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)
14 Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters [Vol. 44 process. By 1882, eighteen such mills were in operation on the lower Fox River at Neenah, Menasha, Appleton, and Kaukauna. As the forests of east-central Wisconsin became depleted, the pulp industry began to spread westward into the valleys of the Wisconsin and Chippewa Rivers. Such names as Kimberly, Clark, Gilbert, and Whiting were rising to prominence in the industry. A number of the mills were established on the water-power sites of flour mills which abandoned operations when Wisconsin lost its wheat-growing status to the more westerly prairie states. Concurrent with this, the development of the roller process for flour milling with necessarily high capital investments forced the demise of local stone-operated flour mills such as those which dotted the lower Fox River. Between 1880 and 1925, flour milling slipped from first place as a source of Wisconsin industrial income to twenty-first. During the same period, pulp and paper manufacture rose from eighteenth place to fourth.16 During this time, the pulp industry was turning toward chemical operations for the purification of wood fiber. The soda process, which began coming into use in England after midcentury, never figured prominently in the Wisconsin industry. The sulfite process, on the other hand, rose to real importance. The basis for the sulfite process was laid in Philadelphia by Benjamin C. Tilgham soon after the Civil War. He observed that sulfurous acid dissolved the lignin portion of wood, leaving the cellulose fibers available for pulping. His research was developed into a practical process by Swedish and German investigators and placed in operation in the late seventies. The process was brought into Wisconsin in 1887 by the Atlas Paper Company at Appleton, and the Appleton Pulp and Paper Company at Monico Junction. The superior quality of sulfite paper over that made from groundwood created a ready market for the product and in turn stimulated the expansion of the process. The paper industry in Wisconsin had become a chemical process industry. CHARCOAL AND METAL SMELTING The destructive distillation of wood, more commonly called "charcoal burning", was a simple process commonly carried out where hardwood was abundant. Wisconsin's forests contributed to the production of this form of carbon. The charcoal was prepared largely for local use, partly as fuel, partly in connection with the smelting of metallic ores. Production rose and fell with the rise and fall of the state's mining activities. ~ Alexander, J. H. H., "A Short Industrial History of Wisconsin", Wfsconsin Blue Book, Madison, 1929, p. 34—44.
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