|Dr. Harlan B. Freyermuth, 1942
Research Chemist at GAF Corporation
Dr. Harlan B. (Ben) Freyermuth is a retired research chemist who worked many years in the dyes area of the General Aniline and Film Corporation. Dr. Freyermuth
was issued 80 patents during his distinguished career with the company. He wrote some reminisces in 2005 which are reproduced below with minor editing by
Robert J. Baptista in January 2006:
The State University of Iowa (SUI), in Iowa City, prepared me well for an industrial career in chemistry. I received a B.A. in chemistry in 1938, followed by an M.S. in
organic chemistry in 1940. By then I needed a break from school and went with a fraternity brother, Harold Coryell and his parents by automobile to visit his fiancee in
Bay City, Texas. I remember visiting a sulfur mine in the area. The "blocks" of sulfur were several stories high. They pumped superheated steam into the ground and
pumped the molten sulfur into a rectangular-shaped corrugated steel holding tank where it solidified on cooling. Later, they would raise the steel higher and pour
more molten sulfur. Thus the "block" would grow higher and higher. They would blast it when they wanted to ship it. The heat was so intense in the area where this
operation was taking place that only Mexican workers could stand it. I enjoyed this trip to Texas and Old Mexico We followed the Rio Grande River from Laredo to Rio
Grande City and on to McAllen. My great uncle, Abraham Greiner was an attorney in Houston and owned quite a lot of land in Starr County Texas at one time.
I went back to SUI where I received a Ph.D. in organic chemistry in 1942, with a minor in inorganic chemistry. While we were at SUI in 1942 as graduate students, I
believe it was Dr. E. Wulthius, of the General Aniline and Film Corporation, who interviewed Dr. Chris Schulze, Dr. Benjamin Kirby, Dr. Henry Shafer and myself at the
University. We all agreed to formal interviews at General Aniline and rode the same train to first, Rensselaer, then to Linden for plant interviews. The interviews were
held in a "group" simultaneous fashion in the libraries at both locations.
At the Rensselaer plant, we were interviewed by Dr. Wilhelm Von Glahn, the director of process development research for the plant. I recall that he had a very "thick"
German accent and had terrible looking dueling scars all over his face. I guess this was a common practice at the German fraternities at that time just as tattooing is
quite popular with many of the younger set today. I later wondered if they even bothered to stitch up some of these scars to make them even more "impressive".
Even though we were a bit (understatement of the day) scared of Dr. Von Glahn, he treated us very cordially.
The four of us traveled on to Linden to be interviewed by Dr. Paul Nawiasky in the company library. After our interview, we all proceeded back to our fraternity, Alpha
Chi Sigma, at Iowa City. To tell you the truth, I believe that we all were all a bit "scared" of the man with a thick Jewish German accent and the dueling scars at the
Rensselaer plant. Dr. Nawiasky was no "walk in the park," but we were more impressed with him. During our group interview Dr. Henry Shafer, who was a personal
friend and fraternity brother of mine, was asked by Dr. Nawiasky, "Do you smoke? Henry answered, "No". Next question, "Do you drink"? Answer, "No". Next question,
"Do you dance? Answer, "No". The last question to Henry was "What do you do?" to which Dr. Nawiasky didn't get much of an answer.
When we arrived home, we all had telegrammed offers waiting in our respective mail boxes. To make a long story short, everyone accepted job offers at the Linden
plant at $3,000 per year. Of course, we were a bit prejudiced by the fact that Dr. Clarence Buurman, also a graduate of SUI, had accepted a position with the company
the year before, 1941.
Our group moved to the Squires Club, located in the Wychwood section of Westfield, New Jersey. Dr. Clarence Buurman already had been living there. When this
home was sold, we managed to rent another Squires Club Home on 545 Boulevard. This home was just about two blocks from the New Jersey railroad station in
Westfield. The home was rented to us unfurnished and mainly through the efforts of Clarence Buurman, we managed to purchase used furniture in Newark. I distinctly
remember applying stain and varnish to unfinished dining room furniture. Eventually Dr. Shafer left the Linden plant and took a position with Merck in Rahway but
continued to live at the Squires Club until he married his wife, Kay who is an RN. When he retired from Merck, he purchased the summer home from Hodding Carter (a
well known Washington, DC diplomat) on the Atlantic Ocean at Tenets Harbor, Maine. My wife Doris and I visited them several years ago. Henry is now in his 90's and
in rather poor health. He is fortunate that Kay is a nurse.
