William E. Simonton, III




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    The story of the begins in 1892 when Joseph Hay Amies, a Lutheran clergyman, undertook experiments with different road paving materials. That year, Amies applied for the first of his over four dozen patents. In 1901, Amies chartered the Amies Asphalt Company under the laws of South Dakota and transferred all his patents to the new company. As he continued to obtain patents, they too were held by the Amies Asphalt Company. Eight years after the creation of the Amies Asphalt Company, Amies formed the Amies Road Company, a New Jersey corporation that held nearly all the licenses that Amies Asphalt granted for the manufacture of amiesite. Amies's patents for paving material were based on both a new complement of materials and a new method of combining them. Amies's approach applied a "liquifier"-- a volatile solvent such as naphtha or kerosene--to cold stone aggregate, then coated the aggregate-solvent mix with soft asphalt, with a small quantity of lime added last. By controlling the proportions of ingredients carefully, he could store the mixture and transport it over long distances before laying it cold, the surface becoming hard only when the solvent evaporated. Thus Amiesite, a cold mixed and cold laid paving material, was ready to be marketed. In 1904, Dr. Amies (so-called because he was a Doctor of Divinity) visited Wilmington to oversee the paving of Thirteenth Street between Market and King streets. Although there is general agreement that the material used in this early job was not amiesite as it was later constituted and patented, Amies's connection with the city had been initiated. The paving job was not a total success. The street's surface was described in the local press as "like fly paper" and a delegation of housewives who lived on the street visited the Board of Directors of the Street and Sewer Department to complain that, when the sun warmed the pavement, it became so soft that it stuck to the shoes of people who walked across it and was tracked onto nearby sidewalks and porches. The following year, Amies paved a second section of Wilmington's streets, laying down a section of paving on Franklin Street, between Pennsylvania Avenue and Thirteenth Street. He undertook the project at no charge, having offered it to the city Street and Sewer Department as a demonstration of the desirable qualities of an improved version of his paving material. The second job was no more successful than the first because the paving material hardened too quickly and, to soften it enough to spread it on the roadway, the paving crew doused it with a flammable liquid and lighted it, causing tremendous alarm among residents who feared that their homes would be burned to the ground. It is hardly a coincidence that his tinkering with aggregate and asphalt came when it did. The automobile's first stages of development were beginning and the "good roads" movement was having an increasing impact on the American scene. Two individuals in particular spurred automobile ownership in the early twentieth century. Henry Ford introduced to the American market automobiles with prices that many buyers could afford. After offering the Model N in 1906 for $600, in 1908 he offered the Model T for $825, at a time when most cars cost more than $1,500. By 1916, the Model T cost only $345 for the runabout model and $360 for the touring car, making it possible for an increasing number of American families to buy and operate automobiles. In 1911, the second automotive innovator, Charles Kettering, invented the electric starter, an improvement that freed drivers from having to turn an awkward, sometimes dangerous, crank to start their cars. Within five years, 90 percent of the cars manufactured in America used the device. As the number of automobiles grew, Americans demanded more and better highways on which to drive. Automobile enthusiasts, including members of the American Automobile Association formed in 1902, actively sought road improvements. The poor condition of early-twentieth-century roads made motoring a challenging adventure over roads that were impassable with mud in rainy weather, miserable with dust in dry, and dangerously rutted in all seasons. As late as 1925, etiquette books advised women going on automobile outings to wear outer coats that would not show dust and "comfortable shoes which will not be ruined if you have to get out and walk a mile or so sometime during the trip." Federal aid to highway construction also fostered the car's proliferation on the American landscape. The Federal Aid Road Act of 1916 provided $75 million to improve rural post roads in states that had state highway departments and the Federal Highway Act of 1921 approved additional matching funds for highway construction, an early attempt to coordinate state efforts into a system of national highways.

