|Browning & Bros. Dyewood and Paint Establishment
Camden, New Jersey
The manufacturing firm of Browning & Bros. was one of the earliest in the dye trade in the United States. The extensive plant in Camden was established
in 1840 by Maurice Browning and his brothers including George G. Browning. The offices were located at 42-44 North Front Street, above Market, in
The company made dyewoods of all kinds, extracts of logwoods, fustic, hypernic and quercitron, brown and white sugar of lead, and pyroligneous acid.
Paints were made by grinding colors in pure linseed oil. Imports included drugs, indigo, cochineal, lac dye, madders, annato, soda ash, and blue vitriol.
In 1876, there were 548 employees (517 men ; 5 women, 26 youths). Capitalization value was $1,227,500; wages, $300,755; materials, $1,275,434 ; products,
$2,053,300. At the International Exhibition held that year, the company exhibited samples of its products including acetic acid, acetate of lead, alumina and
iron, naphtha, and dyewoods.
The dyewood operation involving grinding the wood into chips, which were piled up and allowed to ferment for a few weeks. This helped the development
of the color. The chips were then transferred to the Potts and Klett's chemical company next door, where steam and chemicals were used to extract the
dye. Quite a range of dyes could be obtained from different domestic and tropical woods, including yellows, browns, blues and blacks. These dyes were
used for inks, stains, and to color cotton fabric with a mordant, a chemical such as alum that fixed the dye to the fiber.
Browning & Bros. also had a wholesale druggist business at 28 North Front Street in Philadelphia. Powdered drugs, made from natural sources, included
acacia, belladonna, cascarilla, digitalis, ergota, gambogia, helleborus, ipecacuanha, jalapa, kino, lobelia, myrrha, opium, podophylium, rheum indium, sabina,
tragacantha, ulmus, valeriana, and zingiber. A trade ad from 1858 is reproduced below:
BROWNING & BROTHERS' SELECT POWDERS
In offering these powders to the public, we take occasion to say, that we sell no powdered drugs except those of our own preparation.
Our powders, in appearance, will compare favorably with any others. They are all prepared at our own mills, and under our own personal supervision.
We are careful to procure drugs of the best quality, and select from them with great care. Due regard is also had to prepare the crude article for powdering.
While all drugs must necessarily be entirely dry, before they can be pulverized, care should be taken that, in thus drying them, they shall not be submitted to
heats sufficient to affect their active properties. Indeed, some varieties cannot be very finely dusted, without exposing them to heats destructive to their
properties, such as Ergot, Cubebs, Hellebore, &c., for these we have machines adapted to their peculiarities, and although not so fine as other varieties, they are
sufficiently so for practical utility.
Some others, such as aloes, liquorice, benzoin, etc., will powder in cold weather, without being dried, under temperatures sufficiently high to preserve them from
again consolidating in the summer months, or in warm climates.
Having had many years experience as druggists, the peculiarities of the different varieties of drugs are known to us ; and in preparing our powders for sale, all
these peculiarities receive due consideration.
Upon the importance of having drugs and medicines prepared carefully, skilfully and conscientiously, we need not here expatiate.
The success and reputation of Physicians, and, what is of much greater moment, the lives of patients, depend so much on the proper and efficient action of
medicines, that we feel sure cheapness, at the expense of virtue, will not be consulted, when once a vendor's reputation shall be satisfactorily established.
This reputation it is our purpose to build up, and we respectfully solicit patronage, to accomplish the end.
While deception in the preparing and compounding of medicines, upon which the lives of thousands depend, should be the last field of resort for ruthless
speculation, it is notoriously true, that there is none in which it is more extensively and successfully practiced.
Imperfections in drugs are measurably hidden, by reducing them to powder, and thus, when unfit for sale in the crude state, they are likely to be sent to soma
irresponsible, and ofttimes unscrupulous men, to powder, who not unfrequently appropriates a portion to himself, and supplies the deficiency in weight by a well
chosen adulteration, which makes his patron an unsuspecting victim of his villainy.
Against such impositions we are fortified, by manufacturing for ourselves, and we hold ourselves responsible to our patrons for the quality of our powders, and
would be happy to have them submitted to the severest tests. We warrant them free from all impurities, and hold them for sale at reasonable prices.
We may add, that at the last exhibition of the Franklin Institute, our powders were critically examined, and, though taken promiscuously from our shelves, we
received the first premium.
All orders from non-residents, by mail, will be promptly attended to, with as much regard to the interests of the purchaser as if he was personally present.
BROWNING & BROTHERS, Wholesale Druggists and Powderers
In the late 1890s or early 1900s, the site was taken over by the Taylor-White Extracting Company, which continued the dyewood business. The firm's natural
dyes for textiles and leather sold well in World War I when synthetic dyes were scarce. Tanning compounds were also made.
In 1909 it was reported that Peter Pheiffer, 39 years old, while working on the steam boilers, was so badly scalded by escaping steam that he died after six
days of terrible suffering.
In 1928 the firm had 51 employees; a research department was started the same year.
In 1956 the president was George Purnell. The research staff consisted of Roy H. Wisdom, vice president and director of research; W. Lewis McDougal,
plant superintendent and technical personnel director; 1 chemist; 1 engineer; 4 auxiliary personnel. Research activities continued to focus on natural
dyes and tanning materials; processes and product applications.
1) Fibre and Fabric, Vol. 32, November 24, 1900, p. 175
2) Burley's United States Centennial Gazetteer and Guide, 1876, pp. 51, 719
3) American Journal of Pharmacy, Vol. 25, 1858, p. 598
4) Official Catalogue of the International Exhibition of 1876, p. 102
ColorantsHistory.Org thanks historian Phil Cohen of Camden for information about Browning & Bros.
|The Browning & Bros. plant, also known as the Aroma Mills, was located at Pine Street along Cooper's Creek in Camden, New Jersey
Image: Burley's United States Centennial Gazetteer and Guide, 1876
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Browning & Bros. Trade Card Courtesy of Gary Robinson