Saving a Piece of History

August 1st, 2011 by Lindsay

In 2005, James Wagner revived efforts to preserve the Brown Company Research and Development Building.  Under his direction, in partnership with the board of directors of the Northern Forest Heritage Park (NFHP) and Tri-County Community Action Program (TCCAP), Brownfield grants were obtained to begin environment cleanup of the building.  In 2010, the New Hampshire Preservation Alliance placed the Brown Company Research and Development Building on its Seven to Save list.

Acknowledgements

 

Exhibit research and text by Professor Linda Upham-Bornstein

For more information on the exhibit and related research please contact:

Linda Upham-Bornstein, History, Heritage and Culture Coordinator at (603) 535-3282,  or luphambornstein@Plymouth.edu

Thaddeus C. Guldbrandsen, Director, Center for Rural Partnerships, Plymouth State University at (603) 535-3276, or tcguldbrandsen@plymouth.edu or visit plymouth.edu/rural

Catherine S. Amidon, Curator, Museum of the White Mountains, at (603) 535-2646 or camidon@plymouth.edu or visit plymouth.edu/museum-of-the-white-mountains/

A special thank you to the individuals and institutions who have helped to make this exhibition possible:

Rebecca Weeks Sherrill More

Thaddeus C. Guldbrandsen, Director, Center for Rural Partnerships, Plymouth State University

Susan Jarosz, Michael J. Spinelli, Jr. Center for University Archives and Special Collections, Lamson Library, Plymouth State University

All of the photographs in this exhibit are from Beyond Brown Paper, Michael J. Spinelli Jr. Center for University Archives and Special Collections, Herbert H. Lamson Library and Learning Commons, Plymouth State University, beyondbrownpaper.plymouth.edu/

Exhibit Design by Lisa Lundari, True Colors

This program was funded in part by the Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation.

110 Years of Brown Company Innovation

August 1st, 2011 by Lindsay

110 Years of Brown Company, Tree drawn by Edward Reichart, 1962

From Log to Product

August 1st, 2011 by Lindsay

Research Makes Innovation Possible but at What Cost?

 

 

 

 

The history of industrial innovation is bittersweet.  The pulp and paper industry has made great strides in reclaiming and reusing industrial waste and in manufacturing by-products.  Many of these products have benefitted consumers, but industry often generates chemical waste that may impact a region for generations.

 

Although the process of producing paper remains much the same today as it was a century ago, pressure from the government regulators has spurred the pulp and paper industry to find new methods of reducing chemical emissions.  One of the principal challenges confronting industry in the twenty-first century is successfully striking a balance between environmental imperatives and innovation.

Kream Krisp

August 1st, 2011 by Lindsay

Not all of the products developed by the scientists in the research department, however, were successful.  Indeed, the world-renowned H. K. Moore assisted in the development of the product that resulted in Brown Company’s biggest financial debacle, the ill-fated Kream Krisp.

Kream Krisp Product Display, 1918

 

New Hydrogen Plant, 1916

In a 1918 article in Atlantic Monthly, Henry Talbot observed that the United States government was calling for Americans to “abandon our national habits of wastefulness.”  Talbot regarded this public policy as a “call to arms for chemists.” Researchers were eager to devise methods to “avoid waste and increase productive efficiency.”  The production of hydrogenated oils as a substitute for lard and olive oil was one such effort.  Moore conceived the idea of using the excess hydrogen, which was used in the bleaching of pulp at the mill, for the production of a lard substitute.

 

Kream Krisp Advertisement, 1917

 

The company jumped at the concept, built a canning factory, and began production and mass marketing of the new product under the name Kream Krisp.  Unfortunately, Proctor and Gamble also claimed to have developed a similar method and was marketing its product under the name Crisco.  A lengthy lawsuit ensued, and the patent litigation was a significant drain on the research department’s resources and on the company’s finances.  Eventually, Brown Company conceded the patent rights to Proctor and Gamble in exchange for financial remuneration, but the product loss severely damaged the company.

