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Modern History Sourcebook:
Harold Baron:
The Chemical Industry on the Continent

By the end of the 19th century Germany had advanced beyond Britain in terms of economic output. The prime reason for this was that Germany developed the newer industries, while Britain maintained a heavy stress on textile production.One of the most successful firms in Germany engaged in the manufacture of colours and pharmaceutical products, is the Farbenfabriken Friedr. Bayer & Co. of Elberfeld. This chemical works may be regarded as typical of a number of similar concerns engaged in the same branch of industry. The firm was originally founded by Friedrich Bayer in the year 1850 at Elberfeld on the banks of the Wupper. In 1881 it was registered as an Aktiengesellschaft [a Joint-stock company]' under the name Farbenfabriken vorm. Friedr. Bayer & Co. . . . It was found in 1891 to be impossible to obtain sufficient land in the immediate vicinity of the works to permit of the considerable extension which the progress of the company necessitated. A large site was, therefore, acquired at Leverkusen, which is about five miles north of Cologne on the right bank of the Rhine. The new works at Leverkusen has been planned on a huge scale. Ample provision has been made for the enlargement of the existing plant for many years to come.... Branch works exist at Schelphoh in LiAneberg, at Moscow, and at Flers, near Roubaix in France, and works are now being erected in England at Port Sunlight in order to conform with the provisions of the Patent and Designs Act of 1907.The products manufactured by this firm still continue to be chiefly dyestuffs....A very important branch now being extensively developed is that of pharmaceutical products, such as Phenacetine, the well-known antipyretic, Sulphonal, and Trional, loclothyrine, Salophen, Aspirine, etc.A profitable branch has also been introduced in the manufacturing of invalid's and infant's food under the name Somatose. The Output of this product is very large. The raw material for this is a bye-product obtained in the manufacture of meat extract consisting of the fibrous material of the meat. It comes in large quantities from Argentine.Another branch consists in the manufacture of photographic chemicals, such as Edinol, which is a photographic developer, and Acetone Sulphite.Much research work is carried out in connection with dyeing and printing. Conferences are held daily at which new processes and inventions are brought before the staff and discussed with reference to their value to the firm....The works at Leverkusen cover an estate of about 448 acres, and there is a large open district in the neighbourhood allowing for a further extension and the creation of a garden city for the workmen and employees of the firm. Bayer's works at Leverkusen is certainly one of the best organized chemical establishments in the world. About 3,500 people are employed at Leverkusen alone, and the works are of such a gigantic nature that this number seems to be lost when a visitor is shown through the works....One of the research laboratories was visited.... The laboratories are arranged very much in the same manner as the University laboratories in this country. Benches and cupboards are provided, and to each bench is led a supply of electricity, compressed air, steam and hot and cold water. The research chemists are paid a salary of about 100 [pounds sterling]for the first year. If a chemist has shown himself to be useful in his first year, a contract is usually made for a term of years in accordance with his capabilities. The research chemist is also remunerated to some extent by receiving royalties on the output of products manufactured in accordance with processes invented by himself. . . . It is the policy of the large German colour works to keep the chemists strictly to their own department and not to allow them access to other departments. The object of this is to prevent employees becoming conversant with other than their own work, so that it is less easy for them to carry away secrets to competitors. The contracts under which the employees are engaged are also of a somewhat binding nature. If a chemist desires to leave before the expiration of his contract he cannot as a rule enter the service of a competing firm until the expiration of a prescribed term.

Source:Harold Baron. Chemical Industry on the Continent (1909)

This text is part of the Internet Modern History Sourcebook. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts for introductory level classes in modern European and World history.
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© Paul Halsall, July 1998
halsall@murray.fordham.edu