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Ayer, James Cook (05 May 1818–03 July 1878), proprietary medicine manufacturer and entrepreneur, was born in Ledyard, Connecticut, the son of Frederick Ayer, a mill operator, and Persis Cook. His father, who ran water-driven sawmills, gristmills, and woolen mills as well as a blacksmith and wheelwright’s shop, died when Ayer was seven. His mother and the children lived for two years with her father in Preston, Connecticut. Ayer spent a winter with his nearby paternal grandfather while attending school; he then returned to Preston and stayed for three years, working long hours at various tasks in a carding mill—eventually under a four-cents-an-hour contract. He insisted on further education and at age twelve was sent to a school in Norwich for six months, after which he clerked for a year for a country merchant....

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Anthony N. Stranges and Richard C. Jones

Baekeland, Leo Hendrik (14 November 1863–23 February 1944), chemist and inventor, was born in St. Martens-Latem, near Ghent, Belgium, the son of Karel Baekeland, a cobbler, and Rosalia Merchie, a housemaid. A government scholarship enabled Baekeland to enter the University of Ghent, where he studied chemistry in the School of Exact Sciences. He received a B.S. in 1882 and a D.Sc. in organic chemistry in 1884, passing the examination with highest honors. The following year he became an assistant to Theodore Swarts, a professor of chemistry at Ghent. In 1887 Baekeland won a traveling scholarship in an academic competition sponsored by the Universities of Ghent, Liege, Brussels, and Louvain. He postponed travel and instead continued as an assistant professor and then as associate professor from 1888 to 1889 at Ghent and at the nearby Higher Normal School at Bruges from 1885 to 1887. In 1889 he married Swarts’s daughter, Céline, an artist; they had two children. The couple used Baekeland’s scholarship for travel to France, Britain, and the United States that year....

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Barber, Ohio Columbus (20 April 1841–04 February 1920), founder of a match manufacturing company, was born in Middlebury, Ohio, the son of George Barber, the , and Eliza Smith. Ohio Barber began working in his father’s company at age sixteen, first within the factory and later as a traveling salesman responsible for the states of Indiana, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. He became a partner in 1860 and two years later took over primary control of the company from his father. In 1864 the business became a public stock company under the name of the Barber Match Company. In October 1866 Barber married Laura L. Brown; they had one child....

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Albert C. Barnes Photograph by Carl Van Vechten, 1940. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LOT 12735, no. 102 P&P).

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Barnes, Albert Coombs (02 January 1872–24 July 1951), collector, educator, and entrepreneur, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of John Jesse Barnes, a butcher, and Lydia A. Schafer. Barnes’s father lost his right arm in the Civil War, and his ability to support his family proved sporadic. However, Albert’s mother, to whom he was devoted, was hardworking and resourceful. Among his most vivid childhood memories were the exuberant black religious revivals and camp meetings he attended with his devout Methodist parents. Accepted at the academically demanding Central High School, which awarded bachelor’s degrees, his early interest in art was stimulated by his friendship with the future artist ...

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Bell, William Brown (16 February 1879–20 December 1950), chemical industrialist, was born in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, the son of Thomas Alsop Bell, a china manufacturer, and Elizabeth Dunn. Raised as a Quaker, he attended Haverford College, from which he received both a B.A. in 1900 and an M.A. in political science the following year. Bell earned a law degree from Columbia University in 1903 and in the same year married Susan Kite Alsop, with whom he had one child. Bell then passed the New York bar exam and joined the New York City law firm of Guthrie, Cravath, Henderson, and de Gersdorff. Giving up the practice of law in 1905, he worked on a newspaper in Atlantic City, New Jersey, until 1915 and then spent a year managing the Pocono Lake Preserve in Pennsylvania....

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Brandreth, Benjamin (09 January 1807–19 February 1880), proprietary medicine manufacturer and eclectic physician, was born in Leeds, England, where his father was a merchant. In the mid-eighteenth century, his physician grandfather, William Brandreth of Liverpool, had concocted and sold a Vegetable Universal Pill. Inheriting the formula, Brandreth marketed the pill in 1828. In 1829 he married Harriet Matilda Smallpage; they had five children. In 1835, sensing a larger pill market in the United States, the family migrated to New York City, where his wife died the following year....

