The Manufacture of Aniline Dyes in America

The Aniline Color, Dyestuff and Chemical Conditions
August 1st, 1914,
April 1st, 1917.
A series of Addresses and Articles
Compiled by:
I. F. Stone
Address Before the National Silk Convention, at Paterson, New Jersey, November 23rd, 1916.

I. F. Stone

In speaking of this subject, and in order to properly compare the present situation with that of a year ago at this time, and previous to the war, I can say that just after the war, in 1914, the situation promised to be very acute, as it was evident that the shipping of colors from Europe would be stopped and there were not sufficient stocks in this country to take care of the consumers for any length of time. This proved to be very true, as, as early as January, 1915, there came a great scarcity of dyestuffs and prices commenced to advance to an almost unbelievable extent. The American manufacturers were hampered in producing any additional quantities by the fact that they were buying most of their raw and intermediate materials from Europe, and with the stoppage of the shipments of colors to this country the shipping of these raw materials and intermediates also stopped, therefore the American R/w manufacturers were almost in as unsatisfactory condition as were the consumers, in their inability to get supplies of the raw materials.

For a period then, from the beginning of the war until about October, 1915, the situation was very acute, but in the meantime, fortunately, arrangements had been made to manufacture a number of the raw materials and intermediate products by the color manufacturers, so that by this time, viz., October, 1915, they were enabled to increase their manufacture to considerable extent. In our own factory, Schoellkopf Aniline & Chemical Works, we were particualrly fortunate in this respect, in that the contract for one of our principal raw materials (aniline oil) had been placed with an American manufacturer who had commenced the manufacture of this product a couple of years preceding the war, and whom it was our policy to encourage. This contract for aniline oil, together with our having our own acid plant for the manufacture of sulphuric, nitric, muriatic and other necessary acids, also together with a large stock of foreign raw materials which we always carried, enabled us not only to continue our regular production from the time the war started, but by the fall of 1915, viz., October, increased our production on many of our colors, particularly direct black, which was a very serviceable color for cotton and union goods, and cotton and silk hosiery.

We were also fortunate enough to be able to produce at practically the same time a very satisfactory quality and quantity of sulphur black, for cotton goods, in fact, as good a quality as had been previously imported, and this, with our direct black, was of great service in relieving the situation on these two products. Other manufacturers also at the same time commenced to get into better condition to make colors, and the situation, therefore, about October, 1915, was much easier than in the beginning of the year, although the production of all these factories, even then, was not enough to take care of the consumption.

From that time on, however, large increases in the production of the already established factories, and the installment of a number of new factories, commenced to clear the situation so that at the present time the production of the American factories will be enough to take care of the whole consumption of aniline dyes in this country in the future, for all of what I might term staple colors, and the situation therefore at this time is very satisfactory.

In explaining the success of the American factories in reaching this position, I must first explain the conditions of raw material, coal tar, and its derivatives, and intermediate materials, which they use in their manufacture. Before the war there were practically no manufacturers of what we call intermediate products in this country, the only exception being aniline oil, of which I have spoken, and this had been only made to a limited extent and not profitably, by reason of foreign competition. The basic materials, however, benzole, napthaline, etc., from which practically all aniline colors are derived, were being produced in this country to quite a large extent; benzole for use as a solvent and for other purposes not connected with the manufacture of anilines, and naphthaline for a month destroyer, but upon the demand from the aniline manufacturers for there derivities, and for explosives and other war purposes, they immediately became utilized for these purposes, and American producers of benzole commenced to increase their production, and were so successful that at present there is a production of about thirty million gallons per annum, as against three millions gallons prior to the war, and the production of naphthaline was also largely increased, so that there is ample supply of these products at this time, and from them are now being manufactured largely such intermediates as aniline oil, beta naphthol, alpho-naphtylamine, paranitranilin, chlorbenzole, dimethylanilin, paraphenylenediamine, etc., so that the American manufacturers of colors are able to get sufficient raw materials to manufacture enough colors to supply the whole consumption, speaking now of a general line of colors but not of all of the colors which were formerly used, there being some specialties made by the European manufacturers which we have not yet commenced to manufacture, for reasons which are evident, such as not being able to secure the proper raw material, or not being able to do everything all at once, but all of these necessary specialties will, however, undoubtedly be manufactured in the near future, so that in my opinion before another year has passed every color which is necessary to American consumers will be produced in this country.

