.
In 1899 James L. Morgan & Co. merged with eleven other well-established chemical producers, including the Nichols Chemical Company, to form the General Chemical Co. Dr. William H. Nichols, a
highly respected chemist, and his son, Charles W. Nichols, orchestrated the merger, and the elder Nichols became the new company's first chairman. Headquarters were located in New York City,
and the company billed itself as 'manufacturing chemists' selling 'high grade sulphuric, muriatic, nitric, and acetic acids,' as well as sulphate of alumina and mixed acid for explosives. Advertisements
also highlighted the benefits of the newly merged organization: 'by means of our works being located in all sections of the country, we can give buyers benefits of lowest freight rates.' (2)
General Chemical pioneered many of the processes used in chemical manufacturing. In 1901 the company established the world's first experimental contact sulfuric acid plant. By 1903, two giant
commercial sulfuric acid plants had been erected in Edgewater and Camden, New Jersey. These plants had an important support role in World War I and II, supplying critical ingredients for munitions
and other supplies. In 1921 General Chemical joined other companies, including the National Aniline and Chemical Co., to form the Allied Chemical and Dye Corporation.
II) Page, Kidder & Fletcher Chemical Works
The Page, Kidder & Fletcher Co. Chemical Works was adjacent and just south of the Hudson River Chemical Works, as shown in this 1876 Shadyside map:
Page, Kidder & Fletcher Co. was an early coal tar distiller, producing pitch for roofing felt and creosote oil for preserving wood. Mr. J. C. F. Chever was superintendent of the works in 1872. (3) At the
Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876, the company showcased a display of coal tar derivatives. A booklet was distributed that listed 74 of these products, although some were laboratory
samples from Europe. The list included complex organic chemicals such as azobenzene, barium isopurpurate, tribromophenol, and chrysoquinone. (4)
By 1888 the company became known as the New York Coal Tar Chemical Co., headquartered at 10 Warren Street in New York City. The principals were I. D. Fletcher, president; E. H. Kidder, secretary;
and T. W. Weeks, treasurer. The Shadyside plant employed about 100 men. The firm contracted for a supply of the crude coal tar and ammonia directly from the gas companies of nearby cities.
Products included sulphate of ammonia, carbolic acid (phenol), naphtha, and benzene. (23)
The New York Coal Tar Chemical Co. merged with other companies in 1896 to form the Barrett Manufacturing Company. Barrett continued to produce coal tar, paving and roofing materials at
Shadyside and promoted the use of anhydrous ammonia recovered from waste gas liquors produced at illuminating gas works. (5) Barrett joined General Chemical in the 1921 merger to form the
Allied Chemical and Dye Corporation.
III) Bulls Ferry Chemical Co.
The Bulls Ferry Chemical Company was established 1891 in Shadyside by August Klipstein. Klipstein was owner of the A. Klipstein & Co. dyes sales agency in New York and represented several
manufacturing concerns, both in the U.S. and Europe. (6)
The company was named after the nearby Bulls Ferry, which provided service across the Hudson River to Manhattan. The ferry service began around 1796. The Peoples Ferry Co. had four boats
running the service between 1832 and 1910. Stops along the New Jersey side of the Hudson River included Ft. Lee, Edgewater, Shadyside, Bulls Ferry, Guttenberg and Weehawken. Stops in
Manhattan were at West 22 St., Spring St., and Canal St. (7)
The Bulls Ferry Chemical Co. was located near the Page, Kidder & Fletcher Chemical Works. Frame buildings were spread over four acres. A 1901 photograph shows a view of the Shadyside
chemical industry; the view from Manhattan was described as "The cozy hamlet (Shadyside Village and Chemical Works) looks like a toy village constructed of children's blocks." (8)
Adolph Hemmer was the manager of the Bulls Ferry Chemical Co. and Dr. Joseph Janney was the head of research. Products included several azo dyes, such as Orange II (Colour Index Acid Orange
7), as well as some textile softeners and finishing agents. (1) Orange II, a dye for wool, was made by diazotization of sulfanilic acid, followed by coupling with beta-naphthol:
After Hemmer’s death in 1907, dyes were discontinued but production resumed during the great dye famine of World War I, when imports from Germany were blocked. There were 37 employees in
1912, 15 in 1915 and 50 in 1918, making the company one of the smallest dye producers in the U.S. during World War I. (9,10) In 1917 Sulphur Brown, Sulphur Green, and Sulphur Cutch dyes were
being made, likely for application to cotton military uniforms. (11)
The chemical industries in the Shadyside area polluted New York City with foul odors and fumes for years. The New York City Dept. of Health cited the Bulls Ferry Chemical Co. in 1918 for offensive
odors coming from the production of Sulphur Brown and Black dyes (12) The report said work was in progress to correct the problem. Sulphur dye production generates hydrogen sulphide fumes
which have the characteristic rotten-egg odor.
