Hydrite was started on February 5, 1929 by a group of five men. Milwaukee was a hotspot for tanning at that time and all of the leather used for harnesses by the U.S. Armed Services came from a Milwaukee tannery. At the time, the industry appeared to be a profitable one, but as the Depression stymied business, the company’s founders wanted to sell. The name Hydrite is a creatively spelled expression of tanning to make the “hyde” turn out “right.”
Richard C. Honkamp and Wayne W. Thompson quit their jobs in 1935 at Cities Services in Milwaukee after Wayne convinced his friend Richard that there was potential in a suffering company and thought they could make it successful. They purchased a major share in Hydrite and really went to work, selling more chemicals as they found new customers like commercial laundries.
In the beginning, one would tend to the office and warehouse and the other would go out looking for business. Arthur Graff, a part time truck driver for Hydrite, knew the tanning industry and was the best sales person, as he frequently made deliveries to the local tanners.
After the war, Honkamp and Thompson pursued other opportunities, seeking a depression proof product. They chose chlorine because of its wide use in sanitizing. As business grew, the company built its own chlorine plant. The pattern was set: Find a niche. Do it better than the competition. Always look for ways to improve. It’s still our mantra today. We are extremely proud of our reputation, the people we work with each day, and the adventurous path we’ve taken to get here.
1929 – Hydrite Founded in Milwaukee, WI
1955 – Milwaukee chlorine packaging plant constructed
1961-63 – Built phosphoric acid plant
1970 – North Central Chemicals acquisition
1973 – Purchased majority interest in U.S. Chemical
1974 – La Crosse warehouse constructed
1976 – Overton Chemical 50% stock purchase (Iowa)
1977 – Built organic waste solvent reclamation plant (Cottage Grove, WI)
1977 – Bought Chem-Sol (Waterloo, IA)
1980 – Purchased remainder of U.S. Chemical (Watertown. WI)
1981 – Purchased remaining stock in Overton (Combined Overton & Chem-Sol)
1981 – New branch in Oshkosh
1981 – Organic waste solvent reclamation plant expansion/fractionation capability added
1982 – Constructed 1.6 million gallons of bulk liquid caustic soda storage at La Crosse warehouse to receive barge shipments
1984-85 – Iowa consolidation (Waterloo, IA)
1985 – Beaver Chemical purchase (Stockton, CA) by U.S. Chemical
1985 – Avganic Industries, In. Subsidiary of Hydrite Chemical Co.
1985 - Established food processing division
1989 – Richard C. Honkamp passed away on December 17, leaving a business sixty years strong in the hands of his children, who have kept Hydrite a family business, as their father wished
1990 – Moved to current offices in Brookfield, a suburb of Milwaukee, WI.
2000 - Acquired Solvox
2005 – Acquired Patco Products
2006 – Acquired Murnco Products
2010 - Acquired Cognis N.A. Food & Fermentation defoamer business
2011 - Acquired Choice Chemical