When I first started working at the Linden plant in 1942, my research manager was Dr. E. Wulthius, who was perhaps of Scandinavian descent, but left the company to
take a position in Minnesota closer to his relatives. I worked on a khaki dye intermediate, dyes for identifying munition shells, and developed smoke dyes for bombs.
During my short stay at Linden in 1942 or when I was transferred for a few years back to Linden in the mid 1950's, I had the opportunity to meet, talk to and/or work with
Dr. Albert M. Vajda, Dr. Albert Welch, James Harkema, Dr. James Eldred, Dr. James Moran, Dr. Fritz Wuerth, and Dr. Carl Vogt. I believe Dr. F. Max replaced Dr. Vogt
after he left the Central Research Lab (CRL) in Easton. I believe that I met J. Albert Prochazka, but didn't know him very well. I also met, but hadn't had much contact,
with Dr Francis Bluemmel. I knew Max Levy quite well as I had to work with his department on the munition shells identification colors. He was a very cordial person
and I liked him a lot. I also met Dr. Nathaniel Fuchs, but didn't know him very well.
Next door to General Aniline was the East Works, a smelly plant making mostly acids by E. I. du Pont de Nemours and not much more. I have ridden down the Tremley
Point Road to the American Cyanamid plant on several occasions but never visited the plant.
In March 1943 I transferred to the Central Research Laboratory setup by GAF in the old Stuart Silk Mill in Easton, Pennsylvania. Gordon Smith was the engineer that
was responsible for converting the building into a research laboratory. GAF had a 5 year lease with an option to buy and after the lease expired, they chose to
purchase the building. The rest of the silk mill across Lincoln Street from the lab (first named Stuart, then Stern) continued their operations during the war but instead
of knitting silk, they produced nylon parachute material for the government. Some of it got into nylon hosiery, which made a few of the lucky women who got them
Some of my mentors were Dr. Robert Woodward, Dr. William E. ("Butch") Hanford, the first CRL director, and Dr. Harry W. Grimmel, my immediate supervisor who was
the head of azo dye research. I recall the first dyestuff that I worked on under the supervision of Dr. Grimmel. It was covered under one of the 2000 plus I. G. Farben
patents that were taken over by the US alien property custodian. The sales arm of GAF was known as the General Dyestuff Corporation (GDC) that sold the dyestuff but
no one knew the composition of the material. The dye was Supramine Pure Blue BL -CF. It was a very fast brilliant blue for wool. It was not a triphenylmethane dye, but
a diphenylindolemethane and a very "tough nut to crack". After some process development work by a Dr. Huey, who incidentally got his Ph. D. at the University of Iowa
a few years before me, the dye was manufactured at the Rensselaer plant.
Doris recalls visiting the Grimmel home at Riegelsville, PA . This was located along the Delaware River and next to Dr. Alfred Guenther's home which is now a fancy
restaurant called Ville Richard. Doris particularly remembers the tasty punch that Mrs. Grimmel served. It consisted of wine, champagne and ginger ale with floating
halves of peaches, served in a large silver bowl. We both enjoyed it very much! A few years later, Dr. Grimmel and Dr. Guenther left GAF to form a new company,
Metro Dyestuffs , in Rhode Island.
During the early years of the CRL, many photos were taken for publicity purposes. Jack Birkelbach worked for the Easton Express Times as a photographer and
sometimes did freelance work for the CRL. He was very good at photography and took a lot of photos for the CRL's Anilog newsletter. He retired from our local
newspaper in 1976 and passed away on January 28, 1997, at the age of 82.
Another member of the azo dye research department was the late Dr. Albert Strobel. He was an excellent chemist and a very close friend of mine at CRL. He had
many patents in UV absorbers, fluorescent brighteners and photo resist products.
In 1945 an explosion blew out windows and wrecked equipment in the research building. Three employees were injured: Fred Albinson, a chemist; George Keck, a
company fireman, and Kenneth Town, a lab assistant. My wife, the former Doris Dean, who worked in the laboratory, clearly remembers the incident as well as myself.