 

Kream Krisp cooking experiment, 1923

Picture This

August 1st, 2011 by Lindsay

The Brown Company Photographic Department

 

Victor Beaudoin, Brown Company’s first in house Photographer, 1948

The 1915 decision to develop a separate research facility also led to the creation of a unique, state-of-the-art Photography Laboratory.  At this time Brown Company officials believed that little had been done in this area by other large industrial concerns.   The project had multiple purposes and functions.  The photographic department documented scientific research, photographed equipment and buildings for insurance purposes, recorded the activities of the company’s woods operations, photographed people connected to the company and the surrounding communities, and assisted the sales department with product marketing.  In short, the department was installed for the benefit of other departments and of the company generally.  Long-time company photographer Victor Beaudoin produced most of the images that comprise the Brown Company collection at Plymouth State University.

Photographer in Microscope Room, 1928

 

Victor Beaudoin filming, 1957

Photographing slides under a microscope

 

 

 

Post-World War I Research

August 1st, 2011 by Lindsay

With the conclusion of World War I, George A. Richter and a number of scientists from the Chemical Warfare Service returned to Berlin ready to expand Brown Company’s research program and create new post-war products.  Perhaps the most notable new arrival was William E. Corbin, whose name spelled backwards, Nibroc, would later be identified with the company’s paper towels products.  Over the next 40 years a number of leading scientists joined the department’s staff.  Through their combined efforts Brown Company held almost 800 patents in the United States and Canada by 1946.  Many of their successes related to improvements to product production.

Portrait of Dr. George A. Richter, 1957

 

George A. Richter served as director of research for Brown Company from 1919 to 1940.  During that period some 400 patents were granted to Dr. Richter.  He specialized in highly purified and high brightness pulps for use in photographic paper.  He was only the second American to be awarded an honorary doctorate by the Chalmers Technical Institute of the University of Goteborg in Sweden.

 

 

Portrait of W. E. Corbin, 1920

 

W. E. Corbin joined Richter at Brown Company following World War I and was recognized as an outstanding expert in kraft paper.  Most notably, Corbin was instrumental in the development of the first wet-strength paper towel (Nibroc), which soon became an important and profitable product.

 

 

 

George A. Day, 1946

 

George A. Day became director of the department after Richter retired.  He had joined the company 20 years earlier after a short career with a consulting laboratory in Toronto.  Under Day the research department boasted over 25 university-trained scientists and 50 research assistants.

 

 

 

Products that Brown Company scientists developed included waxed paper, kraft paper twine, photographic pulp, synthetic insoles, paper filters, sand paper, and cellophane.

 

Bales of pulp ready to be shipped to Eastman Kodak Company, 1936

 

Nibroc towels, 1921

 

The Brown Company Research Laboratory

August 1st, 2011 by Lindsay

Research Department Office, 1918

Brown Company’s research activities during World War I focused on a number of war-related products including “aeroplane-spruce,” chloroform, gasmask filters, and tubular gunpowder containers.  One of the company’s scientists, George A. Richter, was sent to work in Washington, DC for the Chemical Warfare Service.  Brown Company completed the expansion of its research facility by 1919 and then redirected its efforts toward developing products for civilian markets.

Research Building Laboratory, 1923

The new laboratory had five main divisions: 1) Pulp Research, 2) Paper Research, 3) Bureau of Tests (concerned with product quality), 4) Microscopy and Optical Section, and 5) Photographic Section.  The largest sections, of course, were the pulp and paper laboratories, which expanded tubular research (conduits such as sewer pipes), developed synthetic leather, and contained one of the few privately-owned experimental paper machines.  Although Brown Company engaged in a moderate number of costly patent battles, this complex and dynamic facility kept the company on the cusp of industrial development for decades.

