www.TheHarshawGang.org

A SHORT HISTORY

OF

THE HARSHAW CHEMICAL COMPANY

 

The Cleveland Commercial Company was founded in 1892 by William A. Harshaw with a capital outlay of $3000. Located on South Water Street in Cleveland to buy, sell and manufacture chemicals, oils and dry colors. In 1893, Ralph L. Fuller was invited to join the Company as a partner.
At the left is the headquarters located at E. 97th Street in Cleveland, OH.

A panic in the mid 1890's resulted in the demise of many firms round the country. The Cleveland Commercial Company was able to obtain a large unused warehouse on the Cuyahoga River and next to a rail siding so that merchandise could be obtained by boat and transported by rail. Hardly the chemical business but the "improvement" in business carried the Company through the dark days of 1894 and 1895. An interest was obtained in a glycerine refining company in Cleveland and a linseed oil mill in Elyria. An agreement was reached with another concern for the production of nickel anodes and nickel salts for the electroplating field. The Cleveland Commercial Company acted as a sales agent for these subsidiary operations. Wallace B. Goodwin joined the executive group taking charge of credits and accounting and assisting in sales.

In 1897, fire destroyed the linseed oil mill and the owners decided not to rebuild it and liquidated it. Harshaw purchased the property and organized a new company under the name C. H. Price Company with Mr. Price in charge. In 1898 the C. H. Price Company and the Cleveland Commercial Company were merged under the name Harshaw, Fuller and Goodwin Company. The glycerine and plating businesses were consolidated and moved to Elyria. A graduate of Case Institute, Mr. A. L. Stark, was put in charge of the Elyria operations. In 1902, WA made arrangements to import crude glycerine from France, Italy and Spain. Another arrangement allowed for the importation of manganese dioxide ore to Elyria where it was crushed, sized and ground and resold to the makers of flashlight batteries. The Company also had connections with the paint and varnish industry in making so-called Japan driers. WA also obtained the rights for a French process to manufacture tin oxide used as an opacifier in making glaze for tile and the enameling of steel. The tin oxide process led to the manufacture of chrome oxide as well as other oxides.

Property along the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland was purchased in 1905 for future expansion and eventually came to be known as the Harvard-Denison (H-D) plant. About the same time, a fire destroyed an acetone plant  supplying the Company and owned by H. W. Kessler in Brandt, PA. Mr. Kessler was induced to merge and rebuild on the new property. A small hydrofluoric acid  operation in Elyria was moved to Cleveland and enlarged and included the manufacture of sodium fluoride and ammonium fluoride. In 1910, Mr. Stark developed a process for the manufacture of antimony oxide used in the enameling industry. The basic aim of the Company was to take care of all the basic requirements of an industry, either by manufacture or resale. The manufacture of cobalt oxide, used as a ground coat for the enameling of steel, led to the manufacture of cobalt salts such as linoleate, acetate and resinate used to make improved driers for the paint and varnish industry.

By 1913, the glycerine refining business declined due to the consolidation of smaller soap companies into larger ones that could produce their own glycerine. As a result, a large refinery was erected in Philadelphia where better advantage could be taken of crudes imported from Europe and South America.

An unusually large inventory of manganese ore became a very valuable asset with the advent of World War I. Again just prior to the outbreak of WWI, a process for the manufacture of antimony sulfide was started. This material was required by the rubber companies in Akron to make tires and tubes. WWI caused a large demand for the Company's products such as refined glycerine and manganese and antimony products but also created shortages for many raw materials the Company used. At the end of the war the antimony sulfide operation was shut down and the acetone plant was closed and dismantled. The price of glycerine, fixed by the Government, skidded from $.60/# down to $.10/#. Nonetheless, business flourished and every year except one resulted in an increase in volume and profits over the next decade. The acetone plant was remodeled and new equipment installed to make linoleates and resinates and the hydrates and carbonates of cobalt, manganese and lead which put the Company in an outstanding position to supply the paint, varnish, printing ink and linoleum industries. A decision by the International Nickel Company resulted increased production of nickel salts and moving production from Elyria to a new facility at H-D. The increasing demand for hydrofluoric acid and antimony oxide led to new equipment to increase production.  The antimony sulfide facility, which had been idle since 1921, was re-fitted for the production of cadmium products leading to a line of color oxides for the ceramic industry.

1929 saw the Company's name changed to the Harshaw Chemical Company. The market crash in 1929 brought expansion to a halt with the exception of the previous Hathaway-Brown School property on East 97th street in Cleveland which was to be the Company headquarters for many years to come.

Many of the classrooms were converted into offices and the gym was converted into a research laboratory for electroplating processes, the latter resulting in a process for plating bright nickel which required no buffing. By the mid 1930's, expansion was again underway first for Uverite, a tin oxide substitute, the several new ceramic colors, glass enamels and improved

cadmium colors. A start was made in 1936 to manufacture optical crystals.

In the late 30's, a new plant was designed to produce anhydrous hydrofluoric acid as well as ammonium bifluoride and a new product, boron trifluoride.

