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.
- 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.
- Hydrite Chemical Co. purchased by Wayne Thompson and Richard Honkamp
- 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.
- 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.
- Profit sharing plan established
- Milwaukee chlorine packaging plant starts up and first Hydrite chlorine cylinder is filled
- Hydrite reaches $1,000,000 in annual sales
Wayne Thompson and Richard Honkamp at Hydrite’s first chlorine plant.
- Construction of a phosphoric acid plant begins in Milwaukee, WI
- 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.
- North Central Chemical, Inc. (Cottage Grove, WI) acquisition
- Purchased majority interest in U.S. Chemical Corp. (Watertown, WI)
- La Crosse, WI warehouse constructed
- Overton Chemical Sales, Inc. (Sumner, IA) 50% stock purchase
- 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.
- Purchased remainder of U.S. Chemical Corp. (Watertown. WI)
- Purchased remaining stock in Overton Chemical Sales, Inc. (Combined Overton & Chem-Sol)
- Oshkosh, WI plant opened
- Organic solvent reclamation plant expansion/fractionation capability added
- 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)
- 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.
- Moved to current offices in Brookfield, a suburb of Milwaukee, WI
- Benlo Industries, Inc (Milwaukee, WI) acquired
- Chemicals Plus, Inc. (Park Forest, IL) purchased
- Avganic Industries, Inc. (Cottage Grove, WI) merged into Hydrite
- University Park, IL facility constructed
- Our first sulfur burner started up in Waterloo, IA
- Jayar-Hoag Chemical Co. (Lake Zurich, IL) purchased
- Sulfur burner installed in Terre Haute, IN
- Acquired Phillips and Martin Company (Addison, IL)
- Sold U.S. Chemical Corp. to S.C. Johnson
Hydrite’s former corporate office in Brookfield, Wisconsin.
- Acquired Solvox Mfg Company (Milwaukee, WI)
- ISO 9001:2000 registration received in Cottage Grove, WI
- Solvox Mfg Company relocated to Bradley Road and new Technical Center opens in Milwaukee, WI
- Acquired Patco Defoamer Products (Kansas City, MO)
- Acquired Murnco, Inc. (Libertyville, IL)
- 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.
- Acquired Cognis N.A. Food & Fermentation defoamer business
- Acquired Choice Chemical, Inc. (Visalia, CA)
- 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
- Exclusive production for Dow starts in Cottage Grove, WI and Lucidene/Morcryl product line is purchased from Dow
- Acquired SERVCO® Chemical (Lubbock, TX)
- 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.
- Broke ground on the new company headquarters in Brookfield, Wisconsin, merging customer service, engineering, and corporate groups
- New company headquarters construction is completed
Backed by our committed employees, customers, and partners, Hydrite continues to nurture sustainable growth through creative solutions as we move closer to 100 years in business.
The new Hydrite headquarters is a two-story, 45,000-square-foot space with floor-to-ceiling windows, energy-saving features, and recycled building materials.