History of papermaking in New York

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The history of papermaking in New York had its beginnings in the late 18th century, at a time when linen and cotton rags were the primary source of fibers in the manufacturing process. By 1850 there were more than 106 paper mills in New York, more than in any other state.[1] A landmark in the history of papermaking in the United States was the installation of the first Fourdrinier machine in the country at a mill in Saugerties, New York, in 1827.[2] Papermaking from ground-wood pulp began in New York in 1869, with the establishment of the Hudson River Pulp & Paper Company in Corinth and also with the work of Illustrious Remington and his sons in Watertown. The innovation and success of the Remingtons spurred further development of the industry in the state.

Early paper mills[edit]

There is documentation that the New York merchant John Keating opened a paper mill in Manhattan in 1768, although no watermarks have been attributed to that mill.[3] In 1772 Keating moved his mill to Continental Village, in Putnam County, NY, where it operated for a few years, until it was set afire by British troops in 1777, during the American Revolution.[3]

In 1773, the Manhattan-based printer and bookseller Hugh Gaine, in partnership with Hendrick Onderdonk and Henry Remsen, established a paper mill at Hempstead Harbor (later called Roslyn), on Long Island. Watermarks of this consortium, based on a combination of the partners' initials, appear on printings of New York state laws in 1775.[4]

First groundwood papermaking[edit]

The first mechanical invention to revolutionize paper making was the fourdrinier machine invented in 1799, in France, by Nicholas Louis Robert and perfected by Henry Fourdrinier and his brother, Sealey. The second was the Keller-Voelter grinders for turning wood into wood pulp.

In 1866, Albrecht Pagenstecher, a German immigrant living in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, together with his brother Rudolf, bought two German-made Keller-Voelter grinders. As stated by Albrecht Pagenstecher himself:[5][6] on March 5, 1867, in nearby Curtisville, he was the first in the United States to manufacture commercially viable 'groundwood' wood pulp. He sold the pulp to the Smith Paper Company which on March 8, 1867 produced commercial newsprint paper.[5][7] Pagenstecher made his pulp out of aspen or "popple" and soon the supply of available popple ran out.[8] The New York World reluctantly cancelled its contract for the newsprint, which the Smith Paper Company of Lee, Massachusetts was making from this new woodpulp.[6] In despair, Pagenstecher returned to Saxony and asked Heinrich Voelter what he could do.[9] "We too have run out of popple," was the reply, "but we are using spruce. Have you any spruce in America?" To this Pagenstecher could only reply, "I do not know, but I'll find out."

Early visions of wood-based papermaking in New York[edit]

Cornell Professor of Forest Management, and a leader and consultant to the pulp and paper industry, Arthur Bernhard Recknagel[10] (1906 graduate of Yale forestry school; at Cornell from 1913–1943; forester and executive secretary of Empire State Forest Products Association[11][12] from 1917–1948), used to tell how his uncle, Albrecht Pagenstecher[9][13] returned home from Saxony and, fortunately, asked his friend, Senator Warren Miller, who suggested that they go to Saratoga Springs and make inquiries there for spruce. From Saratoga they drove to Luzerne, at the confluence of the Hudson and Sacandaga Rivers, and learned that spruce was abundantly available in these watersheds.

Hudson River Pulp & Paper Mill[edit]

Former offices on International Paper in Corinth, NY

The result of this trip was the Hudson River Pulp & Paper Company which started making groundwood and newsprint in 1869 at Palmer (Corinth), New York, near Luzerne.[14]

Following its acquisition by the International Paper Company in 1898, the Hudson River facility became the firm's "flagship mill" and site of its principal office. Pagenstecher served on International Paper's Board of Directors.[15][16]

After World War II, Hudson River millworkers developed and perfected the production of coated papers for International Paper. In November 2002, shifting economic forces resulted in the mill's closure; nine years later, in 2011, it was slated for demolition.[17][18][19]

Wood-based papermaking in Watertown[edit]

Even while Pagenstecher was starting up the Hudson River mill, in 1869 Illustrious Remington and his three sons, Hiram, Alfred D. and Charles R., were making a ton of newsprint daily in Watertown, New York, using four rag machines and an 84" fourdrinier machine. By 1870, the Remingtons, seeing a future for wood pulp, built three mills on Sewall's Island in Watertown. These mills used the Voelter process allowing a low-cost, high-quality Remington newsprint to be made of 75% rags and 25% wood pulp instead of all-rag content paper costing five times more.[20]

