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A Brief History of Synthetic Organic Colorants

SpecialChem / Nick Morante – Aug 6, 2007

The synthetic organic chemical industry began in 1856 when English chemist William Henry Perkin prepared a mauve dye from coal-tar chemicals. Perkin built a factory near London to supply the world's first synthetic dye. Synthetic versions of alizarin and indigo, dyes previously derived from plants, followed. Although England had the early lead, Germany soon became the leading global supplier of a pallet of brilliant colors. Dye manufacturing in the United States was hampered by a lack of industrial chemists, limited availability of intermediates derived from coal-tar, and tariff regulations that favored imports. The first efforts are attributed to European chemists who set up small manufacturing facilities in the Greenpoint area of Brooklyn, NY along the Newtown Creek, a small body of water separating the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens. he venture failed but in 1864 Thomas and Charles Holliday who began making dyes in Huddersfield, England in 1860, came to the U.S. and successfully made magenta at a plant in the same area.

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