Abstract: From Textiles to Metals: Manufacturing in Philadelphia
By: Stephanie Zublick, Senior Development Chemist, Harry Miller Corporation
Philadelphia has a rich history in manufacturing and in the use of chemistry in those endeavors. From the 1880’s to the 1940’s, textile manufacturing was at its peak with nearly 700 independent textile manufacturers. Products included wools, cotton, ropes, synthetic materials, ribbons, silks, military specialty fabrics, and yarns to name a few. With this industry, many different types of chemicals were developed to aid in the processing and creation of these textiles.
Many of the textile manufacturers in Philadelphia purchased their processing chemicals directly from Philadelphia based chemical manufacturers such as Harry Miller Corporation. Chemicals for this manufacturing included lubricants for carding and combing, sizing compounds for wool blends, dye assists for coloring and fabric cleaners.
In the 1950’s, Philadelphia saw a sharp decline in textile manufacturing as the industry moved south and eventually overseas. This sharply decreased the demand for the specialty chemicals required for these processes in Philadelphia.
With the advent of the US’s participation in World War II, Philadelphia chemical manufacturers saw a boom in the steel mill and metal working industries and the need for specialty chemicals for metal parts such as rust preventatives and lubricants. In the 1950’s, change in mass production processes occurred e.g. automobiles, appliances, electronic devices, radio, and aviation to name a few. Specialty chemicals were now in high demand. These chemicals include lubricants, cleaners, acid inhibitors for steel mills and drawing compounds for metal deformation, all of which are made locally in Philadelphia. Chemistry has a strong history in Philadelphia.