Henry Bower Chemical Manufacturing Company
Hagley Museum & Library
Manuscripts & Archives Department
P.O. Box 3630
Wilmington, DE 19807-0630
21 linear ft.
The Henry Bower Chemical Manufacturing Company was formed in 1906 by the merger of the Ammonia Company of Philadelphia, the Kalion Chemical Company and the Baltimore Chrome Works. It was controlled by the Bower family until November 1967, when it was sold to Pickands Mather & Company of Cleveland. Henry Bower (1833-1896) was the son of Wilhelm Bauer (who anglicized his name to William Bower), a drug broker who came from Hamburg to Philadelphia in 1825. His uncle, George D. Rosengarten, was a leading drug manufacturer of Philadelphia. Henry Bower graduated from the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy in 1854 and established himself as a drug broker at 7 South Front Street in the following year. In 1858, Bower began to manufacture his own chemicals at a small plant on Gray's Ferry Road. He was the first to produce pure inodorous glycerine that could be used in medicines. He also manufactured ammonium sulphate from the condenser and waste liquors of the Philadelphia Gas Works. In 1865 Bower added a chamber process plant for the manufacture of sulphuric acid, a major ingredient in the manufacture of ammonium sulphate. He also developed and marketed a "complete manure", a fertilizer consisting of sand, phosphate, potash, lime and ammonia between 1867 and 1877. In 1894 Bower began manufacturing aqua ammonia from ammonium sulphate, and in 1903 his sons began the production of anhydrous ammonia. In 1867 Bower also began the manufacture of potassium ferrocyanide, using nitrogenous animal matter (hooves, horns and recycled leather). Potassium ferrocyanide was used in the production of "Prussian blue" pigments, and Bower's output was marketed by the Roessler & Hasslacher Chemical Company of New York. Eventually the animal wastes were replaced by cyanogen derived from gas works waste. When potash from Germany was cut off during World War I, the firm developed a process to substitute sodium cyanide derived from sodium carbonate. In 1882 Bower, Thomas S. Harrison of the Harrison Brothers paint firm, and Henry Pemberton of the Pennsylvania Salt Manufacturing Company joined to invest in Pemberton's process for manufacturing bichromate of potash, which was used in the tanning and textile industries. The following year they organized the Kalion Chemical Company, adjoining the Bowers plant. When the Pemberton process proved commercially unviable, they reverted to the conventional lime and potash process. Bower became the sole owner of the company in 1892. Henry Bower brought his sons William H. Bower, George R. Bower and Frank B. Bower, and his son-in-law, Sydney Thayer, into the business, the title of which was changed to Henry Bower & Sons in 1855. The firm was incorporated as the Ammonia Company of Philadelphia in 1887. In 1893 they imported from Belgium the Lambotte process for the manufacture of tetrachloride of tin and also the Deacon process for the manufacture of chlorine. In 1902 the Bowers were able to buy the Kalion Company's major competitor, the Baltimore Chrome Works, which had been founded by Isaac Tyson in 1845. The Kalion plant was closed and production concentrated in Baltimore. The three firms were consolidated as the Henry Bower Chemical Manufacturing Company in 1906. Two years later the Bowers merged their chrome division with the American Chrome Works of Arlington, Mass., and the Mutual Chemical Company of Jersey City to form the Mutual Chemical Company of America. In 1911 the Bower Chemical Manufacturing Company purchased the business and equipment of Carter & Scattergood, an old competitor in the manufacture of Prussiate of potash. Scope & Content Note: The records consist of a selection of material removed from the plant after the sale to Pickands Mather & Company. Most of the material antedating the 1906 incorporation appears not to have survived. The records were received in two lots designated Accession 1032 and Accession 1070, the first and larger including the account books, production records, sales records, and inventories. The account books include: general ledgers (1905-1952); journals (1925-1937); cash books (1931-1947); journal vouchers (1937-1949); office petty cash book (1925-1937); cost ledgers (1904-1937); cash receipt book (1941-1943); trial balance books (1937-1940); voucher registers (1931-1956); voucher register transfer books (1942-1944); profit and loss statements (1936-1945); bank deposit books (1936-1944); posting sheets (1942-1944); and notes and bills receivable (1924-1942). The production records include primarily cost accounting records: distribution of distributing expenses (1931-1937); distribution of manufacturing expenses (1931-1937); distribution of manufacturing supplies (1931-1937); distribution of general expenses (1931-1937); raw materials expense register (1957); cost of materials registers (1948-1949); and notarial registers (1937-1942). Sales records include: sales reports (1926-1934); sales register (1931-1936); package ledgers (1905-1906); sales ledgers (1924-1929); and soda shipment memorandum books (1942-1944). Inventories include: raw materials inventories (1944-1947, 1952-1953); inventory cards (1940-1941); and inventory memorandum books (1930-1949). Miscellaneous materials in Accession 1032 include: employee time sheets (1945-1946); inspector's weekly reports from the General Committee on Safety Organization (1919-1936); correspondence with the Michigan Alkali Company (1939-1942); and a number of personal and family items, including William H. Bower's yacht accounts (1924-1937). Miscellaneous materials in Accession 1070 include: a memo on the manufacture of prussiates of potash; a monograph on glycerin; an historical brochure on the Edwin H. Fitler Company; and briefs in a lawsuit over the cutting off of European chemicals in 1917. Documents from the Henry Bower Beneficial Society, include: minutes (1894-1903, 1926-1938); constitution and bylaws; a proposition book (1900-1909); dues books (1917-1938); receipt books (1904-1932); and a sample of letters dealing with sick visitations and company excursions. Carter & Scattergood is represented by the original 1834 partnership agreement. Material in Accession 1070 from the period of Henry Bower's ownership includes: a receipt book (1857-1868); patents (1869-1889); testimonial letters; newsclippings; parts of a chemical notebook on dyestuffs and cyanides; loose receipts (1848-1868); and contracts with the Philadelphia Gas Works for a supply of waste chemicals. The Ammonia Company of Philadelphia is represented by minutes (1887-1906); and a notebook of chemical tests (1894-1908). The Kalion Chemical Company is represented by minutes (1882-1906); and a factory book (1894-1899). The Mutual Chemical Company of America is represented by newsclippings and by a lithograph of their Baltimore and Jersey City plants. There are also a few personal and family items, including Wilhelm Bower's exit visa from Hamburg and his naturalization papers; and genealogical notes on the Hart family of Bucks County, Pa., during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. There are also about 20 photos, serviced by the Pictorial Collections Dept. These include portraits of Henry, George R. and Henry W. Bowers; plant views; a 1935 photograph of employees; and a photograph of the 1909 meeting of the Manufacturing Chemists Association in Marblehead, Mass. The Museum Division has 8 medals and awards presented to Henry Bower.