The blast buckled the ceiling of the basement and the floor of the first floor, knocking over and destroying analytical balances where Drs. Louis Waldbauer and Larry
Hallet worked and near the area where Dr. Isaac H. Godlove worked as head of the physical chemistry department. If my memory serves me correctly, Doris' boss,
Richard Towne, was attempting to co-polymerize methyl vinyl ether (made from methanol and acetylene) with maleic anhydride, using lauroyl peroxide catalyst. By
mistake, he used fifty times too much catalyst. The accident happened after working hours and they called in the company nurse to assist, but she got so nervous and
excited that they had to take care of her!
Some of the other employees that Doris worked for and/or with at CRL were Dr. Fred Grosser, Dr. Martin Cross, who later joined Verona Chemical in Newark, NJ, and
Dr. Calvin Schildknecht. I was engaged to Doris in August of 1945 and we were married in November of 1946.
After the war, GAF introduced “Glim”, the first nonionic liquid dish washing product on the U. S. market. The active ingredient was made from the reaction of ethylene
oxide and nonylphenol. But “Glim” was soon replaced with Procter & Gamble's "Joy." On the humorous side, there was a rumor around CRL that GAF was interested in
coming out with a new product that they were going to name "Glit." and they were going to manufacture it from a mixture of Glim and S--t! I believe this joke was
greatly fostered by a little jealousy over the fabulous success of P & G's Joy!
I recently looked up my first patent (United States Patent # 2,460,745), granted Feb. 1, 1949 to Harry W. Grimmel and Harlan B. Freyermuth, assignors to General Aniline
& Film Corporation, N. Y..a Corporation of Delaware. My second patent (U. S. Patent # 2,614,940) was granted on Oct. 21, 1952 to myself and Dr. William O. Ney and
assigned to GAF Corp. This covered Ultra Violet Absorbing Film. Bill Ney and I were renting rooms in the same house on "College Hill". I knew Bill was working on ultra
violet light absorbers for plastics and I asked him why he didn't sulphonate the one he was working on and make it water soluble. He told me since I was more familiar
with nitrations, sulphonations, etc., why don't I do it. So, I did! A new to the market water soluble ultra violet light absorber was born. Incidentally, Dr. William O. Ney
was born and lived in Lake Charles, LA and took his Ph. D. at the University of Texas. Bill was the "best man" at our wedding.
Dr. David I. Randall and I had a patent together on a polyester dyestuff that was later manufactured at the Rensselaer plant and that we were both very proud of. It was
marketed under the name Genacron Cerise NSL. I have a sample of it in a dye sample box that the GAF Marketing Department gave me many years ago. These samples
were distributed to potential customers. The dyestuff had outstanding properties, particularly in sublimation fastness. The molecule had a pyrrolidonylmethyl group.
GAF chemist Dr. Charlie Chang, who worked in Rensselaer, did a lot of work using a diethanolamino group instead, but it didn't work nearly as well and was never
I recall a very brilliant physical chemist named Hugh Davidson who reported to Dr. Henry Hemmendinger, who in turn reported to Dr. Isaac Godlove at CRL. Davidson
didn't have a Ph.D. but was very creative. He had done a lot of work on building cams while in the Navy during W.W.II. He was the primary inventor and holds a patent
on the integrator which "breaks down " all colors into three tri-stimulus numbers even though the colors may have different organic chemical structures. The
integrator draws a curve of the color on the GE spectrophotometer and the XYZ numbers are automatically recorded when the curve is finished. This "attachment"
was built by Librascope in conjunction with GE and sold by GE on their spectrophotometer, with the royalty probably going to GAF.
Hugh Davidson was a multi-talented person. He built his own home , a log cabin, and played an oboe in the Lehigh Valley Symphony Orchestra. I was also told that he
was a classical music composer. I liked him personally and always considered him a good friend. After leaving GAF, Davidson and Hemmendinger started their own
company, located on Sullivan's Trail in Chestnut Hill or College Hill, where Lafayette College is located. This company sold spectrophotometers with the tristimulus
integrator attachment built in. Ford Motor Co. was one their first customers, and used the instrument car paint applications. I understand that that several instruments
were sold to Japanese companies. At the time, the instruments sold for about $50,000, which was a lot of money during that period of time! I don't know what
eventually happened to the company, but I believe the building is now used by the local FM Radio Station, WFMZ. I believe today most commercial stores handling
paint and paint mixtures (for example, Home Depot, Sherwin Williams, etc.) are using computerized methods based on similar spectrophotometric procedures.
