Maximilian Toch

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Maximilian Toch
Maximilian Toch Chemists Club President 1907 2003.531.026.tif
President of the Chemists Club, 1907
Born (1864-07-17)July 17, 1864
New York City, New York, U.S.
Died May 28, 1946(1946-05-28) (aged 81)
Residence U.S.
Nationality United States
Fields Industrial chemistry
Institutions Toch Brothers, Standard Varnish Works, Cooper Union, Beijing University, Columbia University, City College of New York, National Academy of Design
Alma mater New York University, Columbia University

Maximilian Toch (July 17, 1864 – May 28, 1946) was an American paint manufacturer and industrial chemist who developed a concrete filler method that was used in the construction of the Panama Canal. He was the co-owner of the New York firms Toch Brothers and the Standard Varnish Works, where he was head of research and production. Before and during World War I, he was a major contributor to the development of ship camouflage in the United States, as well as an early practitioner of the use of chemistry in the authentication of works of art.


According to an obituary in the New York Times (1946), Toch was born and raised in New York. He attended New York University as an undergraduate, then completed his graduate studies at Columbia University. He also earned degrees in law. He taught chemistry and chemical engineering and industrial chemistry at colleges and universities, including Cooper Union, Beijing University, Columbia University, City College of New York, and the National Academy of Design.

Ship camouflage[edit]

According to the New York Times (1946), in which Toch is referred to as "America’s first camoufleur",[citation needed] his contribution to ship camouflage included originating the color adopted by the U.S. Navy as standard "battleship gray". By his own account (Toch 1919), he had camouflaged fortifications in Panama as early as 1915, the success of which led to his being assigned to camouflage shipyards and docks on the East Coast of the U.S. during World War I.

In 1917, a ship concealment plan devised by Toch, known as the Toch System, was one of five camouflage measures approved by the U.S. Naval Consulting Board for use on merchant ships (Behrens 2009, pp. 350–351). He became convinced that it was largely impossible to lower the visibility of a ship, but that a better objective would be course deception (Toch 1931a,[clarification needed] pp. 308–309), popularly known as dazzle camouflage.

Art authentication[edit]

Photo post card of Maximilian Toch sent from Toch to A.J. Bogdanove in 1940

Toch’s outspoken views about the use of chemical analysis in authenticating works of art became controversial in the 1920s (Hendrick 1929), when he claimed that the majority of paintings attributed to Rembrandt had not in fact been painted by him (Toch 1931b[clarification needed]), including works in the collections of art museums. As a result, it was said at the time that art dealers "entertain a wholesome fear of him" (Hendrick 1919, p. 704).

His writings[edit]

Toch produced books on subjects related to chemistry, among them The Chemistry and Technology of Mixed Paints (1907), Materials for Permanent Painting (1911), How To Paint Permanent Pictures (1922), Paint, Paintings and Restoration (1931), and Protection and Decoration of Concrete (1931). He was the uncle of art materials expert Ralph Mayer, author of The Artist’s Handbook (1940).


  • Behrens, Roy R. (2002), False Colors: Art, Design and Modern Camouflage. Dysart, Iowa: Bobolink Books, p. 92. ISBN 0-9713244-0-9.
  • ___ (2009), Camoupedia: A Compendium of Research on Art, Architecture and Camouflage. Dysart, Iowa: Bobolink Books, pp. 236–238. ISBN 978-0-9713244-6-6.
  • Hendrick, Ellwood (1929), "American Contemporaries: Maximilian Toch" in Industrial and Engineering Chemistry Vol 21 No 7, p. 704.
  • New York Times (1946), "Dr. Toch, Chemist and Art Expert, 81" (May 31), p. 23.
  • Toch, Maximilian (1918), "The Fine Art of Military Camouflage" in Munsey's Magazine Vol 64 No 1 (June), pp. 5–8.
  • ___(1919). "Discussion" in Transactions of the Illuminating Engineering Society Vol 14 (July 21), pp. 230–232.
  • ___(1931), "Adventures in Camouflage" in The Military Engineer Vol 23 (July–August), pp. 307–309.
  • Warner, Everett L. (1919), "Fooling the Iron Fish: The Inside Story of Marine Camouflage" in Everybody’s Magazine (November), pp. 102–109.