In the mid-1890’s, Herman Seydel began his career with Berlin Analyn Works in Germany supplying chemicals to the European and North America markets. Herman soon realized there was unlimited potential in the United States for textiles and offered to send his brother, Paul B. Seydel, to graduate school if he agreed to help him start a textile chemical company in the US. Paul agreed, and after earning a doctorate in science degree from the University of Brussels, the brothers moved to Atlanta, Georgia and opened Seydel Chemicals in 1907.
In 1910, the brothers decided to relocate Seydel Chemicals to New Jersey, due to the prevailing perception that products made in the Southern states were poor in quality. The strategic move allowed Seydel Chemicals to capture the New England market, as well as retain and grow sales in the South. In 1919, after the first World War, Seydel Chemicals bought a section of the US government’s Nitro emissions plant in Nitro, West Virgina alongside major textile manufacturers, Monsanto and American Viscose (first synthesized spun rayon). This allowed Seydel Chemicals to broaden and expand its product line, and positioned the company as the premier supplier of textile chemicals in the United States.
In 1923, Paul B. Seydel moved back to Atlanta to start the Seydel-Thomas Company, with his partners Vasser Woolley, Sr. and Sam Thomas. In 1924, Thomas sold his interest to Vasser Woolley, Jr., and the company was renamed Seydel-Woolley & Company. Shortly after, the Great Depression forced Seydel-Woolley to cut pay by 10%, allowing the company to stay afloat while most major competitors went bankrupt. The loss of competitors ultimately worked to Seydel-Woolley’s advantage and the company was able to offset all pay reductions with a substantial Christmas bonus – something that was unheard of at the time. With the recession ending, Seydel-Woolley was poised to dominate the US market.
In 1935, Paul B. Seydel’s oldest son, Paul V. Seydel graduated from The Georgia Institute of Technology with a Masters degree in Chemical Engineering and would spend the following 3 years working in the Seydel-Woolley laboratories. In 1938, Paul V. Seydel received a Fulbright Scholarship to study in Zurich, Switzerland where he received his Doctorate of Science degree. In 1942, shortly after the start of WWII, Dr. Paul V. Seydel was called to active duty as a lieutenant in the chemical warfare division of The United States Army. After a brief period at The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Paul was stationed in Berlin to gather intelligence on former German chemical plants, particularly with respect to atomic bomb production capabilities.
After the war, Dr. Paul V. Seydel returned to author Textile Warp Sizing, a renowned industry textbook that was based on the articles written by his father for Cotton Magazine, and with input from his younger brother, John R. Seydel, who had joined Seydel-Woolley in 1938 as the lead Laboratory Chemist. Like his brother,Paul, John R. Seydel had also attended The Georgia Institute of Technology and majored in Chemical Engineering.
After Paul’s return, John R. Seydel transitioned to sales, reporting directly to Vasser Woolley, Jr. In 1943, John and Paul’s father, Paul B. Seydel, died from complications of a colonectomy and Vasser Woolley succeeded him as Executive Vice President. Vasser Woolley would remain President until 1960, when he sold his ownership to his nephews, John and Paul. By this time, the company had expanded from textile warp sizing, to include textile auxiliary chemicals (oils for Sanforized™ fabrics) and finishing and garment washing, including synthetic detergents.
During the ownership transition, John R. Seydel was named Chief Operating Officer and assumed primary responsibility for running the company, allowing his brother, Paul, and uncle, Vasser, to pursue other interests (although both remained members of the company’s Board of Directors). Tragically, in 1962, Vasser Woolley, Jr. was one of 132 passengers killed as the Air France plane that they, and other members of the Atlanta Art Association, had chartered crashed upon takeoff at Orly Field in Paris, France.
Continuing the legacy would come naturally for John R. Seydel . In 1963-1964, in addition to growing sales of core products, John R. Seydel recognized an opportunity to toll manufacture phosphate ore for the mining business, and JRS Manufacturing was born. The company produced phosphate and mining chemicals that included defoamers and sulfinated tall oil. Eventually, environmental regulations forced production to a new plant in Lakeland, Fl. This plant would be financed jointly by Seydel-Woolley and AZ Products Company, which was owned an operated by a close colleague, Dr. Andres Zvejnieks. In 1972, AZ Products would merge with Seydel-Woolley to form The AZS Corporation. John R. Seydel assumed the role of CFO & Chairman of the Board, while Dr. Zvejnieks became President & CEO.
Just prior to the AZS merger, in 1969, the son of John R. Seydel, Scott Seydel, Sr., established Seydel International as an export, licensing, and joint venture investment firm to serve clients in the rapidly expanding global textile centers around the world. The company and concept were immediately successful. During the 1970’s and 1980’s, most developing and many developed countries maintained strict tariff barriers and import prohibitions to protect local industries. Once Seydel International established manufacturing operations within a country, it enjoyed protection against price competitive imports from Europe, Asia or the United States. Seydel International profited from royalty receipts and sales of raw materials to licensees, quickly becoming a major global supplier.
While The AZS Company focused purely on domestic sales and support, Seydel International supplied overseas markets. In 1980, AZS was sold to a Japanese-based firm, Toyo Inc. However, Toyo quickly experienced difficulties sustaining important domestic textile relationships and eventually sought new buyers for the company. They needed to look no farther than Scott Seydel and Seydel International, who agreed to repurchase the shares of AZS and form The Seydel Companies, reverting to the Seydel-Woolley name for its domestic arm.
In 1985, John R. Seydel retired and the newly constructed production plant located 50 miles north of downtown Atlanta was named for him. Under the leadership of his son, Scott Seydel, Sr., The Seydel Companies would continue to flourish both domestically and abroad by maintaining its leadership position in textile chemicals and diversifying its product line to serve the paper and packaging industry, with an emphasis on sustainability, reducing waste and improving recyclability – particularly in corrugated boxes used for shipping meats and produce.
In 1996, The Seydel Companies acquired Chemol Company, Inc., a well-known processor of hydrogenated animal fats, fatty acid esters, and other specialty oleochemicals. This move broadened The Seydel Companies product line, further strengthening its position in the textile & apparel, paper & packaging, while creating new opportunities in other industries such as personal care products (skin lotions and cosmetics), agriculture (animal nutrition, fertilizers, leather processing) and metalworking (lubricants and fluids for industrial drills, canning operations, sheetworking, etc.) – all with a focus on environmental stewardship through the use of natural fats and oils.
The company continues to lead the way in environmental stewardship, repeatedly winning the US Environmental Protection Agency’s highly prestigious Waste Wise Partner of the Year award. It was also the first national winner of the EPA’s Climate Change Champion Award.
The Seydel Companies maintains close affiliations with leading environmental organizations including Global Green, The Coalition for Resource Recovery, GreenBlue, The Sustainable Packaging Coalition, Elemental Impact and Ocean Exchange.
With its long and esteemed history, its diverse and unique product lines, and its unwavering commitment to its customers and the environment, The Seydel Companies is recognized around the world as the premier formulator of specialty process chemicals and is well-poised to enjoy another century of growth.