Dye production was apparently discontinued after the war. At that time, many small dye producers were absorbed by larger companies such as the Allied Chemical and Dye Corporation or went of
At the Chemical Exposition held in New York City in 1920, the A. Klipstein & Co. booth displayed only tanning agents from Bulls Ferry Chemical Co., including Soluble Oil and Chrome Acetate. (13)
The subsequent history of the Bulls Ferry Chemical Co. is not well documented after 1921. The site eventually became home of Lever Bros., which manufactured soap and detergents and operated a
IV) Valvoline Oil Company
Dr. John Ellis, a Michigan physician, developed a continuous oil refining process in 1866. He established the Continuous Oil Refining Company in Binghampton that year to manufacture lubricating
oils using his patent. These oils were superior to the animal and vegetable oils that were being used as lubricants for steam cylinders at the time. (24)
The Binghampton plant was moved to Brooklyn in 1869. A fire destroyed this plant in 1876. Ellis formed a partnership with his son W. D. Ellis and T. M. Leonard and purchased land in Shadyside in
1881, where a new plant was built adjacent to and just south of the Page, Kidder & Fletcher Chemical Works. The site was directly opposite Grant's Tomb in New York City and had a storage tank
terminal and pier for loading ships. About 100 men were employed by 1889.
By 1906 the company was known as the Valvoline Oil Company. The firm eventually became a branch of the Standard Oil Company. A huge fire in 1907, which began in the cellar underneath the
engine room, caused a loss of $150,000. No loss of life occurred since the fire started at the beginning of the night shift when few workers were present. When news of the fire spread, enormous
crowds of sightseers rushed to the scene, some coming from miles away by motor cars. Small boats drew up along the waterfront and the burning oil and wax gave the onlookers a spectacular
The portion of the plant that burned was on the west side of River Road. Firemen kept the blaze from spreading to ten large tanks filled with oil. The tenants in nearby homes were driven out, but the
fire did not reach their homes.
In the early 1900s silent movies were made in the Shadyside-Edgewater-Ft. Lee area. The Palisades provided a natural background for the cliff-hanging scenes. In 1909 legendary director D. W.
Griffith filmed "The Renunciation", a comedic western starring Mary Pickford, in the wilds of Shadyside. Another movie filmed there, "By Man's Law" (1913) dealt with the impact of industry on society.
An oil tycoon corners the market, then cuts jobs and causes much suffering. A young girl who lost her job almost falls into the hands of white slavers. The movie has industrial scenes shot at either
the Valvoline Oil Co. or the nearby Barrett Manufacturing Co.
Standard Oil laid a pipeline under the Hudson River in 1893, connecting the Shadyside Point terminal to the foot of 97th Street. This line connected Pennsylvania oil wells with refineries in Brooklyn
and Long Island City. This line was ruptured by ship anchors and was replaced with a heavier duty line in 1895. (27) A pipeline leak in 1921 created a pool of oil which ignited and destroyed the U.S.S.
Granite State while moored at its New York pier. The old ship was being used as the headquarters of the Naval Militia and their training school. It was originally commissioned as the U.S.S. Alabama
in 1816 by President James Monroe. (28)
V) Linseed Oil Industry of Edgewater
Spencer Kellogg and Sons, Inc.
Spencer Kellogg and Sons, Inc. erected a linseed oil plant in Edgewater in 1909. The deepwater dock allowed ocean-going ships from India and Argentina to come directly to the plant to discharge
cargoes of flaxseed, which was pressed into linseed oil. In 1913 the plant started crushing castor beans from India. The castor oil was used in the textile industry to soften fibers and impart luster to
synthetic dyes. During World War I, facilities were installed to meet the heavy demand for coconut oil for soap. (14)
The removal of linseed oil from flaxseed required heavy and costly equipment. The seed was ground between steel rollers and tempered by heat and moisture. The mash was placed between hair
mats in large hydraulic presses operating at high pressure. The oil was filtered and placed in large storage tanks to settle or age. In the late 1930s, the processing technology improved with the use
of expeller presses.