The late Dr. Saul S. Buc was a brilliant chemist who worked at the CRL at the same time that I did. He worked with the chloro methylating agent, dichlorodimethylether.
Saul had a procedure for a laboratory scale preparation of this very hazardous material published in Organic Synthesis (Collective Volume IV, page 161). The ether is
an excellent method of introducing chloromethyl groups into a molecule which in turn can be "connected" to something else.
Another friend and coworker of mine from the CRL is Clayton Bittner. I call him occasionally and he has an excellent memory of the people and events at CRL. Clayton
lives in the Hillcrest section of Pillipsburg, NJ and reported to me when I was in charge of the dye testing laboratory at CRL for a short period before dyestuff research
and testing was transferred to the Linden and Rensselaer plants. Clayton worked for GAF for many years and eventually moved to Wayne, NJ and retired from GAF at
When I was transferred from CRL back to the Linden plant in 1955, our research director was Dr. Fred Gajewski and my research manager was Dr. Albert Bloom.
Another person that I met and had personal conversations with and liked very much was known to me as "Pop" Lytle. I believe that he worked for the Intermediates
Department and was transferred to the process development research department on the 4th floor of 48 building. I believe that I knew him on my second stay at
Linden. As an example of our private conversations, I confided to him that I had some trouble with hypertension. He told me not to worry and that he could change his
pulse rate at will. With my holding his wrist to feel his pulse, he proceeded to "pump air into his stomach and after taking his pulse before and after, he "belched" out
all the air from his stomach that he took in. And sure enough, his pulse rate went back to normal. That is about as "personal" that we ever became!
During this second assignment at Linden, we continued to live in Easton. I commuted daily to Linden with the late Dr. John Taras, then head of the Vat Colors
Department. Jim Tersignia owned and operated the Warren Side Tavern near Bloomsbury, NJ, where John and I parked our cars before continuing to Linden. John's
widow, Helene, celebrated her 95th birthday in 2005 and lives in Tennessee with her daughter, Marianne. Their son, Billy passed away about a year ago at the age of
about 60. Coincidentally, our ophthalmologist, Dr. Donald Willard, purchased the John Taras home as well as Helene's home (she was a Vanderbilt) next door on the hill
named The Point, which is near Finesville, NJ. We enjoyed a lot of good times at the Taras estate!
I remember the electrolytic plant for the manufacture of caustic and chlorine and related products such as hydrogen and hydrochloric acid. I've been in the plant
several times, but never worked there. I remember when they lost all of the mercury from one electrolytic cell and the company reported it stolen to their insurance
company. That didn't work because the weight was so great that a single tractor/tanker couldn't haul it. I don't believe they ever found it as the sea level is about zero
where the building was located. They might have found some mercury had they drilled for it, but I don't think they ever did. I remember that Union Carbide setting up a
bottling plant for some of the hydrogen gas produced on the site. Some of it was used to make hydrochloric acid and I believe the rest of it was burned.
I did quite a bit of work on toluenediisocyanate for polyurethane resins. We used hydrogen to reduce the 2,4- & 2,6-dinitrotoluene to toluenediamine in the presence
of palladium catalyst. At that time palladium was a lot cheaper than platinum.
I remember the passion that Dr. Carl Barnes, who left the CRL in the late 1940’s, had for his nylon 4 discovery, which was based on pyrollidone. Although I never
handled or have even seen the fiber, I was aware of some of its desirable properties such as "hand", dyeability, hydrophilic properties, etc., compared to nylon 6.
Most of my knowledge of the fiber came through Bill Ney, who was a coworker and good friend of mine. He told me that Carl Barnes was so "sold" on this product that
he just wouldn't give up pushing it. Barnes was even trying to interest the Japanese in his product. Bill Ney told me that Barnes spent his own savings, his wife's
fortune and a lot of money from several companies that he worked for before he was convinced that the product wasn't going to "fly". What do they say? “ If you're
sitting on a dead horse, get off, because he ain't going to move!" Bill Ney and I had both had a "gut" feeling that the tendency of derivatives of a four carbon chain to
want to form five or six membered rings was so great that stability could never be attained. The physical chemists probably have a good explanation why pyrollidone
can’t produce a stable polymer.
