Friday, March 4, 2016

Glidden/Central Soya Plant

From Trinity Moses, <=2005
Trinity's comment:
This vacant lot used to be the Central Soya site, formerly Glidden.* A fairly large clanky factory housing a spaghetti of pipes and tanks, with a factory whistle that you could hear all the way across the neighborhood.* The industrial use of soybeans was pioneered here, as well as food products use...there was a research lab here, too (directed by Dr. Percy Julian)* Sort of an important place in agribiz history.* The early process used was somewhat dangerous as this plant blew up in the 1930s, leveled a city block, killed 11, injured 40.* They rebuilt it, but its gone now (bought by ADM in the early '80s & closed).* This was a pretty impressive operation in its time..
From Trinity Moses, <=2005,
Since my Dad worked for Central Soya, I knew that one of the uses for the oil extracted from soybeans was to make paint. What I did not know is that application of the oil, and many others including edible food products, where invented by Glidden's research lab.

The rest of this information is from

Glidden was founded in 1875 in Cleveland to make varnish. When Francis Glidden retired at age 85, Adrian D. Joyce became president when The Glidden Company was incorporated in 1917. Within the first two years, Adrian acquired 10 paint and varnish companies across the country. Then in the 1920s Adrian focused on the vertical integration by acquiring chemical and pigment companies, including lead and zinc companies. The market of the chemicals and pigments were not restricted to their own paint plants. For example, their pigments were used in ceramics, printing ink, and automotive industries.
"The Glidden Food Products Co. was created in 1920. This subsidiary refined vegetable oils and produced 'oleomargarine.'" In 1929, it purchased several other food companies and/or vegetable oil companies including Durkee. It took further advantage of the depression to acquire more businesses for its Chemical & Pigment Division.
Glidden also branched out into the soybean business, building a soybean oil extraction plant in Chicago in 1934. The operations were incorporated as Glidden’s Holland Mills, Inc. subsidiary three years later. The versatile soybean business complemented both the paint and foods operations: soybean oil was used in the production of paint and linoleum as well as in margarine. Furthermore, Glidden was one of only two American companies licensed to use a German process for producing lecithin, a soybean oil byproduct used by paint and rubber as well as candy and margarine makers. Soybean flour and proteins were used in the production of plastics, paper coatings and sizings, and synthetic resins. By the mid-1940s, Glidden had developed a full line of soy-protein and water-based paints. In 1938 Glidden was able to reorganize Holland Mills as a division, but just one year later, the plant was destroyed by fire.
In 1948 Glidden introduced its water-borne latex paint, Spred Satin. This invention caused their retail paint sales to grow so much that in 1958 they "sold its soybean processing and grain merchandising operations to Central Soya Co., Inc., for $3.76 million." In 1987 Glidden released its Rustmaster Pro corrosion-resistant paint. The irony is that this product reduced the paint market because metal did not have to be repainted as often. In 2000 they released the first "virtually odorless paint with no petroleum-based solvents or volatile organic compounds."

"The Glidden Company." International Directory of Company Histories. 1994. Retrieved February 23, 2016 from

1938 Aerial Photo from ILHAP
The fire in the 1930s explains why I could not find the plant in a 1938 aerial photo. A 1972 aerial photo does show an extensive complex.
1972 Aerial Photo
The grain elevator bins were hard to find because they put a rectangular roof over the bins. But you can see the head house on the right (east) side.
1972 Aerial Photo
The plant was just sough of Milwaukee's Galewood Yard along Central Avenue. It looks like many of the buildings have been re-purposed. It is added to the field trip list.

Update: IH video on growing soybeans. (spring tooth harrow) At -3:28 it discusses industrial uses for soybeans.

1 comment:

  1. Plant was just East of silos across Laramie av., bordered by side street of Le Claire. So try searching that locations satellite photos. The body of killed mailman which was passing by as plant exploded, was never found. Great work documenting such an historic "World heritage" site! And African American history where OP/Maywood's Dr. Percy Julian produced some 16 patents.