Aged oil was eventually replaced with boiled oil. By adding small amount of manganese and lead linoleates and heating to high temperatures, the drying time of the boiled linseed oil for paints was
reduced to only 15 hours compared to four days for the raw oil.
By 1946 total corporate sales reached a record of $140 million, representing over 1.0 million barrels of various oils.
The Archer-Daniels-Midland Company was the successor to the Midland Linseed Products Company and was located adjacent to and just north of the Spencer Kellogg Works. The plant had an
annual production capacity of 375,000 barrels of linseed oil in 1928 and employed 525. A large amount of the product went to the paint, varnish, and linoleum manufacturers in New Jersey.
The two linseed oil plants in Edgewater represented the largest capacity in the world and used 40 percent of the flaxseed grown in the United States. (26)
VI) Sugar Refining Industry
In 1811 the Russian chemist Gottlieb Kirchhoff (1764-1833), while trying to discover a synthetic method for the manufacture of cane sugar, noticed that dilute acids changed starch into a mixture of
various kinds of sugars. This discovery is the basis of the present method of the manufacture of commercial glucose. Corn starch is reacted, under pressure, with a dilute solution of hydrochloric acid.
The starch is converted into a mixture of glucose sugars and the chlorine of the acid is removed by neutralizing it with sodium carbonate, so only common salt remains. The commercial glucose
resulting is a water solution of various glucose sugars. Commercial glucose contains less than 25 percent of true glucose. (32)
The manufacture of glucose was established in Buffalo, New York, about 1873 by Cicero J. Hamlin. For years the American Glucose Company, as the Hamlin plant was called, was the only important
producer of glucose in the country and the profits in the business were very large. New companies were formed and merged in the 1890s to create the Glucose Sugar Refining Company, a
conglomerate also known as the Glucose or Sugar Trust. By 1897 the Glucose Trust dominated the sugar refining industry in the U.S.
But strong competition emerged in 1901 with the construction of a sugar refinery in Shadyside by a new company known as the New York Glucose Company. This firm was formed by a group of
wealthy individuals connected with the Standard Oil Company, and about 60 percent of its stock was controlled by that group. Among the principals were John D. Rockefeller, H. H. Rogers, E. T.
Bedford and C. M. Pratt. (32) Mr. Bedford wanted to establish a business to hire his son, who had just graduated from college, and the Standard Oil Company was involved in a dispute with the
Glucose Trust over an oil contract.
The new sugar refinery was located opposite West 106th Street, New York, and covered nearly a third of a mile of waterfront. There were two buildings, one of fourteen stories, and the other of eight
stories, equipped with the latest machinery. The plant had capacity for grinding 20,000 bushels of corn a day. The plant manager was Thomas Gaunt who had previously supervised the construction
of a million dollar plant in Chicago for the Glucose Trust. About 600 people were employed at the outset. In front of the buildings were four docks, capable of handling ocean-going ships, and rail
service was provided by the Erie and West Shore Railroads. (33) The New York Glucose plant was capable of producing the lowest cost glucose in the country.
Another competitor to the Glucose Trust, although smaller than the New York Glucose Company, was the Knickerbocker Sugar Refining Company, incorporated in 1901 in New Jersey. The founder
was George K. Ross, president of a wholesale grocery firm in Cleveland, who partnered with Western grocers. The new company was capitalized at $1.5 million in stock and issued $1.0 million in
twenty-year, five percent interest bearing gold bonds. (34)
Knickerbocker purchased twelve acres of land and 575 feet of waterfront in Edgewater, just south of the Ft. Lee ferry landing. Bulkheads and docks were built and by the fall of 1902 the foundations of
the pan and melter houses, the clear filter house, boiler house and offices were in place. Ross predicted the first pan of refined sugar would be produced before the end of 1903. Initial employment
was to be 200-250 men with an output of 600-700 barrels a day. The majority of workers were expected to come from New York, commuting by the 130th Street Ferry. Rail service was available with a
spur of the Erie system, giving Knickerbocker the ability to ship sugar to Western grocers. (34)
The new plants helped to reduce the monopoly of the sugar refining industry by the Glucose Trust. From a control of approximately 85% of all the glucose refined in the U.S. in 1897, the output of the
Glucose Trust declined in 1901 to only 45% of the total operated capacity in the U.S. (35)
The smaller market share was intolerable to the Glucose Trust so a merger was accomplished in 1902 with the National Starch Company to form a new holding company called the Corn Products
Company. Corn Products then purchased a 49 percent share of the New York Glucose Company, with the remaining 51 percent held by the Standard Oil group of investors.
