Standard Ultramarine Company, Huntington West Virginia, ca. 1913
Omar T. Frick, born in Evansville, Indiana in 1870, founded the Standard Ultramarine & Color Company in 1909.
He began his career as an assistant bookkeeper for Standard Oil and then moved to Chicago where he was a
salesman for the S.P. Shotter Company. In 1902 he moved to Savannah where he became General Manager of
the American Naval Stores. Frick was a leader of the West Virginia Manufacturers Association and was prominent
in the civic and social life of Huntington. He was President of the company until his death in 1949.
Frick's partner in the Standard Ultramarine venture was Henri Dourif, a French citizen who was a Major in the
French Air Service during World War I. He held the title of Vice President and was in charge of the plant. The sales
agent was the S. R. David and Company, located in New York.
The history of the company is outlined below:
1909...Standard Ultramarine & Color Company established in Tiffin, Ohio. Plant later flooded by Sandusky River.
1912.. Incorporated in West Virginia December 30, 1912. New site located in Huntington.
1913...Plant is constructed and started up
1920...On March 17, Frick addresses Louisville Paint Superintendents' Club at Tyler Hotel,
Huntington. Presentation is titled "Blues-Their Origin, Manufacture and Uses".
1925...Alkali Blue production
1932...On-site gas well brought in, supplying 1million cubic feet per day
1934...Azo Red/C-Amine production
1961...Joint Venture with Morimura Bros. in Japan for Alkali Blue
1964...Chemetron purchase created Holland-Suco Color Company
1969...Pigments Division of Chemetron Corporation
1979...BASF Wyandotte Corporation
1981...Discontinued production of Azo Red, Phthalo, Methyl Violet
1984...Huntington rehabilitation-$35 million project to automate, modernize, install environmental controls
1986...Discontinued production of C-Amine
1994...Huntington capacity upgrade
1996...Reorganization of the BASF Coatings & Colorants Business Group
1997...Huntington completes a Site Process Optimization
1999...Joint Venture with Morimura Bros. in Japan discontinued
2002...BASF appoints Connell Brothers Co., Ltd., as distributor of Alkali Blue line in Asia, excluding Japan
2004...BASF sells printing inks, printing plates businesses and Alkali Blue production to CVC Capital Partners
2005...Company now known as BPS Printing Systems LLC
The Huntington plant site covers 27 acres and has 350,000 sq. ft. of production buildings. Employment has
steadily declined from 400 employees in 1980 to 120 currently. The hourly employees are members of the PACE
union, Local 5-180. BASF completed a $6 million modernization project in 1998, including new production line
equipment and new two-story warehouse. Although the plant is located in an urban area and has nearby
commercial and residential neighbors, the relationship with the community is good. The plant has a strong safety
and environmental track record. Management meets regularly with a Community Advisory Panel to address
concerns and issues. The plant has a significant economic impact on the Huntington area, with an annual payroll
of $8.5 million and payment of $0.5 million in local and state taxes.
An early product of the plant was synthetic ultramarine, a blue inorganic pigment consisting of sodium aluminum
silicate lattices containing polysulfide chains. The raw materials are china clay, sulfur and sodium carbonate,
which are heated in a rotary kiln, followed by drowning in water to remove sodium sulfate, and then filtration, drying
and grinding. Applications include paints, printing inks, and cosmetics. Years ago, before the introduction of
optical brighteners, ultramarine was commonly sold as laundry bluing. The photos below illustrate the Standard
Ultramarine product, packaged in a small cotton bag that was tossed into the laundry tub:
Alkali Blue was first prepared by C.W. Nicholson in England in 1862. Sherwin-Williams was the first company in
the U.S. to manufacture it, beginning in 1916. Standard Ultramarine started manufacture in 1925. The Huntington,
West Virginia plant is the oldest, continuously operating Alkali Blue manufacturing site in the world. The annual
production of 12 million pounds makes Huntington the largest global producer, with a market share in the range of
40-50%. The Clariant plant in Germany and the Hindustan plant in India each produce about 25%. Several smaller
companies around the world produce only for local consumption. PMC Specialties reentered the market in 2000
after a three year hiatus at its Chicago plant. But PMC stopped production of Alkali Blue in 2002 due to
over-capacity in the market.
