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The American Synthetic Organic Chemicals IndustryWar and Politics, 1910-1930$
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Kathryn Steen

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9781469612904

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: January 2015

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469612904.001.0001

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/ An “American” Industry, 1919–1930

/ An “American” Industry, 1919–1930

(p.237) 8 / An “American” Industry, 1919–1930
The American Synthetic Organic Chemicals Industry

Kathryn Steen

University of North Carolina Press

This chapter examines the status of the synthetic organic chemicals industry in the United States during the period 1919–1930. It first looks at German firms before turning to the major players in the U.S. market in the 1920s. It then assesses the U.S. industry's relationship to the transatlantic political economy and how the manufacturers' strategic decisions influenced national identity. It also describes the industry's shift to commodity aliphatic chemicals, which coincided with other important developments such as the advent of new technologies on both sides of the Atlantic, the birth of petrochemicals, and the expansion of chemical engineering in the United States. Finally, the chapter discusses the emergence of petroleum and natural gas as the new source material for synthetic organic chemicals; the expansion of the industry's product offerings ranging from lubricants and solvents to antifreeze, lacquers, and plastics; and the role of automobiles in the “Americanization” of the industry.

Keywords:   synthetic organic chemicals industry, United States, political economy, national identity, aliphatic chemicals, petrochemicals, chemical engineering, petroleum, natural gas, automobiles

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