Dicke, Robert J. (ed.) / Transactions of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters
volume XLIV (1955)
Ihde, Aaron J.; Conners, James W.
Chemical industry in early Wisconsin, pp. 5-20 PDF (5.8 MB)
12 Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters [Vol. 44 founded in 1886 for the manufacture of parquet flooring. The business took an unexpected turn when builders and homeowners began asking how to keep floors in good condition. Wax was recommended since Samuel Curtis Johnson knew that parquet floors in Europe had stood the wear of centuries with only wax treatment. The company began the sale of floor wax and similar products. By 1898, the dollar sales of wax and allied materials exceeded those of flooring. In 1916, the sale of flooring was discontinued entirely with the company concentrating on wax products and expanding into a world market.1' TANNING It was natural that Wisconsin should develop a strong tanning industry. The hemlock forests provided an abundant source of tanbark. The lesser oak forests provided an additional source of tanning materials. The growing emphasis on livestock as Wisconsin became transformed from a wheat-growing state to one putting emphasis on diversified agriculture, in particular meat production and dairying, brought about a fortunate proximity of hides and tanning materials. By 1880, Milwaukee had become an important tanning center with at least eight tanneries in operation. Several of these establishments traced their origins back to midcentury. The Wisconsin Leather Company had its origins in an enterprise started in Cazenovia, New York, in 1809. As the New York supply of tanbark became depleted, action was taken to obtain new supplies to the westward. A tannery was opened in Two Rivers, in the heart of the hemlock'2 region of Wisconsin, in 1850. A second tannery was built in the same city in 1861. In 1870, the Milwaukee tannery was opened in order to be near the source of hides from the local meat-packing establishments. In 1880, the company was tanning 175,000 hides, worth about $600,000. The Pfister and Vogel Leather Company was formed in 1857 through the merger of two small tanneries which had been operating since 1847. In 1880, it was tanning around 100,000 hides. The Kinnickinnic Tannery was established in 1849. The Herman it "This Company of Ours", S. C. Johnson and Co., Racine, 1949, and personal correspondence. i2 See R. H. Zinn in J. G. Glover and W. B. C. Cornell, Eds., "The Development of American Industries", revised edn., Prentice—Hall, New York, 1941, p. 272—3. However, we are unable to confirm the statement of the author that the use of hen-flock bark stems from the researches of Humphrey Davy. Neither Davy's research paper on tanning materials, Phil. Trans. Royal Soc. (London), 93, 233—73 (1803), or his general remarks on tanning in his lectures, see the "Collected works" :i, 287, 416 (1839), give any indication that he studied hemlock bark.
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