Alkali Blue (C.I. Pigment Blue 61, CAS # 1324-76-1) is perhaps the most complex pigment manufactured. There
are multiple steps in the process outlined below:
1) Reaction of aniline and formaldehyde to form pararosaniline (pararosaniline monohydrochloride is C.I. Basic
Red 9, CAS # 569-61-9)
2) Reaction of pararosaniline and aniline to form Solvent Blue 23 (C.I. 42760, CAS # 2152-64-9)
3) Reaction of Solvent Blue 23 with sulfuric acid yields Alkali Blue (C.I. 41765:1)
Design of experiment methodology resulted in a major process improvement for Alkali Blue. Grit in the finished
product was eliminated by adding a temperature control system, adjusting pH, and changing the temperature in a
filtration phase. The process efficiency increased from 85% to 95%, equating to several millions of dollars worth of
marketable product. Waste disposal costs were reduced by $750,000/year. (Source:
Alkali Blue is the strongest blue pigment available and is marketed in several physical forms:
1) Flushed color paste (largest demand)
2) Dry powder
Alkali Blue is used as a toner in black inks, making the ink blacker. The inks are used in printing books,
magazines and greeting cards. It also has applications as a self color. The familiar deep blue color on the Morton
Salt box and Snickers candy wrapper is Alkali Blue.
The Azo Red pigment introduced in 1934 was Red Lake C (C.I. Pigment Red 53:1), produced from C-Amine (also
known as Cassella Acid or 2-amino-5-chloro-4-methylbenzenesulfonic acid, CAS # 88-53-9). Red Lake C is used
in printing inks and has the general structure:
Red Lake C was typically prepared as the barium or calcium salt, which have slightly different shades. Production
was discontinued at Huntington in 1981 along with several other colorants. Production of C-Amine, however,
continued until 1986.
Methyl Violet (C.I. Basic Violet 1, C.I. 42535, CAS # 8004-87-3) is produced by the methylation of pararosaniline.
Production stopped in 1981. Major applications are as a textile dye and deep violet toner in paints and inks.
Dr. Frank H. Moser (1907-2002) joined the company as a chemist in 1938. He became Research Director in 1958.
In 1960 the research staff included H.E. Burdick, Manager Technical Service and Application Research, L.E. Squire,
Technical Administrator, 20 chemists, 2 chemical engineers, 19 technicians and 4 auxiliaries. Moser transferred
to Holland Color in 1966 where he was Research Director. He was named Technical Director in 1968, when the
company was known as the Pigment Division of Chemetron Corporation. Moser held several patents in the field of
phthalocyanines and was co-author of a book on the subject.
The plant has manufactured a wide range of products over the course of its long history. Trademark names of the
product lines and initial dates of commercial sale are listed below:
1) Orthotone Orange, 1937. Pigments for use in paints, enamels and lacquers.
2) Virginia Red, 1940. Pigments for use in printing inks.
3) Guyandot Red, 1941. Pigments for use in paints, enamels and lacquers.
4) Molora, 1948. Pigments for use in paints, enamels and lacquers.
6) Ultrafast, 1960. Pigments for use in printing inks, coloring of plastics, and in coatings
7) Ranger, 1963. Pigments for use in printing inks.
Two new pigment lines were introduced in 1972. One was a range of yellow, red and green lead-free pigments for
paints. The other line of red and yellow pigments gave high gloss and transparency in automotive, aluminum and
In 1955, the Justice Department charged six companies in the dry-color field with violation of the Sherman
Anti-Trust Act. The companies were Standard Ultramarine and Color, American Cyanamid, Sherwin-Williams,
Imperial Paper and Color, Sterling Drug and Holland Color and Chemical. The six companies, which had about
half of the $80 million a year industry, were accused of engaging in an unlawful combination to restrain competition
by fixing prices. In 1956, Standard Ultramarine and American Cyanamid pleaded guilty and were fined $5,000 each.
The plant experienced considerable labor problems over the years. A labor union was formed in 1937.
M. Oxmeyer, CIO (Committee for Industrial Organization) organizer, was successful in getting Standard Ultramarine
to recognize the union as the sole bargaining agent for its 200 employees. Major Henri Dourif, Vice President of the
company, signed a one year contract for a 40-hour, five-day work week. In 1942, 350 employees walked out for a
brief period to protest the firing of a union employee. The timing was difficult for the company, which had Navy
contracts to fill.
On November 10, 1961, 400 members of Local 3-180, Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers Union (AFL-CIO) went on
strike. In March 1962, the company sent employees a letter advising them to report to work, but it was ignored. The
strike was finally settled in April 1962 after five months of negotiations, including the use of federal mediators. The
agreement was announced by Executive Vice President W. H. Stark of SUCO and Harry Drenner, District Director of
Another strike occurred in 1972 and lasted three and one-half months. The strike had a negative impact on profits,
but sales and earnings from pigments were still higher in 1972 compared to 1971.
