|The Sun Sets on Historic Rosebank,
Staten Island Pigments Plant
The Sun Sets on Historic Rosebank, Staten Island Pigments Plant
By Robert J. Baptista, Updated November 21, 2008
On January 31, 2008 Sun Chemical closed the doors of its 101-year old pigments plant in the Rosebank community of Staten Island, eliminating high-paying jobs for 94 employees. Another
chapter in the fading history of the U.S. colorants industry ended with the conclusion that it was impossible to meet low-cost competition from pigment makers in China. Most of the world
producers of organic pigments have now established manufacturing plants in China, including Sun Chemical, Ciba, BASF, Clariant, European Color, and Toyo.
The Rosebank plant traces its origins to German dye manufacturer Gustav Siegle (1840-1905), who in 1863 became owner of the Stuttgart firm started by his father. Siegle produced coal-tar
dyes, mineral dyes, organic pigments and paints. Water pollution problems in Stuttgart caused Siegle to start a branch plant on the Rhine in Duisburg in 1868, where vermillion and chromium
green were made.
In 1873 Siegle merged his firm with BASF, but this only lasted until 1889 when the company became independent again and was known as G. Siegle & Co. Siegle was a well-traveled salesman
familiar with the international markets in Europe, Russia and the United States. He had a sales arrangement with the Wm. Pickhardt & Kuttroff agency in New York. On April 4, 1904 the G.
Siegle Company was formally organized in the state of New York with a capital stock of $250,000, entirely owned by the parent company in Stuttgart. The company intended to import and
manufacture colors and chemicals.
After Gustav Siegle's death in 1905, the company purchased the Lazzari property at Rosebank, Staten Island. The pigments plant was built there in 1907 at a cost of $150,000. The buildings
were constructed of reinforced concrete; one building was three-stories high. The five-acre site is at the junction of Tompkins and Chestnut Avenues.
During World War I, the German-owned plant was seized as enemy property. At that time anti-German sentiments were strong and German-born owners of companies and German chemists
were subject to arrest and internment in prisons. This was the case at the Bayer Co. dye plant in Rensselaer (see Spies and Dyes) and at the Williamsburg Chemical Co. in Brooklyn (see
Brooklyn Dye Industry). The International Ultramarine Works, in Rossville, Staten Island, was also seized since the owner was the German industrialist Carl Leverkus of Cologne.
On September 19, 1918 the Alien Property Custodian auctioned the G. Siegle Co. for $513,700 to the American investors Coffin & Co., A.B. Leach & Co. and W.A. Wilbur. For a nominal sum, the
Chemical Foundation, which licensed seized German patents to
U.S. companies, transferred the patent and trademark rights of G. Siegle to the new American owners. This included the use of the company logo and exotic pigment trade names like Hortensia
Lake, Phloxine Lake, Delosia Lake, Benzal Lake, Flamingo Lake, Heraldic Scarlet, Topaz Lake, Brilliant Rosa Lake, Rosa Scarlet, Floral Purple, Emeraldine, and Paladine Geranium.
In 1920 George Stoffel, company messenger, was robbed of the $3,500 weekly payroll by two armed highwaymen. Since chemical worker wages averaged about $30 per week at that time, it is
estimated that the plant had about 115 workers.
Dr. Julius Culmann, a chemist who received a Ph. D. from the University of Wurzburg, was vice president in 1921 and in charge of research. He and chemist Edgar Ahrens were granted U.S.
Patent 1,702,227 in 1929 for the development of non-poisonous pigments for facial cosmetics. These products were the aluminum lakes of red dyestuffs.
In 1924 Ernest Gommel, manager of the pigment manufacturing operation, and Vincent C. Vesce, chemist, left G. Siegle to become partners in the Harmon Color Works in Brooklyn. But they
could not take customers away from G. Siegle.
In 1929 the A.B. Ansbacher & Co., a Brooklyn-based pigment manufacturer, combined with G. Siegle to form the Ansbacher-Siegle Company. This company grew and established itself as an
organic pigment supplier in eastern U.S. markets.