Laboratory just outside the Relative Humidity Room

Relative Humidity Testing Room, an airtight room located on the first floor in the center of the building used to test paper in a sterile, dirt-free environment

 

Brown Company’s Research Building

August 1st, 2011 by Lindsay

Research Building, c. 1930

The establishment of Brown Company’s Research and Development facility in 1915 had a significant impact on the company’s economic success.   By 1919, the Research Department’s scientists had made substantial contributions to the technological advancements of the pulp and paper industry.  With a research staff exceeding one hundred, the Brown Company facility was one of the largest in-house industrial research and development organizations in the United States and a novelty in the pulp and paper industry.  The department allowed Brown Company to refine and improve its paper products, develop new products, and obtain research contracts from the United States Government and from other pulp and papermaking companies.  Besides the obvious products, such as newsprint, photograph paper, masking tape, paper towels, and toilet paper, the research department also created items that have “invisible” wood components, such as cellophane, organic filler in foods and pharmaceuticals, and Rayon for clothing.

Floorplan, 1941 Suggested alterations to Research Building

 

Rags to Riches

August 1st, 2011 by Lindsay

The Story of H. K. Moore and the Germination of the Research and Development Department at Brown Company

 

Hugh K. Moore, 1928

In 1903, following the demise of his electrolytic cell factory (a cell through which an electric current is passed in order to produce an electrochemical reaction) and facing his wife’s grave illness, Hugh Kelsea Moore was desperately seeking work.   Moore, who had studied at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was determined to find work as a chemist in the pulp and paper industry.  T. P. Burgess, a Boston acquaintance and owner of the Burgess Sulfite Mill in Berlin, New Hampshire, advanced Moore the money needed for his wife’s care and promised him a position in the chemical mill.  Upon arrival, however, the mill superintendent put Moore to work in the wood yard at $1.50 per day.  Undeterred by this turn of events, Moore wandered around the mill in his spare time, looking to identify and address inefficiencies and other problems in the industrial processes of pulp production.  Burgess was so pleased with Moore’s initial recommendations that he created a chemist position for Moore.

Burgess Sulphite Mill Complex, Berline NH 1917

In 1910, Brown Company purchased the Burgess mill and employed Moore to improve the method of making kraft pulp, which uses the sulphate process to produce high-grade paper, at its La Tuque operations in Canada.  The process that Moore devised transformed the papermaking industry and brought him national recognition. Three years later, Moore prevailed upon Brown Company management to construct a small research laboratory in Berlin.   Recognizing that research and technology were the lifeblood of American industry in a rapidly changing marketplace, the company soon expanded the research building, more than doubling its size. Moore’s dedication and vision laid the foundation for one of the most innovative and dynamic industrial research facilities in the United States. In 1928, a biographer observed that “Moore considers but one thing important, the accumulation of scientific knowledge.”

Berlin Mills Company Saw Mill, Lumber, Berlin, NH 1914 (Name changed to Brown Co. 1917)

 

Prologue

August 1st, 2011 by Lindsay

The city of Berlin, New Hampshire, located alongside a two-mile stretch of waterfalls in the Androscoggin River, became the center of the pulp and papermaking industry in northern New England in the late 1800s.  There was little economic activity in Berlin from the time it was chartered in 1829 to the 1850s.  This all changed with the arrival of the railroad in Berlin in 1852, the mid-century introduction of turbine engine technology that could generate power for mills, and the availability of a new immigrant population in the United States to work in industry. The industrial enterprise that later became known as Brown Company began with the construction of a large sawmill on the Androscoggin River and rapidly expanded over the next twenty years to include chemical, pulp and papermaking mills, tracking nationwide changes in papermaking technology.   The population of Berlin grew from 175 in 1850 to a peak of 21,948 in 1930 in response to the region’s expanding forest products industry.

Trees and People, a 1956 television program

The Woods are Full of Mysteries, from a company film, 1953

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Forest products permeate everyday life, yet they are often taken for granted or may even be “invisible.”  When did we become so dependent on wood products? What are these products?  How were they created?  The industrial processes for converting a tree into a wide variety of wood products emerged in the latter half of the nineteenth century. During this same period, Americans (and Europeans) came to believe in the idea of inevitable progress and in the ability  of science and technology to promote positive change.  Consequently, American universities in this Age of Progress responded to increased demands for research scientists in industry by establishing engineering disciplines. The graduates of these programs revolutionized the American manufacturing system during the next century.  The pulp and papermaking mills in Berlin, New Hampshire pioneered such innovations.