In 1906 the Standard Oil group took over the Corn Products Company and merged it with the New York Glucose Company to form the Corn Products Refining Company. The Warner Sugar Refining
Company, which had taken over the Knickerbocker plant in Edgewater in 1905 (36), was also absorbed in the merger. The new company was incorporated in New Jersey with a capitalization of $80
million. E. T. Bedford was named president. (37)
The growing power and influence of monopolies on commerce led the Federal government to start antitrust actions under the Sherman Antitrust Act. In 1916 Federal Judge Learned Hand ruled that
the Corn Products Refining Company restrained trade and must be dissolved. (38) In 1919, after protracted litigation, the Supreme Court ordered Corn Products to divest several properties, but did not
require that the company be dissolved. (39) Corn Products was able to keep the New York Glucose and Warner Sugar plants in Shadyside and Edgewater.
The Warner Sugar plant was acquired by the National Sugar Company in 1927 for $12 million. (40) “Jack Frost Sugars” was the brand name of National Sugar and for years this large sign atop the
Edgewater plant was a landmark on the Hudson River. The plant closed in 1942 due to the shortage of sugar in World War II. A fire destroyed most of the abandoned site in 1954. A small building on
the west side of River Road was converted to apartments. (41)
VII) Shadyside Coal Yard
The chemical and other heavy manufacturing plants in Shadyside had a voracious appetite for coal to fuel their steam boilers. The New York Edison Co. (later known as "Con Ed") also needed a place
to store vast amounts of coal for their power plants. In the early 1900s Con Edison built a storage yard at Shadyside for 50,000 tons of bituminous coal and 100,000 tons of anthracite. The coal yard
was remotely located from power plants of the company, since New York City land was too expensive and because railroad connections could not be made to any of the plants. The site chosen for the
storage yard allowed connection with several railroads. Anthracite coal could be received by railcar or by boat. The bituminous coal was received entirely by boat. Both kinds of coal were reloaded into
boats for transportation to the power plants in New York City. (44)
The bituminous pile was covered by a traversing bridge equipped with a two-ton clamshell bucket which unloaded from boats to the pile and from the pile to the boats. The front tower in which the
operator is stationed was provided with suitable loading chutes.
Anthracite coal was unloaded from boats by a steeple tower with a grab-bucket, which delivered to a reversible belt conveyor, by which the coal was transported to a hopper, from which it passed to
trimming bridges spanning the piles. Railroad coal was dumped in\o a track hopper from which it passed to the trimmers. The anthracite piles were of the Dodge circular type, and a reloading sweep
traveling on semicircular tracks was used for taking the coal from the piles to a hopper, through which it reached the belt conveyor leading to the steeple tower, which was equipped with a chute for
VIII) Employment in the Chemical Industry of Shadyside/Edgewater
By 1889 employment in the local manufacturing industries had grown to about 485 people. The oil refinery at Edgewater employed about 100 men; the chemical works at Shadyside employed 150
men; a sash and door factory at Edgewater employed 30 men; a dye works at Nordhoff employed 50 men and women; two piano action factories at Fort Lee employed 40 men, and a book bindery at
Coytesville employed 15 men. About 100 men found jobs at Fort Lee and vicinity in making Belgian paving blocks, from the blue stone quarries, which were plentiful in that neighborhood. (30)
The rapaid growth of the industries led to the construction in 1910 of six two-family homes at Oakdene Terrace at a total cost of around $40,000. The demand for homes was due to increased hiring at
companies such as Pyle's Pearline Works, the New York Glucose factory, the Warner Sugar Refinery, the Batterson & Eisle Marble Works, and the newly erected Spencer Kellogg Linseed Oil plant.
The Oakdene Terrace section of Edgewater lies at the foot of the Palisades directly opposite from Grant's Tomb, with the property sloping gradually to the Hudson River. It was destined to be covered
with houses ranging from one-family to multi-family apartments. Many employees lived in New York and commuted to work in fifteen minutes by the 130th Street Ferry Route. (31)
During the World War I era, the Edgewater industries represented one of the largest manufacturing complexes in New Jersey with over 8,000 employees. The chemical plants operated at high
capacity to meet the material needs of the war effort. There was heavy demand for sulfuric acid, dyes, linseed oil and coal tar derived chemicals and solvents. Labor was hard to find.