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Cabot, Godfrey Lowell (26 February 1861–02 November 1962), manufacturer, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Samuel Cabot, a physician and prominent member of the unofficial first family of Boston, and Hannah Lowell Jackson. In 1882 Cabot graduated from Harvard, where he studied chemistry. Following graduation, he studied at Zurich Polytechnicum and University in Switzerland and again at Harvard in 1891 and 1892. In 1890 he married Maria Buckminster Moors, with whom he had five children....

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Cesar (1682–?), South Carolina slave and medical practitioner who developed primitive pharmaceuticals, was born possibly in Africa or the Caribbean and transported to the southern colonies as a slave, or perhaps he was born into slavery in South Carolina. (His name is often spelled Caesar.) His parents are unknown; he may have been the descendant of skilled medicine men, who transferred medical knowledge from their native cultures to the colonies, sharing drug recipes and folk remedies that used herbs and roots, or of slave midwives, who had performed Caesarian sections in Africa and taught other slaves that procedure....

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Childs, Richard Spencer (24 May 1882–26 September 1978), business executive and political reformer, was born in Manchester, Connecticut, the son of William Hamlin Childs and Nellie White Spencer. His father founded the Bon Ami Company and, together with his other business ventures, became one of the wealthiest men in Brooklyn, New York, where the family moved in 1892. Richard Childs attended Yale University from 1900 to 1904 and earned a B.A. In 1904 he joined the advertising agency of Alfred William Erickson; eventually becoming a junior partner, he remained with the firm until 1918. He married Grace Pauline Hatch in 1912. They had four children (their firstborn died a day after birth). From 1919 to 1920 Childs was manager of the Bon Ami Company, and from 1921 to 1928 he was head of the drug specialties division of the A. E. Chew Company, a New York exporter. Childs worked for the American Cyanamid Company from 1928 to 1947 and headed its Lederle Laboratories division from 1935 to 1944....

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Colgate, William (25 January 1783–25 March 1857), manufacturer and philanthropist, was born in Hollingbourne parish, Kent, England, the son of Robert Colgate, a gentleman farmer, and Sarah Bowles. In 1795 he emigrated with his family to the United States because his father, an outspoken critic of King George III, was forced to flee England to avoid prosecution for treason. The family disembarked in Baltimore, Maryland, and purchased a modest estate in nearby Harford County, which was lost two years later when it was discovered that they did not possess a clear title. They then moved to present-day Randolph County, West Virginia, where his father attempted unsuccessfully to farm and mine coal. In 1800 they returned to Baltimore, where he and his father went into business with Robert Mather, a soap and candle maker. After the partnership dissolved two years later and his family relocated to Ossining, New York, he remained in Baltimore and opened his own soap and candle works....

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Davis, Francis Breese, Jr. (16 September 1883–22 December 1962), business executive, was born in Fort Edward, New York, the son of Francis Breese Davis and Ella Underwood, farmers. He graduated from the Sheffield Scientific School, Yale, in 1906 and in 1913 married Jean Reybold; the couple had one child....

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du Pont, Henry Belin (23 July 1898–13 April 1970), executive and engineer, was born in Wilmington, Delaware, the son of Henry Belin du Pont, a businessman, and Eleuthera du Pont Bradford, an executive. He earned a B.A. in history from Yale University in 1920 and a B.S. in aeronautical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1923....

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du Pont, Lammot (12 October 1880–24 July 1952), industrialist, was born in Wilmington, Delaware, the son of Lammot du Pont, general manager of the company that was the family’s namesake, and Mary Belin. He was the great-grandson of Eleuthère Irénée du Pont, who in 1800 emigrated from France to the United States, where he established a black powder factory along the Brandywine River a few miles north of Wilmington, Delaware. Following his father’s death in a nitroglycerine explosion in 1884, the younger Lammot was raised by his older brothers, ...