Also in 1929, the George H. Morrill Co., a manufacturer of carbon black, pigments, and printing inks, merged with four other ink companies-Eagle, Sigmund Ullman, Fuchs & Lang and American,
to form General Printing Ink. This was the first ink maker with operations coast-to-coast.
General Printing Ink changed its name to Sun Chemical in 1945, but printing ink still remained its major business. Sun Chemical was now one of the ten major U.S. printing ink manufacturers.
The leading ink manufacturer at the time was the International Printing Ink Co., later known as Inmont.
The laboratory of the Rosebank plant was one of the first in the U.S. to utilize a spectrograph. The instrument was 20 feet long and was used to measure metals in a sample by direct arc
emission spectrometry. The metals were vaporized, giving off radiation captured on a photographic plate. The lines on the plate identified the type of metals in the sample.
Ansbacher-Siegle was merged into Sun Chemical in 1957. Frank W. May, a chemist formerly employed by the Harmon Color Works of Haledon, New Jersey, became plant manager in 1957 and
vice president and general manager in 1959. Under May's direction, the company added an 18,000 square foot warehouse to the Rosebank plant and took over manufacturing operations from
With Ansbacher-Siegle came its owner, Norman Alexander, who became the new leader of Sun Chemical. Alexander put Sun on the road to modern management in terms of marketing and
investing. By 1972 Sun was the largest printing ink company in the U.S.
Constantinos Nicolaou, then a young chemist from London, joined the Rosebank laboratory staff in 1975. He worked with Maria Darocha, the laboratory manager. Nicolaou received a Ph. D. in
1987 and is currently senior scientist and laboratory manager of the Sun Chemical Performance Pigments division headquarters in Cincinnati, Ohio. In 2007 Nicolaou was awarded NAPIM'S
(National Association of Printing Ink Manufacturers) Technical Associate Member Service Award for his many contributions to printing ink technology.
Edwin Faulkner joined Sun Chemical in 1973 and transferred to Rosebank in 1977 as operations manager. He is now Director, Cosmetics and Classical Pigments, at headquarters in Cincinnati.
Faulkner, author of numerous articles on organic pigments, is very active in industry associations and lectures on pigments worldwide.
Sun Chemical expanded its global presence in 1987 when it was acquired by the Tokyo based Dainippon Ink & Chemicals, Inc. (DIC) in 1987. A major acquisition took place in 2003 with the
purchase of the pigments business of Bayer Polymers LLC. Bayer previously manufactured an extensive line of high performance pigments at its facility in Haledon, New Jersey. These
products, including perylenes, quincridones, phthalocyanines, and carbon black lake, were transferred to a new, high-technology, automated unit in Bushy Park, South Carolina during 1992-
Sun Chemical currently has annual sales over $4 billion and more than 11,000 employees worldwide. There are about 5,000 employees in the U.S. The company is a leading producer of
organic pigments and dispersions used in printing inks, plastics, paints, cosmetics, and textiles. It has a 22 percent share of the global market for pigments, estimated at 220,000 metric tons.
When closure of the Rosebank plant, the oldest pigment plant in North America, was first announced in July 2007, Sun Chemical management credited the employees for their efforts in keeping
the plant viable for so many years. The company said it would offer a competitive severance package and outplacement services. Employees leaving the plant on the final day of January 31,
2008 had mixed views on the closing. A few were resigned to the decision and the need to move on to new jobs. Other employees complained that the severance package was inadequate and
that it would be difficult for older workers to find similar paying jobs in an economy possibly heading for recession. None of the workers were offered jobs at Sun Chemical’s other pigment
plants in Ohio, Michigan and South Carolina. The Department of Labor certified in October 2007 that the workers are eligible for job placement services and benefits since the jobs were lost
due to imported pigments.
A few residents of Rosebank were pleased with the closure decision, citing objectionable odors from the plant and the risk of safety and environmental mishaps from the use of hazardous
chemicals in a residential area. Typical homes in the area, detached colonials on 25 by 75 foot lots, range in value between $450,000 and $550,000. Charming older homes in Shore Acres, with
scenic views of the water and the Verrazano-Narrows bridge, have prices up to $1.95 million. The elimination of the nearby chemical plant may increase home values.
