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BetzDearborn, Incorporated Records

Identifier: 1998-005

Scope and Content

The BetzDearborn, Incorporated Records contain the corporate records of BetzDearborn, Incorporated. The collection's contents mainly document the history of BetzDearborn's two corporate ancestors: Betz Laboratories, Incorporated and Dearborn Chemical Company. The collection is arranged into the following six series:

  1. Betz Laboratories, Incorporated Files
  2. Dearborn Chemical Company Files
  3. Audio-Visual Materials
  4. Oversized Materials
  5. Artifacts
  6. Photographic Materials


  • Creation: 1892-1997
  • Creation: Majority of material found within Bulk 1920-1989


Language of Materials

Collection materials are mostly in English. A small amount of Spanish, French, and Japanese are also in the collection.

Access Restrictions

There are no access restrictions on the materials for research purposes and the collection is open to the public.

Copyright Information

SUEZ Water Technologies & Solutions holds copyright to the BetzDearborn, Incorporated Records. The researcher assumes full responsibility for all copyright, property, and libel laws as they apply.

Background Note

BetzDearborn, Incorporated was an American chemical company that manufactured water treatment chemicals for commercial and industrial applications. The firm was the product of a 1996 merger between its two corporate ancestors: Betz Laboratories, Incorporated and Dearborn Chemical Company.

Betz Laboratories, Incorporated

Betz Laboratories, Incorporated (1925-1996) was an American chemical company. The firm was manufacturer of water treatment chemicals for use in boilers, cooling towers, heat exchangers, paper and petroleum process streams, and influent and effluent systems. Over the course of its existence, it marketed its products to the chemical, petroleum refining, paper, automotive, electric utility, and steel industries.

The origins of the Betz Laboratories go back to October 1925, when William H. Betz (a pharmacist) and his son L. Drew Betz (a chemist) established the partnership of W.H. & L.D. Betz in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The firm's first product was K-Gel, a water treatment used to treat and purify water in industrial boilers. K-Gel's basic ingredient was sodium alginate, which was extracted from kelp.

K-Gel sold well, which prompted W.H. & L.D. Betz to expand. In 1933, the firm established its Research and Engineering Department and moved to its new West Wyoming facility in Philadelphia. From 1937 to 1945, the company operated a kelp processing plant in Rockland, Maine. In 1939, W.H. & L.D. Betz prepared synthesized "London Water", which was used in tea served to King George VI and Queen Elizabeth of Great Britain on their state visit with United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

W.H. & L.D. Betz continued to expand during the 1940s. The firm moved to a new facility at the corner of Gillingham and Worth Street in Philadelphia in 1941 and opened its first branch facility in Dallas, Texas that same year. In 1942, W.H. & L.D. Betz published its first edition of the Betz Handbook of Industrial Water Conditioning. In 1943, the company received an exclusive patent for Remosil, a water treatment used to treat water containing silica.

The 1950s were a period of growth and change for the Betz concern. W.H. & L.D. Betz started providing services to the paper and pulp processing industry in 1951. In 1957, the partnership of W.H. & L.D. Betz was dissolved and the firm was reorganized as Betz Laboratories, Incorporated. In 1959, Betz Laboratories started development work on Petromeen corrosion inhibitors.

The 1960s and 1970s saw further growth and change for Betz Laboratories. In 1963, the firm initiated its Point of Feed (POF) Program, a system and service for delivering cooling water treatment formulations directly to customers by tanker truck. Betz Laboratories became a publically held corporation in 1965 and moved its headquarters to a new facility in Trevose, Pennsylvania two years later. The firm underwent significant expansion in the United States during the 1960s and 1970s, with a number of new plants being opened, including those in Louisiana, Washington, and Pennsylvania. Foreign sales and operations also expanded significantly during this time period. Foreign subsidiaries were established in a number of countries, including, but not limited to, England, Sweden, Belgium, and France. New plants were opened abroad in Canada, Belgium, England, and Italy.

The sustained growth of Betz Laboratories continued into the 1980s and 1990s. Several new divisions and subsidiaries were formed during this time period, including Betz PaperChem, Incorporated, Betz Europe, Incorporated, and Betz Industrial. The firm also opened a number of new production facilities and research laboratories in the United States and abroad. In 1990, Betz Laboratories earned a place on the "Fortune 500" list, ranking 467th in terms of sales.

In 1996, Betz Laboratories, Incorporated purchased Dearborn Chemical Company from W.R. Grace & Company and merged it to form BetzDearborn, Incorporated.

Dearborn Chemical Company

Dearborn Chemical Company (1887-1996) was an American chemical company. It was best known for manufacturing water treatment chemicals for use in boilers and cooling towers. For a time, it was also a manufacturer of lubricating oils, rust preventatives, and coatings. Over the course of its existence, the firm marketed its products to railroads, shipping lines, oil and gas pipelines, municipal water systems, and various light and medium industries.

The origins of Dearborn Chemical Company go back to 1887 when two Chicago, Illinois chemists, William H. Edgar and Frank E. Mariner, formed a partnership to prepare water treatment compounds for removing and preventing scale in industrial boilers, which were based on water samples taken from their clients' boilers. Edgar's and Mariner's efforts quickly proved successful. Encouraged by this early success, Edgar founded Dearborn Drug and Chemical Works in 1888, which soon began to grow. The firm moved to a new office and laboratory at the Rialto Building in Chicago. On December 27, 1897, Dearborn Drug and Chemical Works was formally incorporated by William H. Edgar and Robert F. Carr, an early employee and future president of the firm.