    Although Dr. Amies invested substantial time in experimenting and patenting a variety of paving materials, his two companies did little in the way of marketing the products widely. As the 1920s began, sales of amiesite were largely restricted to eastern states, New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Delaware but the situation was about to change dramatically. In 1920, Donald M. Hepburn, superintendent of construction for the Pennsylvania State Highway Department, through his work with paving contractors around the state, heard about amiesite. Recognizing the advantages offered by a material that could be manufactured and laid cold and that hardened quickly so that traffic did not have to be kept off the newly paved road for very long, Hepburn decided to buy out the Amies Road Company, the primary licensee of the Amies Asphalt Company. Within two years, he had organized the Amiesite Asphalt Company of America and bought all the stock of the Amies Road Company, thus also purchasing a monopoly to manufacture and sell amiesite. He was assisted financially in his venture by Edmund Mitchell and Daniel O. Hastings, who provided a portion of the funding needed for the initial purchase. The Amiesite Asphalt Company of America never produced paving material. Rather, it was established to place licenses with actual manufacturers, to collect royalties from those manufacturing concerns, and to develop products or product improvements that could be submitted for new patents, thus extending the company's monopoly. After its establishment in 1922, the Amiesite Asphalt Company of America began granting licenses throughout the country and continued to operate the Amies Road Company until 1925, when the subsidiary was dissolved. In 1924, however, Hepburn decided to recover some of the licenses that had been previously granted. He intended to operate a separate company to manufacture and sell amiesite under license from Amiesite Asphalt Company of America. He again approached Mitchell and Hastings, the two men who had been his earlier backers, and invited them to enter into a new venture. Under Hepburn's scheme, Amiesite Asphalt would design manufacturing plants for the new company, supervise plant construction, provide training and supervision, and offer other assistance. In return, the new licensee, Interstate Amiesite, would pay an annual royalty to Amiesite Asphalt Company of America for the right to manufacture under the parent company's patents. Incorporated in February 1924, Interstate Amiesite bought rather than build its first five plants when the company purchased the facilities of the General Crushed Stone Company in Akron and Little Falls, New York, and Glen Mills, Rock Hill, and White Haven, Pennsylvania. Under a license from the Amies Road Company, General Crushed Stone had been manufacturing amiesite in New York and Pennsylvania since 1909. In March 1924, the Wilmington press announced "Million Dollar Company Formed Here to Produce Road-Building Material." The newspaper account the described the company's purchase of General Crushed Stone's "entire amiesite business," noted that the purchase also included the right to sell amiesite in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, the District of Columbia, and parts of New York and New Jersey, and described Amiesite as "durable under all climatic conditions, resistant to destruction by traffic and free of dust." By the end of 1924, Interstate Amiesite had also taken over a plant built by Amiesite Asphalt at Greensburg, Pennsylvania. Edmund Mitchell was president of Interstate Amiesite during its first year in operation. Known as Colonel Mitchell because of his involvement with the Delaware National Guard, he and a brother had started out in the world of business running their own roofing company. Elected a tax collector for Wilmington in 1889, he went on to become active in Republican politics, rising eventually to chair the Republican State Committee in the 1930s. After serving as the president in Interstate Amiesite for a year, he relinquished the post to Daniel O. Hastings, although he returned to the post of president in the mid-1930s. Hastings was vice president of Interstate Amiesite in 1924 and succeeded Mitchell as president the following year, serving in that capacity until 1931, after which he became chairman of the board of directors. For all his contributions to the business of manufacturing paving materials, it was in law and politics that he made his mark. By 1924, he had already served as assistant city solicitor and city solicitor for Wilmington, Delaware deputy attorney general and secretary of state, associate judge of the state Supreme Court, and special counsel for the Delaware General Assembly. At the time he joined in establishing Interstate Amiesite, Hastings was a Wilmington municipal judge and, before his career was over, he would represent his state in the United States Senate for eight years. During its first couple of years in operation, Interstate Amiesite discovered that there needed to be regional variations in the production of amiesite if the company intended to supply a good quality product to meet each customer's needs. Interstate Amiesite personnel learned this lesson the hard way when they built a