Edgewater Industry Employment in 1918 (15)
There were frequent labor disputes and strikes in these industries in the early 1900s, some marked by violence. A strike at the Susquehanna Railroad coal yards at Shadyside began in 1912 when
workers demanded 25 cents instead of 22 cents an hour. The strike turned into a dangerous riot. Police Detective Thomas Farrington ordered the strikers out of the coal yard and was shot in the head
but survived. The next day the strikers, many of whom were Italian immigrants, were camped on the hillside of the Palisades. When they saw a barge load of strikebreakers arrive at the coal pier, they
stormed down into the coal yards, firing at police detectives who were on guard. Capt. Andrew J. Craw and Detective Clarence Mallory of the railroad police were killed. Ten workers, all Italian, went of
trial in 1913; five were convicted and sent to prison for up to 30 years. (42)
IX) Safety and Environmental Conditions of the Shadyside/Edgewater Chemical Industry
Fire protection and employee safety systems in the early days of the plants were woefully inadequate. There were many fires and explosions resulting in worker injuries and fatalities. Workers were
exposed to chemicals whose toxic and carcinogenic properties were not known until years later.
The Shadyside village was badly wrecked in 1901 by a series of explosions caused by a fire in the Barrett Co. Several plant buildings were blown apart and the majority of homes in the village were
damaged by flying bricks and metal. The fire was likely caused by water leaking from a pipe onto lime stored in sheds on the pier. The heat caused 25 high-pressure ammonia tanks to burst. The
flames spread along the pier and threatened boats which were cut from their moorings and allowed to drift on the river. The nearby General Chemical Co. and Bulls Ferry Chemical Co., where
millions of gallons of acids, chemicals and other explosives were stored, were at risk. The employees of both factories went onto roofs with fire hoses and doused sparks, preventing the fire from
Later in 1901, fire heavily damaged the Bulls Ferry Chemical Co., covering three blocks. The loss was estimated at $300,000. Many workers had great difficulty escaping, but all finally got out. (17)
Chemical operator Lorenzo Assele was working near a boiling kettle when it overflowed onto combustible material, starting the fire and subsequent explosions. Assele was thrown into the Hudson
River and swam out. (29)
Another devastating fire struck the Barrett Co. in 1903. The fire started in the building manufacturing tar paper. The loss was about $75,000. It was feared that the fire would spread to the nearby
General Chemical Co., endangering all of Shadyside with explosions, and putting many men out of work. The Shadyside, Edgewater and Cliffside Fire Departments fought the blaze, aided by between
five and six hundred village residents. The fire was finally put out by the New York fireboats Boody and Mills. (18)
A fatal explosion occurred at the Bulls Ferry Chemical Co. in 1904. Superintendent F. A. Hammer and chemist John Koelach were alone in a building when it was demolished by the explosion.
Koelach, who was 34 years old and lived near the plant, was taken out dead with both arms missing. Hammer directed his rescuers to throw a blanket over him and carry him to his office, but he died
while being taken by ambulance to the North Hudson Hospital. He was the brother-in-law of August Klipstein, the principal owner of the plant at the time. (19)
An explosion in the New York Glucose Co. in 1906 injured 20 men. The cause was a defect in one of the steam boilers. The roof of the building was blown off and the wreckage caught fire. (20)
The year 1908 saw several devastating accidents to industry workers. Reinhardt Mehl, an employee of the New York Glucose works, fell onto an electric switch and was instantly electrocuted. Stephen
Gurko, a laborer employed at the same plant, was so badly scalded by steam that he died a couple of hours later. He was unloading a railcar of coal which was frozen solid and using steam to loosen
when the load suddenly shifted, carrying him through the chute. Nicholas Monisa, employed by the Barrett Manufacturing Co., was caught in the machinery and had his skull fractured and several ribs
broken. John Paul, 32 years old, had both hands crushed by machinery in the Valvoline Oil plant where he was employed. His left hand was completely severed and only the thumb of the right hand
Malodorous and corrosive fumes from the Shadyside/Edgewater industries plagued Manhattan for years. St. Luke's Hospital was in the center of the affected area and complained of severe
respiratory impacts to their patients. The wealthy residents of Riverside Drive formed the West Side Association to appeal to the Attorney General of New York for relief. New York City and State
bureaucracies conducted investigations and wrote reports, but the public was frustrated by the slow progress. (21) The air pollution of New York City was graphically depicted in the 1915 newspaper
headline and illustration shown below. Over time the industries installed scrubbers to abate the emissions.
