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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)


Page 12

 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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