|George A. Prochazka
A Leader in the Development of the U.S. Dyestuff Industry
Biography by Robert J. Baptista, Revised August 7, 2014
Dr. George A. Prochazka was a prominent chemical engineer who had an important role in the development of the synthetic dye industry in the United States. He was born in Milwaukee in 1855, the son of
John and Katherine Best Prochazka. After attending private schools in New York , graduating at the remarkably young age of twelve, he studied chemistry in Germany. In 1868 he attended the
Realgymnasium at Wiesbaden and the laboratory of Fresenius. He was awarded the degree of Doctor of Philosophy at the University of Heidelberg in 1874, after studying under Bunsen, Kirchoff, Kopp and
other distinguished faculty. He did post graduate work at the University of Bonn under Wallach and Kekule. His brother John Prochazka also studied chemistry in Europe. Another brother Ferdinand
Prochazka became an architect and monument artist in New York.
When he returned to the United States, Dr. Prochazka joined the faculty of Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey. He was an assistant and worked closely with Prof. Albert R. Leeds and
other faculty members for several years. He attended the organizational meeting of the American Chemical Society on April 6, 1876 and became a member in 1877.
Dr. Prochazka then became a partner in the Herman Endemann firm of consulting and analytical chemists. Later he was chemist for the Tartar Chemical Company of Jersey City, New Jersey. In 1881 he
joined Heller & Merz, a dyestuff manufacturer in Newark, and became general manager of the works in 1893. There he developed manufacturing processes for magenta, eosines, and other dyestuffs.
Another accomplishment was the great improvement in ultramarine production, the principal product of the firm.
In 1885 he married Emilie Merz, the daughter of Henry Merz and Augusta Heller Merz. Henry Merz was co-founder of the Heller & Merz dye firm.
With his brother John Prochazka, he founded the Central Dyestuff and Chemical Company of Newark in 1898. Financial support came from Louis P. Best, nephew of Katherine Best Prochazka. Best came to
America in 1869 from Germany and worked as a chemist for a sugar refinery in New York. He later became owner of the Davenport Glucose Manufacturing Co. in Iowa, which processed corn into sugar.
During World War I the Central Dyestuff firm developed the manufacture of dyes and intermediates that had previously been imported from Germany. This research work was directed by Dr. Prochazka, who
was president of the company. The company was the first manufacturer of beta naphthol in the U.S. and produced synthetically complex intermediates such as R-salt, G-salt, and naphthionic acid. There
were over 125 different products in the line, all developed in the on-site laboratories. John Prochazka was secretary of the corporation and in charge of the research laboratory which had fourteen chemists
and assistants. There was a 2400 square foot pilot plant equipped with autoclaves, stills and filter presses for experimental work.
Dr. Prochazka was a strong advocate of the emerging dyestuff industry in the U. S. and lobbied Congress to enact tariff protection since the 1890s. In 1922 he submitted the following testimony, titled "Color
Industry in America" to a Congressional hearing investigating an alleged dye monopoly:
"My friend, Mr. Herman A. Metz, in his recent address before the Society of Chemical Industry , October 11, 1910, refers to the Central Dyestuff & Chemical Co.,, with which I have been connected since its
organization, as the Prochazka factory in Newark. I listened to the address with rather undivided feelings, but at that time did not think it that it was intended to have it appear in print.
Mr. Metz does not take himself seriously. To the four existing coal-tar color manufacturers the confession that he was playing at colors with such ambitious propositions as orange and fast red must have
been a revelation and a surprise. The position of the American manufacturers has been most ably set forth by my friend, Mr. Stone. The raw materials that are of the most prominent importance are given by
name in the free list of the Payne-Aldrich tariff. Some of these are very simple in composition, other are more complicated. Their conversion into colors with the aid of nitrite of soda and a lot of other
chemicals, too numerous to mention, is not a simple process at all; in fact, it is far more complicated than the manufacture of any of the raw materials set forth.
I have been identified with the color industry in this country for over 25 years, and I know what we had to contend against. The European factories have had the prestige; to get our goods into the market they
had to be as good or better than what had been offered. This made it necessary to work out the processes in their minutest details to make their manufacture live propositions; in other words, the quality,
the yield, and also the cost had to be right. This the American manufacturers have done; they have up-to-date methods and plants-neither of which need fear comparison with those of their foreign
Mr. Metz refers to an abortive attempt to make eosine 28 years ago. I began to make eosine successfully about the same time, and was enabled to do so by putting my entire effort into the most exhaustive
study of the reactions and bodies under consideration, thus making it not only a thorough chemical but also a financial success. I manufactured eosine for about 15 years, and to-day the articles in that line,
created by me, have survived in full appreciation of the trade, together only with the products of the Badische and Hoechst factories-the only remaining factories in that line in the United States.
When the Central Dyestuff & Chemical Co. was started we began to make orange and fast red for tactical reasons from a manufacturing point of view, as may be appreciated by my coal-tar colleagues, but
we had ceased to consider these colors live propositions long before Mr. Mets appears to have interested himself in them. But even these required exhaustive study and the work of years to furnish them in
their present first-class quality, as they are turned out by me.
In my estimation the American manufacturers have made good on all propositions. The manufacture of nigrosines, soluble blues, Bismarck brown, chrysoidine, eosines, and many other colors is highly
Success in any line, more particularly in the coal-tar color line, requires brains, industry , perseverance, energy, and last, but not least, money.
I have not the faintest doubt that the American manufacturers will continue to make good, and the advance of the chemical industry in this country and in other directions.
Mr. Metz is neither a chemist or manufacturer. If he were, considering his marked business ability, which he has shown for himself and in public office, he would undoubtedly be eminently identified with their
The charge of a dye monopoly in the U. S. was refuted and Congress passed protective tariff legislation for the dye industry in 1922.
Since Herman Metz had acquired a half-interest in the Central Dyestuff and Chemical Co. by 1919, Dr. Prochazka's comments about "my friend" were very blunt. But Metz had antagonized many U.S.
dyemakers by his pro-German sentiments and opposition to higher tariffs on imported dyes.
Dr. Prochazka retired from the business in 1924. He was a great lover of music, a capable pianist and an opera devotee. He travelled throughout Europe, enjoying musical performances by the leading artists
of the time. Theology and Biblical history interested him greatly. He died in East Orange in 1936 at the age of 80. Dr. Prochazka was a member for many years of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers
and the American Chemical Society. He was survived by his wife, sons George A. Prochazka Jr., an accountant in the chemical industry, J. Albert Prochazka, a chemist who later worked for the General
Aniline Works in Linden, and a daughter, Ottilie Prochazka.
1) "Dr. G. A. Prochazka, Dye Expert, Dead", New York Times, March 25, 1936
2) J. C. Olsen, "George A. Prochazka", Industrial and Engineering Chemistry, Vol. 25, No. 6, June 1933, pp. 711-712
3) "Alleged Dye Monopoly", Hearings before a Subcommittee of the Committee of the Judiciary of the United States Senate, Government Printing Office, Washington, D. C., 1922, pp. 805-806
ColorantsHistory.Org thanks David L. Cordes for contributing historical information about George A. Prochazka and Louis P. Best.
|George A. Prochazka (1855-1936), Founder of Central Dyestuff and Chemical Co.
Photo: Williams Haynes, American Chemical History, Vol. 1, 1954
Copyright © 2006 by ColorantsHistory.Org. All Rights Reserved.
|Left to right: Clara Best, George A. Prochazka, Ferdinand Prochazka and Louis P. Best.
Photo likely taken in Germany in 1904. Courtesy of David L. Cordes.