X) Status of Edgewater Chemical Industry Today
Like other chemical complexes in New Jersey, such as Tremley Point, the Shadyside/Edgewater industries faded away over time. The globalization of the chemical industry, obsolete facilities, and the
environmental impacts to the densely populated metropolitan area were all factors in the demise of the once thriving industry.
Some of the old industrial properties along River Road have been cleaned up and converted to expensive condominiums and upscale office buildings. Real estate values are now very high and the
area is called the "Gold Coast".
But the properties once used for chemical production need more extensive environmental remediation. Today the former Lever Bros./Bulls Ferry Chemical Co. site is owned by Conopco, Inc., doing
business as the Unilever Research and Development/i.park Edgewater LLC , 45 River Road, Edgewater, The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP), Bureau of Industrial Site
Remediation, notified Conopco of 16 regulatory deficiencies in April 2007, including "Failure to delineate the horizontal and vertical extent of contamination to the applicable remediation standard,
including the extent to which contamination has migrated off the property." and "Failure to delineate the vertical and horizontal extent of ground water contamination and the sources of ground water
The NJDEP document also states "it is clear that the extensive Pitch/Asphaltic (PA) material at the site as well as the Polynuclear Aromatic Hydrocarbon contaminated soils and possibly the arsenic
contaminated soils and ground water are related to historical site operations." These would include operations of the former Conopco/Unilever and Bulls Ferry Chemical companies. (22)
On June 12, 2007 Mayor Nancy Merse said a remediation plan should be presented to the NJDEP that week by the developer of the proposed municipal complex on the former Unilever property. The
new municipal complex would include a Borough Hall and police station. The iPark/Edgewater LLC company has proposed a mixed-use development of residences, retail and office space on the site
where Unilever once produced such household products as Spry shortening, Dove Soap and Pepsodent Toothpaste. (22)
Another industrial property with environmental risks is the former Quanta Resources Corporation site at 163 River Road. The 16 acre site is located in a mixed industrial,commercial, and residential
zoned area. From 1896 through 1974, the site was the location of the Barrett Co. coal tar distillation plant. Quanta Resources leased the site in 1980 and conducted storage and treatment of waste
oils. The company went bankrupt in 1981. The site soils, sediment, and groundwater were contaminated with hazardous substances which included polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, volatile and
semi-volatile aromatic compounds, and metals. The area surrounding the site is currently undergoing extensive commercial and residential redevelopment. These surrounding construction projects,
as well as the Quanta Resources site itself, have led to community concerns about the safety of the air, soil, and sediment at nearby homes and work places. (45) The EPA has added the site to the
Superfund list and is conducting environmental studies.
The last chemical plant to operate in Edgewater was Octagon Process Inc., located at 596 River Road at the intersection with Archer Street. The company was founded in 1940 and over the years
manufactured a variety of specialty chemicals for industry and the U.S. Defense Department. The product line included cleaning compounds (e.g. "Mighty-Mulse" and "Mighty-Strip"), lubricants,
hydraulic fluids, paint strippers, pesticides, rust removers ("Rustclean") and deicing compounds. The deicing products were based on propylene glycol and were used by the Defense Department for
In 1960 the president was Harold Rosenberg and the director of research was Paul Grotts. (46) The laboratory staff had five chemists, a metallurgist, and two auxiliaries. In 1964 the company had an
arrangement with PPG for the manufacture of trichloroethane at Lake Charles, Louisiana. The Defense Department purchased 5,000 drums of embalming fluid from Octagon in 1969 at a cost of
$106,050, which was probably for Vietnam War casualties.(47)
In 1999 sales were in the range of $20-39 million and there were 44 employees. The company announced plans to close the plant in 2001. The demolition cost was estimated at $5 million, not
including the cost of environmental cleanup. (48) The company paid a $100,000 fine to the NJDEP in 2004 for improper storage of hazardous materials. State inspectors found pesticides and other
toxic materials in rusted drums and broken bags. (49) The company removed 47,000 pounds of hazardous wastes and 55,000 pounds of non-hazardous wastes to an approved hazardous waste
The plant was recently demolished and a developer is building two 10-story towers with 280 housing units at the site.
