The American Synthetic Organic Chemicals Industry
Publication Year: 2014
Published by: The University of North Carolina Press
Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
Figures and Tables
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Perhaps readers expect the least amount of originality in a historian’s acknowledgments
because the debts incurred and categories of creditors remain
suspiciously similar across scholars, varying only in the particulars.
Nonetheless, I want to thank my particulars.
This project required funding for travel to archives and for time to research and write, and I would like to thank...
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Late in the evening of July 9, 1916, the German U-boat Deutschland successfully executed its mission and docked at a warehouse designed especially for the submarine. Submarine warfare in World War I posed a new and troubling menace to military and commercial shipping, and the Germans became adept at exploiting the strategic advantages of the underwater...
1. Before the War
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To understand the prewar economy in synthetic organic chemicals, consider a typical, if imaginary, journey of a synthetic dye and a synthetic pharmaceutical from Germany to the United States in 1914. On the eve of World War I, indanthrene blue GCD and Salvarsan represented the most advanced synthetic organic dye and pharmaceutical yet produced by the...
2. American Manufacturers, German Chemicals: Dyes and Pharmaceuticals, 1914–1918
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At the outbreak of hostilities, American entrepreneurs embraced the manufacture of the signature German synthetic organic chemicals: dyes and pharmaceuticals. While the war heightened uncertainty and risk, not least because of its unpredictable duration, entrepreneurs seized the opportunities born of war. To many in the industry, wresting chemical markets from...
3. Mobilization: Synthetic Organic Chemicals in War, 1914–1918
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If synthetic organic chemicals had included only dyes and pharmaceuticals, proponents of the domestic industry might still have argued convincingly for its survival in the name of national interest. But because many high explosives and war gases were also synthetic organic chemicals, industry backers could make a much more explicit case for national security. Although...
4. Ideology and Institutions: American Chemists Respond, 1914–1918
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In the U.S. effort to build a domestic synthetic organic chemicals industry, the skills and commitment of American chemists would be crucial. American manufacturers needed their in-house knowledge, but they also believed—based on German experience—that their ability to innovate depended on universities’ ability to expand their research in synthetic organic...
5. Xenophobia, Tariffs, and Confiscation, 1914–1918
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The wartime crisis in dyes and pharmaceuticals shaped public policy in ways that had significance beyond the German chemicals. World War I left Americans feeling vulnerable from interruptions in international trade, and they sought to rectify the perceived weaknesses. Synthetic dyes and pharmaceuticals became a harbinger of the shift to autarky and isolation...
6. Surviving the Peace: Economic War, 1919–1922
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The armistice on November 11, 1918, ended the fighting in Europe but initiated a turbulent postwar economic transition from a war economy to a peacetime economy. The three years following the war proved crucial to the American synthetic organic chemicals industry, particularly the dyes and pharmaceuticals manufacturers. Most industrialists felt they still lacked the...
7. Customs, Courts, and Claims: The Industry and the Law, 1922–1930
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With the war increasingly behind them, Americans attempted to return to a peacetime economy, but the war’s political and economic fallout would consume the synthetic organic chemical manufacturers’ attention through the 1920s. Isolationism permeated the United States, and Americans lost trust in the benefits of global ties. The synthetic organic chemicals...
8. An “American” Industry, 1919–1930
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By 1930, the American dyes and pharmaceuticals industry had reached a stage of development sufficient to prevent another deep crisis if nations again disrupted international commerce. The industry satisfied policymakers’ basic expectations for its role in the national defense, and, after a decade of learning and consolidation, the leading firms usually turned...
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In the early 1920s, Merck & Company corresponded regularly with E. Merck in Darmstadt, sharing technical information despite having become separate firms, but the management on each side faced a telling problem. In the spring of 1922, Rudolf Gruber at Merck & Company exchanged several letters with E. Merck in Darmstadt about which language their chemists...
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Publication Year: 2014