plant in Kenton, Ohio, on the recommendation of Amiesite Asphalt, only to find that the stone aggregate at that site was unsatisfactory for manufacturing amiesite with the methods and ingredient proportions that they had previously used. At the time the company was organized, most road repairs were being done by hand-mixing road oil and chips and by resurfacing old pavements-brick, concrete, and bituminous-with hot asphalt materials. Interstate Amiesite not only offered pre-mixed paving material that could be laid cold but also offered the services of experienced supervisors who would work with customers, instructing the purchasers' road crews on unloading the material from the railway cars in which it was shipped-"greasing up the tools they worked with, and forks and bars"-and on laying the road properly-"getting the necessary spread . . .from the material." In addition, company salesmen, many of whom had valuable engineering experience, assisted city, county, and state highway departments in determining the best paving material for given jobs, taking into account the site, the environment, and the traffic volume and in estimating how much amiesite would be needed for various projects. During the 1920s, largely due to the conscientious efforts of the Interstate Amiesite personnel, amiesite became so well known as a paving material, that several states, including New Jersey and Maryland, specified amiesite by name when paving jobs were put out to bid. One of the primary ways that state highway departments learned about amiesite and its advantages was at the annual Road Shows that were held around the country. Interstate Amiesite representatives attended road shows in Chicago [1925, 1926], Mexico City [1927], Cleveland [1929], Atlantic City [1930], and St. Louis [1931]. By the 1930s, amiesite type paving materials had become the standard for many state highway departments. Between 1924 when Interstate Amiesite was organized and 1927, Interstate Amiesite and Amiesite Asphalt Company of America shared offices in Philadelphia, although Interstate Amiesite maintained its headquarters in Wilmington. By the end of the 1920s, however, the close relationship between the two companies had begun to unravel. In 1926, the Amies patents granted in 1909 had run their seventeen-year course and expired. Without patents, there was no need for Interstate Amiesite to be licensed in order to manufacture amiesite and therefore there was also no longer any need for the company to continue to pay royalties of $.75 per ton. Interstate Amiesite continued to pay, however, until the autumn of 1929, because the Amiesite Asphalt laboratory repeatedly promised new improvements to the old patents which would yield new patents and thus provide a new basis for licenses and for monopoly protection. Finally, after voluntarily paying royalties for three years, Interstate Amiesite negotiated an agreement in September 1929 with Amiesite Asphalt under which Interstate Amiesite would instead pay no further royalties in 1929 and would pay Amiesite Asphalt Company of America 20 percent of its net profit in 1930, with a minimum payment of $34,000. As the agreement term was drawing to end, Interstate Amiesite began using letterhead with "Interaco Amiesite" on it to give the company's new amiesite a different name. A variation on what had been produced under Amiesite Asphalt Company of America patents, the new product replaced the mineral filler as the last ingredient with a bituminous filler, it was slightly more stable than the original amiesite, and it had a marginally higher melting temperature. The new material was thus more versatile, less likely to crack in cold weather and less likely to soften in hot conditions. It would later be marketed as "Interaco Stone Tread." When the 1929-30 agreement expired in December 1930, Amiesite Asphalt refused to accept new terms proposed by Interstate Amiesite because officials of the parent company were persuaded that the payments that Amiesite Asphalt would receive from Interstate Amiesite would not cover the costs of the services the company was providing to Interstate Amiesite. In response, Interstate Amiesite's negotiating team advised Amiesite Asphalt Company of America that Interstate Amiesite intended to continue manufacturing amiesite and to continue using the product name. Interstate Amiesite had strong motivation for taking this tack because other manufacturers had discovered in 1929 that the amiesite patents had expired and had begun producing the paving material. Paying a royalty for protection that Amiesite Asphalt Company of America could no longer offer put Interstate Amiesite at a great disadvantage because royalty payments added between 6 and 10 percent to manufacturing costs, costs that no other producers paid. With production increasing with each succeeding year-173,000 tons in 1927; 229,000 tons in 1928; and 248,000 tons in 1929--and with the dawning recognition that new protective patents were unlikely to be forthcoming, the company elected to pursue its own interests and do what it had advised Amiesite Asphalt Company of America it would do. This action and the consequences it provoked would help shape the company's course in the decade that began with the stock market crash of October 1929.

