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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 11

 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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