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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 9

 1955] Ihde & Conners—Chemical Industry in Wisconsin 
 Five separate individuals were engaged in commercial potash production by
1857.2 They were John Mauel, Ashford; Aaron Goodenough, Neosho; F. Y. Mansfield,
Oak Creek; Heber Smith, Watertown; and Henry Furguson, Warren. In 1865 factories
were established in Milwaukee by W. Ramaker and G. H. Sorens, both immigrants
from Holland. A third Dutch immigrant, John B. Hyink, started a Milwaukee
:factory five years later. All three producers were flourishing in 1881 when
Hyink was using 165 barrels of ashes per day, Sorens had 5 men in his employ,
and Ramaker produced a ton of potash every week. In addition to local sales
the product was marketed in Boston, New York, and Philadelphia.3 The Eagle
Lye Works was founded in Milwaukee in 1874 for the production of alkalies.
In 1883, the firm employed 14 workers, in 1909, it employed 4Ø~4 Census
reports for 1860 reveal that potash was being produced by 31 firms located
in 12 counties in the southeastern quarter of the state. 
 In 1880 nine Wisconsin potash companies were producing more than one and
one half million poinds valued at $94,424.~ This amounted to 41 % of total
U. S. production. The state was the major producer of alkali in the nation.
This supremacy did not last long. Decrease in the timber supply was accompanied
by competitive developments in the production of caustic. Foreign potash
from sugar beet waste and from the newly developed Stassfurt salt deposits
was augmented by soda ash produced cheaply by the old LeBlanc and the new
Solvay process. Soon thereafter the electrolytic process for the production
of caustic soda provided ample supplies of strong alkali. The demand for
Wisconsin potash fell to practically nothing by 1890 though a few individuals
continued to produce it for local soap factories. 
 Wisconsin never became an important producer of the sodium alkalies which
are produced from rock salt. The supplies of rock salt in the Ohio—New
York basin are near Niagara Falls where cheap electric power makes a particularly
favorable situation for production of caustic. The Eagle Lye Company continued
to do business in Milwaukee but as a distributor rather than as a pri2 "Wisconsin
State Directory of 1857 and 8", Strickland Co., Milwaukee, 18i8, 
p. 14 and 273. 
 Flower, Frank A., "History of Milwaukee", Western Historical Co., Chicago,
1881, p. 1517. 
4 Bur. Labor and Industrial Statistics, Biennial Rept., 1884, p. 191 
1911, p. 665. 
 ~ Rowland, W. L., "Report on the Manufacture of Chemical Products and Salt",
p. 20—i. A part of the Rept. on the Manufactures of the United States
at the 10th Census, 1880, folio pp. 1010—11. Other important producing
states were Michigan, New York, Ohio, Maine, Indiana, and Minnesota. 


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