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)