Company History

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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 that came from the idea that using our chemicals would tan “hyde 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 addition to the tanning industry.

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.

1920s


 

1929

  • Hydrite Chemical Co. founded in Milwaukee, WI

Hydrite’s first warehouse and office located in the Menomonee Industry Valley in the heart of Milwaukee’s tanning industry.

1930S


 

1935

  • Hydrite Chemical Co. purchased by Wayne Thompson and Richard Honkamp

1938

  • First tank car of sulfuric acid received

Wayne Thompson and Richard Honkamp with Hydrite’s first sulfuric acid tank car at our Menomonee Industry Valley location.

1940S


 

1941-1945

  • Raw materials were allocated due to World War II
  • Post World War II chemical distributors like Hydrite became channel partners for the producers

Hydrite's first logo, an early indicator of dry chemicals being converted into liquid products.

1950S


 

1953

  • Profit sharing plan established

1955

  • Milwaukee chlorine packaging plant starts up and first Hydrite chlorine cylinder is filled

1958

  • Hydrite reaches $1,000,000 in annual sales

Wayne Thompson and Richard Honkamp at Hydrite’s first chlorine plant.

1960S


 

1961

  • Construction of a phosphoric acid plant begins in Milwaukee, WI

1963

  • Phosphoric acid plant is completed and manufacturing starts up

Wayne Thompson cutting the tape at Hydrite’s phosphoric acid plant dedication. The plant, in partnership with Monsanto, operated for 23 years.

1970S


 

1970

  • North Central Chemical, Inc. (Cottage Grove, WI) acquisition

1973

  • Purchased majority interest in U.S. Chemical Corp. (Watertown, WI)

1974

  • La Crosse, WI warehouse constructed

1976

  • Overton Chemical Sales, Inc. (Sumner, IA) 50% stock purchase

1977

  • Built organic solvent reclamation plant (Cottage Grove, WI)
  • Bought Chem-Sol, Inc. (Waterloo, IA)

Overton Chemical was Hydrite’s first acquisition in Iowa, expanding our geographical reach in the Midwest.

1980S


 

1980

  • Purchased remainder of U.S. Chemical Corp. (Watertown. WI)

1981

  • Purchased remaining stock in Overton Chemical Sales, Inc. (Combined Overton & Chem-Sol)
  • Oshkosh, WI plant opened
  • Organic solvent reclamation plant expansion/fractionation capability added

1982

  • Added 1.6 million gallons of bulk liquid caustic soda storage at La Crosse, WI warehouse to receive barge shipments

1984 - 1985

  • Iowa consolidation (Waterloo, IA)

1985

  • Beaver Chemical purchase (Stockton, CA) by U.S. Chemical Corp.
  • Avganic Industries, Inc. (Cottage Grove, WI) subsidiary of Hydrite Chemical Co.
  • Established a food processing business unit

After Hydrite’s 2nd Iowa acquisition of Chem-Sol, consolidation at a new larger facility with room to grow made sense.

1990S


 

1990 

  • Moved to current offices in Brookfield, a suburb of Milwaukee, WI
  • Benlo Industries, Inc (Milwaukee, WI) acquired

1991 

  • Chemicals Plus, Inc. (Park Forest, IL) purchased

1992 

  • Avganic Industries, Inc. (Cottage Grove, WI) merged into Hydrite

1993 

  • University Park, IL facility constructed

1994

  • Our first sulfur burner started up in Waterloo, IA

1995

  • Jayar-Hoag Chemical Co. (Lake Zurich, IL) purchased
  • Sulfur burner installed in Terre Haute, IN

1997

  • Acquired Phillips and Martin Company (Addison, IL)

1998 

  • Sold U.S. Chemical Corp. to S.C. Johnson

Hydrite’s current corporate office in Brookfield, Wisconsin.

2000S


 

2000 

  • Acquired Solvox Mfg Company (Milwaukee, WI)

2004 

  • ISO 9001:2000 registration received in Cottage Grove, WI

2005 

  • Solvox Mfg Company relocated to Bradley Road and new Technical Center opens in Milwaukee, WI
  • Acquired Patco Defoamer Products (Kansas City, MO)

2006

  • Acquired Murnco, Inc. (Libertyville, IL)

2009

  • Epoxy plant joint venture with Advanced Polymer Corporation starts up (Hydrite Advanced Resins or HAR)

Hydrite’s investment into more complex manufacturing continues, pictured is a reactor train in Cottage Grove, Wisconsin.

2010S


 

2010

  • Acquired Cognis N.A. Food & Fermentation defoamer business

2011

  • Acquired Choice Chemical, Inc. (Visalia, CA)

2012

  • Ammonium Thiosulfate (ATS) production starts in Waterloo, IA and a five year agreement is signed with Kugler Company
  • Sold our paper non-defoamer Solvox line to ChemTreat
  • Milwaukee-West building is purchased

2015

  • Exclusive production for Dow starts in Cottage Grove, WI and Lucidene/Morcryl product line is purchased from Dow

2017

  • Acquired SERVCO® Chemical (Lubbock, TX)

2018

  • Acquired Organic Defoamer Group (ODG)

Servco® in Lubbock, Texas was acquired to bring us closer to our growing food customers. The acquisition of Servco also brought Hydrite into the energy industry.

2019 - Hydrite Celebrates 90 years

Hydrite Chemical Co.

300 N. Patrick Blvd.
Brookfield, Wisconsin 53045
262-792-1450
262-792-8721 Fax

© 2019 Hydrite Chemical - all rights reserved.
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