|Zinsser & Company
Hastings-On-Hudson, New York
Zinsser & Company, Inc. was established at Hastings-On-Hudson, New York in 1897 by Frederick G. Zinsser who purchased an abandoned sugar refinery
along the Hudson River to enter the emerging field of synthetic organic chemicals. He was born in New York City in 1868 and educated at Columbia
University, Louvain University, Belgium, and Gottingen and Heidelberg University in Germany where he received a Ph.D. in 1891.
The first product was a refined wood alcohol called Hastings Spirits. By gradually filling in the river, Zinsser increased the property to 15 acres. Production
of tannic acid was undertaken, followed by gallic acids and related products hydroquinone, pyrogallol, p-aminophenol and other photographic chemicals.
Alizarine and quinizarine dyes were manufactured by the start of World War I, when the site had grown to 30 buildings. In 1917, the U.S. government
erected a mustard gas plant on the property. Production was at capacity of 75 tons per day by the time the Armistice was signed. At the time, the firm had
200 employees, with 200 soldiers bivouacked nearby to protect the plant from enemy sabotage. Frederick Zinsser served as a colonel in the Army which
operated the mustard gas facility as part of the Edgewood Arsenal.
Zinsser was a paternalistic employer, offering pensions, health care and recreational outings for his employees. He and his wife Emma Sharman Zinsser
lived in a large, yellow Victorian home atop a hill overlooking the Hudson River. Emma gave Christmas presents to all the town children and allowed
residents to grow vegetables in her garden. The ten-acre estate, called Locust Hill, had a garage, gardener's house and tennis court with live in servants
including a maid, cook, nanny and chauffeur. The Zinssers had a son John, who attended Harvard University, and two daughters, Ellen and Margaret who
attended preparatory schools and Smith College. John was a chemist and associated with his father for some years. He later became vice chairman of the
board of Merck & Co. of Rahway, New Jersey and president of Sharp & Dohme Inc. of Philadelphia.
Dye production was resumed after World War I and expanded to azo, basic and acid dyes. Zinsser took over the vacated government arsenal buildings
and erected units to manufacture alizarine blue blacks, cyanine greens and dyes for cellulose acetate, developed in the firm's research laboratories.
In order to expand markets further, the Ultro Chemical Co. of Brooklyn, a pigment manufacturer, was acquired in 1926. The production of lakes, toners and
paint pigments was transferred to a new dry colors plant erected at the Hastings-On-Hudson site. The range included Hansa yellows, benzidine yellows,
madder lakes, toner orange and fire red toner. Dr. A. E. Gessler, of the Ultro firm, became head of research and a member of the Board of Directors. He
resigned in 1934 to become vice president of Interchemical Corporation.
During World War II, the plant was requisitioned by the government to produce anthraquinone dyes for tracer shells, tannic acid for treatment of burns,
and photographic developers for the Signal Corps.
In 1955, Zinsser was acquired by the Harshaw Chemical Co. of Cleveland, Ohio, a manufacturer of inorganic pigments. Production of the Zinsser product
lines continued at the site.
Frederick G. Zinsser died in 1956 at age 87. He had been active in the community, serving as president of the board of education for several years and as
president of the Village of Hastings-On-Hudson for eleven years. His hobby was painting and he also enjoyed reading chemical publications to stay
informed of current scientific knowledge.
The Zinsser residential property was purchased by the Village for parkland. The mansion was demolished in the 1960s. Today the area is known as Zinsser
In 1961, Tappan Tanker Terminal purchased the manufacturing site and began operating a petroleum distribution facility on the western portion of the
property. Beginning in 1964, Paul Uhlich & Company, a dry color manufacturer in Brooklyn, leased, then purchased, the eastern portion of the site for the
manufacture of pigments. This operation later became the Uhlich Color Company. In 1975, Mobil Oil Company purchased the western portion of the site
and continued petroleum distribution operations until 1985. Uhlich Color was acquired by Magruder Color Co. in 2000 but production at the site was later
There are currently no operations at the site, now referred to as the Tappan Terminal site. Under the supervision of the New York Department of
Environmental Conservation, a remedial investigation and feasibility study was conducted to address the chemical contamination at the site. A remedial
action plan was approved, with an estimated implementation cost of $4.2 million. Several proposals have been made regarding redevelopment of the
valuable waterfront property.
1) Williams Haynes, Edward L. Gordy, Editors, Chemical Industry's Contribution to the Nation: 1635-1935, Chemical Markets, Inc, New York, 1935
2) William Haynes, American Chemical Industry, Vol. VI, D. Van Nostrand Co., New York, 1949
3) "Col. Zinsser Dies at 87; Founded Chemical Company", Hastings News, January 26, 1956
4) Chad Millman, The Detonators: The Secret Plot to Destroy America and an Epic Hunt for Justice, Little, Brown and Co., New York, 2006
5) Hastings Historical Society at link http://www.hastingshistorical.org/index.shtml
6) "Tappan Terminal", New York Department of Environmental Conservation at link http://www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/8680.html
ColorantsHistory.Org thanks Paul Thomasset for contributing information for this history.
Zinsser & Company, Hastings-On-Hudson, NY. Photo: Tested by Time, Harshaw Chemical Co., 1956
|Frederick G. Zinsser (1868-1956). Photo: W. Haynes,
American Chemical Industry, Vol. IV, 1948
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