In 1969 Philip B. Dalton, a vice president in the New York City corporate office at 140 W. 51 St., asked me to "try" the position of College Relations Manager for one year
and if I didn't like the job, he'd send me back to research in Easton! I took the job and enjoyed working in the corporate headquarter until my retirement in 1976. Dr.
Jesse Werner and his staff were on the twenty-first floor. I indirectly worked for Juliette Moran, one of the top executives at GAF, as she was in charge of
Communications, Advertising and Personnel as well as serving as secretary for the Management Committee. As a "buffer," I had Jack Gow who previously worked for
Paul Getty and his sons at Getty Oil Co. and later became a V.P. at GAF, heading up both Personnel and Public Relations Departments. Between Jack Gow and myself, I
had as Director of Personnel, first, Richard A. Demmerle, who had a tragic fall at home which resulted in his death, followed by Patrick McShane, who previously
worked for the Advertising Department.
I first met Juliette at the CRL where she worked in the early 1940s. I liked and got along fairly well with her at the corporate office. . My best friend at the corporate
office was Gene Ferguson, Director of EEO. He is now retired and lives in New Port Richey, FL. His daughter, Linda lives in his home in Elizabeth, NJ. Also working at
the corporate office was Dr. Les Poland who previously worked at the CRL.
I distinctly remember Bob McCarthy, who was Linden plant manager in the 1970’s, having succeeded Dr. Clarence Buurman.. Bob was a good natured and very
sociable Irishman who eventually transferred to the NYC office as a "Big Shot" in either the Marketing or Commercial Development Department.
I was reminiscing about all of the research directors and managers that I had known while I worked at the GAF Linden and CRL locations during my 34 plus years with
the company. I came up with the following. I may be incorrect in some of the first names and/or middle initials:
Directors at CRL
1. Dr. "Butch" William E. Hanford
2. Dr. Arthur Fox
3. Dr. Joseph Lange
4. Dr. Joseph Wilkinson
5. Dr. Eugene Hort
6. Dr. Nathan Field
7. Dr. Johannes Bruun
Managers at CRL
1. Dr. Harry Grimmel
2. Dr. William Wilson Williams
3. Dr. Raymond Mayhew
4. Dr. Max Chiddix
5. Dr. David I. Randall
Directors at Linden
1. Dr. Paul Nawiaska (1942)
2. Dr. Fred Gajewski (1950's)
Managers at Linden
1. Dr. E. Wulthius (1942)
2. Dr. Albert Bloom (1950's)
3. Dr. David Graham* (1950's)
Dr. Graham eventually transferred from the Linden plant to Wayne, NJ where he died suddenly of a heart attack while at work. I remember an occasion when he
brought his son Andy to Pennsylvania to join Doris and me in a search for Indian arrow heads and spears along the Delaware River north of Easton. We found about
20 in one day and gave them to his son to take home. He was delighted. Dave got his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois.
I received a call recently from my friend Ned Heindel and we had a very interesting conversation about GAF and former employees of the company. He discussed
people such as Saul Buc, Russefl Farris (works for the EPA), James Bohning , Moysha Ron and alumni affairs at the University of Delaware. Ned is now retired as
professor of organic chemistry at Lehigh University and is working in drug research at the Franklin Research Institute laboratories, which was formerly Bethlehem
Steel's Homer Research Laboratories. Ned is also active as the president of the Williams Township Historical Society and has been writing books and articles and
giving talks on the history of the area in which he lives. In December 2005 he spoke about "Folk Medicine of the Pennsylvania Dutch" at the DAR Holiday Luncheon in
Note from ColorantsHistory.Org: David E. Graham was an organic chemist with a Ph.D from the University of Illinois at Champagne-Urbana. He was hired by General
Aniline and Film Corporation around 1945 and worked in Linden until about 1974 when he transferred to the Wayne R & D Campus. He was a Senior Scientist at the end
of his career. His specialty was pesticides and he was responsible for developing a product called Amiben for soybeans. While he mainly did research with a couple
of technicians, he would sometimes travel with the salespeople, sometimes work on product development, and once investigated an explosion that took place at the
|Reminisces of General Aniline and Film Corporation
by Harlan B. Freyermuth