The 1900s were a period of significant growth and expansion for Dearborn. The firm discovered a market for water treatments in railroads, which at the time used steam locomotives. In 1904, Robert F. Carr developed the first steam locomotive boiler anti-foam agent, made from a blend of castor oil and tannins, which found immediate acceptance by the railroads. Dearborn entered the lubricating oil business during this time period, which it did in response to customer requests for analyses of lubricating oils and greases. To meet growing demand for its products, Dearborn opened a new manufacturing facility on 35th Street in Chicago. Dearborn also became a noted patron of chemistry research during the early 1900s. In 1909, William A. Converse, an early Dearborn employee, gave an endowment to the American Chemical Society to create the Willard Gibbs Medal Award, which has annually been awarded to distinguished chemists since 1911.

Dearborn continued to experience rapid growth and expansion between the 1910s and 1930s. To better reflect the fact that it was not in the pharmaceuticals business, the firm was officially renamed Dearborn Chemical Company in 1912. It continued to develop and market steam locomotive water treatments for railroads during this time. It further expanded its product line in 1914 by introducing NO-OX-ID rust preventative, which found ready acceptance by pipeline companies and railroads. Dearborn established a truly international presence between the 1910s and 1930s, opening sales agencies and branch offices in a number of countries, including, but not limited to, England, Argentina, South Africa, and Spain.

Dearborn Chemical Company experienced significant change between the mid-1940s and mid-1960s. Dieselization by the railroads caused the market for steam locomotive water treatments to dry up during the mid and late 1940s. Dearborn responded to changing railroad technology by developing water treatments for diesel locomotive water cooling systems. In 1954, Dearborn opened its new main facility at Lake Zurich, Illinois. During the 1950s and early 1960s the firm concentrated on the development and manufacture of industrial water treatments, including an organic scale inhibitor and Super Filmeen steam and return line protectant. The success of its industrial water treatment products prompted Dearborn to gradually phase out its unprofitable rust preventative and coatings business during the 1950s and 1960s.

In the mid-1960s, Dearborn Chemical Company encountered a business climate that made it difficult for it to survive as a privately held concern. In 1965, Dearborn was purchased by W.R. Grace & Company, an American chemical conglomerate. Under W.R. Grace's ownership, Dearborn was initially part of the parent firm's Specialty Product Group. In 1971, W.R. Grace incorporated the Specialty Product Group into a new subsidiary named Chemed Corporation. In 1982, W.R. Grace retained control of Dearborn by purchasing it from Chemed Corporation and renamed it Grace Dearborn.

Between the mid-1960s and 1990s, Grace Dearborn was a profitable part of W.R. Grace and continued to be a leading manufacturer of industrial water treatments. The firm mainly marketed its products to light industry, medium industry, power plants, and municipal waste treatment plants. Important Dearborn products developed during this time period included Nuetrox (used for corrosion control in industrial boilers), Aquafloc (used for treatment of industrial waste water), and Firemate (used by power plants to aid combustion and reduce emissions).

In 1996, W.R. Grace & Company sold Dearborn to Betz Laboratories, Incorporated, which subsequently merged it to form BetzDearborn, Incorporated.

BetzDearborn, Incorporated

BetzDearborn, Incorporated was founded in 1996 when Betz Laboratories, Incorporated purchased and merged W.R. Grace & Company's Dearborn Division. The firm concentrated on the manufacture of industrial water treatments. However BetzDearborn's existence an independent concern proved short-lived. In 1998, BetzDearborn was purchased by Hercules, Incorporated.

In 2002, General Electric Company purchased BetzDearborn from Hercules, Incorporated. Under General Electric's ownership, the entity previously known as BetzDearborn went through several incarnations as its parent firm restructured itself. At the time of its purchase, BetzDearborn was initially renamed GE Betz. In 2006, GE Betz became part of GE Water and & Process Technologies. In 2008, GE Water & Process Technologies became part of GE Energy Infrastructure. In 2012 GE Energy Infrastructure became part of GE Power & Water.

In 2017, GE Water & Process Technologies, including the original BetzDearborn operations, was purchased by SUEZ Water Technologies & Solutions, a French water treatment company.


BetzDearborn, Incorporated Records, Science History Institute Archives, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.


23.6 Linear Feet (9 Record Boxes, 2 Hollinger Boxes, 1 Half Hollinger Box, 1 Videotape Box, 8 Oversized Boxes, 7 Photo Album Boxes, and 3 Photo Negative Boxes.)


Business records, printed materials, artifacts, audio-visual materials, and photographic materials of BetzDearborn, Incorporated, an American chemical company that manufactured water treatment chemicals for commercial and industrial applications. The materials in this collection mainly document the history of BetzDearborn's two corporate ancestors: Betz Laboratories, Incorporated and Dearborn Chemical Company.

Acquisition Information

The BetzDearborn, Incorporated Records were donated to the Science History Institute (formerly the Chemical Heritage Foundation) by BetzDearborn, Incorporated in April 1998.

Digitized Materials

Selected items from this collection have been digitized and are available to view online in our Digital Collections:

Related Materials

There are no other known archival collections created by BetzDearborn, Incorporated preserved at the date of processing.

Processing Information

The BetzDearborn, Incorporated Records were processed by Kenton G. Jaehnig in June 2018.

BetzDearborn, Incorporated Records
Finding aid created and encoded into EAD by Kenton G. Jaehnig.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 8/28/2023: Digitized Materials note added.

Repository Details

Part of the Science History Institute Archives Repository

315 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia PA 19106 United States
215.873.5265 (Fax)