Lehman Brothers Collection - Contemporary Business Archives

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Lehman Brothers Collection

Twentieth-Century Business Archives

Commercial Solvents Corp. - Lehman Brothers Collection

Commercial Solvents Corp.

List of Deals

Commercial Solvents Corporation (CSC) was created in 1919. The corporation had started in Terre Haute as early as 1917 to convert Midwest grain surpluses into solvents by fermentation and also later to produce riboflavin and other nutrients by microbial action.

Commercial Solvents Corporation was established at the end of World War I and earned distinction as the pioneer producer of acetone and butanol by fermentation processes developed and patented by Dr. Chaim Weizmann. Terre Haute, Indiana, was selected as the home of CSC research because the location made possible the convenient translation of new processes from laboratory and pilot-plant to full-scale production.

The products of the company included basic and intermediate chemicals to be used in agriculture and industry, animal health and nutrition products, industrial explosives and some products for human use. The products were marketed throughout the United States and abroad. The corporation also made and marketed a line of agricultural products for farm crops, livestock, and poultry. Products included nitrogen and phosphate fertilizers, antibiotic and vitamin feed supplements and premixes, and selective pesticides.

CSC operated in two major areas of chemical technology: high-pressure synthesis chemistry and fermentation chemistry. The company specialized in converting substantial portions of the chemicals by processes based on various technologies. The principal raw materials used were natural gas for high-pressure synthesis operations and agricultural materials for fermentation operations

In 1927 it began its utilization of high-pressure synthesis technology with the development of a process for making synthetic methanol. In 1931 it assumed management responsibilities for Thermatomic Carbon Company, a producer of thermal carbon blacks for certain types of rubber products. CSC acquired a majority interest of Thermatomic in 1936 and 100 percent of the ownership in 1957.

CSC entered the animal nutrition field in 1936 with the development of fermentation processes for the production of riboflavin, a vitamin in the B-complex group, used as a feed supplement.

In 1946 nitrogen fertilizer operations were started with the purchase of its Sterlington, Louisiana, plant, which was later expanded to produce nitrogen solutions and solid ammonium nitrate for agriculture, in addition to methanol and other chemicals made from natural gas. The production of antibiotics for human health was initiated in 1944 when CSC developed a process for the volume production of penicillin by deep-tank fermentation and became the first to mass-produce a crystalline form of penicillin that broadened the use of penicillin and eliminated the need for refrigeration while awaiting use. By the early 1950s, due to the overproduction of penicillin across the industry, CSC began to produce other antibiotics and developed bacitracin, cycloserine, and zinc bacitracin.

CSC became an integrated producer of chemicals made from natural gas in 1959 when it acquired the assets of Louisiana Gas Production Company. In 1965 CSC announced the development of new processes and technology for the nitration of natural gas. In 1960 CSC acquired a controlling interest in Societa Hoffmann, p.A., of Rome, Italy, a pharmaceutical firm, and in 1962 it acquired a 51 percent interest in Istituto Chemioterapico Italiano, S.p.A., a pharmaceutical firm in Milan, Italy. In 1962 it purchased the business and assets of McWhorter Chemicals, Inc., a resins producer, and in 1963 it purchased Olin Mathieson's industrial explosives business.

In 1965 CSC and Purdue University announced the discovery and early development of the resorcylic acid lactones, a class of estrogenic chemicals. The original research leading to the discovery of resorcylic acid lactones, performed by professors at Purdue, lead to their obtaining a U. S. patent assigned to the Perdue Research Foundation.

CSC needed to maintain a competitive edge in all areas of its business since it was not a dominant player with respect to any particular one of the markets it served. CSC's principal subsidiary, Northwest Nitro-Chemicals Ltd., produced high-analysis nitrogen and phosphate fertilizers.

The book, One Thing Leads to Another: the Growth of an Industry, by Fred C. Kelly (1936) was written about Commercial Solvents Corporation and is held in the Baker Old Class collection.

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