Explosions wrecked a section of the plant in 1971, shortly after firemen evacuated all production employees while
extinguishing a small fire in the production area. The blasts ignited a large fire that burned six hours before it was
put out. A fire captain died of a heart attack at the scene and 17 firemen were injured. The plant employed 500
people on three shifts in 1971.
In 1978 Rhinechem, a Bayer AG holding company, attempted the purchase of the business. At that time, the
business was held by the Pigment Division of Chemetron Corporation, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Allegheny
Ludlum. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) opposed this merger, since Rhinechem had already acquired
Harmon Colors in 1977. Rhinechem dropped its bid in March 1979. In 1979, BASF Wyandotte Corporation wanted
to buy the business, but the FTC again challenged the acquisition of a U.S. producer of organic pigments by the
domestic subsidiary of a leading global pigment producer. The FTC said the acquisition would give BASF
Wyandotte more than a 10 percent share of the organic pigments market. The court found that the increase in
market concentration would not threaten competition in an industry with over-capacity and low barriers to entry, and
BASF completed the purchase.
On November 30, 2004, BASF finalized the sale of its printing system businesses and facilities, including the
Huntington plant, to CVC Capital Partners (CVC), a European private equity company. The company is now part of
BPS Printing Systems LLC. Operations at the plant continue unchanged.
1) Williams Haynes, American Chemical Industry, Vol. II, pp. 102, 103 (New York: D. Van Nostrand Co., 1945)
2) BASF Website: www.basf.com/usa
3) Bob Withers, "Site Manager Sees Bright Future for BASF", The Herald-Dispatch, March 21, 2004
4) "BASF Huntington Employees to Plant Trees at Local Elementary School", BASF Corporation News Room,
April 17, 2003
5) "BASF Marks 90 Years with Employee Activities", The Herald-Dispatch, October 11, 2002
6) "Focus" Newsletter, Second Quarter 1997, West Virginia Development Office, Charleston, WV
7) Scott Wartman, "Huntington BASF Plant Under New Ownership", The Herald-Dispatch, October 1, 2004
8) "BASF Management Pleased EU's Approval of Merger", The Herald-Dispatch, November 6, 2004
9) United States Patent and Trademark Office Website : http://www.uspto.gov/main/trademarks.htm
10) Federal Trade Commission, Annual Report 1979, Washington, DC
11) Federal Trade Commission, Annual Report 1982, Washington, DCC
12) "Dry-Color Trust Charged by U.S.", The New York Times, June 30, 1955
13) "2 Fined $5,000 Each", The New York Times, Feb. 22, 1956
14) "Explosions Damage Paint Factory in West Virginia", The New York Times, June 21, 1971
15) Chemetron Corporation Annual Report 1972, Chicago, Illinois
16) "Notes of the Trade", American Dyestuff Reporter, March 22, 1920
17) "Gas Well Drilled For Concern in Huntington", Charleston Daily Mail, July 24, 1932
18) "Huntington", Charleston Daily Mail, June 12, 1937
19) "4 Tieups End But 7 Plants Face Strikes", Syracuse Herald-Journal, September 6, 1942
20) "Say Huntington Picket Line Stays Peaceful", Lancaster Eagle-Gazette, March 15, 1962
21) "Reach Tentative Agreement That May End Strike", Newark Advocate, April 13, 1962
22) "Frank H. Moser", Obituary, The Grand Rapids Press, December 27, 2002
23) Mary J. Lewis, "A Splash of Color", Huntington Quarterly, Autumn 1990, pp. 66-69910
24) David Savastano, "PMC Specialties Reopens Chicago Alkali Blue Facility", Ink World, March 1, 2001
25) "Pigment Industry's Challenges Mirror Its Ink Customers", Ink World, March 1, 2002
26) Bob Withers, "Printer's Future Written in Blue Ink", The Herald-Dispatch, March 20, 2005
|Major Henri Dourif-VP 1925
Photo: Dabney Dourif Lee
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|Ultramarine Blue Drawdown
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|Aerial Photo of Plant-1998
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|Standard Ultramarine and Color Company
|Original Product of Standard Ultramarine
Photos Copyright 2004, Courtesy of Lehmann's Antique Advertising & Collectibles
Red Lake C
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