A third invention caught the imagination of the Remingtons. In 1867, Benjamin Tilghman, an American chemist, discovered that sulphurous acid (H2SO3) dissolved the lignin in wood, leaving a residue of cellulose fibers. Nought came of this discovery. However, Alfred D. Remington learned that a Swede, Carl Daniel Ekman, was teaching papermakers in Sweden to make paper entirely out of wood pulp by using a sulphite process (SO3). Remington went to Sweden to see "This Miracle" for himself. He was so impressed that he imported Swedish chemical fiber for several years and later developed the "sulphite process" in his own plant on Sewall's Island.[20]

The Remingtons were selling newsprint to the New York Times. They received an order for ten tons stipulating that the newsprint contain no wood pulp! A. D. Remington, proud of his new product, sent it to the Times along with a note, asking them to try it. The reply was, "come and get your paper", which he did. It wasn't long before the Times was eager and willing to buy this new and cheaper newsprint.[20]

The revolution in paper-making in the Black River region was complete: fourdrinier machines became bigger and bigger and faster and faster; the demand for spruce was insatiable and the lumbermen practically denuded the virgin forests; the unpleasant odor of the sulphite mills replaced the equally unpleasant odor of the tanneries. Other paper-makers, emulating the success of the Remingtons embarked on a costly program of mass-production of wood pulp newsprint.[20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Valente, A. J. (2010). Rag Paper Manufacture in the United States, 1801-1900: A History, with directories of mills and owners. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland. p. 61.
  2. ^ Valente (2010), p. 8.
  3. ^ a b Bidwell, John (2013). American Paper Mills, 1690-1832: A Directory of the Paper Trade, with notes on products, watermarks, distribution methods, and manufacturing techniques. Hanover, N.H.: Dartmouth College Press. p. 196.
  4. ^ Bidwell (2013), p. 198.
  5. ^ a b "Groundwood." A. Pagenstrecher. Paper Trade Journal. Oct. 16, 1897. page 19. Also Paper Trade Journal , March 19, 1942, page 22.
  6. ^ a b Recknagel, A.B.(Forestry Consultant, St. Regis Paper Company), "The Pulp and Paper Industry in Northern and Central New York", The Northeastern Logger (Old Forge), page 16, May 1960.
  7. ^ Hunter, Dard (1947). Papermaking: The History and Technique of an Ancient Craft (2nd edition) Knopf, New York, page 378, OCLC 383666 (republished in 1978 in facsimile by Dover, New York)
  8. ^ Recknagel, A.B.(Forestry Consultant, St. Regis Paper Company), "The Pulp and Paper Industry in Northern and Central New York", The Northeastern Logger (Old Forge), page 16, May 1960
  9. ^ a b Recknagel, A.B.(Forestry Consultant, St. Regis Paper Company), "The Pulp and Paper Industry in Northern and Central New York", The Northeastern Logger (Old Forge), May 1960. Also retold in Thomas, Howard, 1963, Black River in the North Country, p.98-100; Prospect Books, Prospect, NY.
  10. ^ http://www.foresthistory.org/ead/Cornell_Forestry_School_Field_Trips.pdf
  11. ^ "Guide to the Empire State Forest Products Association Records,1917-1961". Rmc.library.cornell.edu. Retrieved 2011-09-19. 
  12. ^ "Home". ESFPA. Retrieved 2011-09-19. 
  13. ^ "Our Town: A Look at Cornwall-on-Hudson, NY : History of Cornwall-on-Hudson, NY : The Pagenstecher Family: From Rags to Riches". Cornwall On Hudson. 2006-11-29. Archived from the original on 2011-10-05. Retrieved 2011-09-19. 
  14. ^ "The Hudson River Mill Project". The Hudson River Mill Project. Retrieved 2011-09-19. 
  15. ^ Recknagel, A.B. (Forestry Consultant, St. Regis Paper Company) "The Pulp and Paper Industry in Northern and Central New York", The Northeastern Logger (Old Forge), May 1960. Also retold in Thomas, Howard, 1963, Black River in the North Country. Prospect, NY: Prospect Books, pp. 98-100.
  16. ^ Mumford, Warren. 2006. "The Pagenstecher family: from Rags to Riches," News from Cornwall and Cornwall-on-Hudson. Accessed April 30, 2012.
  17. ^ http://phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=73062&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=307127& highlight=
  18. ^ About: The Hudson River Mill Project
  19. ^ Former paper mill site in Adirondacks to be demolished
  20. ^ a b c d Thomas, Howard. 1963. Black River in the North Country. Prospect, NY: Prospect Books, pp. 98-100. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "autogenerated98" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).