1) Williams Haynes, American Chemical Industry, Vol. I, D. Van Nostrand, New York, 1954 pp. 184, 259-260
2) "The General Chemical Group Inc.", International Directory of Company Histories, Vol. 37. St. James Press, 2001
3) Henry Morton, "Fluorescent Radiation of Anthracene and Chrysogen", The Chemical News and Journal of Physical Science, Vol. 25, 1872, p. 201
4) Haynes, American Chemical History, Vol. I, p. 315
5) Haynes, American Chemical History, Vol. VI, p. 46
6) Williams Haynes, American Chemical History, Vol. I, D. Van Nostrand, New York, 1954, p. 313
7) Arthur G. Adams, The Hudson River Guidebook, Fordham University Press, 1996, p. 104
8) Wallace Bruce, The Hudson by Daylight, Bryant Literary Union, New York, 1902
9) Industrial Directory of New Jersey, 1912, p. 135
10) Industrial Directory of New Jersey, 1915, p. 148
11) The Textile American, Vol. 27-28, 1917, p. 32
12) Annual Report of the Dept. of Health of the City of New York, 1919, p. 43
13) “A. Klipstein & Co., New York City”, American Dyestuff Reporter, Vol. 7, No. 13, September 27, 1920, p. 15
14) Haynes, American Chemical Industry, Vol. VI, pp. 238-241
15) Industrial Directory of New Jersey, 1918, p. 167
16) "Village Badly Wrecked", New York Times, June 20, 1901
17) "By Fire-Chemical Works at Shady Side, N.J. Destroyed", Lima Times Democrat, October 16, 1901
18) "Whole Village Fought Fire", New York Times, September 16, 1903
19) "Fatal Shady Side Explosion", New York Times, November 2, 1904
20) "Steam Explosion Badly Hurts Many", Fort Wayne Sentinel, May 22, 1906
21) "Suffocating New York's Choicest Residence District with Poisonous Gases", San Antonio Light, November 14, 1915
22) Christina Rossi, “Unilever cleanup plan due this week”, Bergen News, June 12, 2007, available at the web site link: http://mambo.bergennews.com/index.php?
option=com_content&task=view&id=1922&Itemid=105 , accessed September 15, 2007
23) Illustrated New York: The Metropolis of Today, International Publishing Co., New York, 1888, p. 134
24) "Valvoline: The Original Pennsylvania Oil", Titusville Herald, August 22, 1934
25) "$150,000 Loss By Spectacular Blaze", New York Times, August 2, 1907
26) F.W. Parsons, ed., New Jersey: Life, Industries and Resources of a Great State, New Jersey Stare Chamber of Congress, Newark, NJ, 1928, p. 350
27) "Standard Oil's New Pipe Line", New York Times, December 18, 1895
28) "Historic Football History for the 1st Battalion, New York Naval Militia and the U.S.S. Granite State", web site at the link:
http://www.mindspring.com/~luckyshow/football/GraniteSt-1stBattalion.htm, accessed October 3, 2007
29) "Chemical Works Burned", New York Times, October 17, 1901
30) Thirteenth Annual Report of the Board of Health of the State of New Jersey, 1889, p. 179
31) "Building at Edgewater", New York Times, February 6, 1910
32) Arthur S. Dewing, Corporate Promotions and Reorganizations, Harvard University Press, 1914, p. 72
33) "New Glucose Refinery", New York Times, December 20, 1900
34) "New Refinery to Start", New York Times, July 29, 1903
35) Corporate Promotions and Reorganizations, 1914, p. 85
36) Douglas E. Hall, Edgewater (Images of America), Arcadia Publishing, 2005, p. 41
37) "Standard Oil Absorbs the Glucose Industry", New York Times, January 9, 1906
38) "Court Dissolves Corn Products Co.", New York Times, June 25, 1916
39) "Court Dissolves The Corn Trust", Bridgeport Standard Telegram, April 1, 1919
40) "National Sugar Co. Buys Warner Plant", New York Times, January 20, 1927
41) Edgewater (Images of America), 2005, p. 42
42) "Convict Italians of Killing Sleuth", New York Times, February 23, 1913
43) Thirty-First Annual Report of the Bureau of Statistics of Labor and Industries of New Jersey, For the Year Ending October 31, 1908, Sinnickson Chew & Sons Co., Camden, NJ, 1909, pp. 256, 285,
44) Frank Koester, Steam-Electric Power Plants, D. Van Nostrand, New York, 1908, pp. 31-32
45) Public Health Assessment: Quanta Resources Corporation, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, 2002
46) Industrial Research Laboratories of the United States, National Research Council, 1960, p. 352
47) Daily Times News (Burlington, NC), June 21, 1969
48) Laura Fasbach, "Tearing Down site Estimated at $5Mil", The Record, July 13, 2001
49) Colleen Dishan, "Edgewater Plant Settles Pollution Case" ,The Record, March 12, 2004
|Hudson River Chemical Works, Shadyside, New Jersey, 1865
Image: G. W. Gesner, A Practical Treatise on Coal, Petroleum and Other Distilled Oils, 1865
|Map of Shadyside, New Jersey, A.H. Walker Atlas of Bergen County, 1876
Image: Courtesy of John Kelly at Grey Pilgrim Antiquarian Books. Click to Enlarge.