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Ellis, Carleton (20 September 1876–13 January 1941), chemist and inventor, was born in Keene, New Hampshire, the son of Marcus Ellis, a merchant, and Catherine Goodnow. Ellis received a camera from his father for his eleventh birthday and became an amateur photographer. Obsessed with the chemistry of photography, he pursued experiments in a home laboratory to the dismay of his parents, who considered this a wasteful extravagance. In 1896 he entered the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, receiving a B.S. in chemistry in 1900 and serving as an instructor in chemistry until 1902. In 1901 he married Birdella May Wood of Dayton, Ohio; they had four children....

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Factor, Max (1872?–30 August 1938), cosmetics expert and executive, was born Max Faktor in Łódź, Poland, the son of Abraham Faktor and Cecilia Tandowsky. The exact year of his birth is unknown. Factor himself was not even certain, although 1872, 1874, and 1877 were the years most reported. Given the events that took place in his early life, 1872 appears to be the most accurate....

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Factor, Max, Jr. (18 August 1904–07 June 1996), cosmetics inventor and businessman, was born Frank (some sources say Francis) Factor in St. Louis to Max Factor, Sr. (originally Faktor) of Poland and Esther Rosa Factor from Russia. Frank Factor was born after the family immigrated to America and settled in St. Louis in 1904. He later changed his name to Max Factor, Jr., upon his father's death in 1938....

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Fels, Joseph (16 December 1853–22 February 1914), soap manufacturer, reformer, and single-tax evangelist, was born in Halifax Court House, Virginia, the second son of Lazarus Fels, a peddler, and Susannah Freiberg. His Bavarian Jewish parents had immigrated in 1848, coming from near Kaiserslautern. Settling in Yanceyville, North Carolina, Lazarus Fels took over the general store and in 1861 was appointed Confederate States postmaster. Joseph attended classes in Yanceyville and, with his older sisters, a boarding school in Richmond, Virginia. Bankrupted by the Civil War and a failed try at soapmaking, Lazarus Fels moved the family to Baltimore in 1867. At fifteen Joseph ended schooling to work in his father’s second soap business, which also failed; then briefly, at seventeen, he became a traveling coffee salesman. Within a year he and his father became the Baltimore representatives of Charles Elias and Company, a Philadelphia soap house. In 1873 Lazarus moved northward again, this time to Philadelphia. Two years later, Joseph acquired a partnership in Thomas Worsley and Company, a maker of fancy toilet soaps, installing his father in charge of manufacturing. In 1876 Joseph Fels bought out Worsley after founding Fels and Company of Philadelphia in his own name. Fels and Company prospered in the intensely competitive soap business, by 1890 marketing no fewer than 107 varieties....

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Fels, Samuel Simeon (16 February 1860–23 June 1950), soap manufacturer and philanthropist, was born in Yanceyville, North Carolina, the son of Lazarus Fels, proprietor of a general store, and Susanna Freiberg. Before and during the Civil War, the family prospered, largely through the entrepreneurial efforts of Samuel’s father, despite an unsuccessful attempt to make and sell soap....

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Fuller, Alfred Carl (13 January 1885–04 December 1973), brush manufacturer and door-to-door marketer, was born in Welsford, Kings County, Nova Scotia, the son of Leander Joseph Fuller and Phebe Jane Collins, farmers. The eleventh of twelve children, Fuller grew up in an extended family of New England émigrés on Acadian land settled following the French and Indian War. The farm relied on oxen rather than horses, the family worshiped with the local Methodist congregation, and the children studied at the common school. As he came of age Fuller joined most of his generation in migrating to cities to find work. In January 1903 he left from the port at Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, for Boston, where three brothers and two sisters already lived. A sister in Somerville provided him a room, while a brother got him a job as a streetcar conductor. He was discharged after eighteen months for derailing a car. Then failing as a groom and a teamster, Fuller sought a job with the Somerville Brush and Mop Company, a business begun by another brother who had subsequently died, and started work there on 7 January 1905 as a salesman....