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)
1955] Ihde & Conners—Chemical Industry in Wisconsin 11 The Diamond Match Company began operations in Oshkosh in 1881. Within four years it was employing 175 people. By 1907, 570 employees were listed. Another factory, operated by the Oshkosh Match Company was in operation by 1885. Working conditions in these early match factories left much to be desired. This was still the day of the white phosphorus match. Match manufacture was dangerous, not only because of the fire hazard, but because of the poisonous effects of the phosphorus fumes which led to necrosis of the jaw. The Commissioner of Labor and Industry was prompted to speak out in 1886:° I want to say a few words in regard to the conditions of these match factories generally, but more particularily of the dipping rooms. To ameliorate the condition of the people at work in those rooms would be an act of charity. Imagine being in a closed room, the atmosphere of which is constantly contaminated with the fumes of the chemicals used, especially those of phosphorus, which act directly on the bone, and you have the case as I saw it. Found an attempt had been made to purify the air by the aid of suction fans; but the effort seems to be futile, as the rooms were filled with foul odors, the conducting pipes not being large enough, and the fans lacking the requisite power. I expostulated to some extent with the proprietors and suggested some changes; but as a matter of course they would entail some expense, I left without expecting to see the changes made. But at whatever cost, the working people should be provided with pure air, which the Creator of all things ordained. In 1891 it was necessary for the commissioner to order the discharge of four girls under fourteen, but health and safety conditions had markedly improved. The task of dipping matches had been taken over by machines, ventilating fans were in operation, and automatic sprinkers had been installed on all floors.10 It was not until 1913, however, that the white phosphorus match was taxed out of existence in the United States. At that time, the manufacture of this highly poisonous type of match was dropped in favor of the more costly but safer phosphorus sesquisulfide match. WAX The processing of wax was initiated in Wisconsin as an outgrowth of the wood industry. The S. C. Johnson Company was 9 Flower, Frank A., Bureau of Labor and Industrial Statistics, Biensdal Rept., 1885—1886, Madison, 1886, p. 501—2. 10Dobbs, J., ibid. 18ft2~,p. 91 a.
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