World War II again disrupted expansion ideas and created problems with obtaining raw materials. New paths had to be found to circumvent the shortages and the Company was up to the challenge. In early October 1941, the Company had been asked to produce a small amount of uranium hexafluoride and entered into a small scale contract with the National Bureau of Standards. The operation was increased until eventually a plant within a plant was constructed under contract with the Manhattan District. The word uranium was never used but referred to as a code number or "brown salt" or "green salt", etc. It wasn't until August 6, 1945 when an atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima that employees learned of the magnitude of the project on which they had worked on in times of shortages, priorities, scarce equipment, clearances, etc. At the war's end, the Company was awarded an Army-Navy "E" with Five Stars for a job well done.

WWII also saw the Company's entry into the catalyst field. Much of the idled ceramic color equipment was found to be suitable for use in catalyst manufacture and the Company found itself producing catalyst for the synthetic rubber industry.

With the end of WWII, a new nickel salts plant had to be built because of the new rush for bright plating as well as a new facility for plating research. The glycerine plant in Philadelphia was renovated and moved to a new and larger location in Gloucester City, NJ. Eventually, metallic soap, antimony oxide and some organic specialties were moved to Gloucester City.

A flurry of expansion occurred in the mid 1950's: the Company formed a new affiliated company with a French concern to produce ceramic colors in Europe; the purchase of Zinsser & Company established the Company in dyes, lakes, toners, Metol, tannic and gallic acids and other organic specialties serving the photographic, paint, printing ink, leather and textile industries.

Harshaw Chemicals Ltd. was established in 1956 to produce electroplating products in England and Europe. The offices, laboratories and plant were expanded in 1967 and located in Daventry, England.

In 1958, the Company acquired The Kentucky Color and Chemical Company of Louisville, Kentucky as part of the newly formed Pigment and Dye Department. A complete line of dry colors for paints, printing inks, linoleum, plastics, rubber and textiles are manufactured there. In 1964, the products manufactured by the Zinsser facility were transferred to the greatly enlarged color plant in Louisville, Kentucky.

In 1960, Harshaw established a comprehensive laboratory in Cleveland, Ohio to work exclusively with solid state materials and applications research. Also in 1960, Harshaw purchased a majority share holding in its licensee in Holland and subsequently acquired sole ownership. Now operating as Harshaw Chemie N.V. of DeMeern, Netherlands, this company makes catalysts, buffs and polishing compounds, industrial cleaners, electroplating additives and equipment as well as scintillation phosphors and electronics.  In 1967, this facility was expanded with addition of a new catalyst manufacturing plant.

In 1962, Harshaw Chemie GmbH was established in Frankfurt, Germany as a sales and service branch for crystal and electronic products, electroplating products and catalysts.

Hamner Electronics Company was acquired in 1964 enabling the Company to offer complete nuclear electronic detection systems. In 1966, the Xtalonix Company was brought into the Company as a part of the Crystal-Solid State Department enabling the company to serve the microwave industry with a line of magnetic ferrite materials.

The Crown Rheostat and Equipment Company, with a modern plant in Chicago, Illinois and a long, respected history as a manufacturer of automatic processing equipment, was acquired in 1966. This brought Harshaw a step closer to becoming a complete supplier to the electroplating industry.

In the Fall of 1966, the Harshaw Chemical Company was merged with the Kewanee Oil Company, a 96 year old enterprise specializing in the production of crude oil and natural gas.

Subsequently, the merged company was acquired by the Gulf Oil Corporation in 1977.

In 1983, the Harshaw/Filtrol Partnership was formed as a joint venture between Kaiser Chemical and Gulf Oil. In 1988, the Partnership was acquired by the Engelhard Corporation who retained the Color and Catalyst groups. The Industrial Chemical and Metal Finishing groups were divested to M&T Chemicals which in turn were acquired by Elf Atochem and ultimately merged with their Schering Electroplating Division in 1993 to form a new company, Atochem. The Crystal-Solid State group was divested  to Saint Gobain (part of a French consortium). In 2007, Engelhard Corporation was purchased by BASF Catalysts.

Today, Harshaw, which once stood for quality, innovative products in many diverse fields is no longer in existence. However, as stated on the home page, former employees still meet and reminisce about the many accomplishments made by the Company for almost 100 years.


Recently, we learned about two articles covering the razing of the Harshaw Corporate offices located at E. 97 and Chester Ave which were originally occupied by the Laurel School for Girls and the Hathaway-Brown School. Strangely, neither article mentions that the building was occupied by Harshaw for more years than the schools. The URL's for these articles are:
    January 28, 2010 article:

http://www.clevelandareahistory.com/2010/01/lost-hathaway-brown-school-and-laurel.html

    March 13, 2010 article:

http://blog.cleveland.com/architecture/2010/03/cleveland_clinics_razing_of_fo.html

There are some pictures which may be of interest.


Many other articles of interest may be found on the Internet using the Google search engine.  One such Goggle search is the following URL: 
http://www.google.com/search?q=harshaw+chemical+company&rls=com.microsoft:en-us:IE-SearchBox&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&sourceid=ie7&rlz=1I7ADBR_en


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