There is a popular impression that American manufactured colors are not as good as those manufactured in
Europe, Germany particularly, and this is an impression I wish to definitely correct, in that it is not a fact, for the reason that the American colors are made from practically the same chemical formulae as the European colors and are practically the same products in every way, the only difference being that European manufacturers, from their long experience, may get a larger yield from the same formula than the newer American manufacturers, and the American cost may therefore be more, but this does not affect the products, which in my opinion are equal in every way to the products made in Europe

For silk manufacturers, for instance, some of the same colors which they used before the war have been available since the war viz. Azo yellow, orange, scarlet, black, fast red, Bismarck brown, nigrosines, indulines, methylene blue, methyl violet, etc., therefore these colors are just as good now as they ever were, and the goods dyed from them should naturally be the same as before the war. Some of the special colors, however, such as rhodamine, auramine, Victoria blue, acid light blue, acid green and acid violet, have not yet been manufactured for the reasons I have already mentioned, that is, lack of the necessary raw materials and lack of ability of any one to take up everything all at once. But these colors, as I have already said, will in my opinion be manufactured before another year has passed. Some of these colors have, however, been imported from England and Switzerland, so that some of them have been available, and the fancy shades produced from them have therefore been more or less obtainable.

In addition to these aniline products for silk dyeing, such vegetable dyes as logwood, indigo, gambier, etc., have been obtainable, so that speaking generally the silk manufacturers have been able to secure practically all the staple products which they need for their purpose, and are now in a very satisfactory condition as to their dyestuff supplies.

For woolen manufacturers we are now able to supply chrome colors suitable for men's wear, sweaters, heavy woolens, etc., in black, blue, brown, green, yellow and red, which are practically equal as to fastness to any colors which have heretofore been manufactured in Europe, and for ladies' dress goods, piece dye worsteds, carpets, worsted yarns, etc., we are able to furnish some acid colors in practically every shade, which are in every way equal to European colors.

For cotton goods, we are able to furnish sulphur black, suitable for all fast work except bleaching, practically all direct colors suitable for all cotton work except a small proportion of wash fabrics such as shirtings, and basic colors such as blue, red, brown and green for printing, etc.

For leather, and other industries, we are also able to furnish practically every color which is needed.

Therefore, the whole situation is at present very satisfactory, and as I have said, every American consumer should be able to obtain practically everything he needs for next year.

I might say it has been particularly misunderstood by the public that American colors are not as fast as European colors were, and it seems to be the custom now for saleswomen and others in the stores, as well as the garment dyers, to specifically state that they do not guarantee colors, because they are no longer able to get the foreign colors, and I wish to say in this connection that as far as I know, no manufacturer or retailer has ever guaranteed colors even before the war, although this fact may not have been mentioned, and the only reason it is mentioned now is through a misunderstanding of the situation. Such fancy colors as ladies usually want in silk, worsteds, etc., such as pinks, light blues, light greens, heliotrope, etc., were never fast, and as far as I know, there have never been any colors which would dye them fast. In any event, the word "fast" is more or less a misnomer, as a color which is absolutely fast to everything, such as washing, fulling, light, exposure, alkalies, acids, etc., is practically unknown, so it is only comparative fastness which is meant in speaking of fast colors, and to this extent the present American colors, such as they are, are just as fast as the same colors made in Europe. There are some colors called vat colors, which are unusually fast in the above connections, but they are not manufactured in this country and have never been used to any large extent, for light shades. For all ordinary fastness we are now able to furnish colors for cotton, wool and silk in blacks, blues, browns, and some other shades, so that the question of fastness is no longer a question, and it is usually only mentioned by customers who have the wrong impression of conditions.

In connection with the high prices now charged by American manufacturers of colors, many consumers are under the impression that this is because of the high cost of  manufacture here as compared with Europe, but as a matter of fact, the reason is the abnormal conditions, in that the raw materials used for the manufacture of colors, like benzole for instance, are very much higher than normally, being used for explosives, and other war purposes, and this high cost of raw materials, together with the high cost of labor, under the present conditions, is what causes the high prices for American colors, and by the way, these high prices also rule in Europe, as is shown by the extremely high prices asked for such colors as have been brought over from Germany by the submarine "Deutschland" and other colors which are being imported from Switzerland, the prices on all of these imported colors being higher even in proportion than the American colors. Whenever normal conditions again prevail, and raw materials and labor are at normal costs, then the prices of American colors, as well as European colors, will resume the normal figures. In any event, American manufacturers who buy dyestuffs, have no reason to complain of the higher cost, because they, on their part, have in most cases advanced the cost of their products more than the proportionately higher cost of dyestuffs, as the cost of dyestuffs as a general rule, is a very small percentage of the cost of manufactured textiles, either wool, cotton or silk, and American textile manufacturers to-day are more prosperous as a rule, than they ever were.

In conclusion, I wish to call special attention to the three important points in my remarks:

FIRST: That the colors made in America are fully as good in every way as those made in Germany or any other country.

SECOND: That we are able to furnish colors for most purposes, which are fully as fast as German or other European colors, and there is therefore no excuse nor reason for people not being able to get these fast colors on such materials, on which they formerly required fast colors.

THIRD: The definite answer, in connection with the manufacture of dyestuffs in America, is therefore, as you will  understand from these remarks, that the present condition of the dyestuff supply is very satisfactory, and the future outlook is still more satisfactory in that we will make more colors, and everything indicates that the larger part of the business will remain in the hands of American manufacturers even after the war, instead of in the hands of the European manufacturers, who in former years have had a practical monopoly of this business.

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