    If the 1920s were a period of organization and initial forays into the world of paving, the 1930s witnessed a court case that established Interstate Amiesite's right to use the name "Amiesite" and by the maturation of the company's manufacturing and consulting operations. On 2 May 1932, Wilmington, Delaware, was enjoying fair weather with temperatures in the low 60s and clear skies overhead. Jean Harlow and Walter Huston were starring in "The Beast of the City" at the Loew's Theater and Wilmingtonians could make a day trip by rail to Washington to see the cherry blossoms for $3 round trip. The pleasant spring day marked the beginning of a two-and-a-half-week trial heard in the U. S. District Court on Wilmington's Rodney Square, a case that pitted the Amiesite Asphalt Company of America against its successful and independent offspring. The suit filed by Amiesite Asphalt against Interstate Amiesite revolved around Amiesite Asphalt Company of America's contention that Interstate Amiesite was infringing on Amiesite Asphalt's registered trademark, "Amiesite." Judge John P. Nields heard wide-ranging testimony that reviewed the history of amiesite, the establishment of both companies, and the story of their relationship. Interstate Amiesite witnesses asserted that it was through the efforts of Interstate Amiesite personnel that amiesite as a paving material had become the respected product that it was. As producer of approximately three-quarters of the amiesite made in the country, Interstate Amiesite, by its work in quality control, training, consulting, and troubleshooting, was in a powerful position to control how amiesite was presented to potential customers. The company had set a high corporate standard and took satisfaction in having met that standard. Nields's decision in favor of Interstate Amiesite noted that Amiesite Asphalt Company of America's patent on amiesite had expired in 1926. The judge, agreeing with Interstate Amiesite that "amiesite" was recognized by those active in the paving industry as a designation for cold mix, cold laid paving material regardless of what company produced it, held that the company was free to use "amiesite" to identify both the paving material it manufactured and the pavement produced when that material was laid. Interstate Amiesite was also free to continue using the word "amiesite" in its corporate name. After their agreement expired in 1930, Amiesite Asphalt Company of America had written to Interstate Amiesite customers, advising them that Interstate Amiesite was not licensed to produce amiesite and threatening the customers with liability for losses incurred by Amiesite Asphalt if the customers purchased materials from Interstate Amiesite. Part of the proceedings heard by Judge Nields included Interstate Amiesite's counterclaim against Amiesite Asphalt Company of America, claiming that Amiesite Asphalt's intimidation had cut into Interstate Amiesite's business. Certain customers had refused to buy from Interstate Amiesite until the situation was clarified in court, but the judge determined that Interstate Amiesite could not collect damages, noting that there had been no demonstration of ill-will on the part of Amiesite Asphalt Company of America and further that any damage Interstate Amiesite might have suffered was speculative. Interstate Amiesite's experiences with Amiesite Asphalt Company of America in regard to patents and trademarks were the inevitable destruction of AACA. In a short time aftewr the courts ruling the Great Depression took hold and the American econmy began to stagnate. In a short amount of time Amiesite Asphalt Company of America became isolvent; and was liquidated. The corporate charter was revoked some time in 1934.

Note: This is a direct copy of a report provide by the IA Construction Company. It is displayed only for the purpose of providing interested readers a brief history of the Amiesite Asphalt Company of America. It appears that Susan Mulchahey Chase should be given full credit for this excerpt.

Note:  This article was posted on the web and the link originally led to that website.  As the article is no longer available, I am posting the text here.



Copyright 2003 - 2010 William E. Simonton, III


Last Updated: April 23, 2011