Harlem’s D.F. Tiemann & Company Paint & Color, 1832

December 5, 2015

Tiemann_photo_ca_1890s-857x750Anthony Tiemann was born in Carlshafen, in Cassel, Germany, in 1779. In order to avoid conscription, he left for England in 1796 at the age of 17 and then went to America in 1798.  He settled in New York and married Mary Newell, who was originally from Massachusetts.  Tiemann started laboratory experiments in colors in 1804.  He then entered the commercial production of pigments and paints in which he was associated with his brother Julius W. Tiemann and Nicholas Stippel.  The factory was located near the southwest corner of 23rd Street and 4th Avenue, now Madison Square park, but
considered a remote part of the city at the time.  This was one of the earliest color works in America.

Tiemann began production of rose pink (chalk dyed with Brazil wood and alum), Dutch pink, French greens (e.g. Paris green or cupric acetoarsenite) and ultramarine blues in 1807.  He also made Prussian blue, from prussiate of potash and copperas,  and yellows from nitrate of lead and bichromate of potash.

He retired in 1839 and the business was continued by his sons as D.F. Tiemann & Co. in which the eldest son Daniel was the principal.

Daniel was born in 1805 and educated at a private seminary.  At the age of 13 he began an apprenticeship with the drugstore of H.M. Schiefflin & Co., located on Pearl Street, which lasted until 1824.  He then joined his father’s business, which had only four employees at the time.  He became a partner in 1826 and the business flourished under his guidance.  The same year he married Martha Clowes, a niece of Peter Cooper, and the couple eventually had three sons and three daughters.

In 1832 a tract of land was purchased in Manhattanville where a new factory was built. A spring near Bloomingdale Road (later Broadway) and 125th Street provided ample water for the production operations.   The Tiemanns brought with them about 50 German workmen and their families.  Daniel and his family lived nearby.  This marked the beginning of the industrial development of the Manhattanville community and the presence of a large German population.  Later industries included a worsted mill and a brewery.

But in December 1840 a fire destroyed one-half of the factory, leaving Daniel with a debt of $30,000.  His good friend and neighbor Robert Pettigrew loaned him the money to rebuild. The factory now covered 40 lots and employed 120 men.  The company was the first manufacturer of ready mixed paints in 1852.

Tiemann_print_1853-855x561 (1)

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About 1857 the company was the first in America to produce carmine from cochineal.  Other natural raw materials included oak bark from Virginia, for brown and yellow, and logwood from the West Indies for black and brown.   About 1860 the firm introduced a soluble laundry blue and vermilion (mercuric sulfide). Vermilion production in the U.S. was controlled by a syndicate of four New York companies:  D.F. Tiemann & Co., C.T. Reynolds & Co., Sondheim, Alsberg & Co., and A.B. Ansbacher & Co.  These companies made a total of 600,000 pounds in 1885.  The process was difficult and hazardous to workmen due to the use of the highly toxic mercury.  Mercury, sulfur and aqueous caustic potash were mixed in a revolving drum and heated to 115 deg. F.  When the color changed from brownish to the fiery red of vermilion, the reaction was done and the mixture quenched in water.   About 85 pounds of mercury yielded 100 pounds of vermilion.

Over the years, the business of D.F. Tiemann & Co. expanded from a line of five products to more than 100 different pigments and paints.  Customers were located throughout the country, with exports to Mexico and South America.

The factory was plagued by fires throughout its history due to the presence of flammable raw materials.  A fire in 1879 caused $60,000 in damage.  Another fire in 1881, which originated in the top floor mill room of a four-story brick building where paints were ground, resulted in $6,000 damage.

Daniel was active in politics throughout his life and was elected Mayor of New York in 1857 and State Senator in 1871.  The major event during his administration in 1858-1860 was the laying of the Atlantic telegraph cable; on that occasion he sent a congratulatory message to the Mayor of London.   He was a founding trustee of the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art.

Tiemann retired from his business at the age of 90 in 1895 and died in 1899.  The Tiemann property was sold in 1902.  The six-story Tiemann Hall apartment house was built on the site of the old Tiemann homestead in 1920.  The street is now called Tiemann Place.

The Tiemanns built a new dyes and chemicals plant in Stamford, Connecticut in 1907.  There were 15 brick and frame structures of varying sizes located on a 5-acre tract.  The plant cost $175,000 but closed in 1913, ironically just before the World War I dye famine created a serious shortage of dyes in the U.S.

Photo credit: 1) D.F. Tiemann & Co. Color Works, Manhattanville, New York City ca. 1890s Photographer:  Herman N. Tiemann, Nephew of Owner Daniel F. Tiemann Whose Residence Was in Home in Upper Right of Photo. 2) D.F. Tiemann & Co. Color Works, Manhattanville ca. 1853.  Artist:  J.W. Orr.  Image:  Wikipedia.org. 

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