|View of Shadyside, NJ Chemical Industry, Palisades in Background
Photo: The American Monthly Review of Reviews, July 1901
Orange II Dye Made by Bulls Ferry Chemical Co.
|Aerial View to North of the Edgewater, NJ Chemical Industry, 1945.
Spencer Kellogg Linseed Oil Works at Center of Photo. Archer-Daniels-Midland Just North of Spencer Kellogg. Lever Bros.
Soap Plant, Research Center at Bottom. Photo: Library of Congress. Click to Enlarge.
|View of Spencer Kellogg Works Looking Southwest, 1948 Photo: Library of Congress. Click to Enlarge.
|Spencer Kellogg Loading Dock, 1948
Photo: Library of Congress. Click to Enlarge
|Abandoned Spencer Kellogg Transit Shed and Pier, 1983-1984
Photo: Library of Congress. Click to Enlarge.
|Name of Firm
||Type of Business
||No. of Persons Employed
||Tar roofing and paving materials
|Bulls Ferry Chemical Co.
||Dyes and chemicals
|General Chemical Co.
|Kellogg, Spencer & Sons, Inc.
||Linseed, castor and coconut oils
|Midland Linseed Products Co.
||Linseed oil, cake, meal
|Sinclair & Valentine Co.
||Printing ink, dry colors, varnish
|Valvoline Oil Co.
||Lubricating oils and greases
|Sub-total Chemical Employment
|Corn Products Refining Co.
||Sugar, syrups, oilcake, etc.
|Warner Sugar Refining Co.
|Sub-total Sugar Refining
|American Can Co.
|Batterson & Eisele
||Marble, mosaic, stone, granite
||Cleaning and dyeing
|Edgewater Foundry Co.
||Machinery and castings
|Edgewater Tapestry Looms
|Higgins, D. A. & Co.
||Dyeing and bleaching yarns
|Hinners, E. H. & Sons
||Moulding and trim
|Hudson Dye Works
||Cleaning and dyeing
|United States Aluminum Co.
||Rolled aluminum sheet, circles
||Airplanes and parts
|Sub-total Other Industries
|Total Edgewater Industries
Employment in 1918
|The Air Pollution Menacing New York City from the Shadyside/Edgewater Industries.
Image: The San Antonio Light, November 14, 1915
|Ad for Bulls Ferry Chemical Co. Products Sold by A. Klipstein & Co.
Year Book of the Oil, Paint and Drug Reporter, 1918. Click to Enlarge
|Dodge Traversing Gantry Bridge, Shadyside, NJ Coal Yard
Photo: Cassier's Magazine, 1908
This Lighted Sign at the Shadyside Coal Yard Was Seen for Several Miles Along the
Hudson River. The Sign Contained 1,800 8-Candle Power Lamps. A Special
75-Kilowatt Generator Supplied the Electricity. Image: I.C.S. Reference Library, 1908
|Left: Andrew J. Craw Right: Clarence Mallory
Erie Railroad Police Killed by Strikers at Shadyside on Dec. 11, 1912
|View of Barrett Co., Edgewater, NJ Opposite Manhattan
Photo: Fortune, 1930
Quanta Resources Corporation Superfund Site, Edgewater, NJ. Photos: EPA and NOAA. Click to Enlarge.
Copyright © 2007-2012 by ColorantsHistory.Org. All Rights Reserved.
|Oily Sheen on Hudson River Emanates from the Celotex/Quanta
Resources Hazardous Waste Site and Threatens the Local Ecology.
Click to Enlarge. Photo Courtesy of Hank Gans
Click Images to Enlarge
|Interior of Derelict Octagon Process Plant
Photo Courtesy of Mike Sullivan
Photo of the Corn Products Refining Company ca. 1910, with Manhattan in Background. The Sign Along Waterfront Reads
Duryea Starch, a Trademark of Corn Products Along with Other Famous Brands: Argo starch, Mazola Corn Oil, and Karo Syrup.