But the community will experience some negative economic impacts from the shutdown such as the loss of tax revenue. In 2007 Sun Chemical paid $100,061 in property tax; in 2008 the
property tax is expected to drop to $88,267. Sun Chemical has not yet announced plans for the site, other than to decommission the plant and evaluate potential economic development options
for the benefit of the community.
1) W. Abelshauser, W. von Hippel, J. A. Johnson, R. G. Stokes, German Industry and Global Enterprise: BASF: The History of a Company, Cambridge University Press, 2004
2) "New Factory on Staten Island", New York Times, February 9, 1907
3) "Government Takes Four Hun Owned Plants in East", Bridgeport Telegram, August 10, 1918
4) United States Alien Property Custodian, Alien Property Report, 1919, p. 218
5) "Auto Bandits Get $3,500", New York Times, May 16, 1920
6) “Dry Color: U.S. Names Rare in the Dye Trade”, Time, September 30, 1929
7) E. B. Faulkner, “The Organic Pigment Industry: Where It’s Been and Where It’s Going”, Ink World, May 2003, pp. 48-50
8) Sun Chemical website, http://www.sunchemical.com/timeline.htm , accessed January 31, 2008
9) “100-Year Old Rosebank Chemical Plant Closing”, Staten Island Advance, July 31, 2007, http://blog.silive.com/advanceupdate/2007/07/100yearold_rosebank_chemical_p.html , accessed
January 31, 2008
10) G. Nyback and P. Helsel, “Staten Island Chemical Company Closes Its Doors for Good”, Staten Island Advance, January 31, 2008, http://www.silive.com/news/index.
ssf/2008/01/staten_island_chemical_company.html , accessed January 31, 2008
11) D. Savastano, "Dr. Constantinos Nicolaou Receives NAPIM'S Technical Associate Member Award", Ink World, March 2006,
Entrepeneur.com, http://www.entrepreneur.com/tradejournals/article/161282151.html, accessed February 8, 2008
12) "Color Selection for Decorative Cosmetics", The Center for Professional Advancement, http://www.cfpa.com/190001012182-16a/2182/o/courseDirectory.aspx , accessed February 8, 2009
13) Notice of Determinations Regarding Eligibility To Apply for Worker Adjustment Assistance and Alternative Trade Adjustment Assistance [10/12/2007], U.S. Department of Labor, http://www.
dol.gov/eta/regs/fedreg/notices/2007020111.htm, accessed February 8, 2008
14) C. Wilson, "A Quiet Slice of New York Waterfront", New York Times, March 12, 2006, http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/12/realestate/12living.html?_r=1&oref=slogin, accessed February 9,
15) Staten Island Property Tax Information at PropertyShark.com, http://www.freepropertylookup.com/mason/nystate/Reports2/showsection.html?propkey=984323, accessed February 9, 2008
16) Report of the Alien Property Custodian, 67th Congress, Senate, 1922, p. 523, 1004
17) "Name F.W. May General Manager of Pigment Corp.", Cranford Chronicle and Citizen, July 2, 1959
|Sun Chemical Pigments Plant, Rosebank
Photo: Irving Silverstein/Staten Island Advance, January 31, 2008
|Chemists at Work in Rosebank, ca. 1950
Photo: Staten Island Advance
|Gustav Siegle, 1895
Founder of G. Siegle & Co. Photo: Wikipedia
|Map of Rosebank, Staten Island in 1907 with View to North. Click to Enlarge. Area Encircled in Yellow Shows Smokestack That May Identify
Location of the G. Siegle Company Plant. If the Map Predated Construction, the G. Siegle Plant Was Probably Built on the Grassy Property Nearby.
Source: View of the City of New York and Vicinity, August R. Ohman & Co., 1907. Image: Library of Congress Map Collection
|Sun Chemical Pigments Unit in Bushy Park, South Carolina
Photo: Bayer Corporation, 1993. Click to Enlarge
|Scenic View of Verrazano-Narrows Bridge from Rosebank
Photo: Metropolitan Transit Authority, State of New York
Copyright © 2008 by ColorantsHistory.Org. All Rights Reserved.
|Demolition of Rosebank Plant, August 2008.
Photo Courtesy of Nathan Kensinger, Copyright. Click to Enlarge.