New Jersey Zinc Co. display at Heritage Center
TERRY AHNER/TIMES NEWS Palmerton Area Historical Society member Peter Kern shows a model of vertical zinc retorts as part of the New Jersey Zinc Company gallery currently on display at the society.
History connoisseurs with an interest in the New Jersey Zinc Company can check out a display at the Palmerton Area Heritage Center.
The exhibit showcases NJZ, and more specifically, the role it played in the early success of the borough, said Peter Kern, member of the Heritage Center.
Kern, who at one time served as senior vice president of New Jersey Zinc Research and Development, said the display shows a significant portion of the borough's history.
"I think it's important; a lot of photographs have never been seen by the public before," Kern said. "All the shops that they had here were to make the company self-sufficient; all of these had a purpose."
Kern noted that in its early beginnings, the NJZ had "more foreman than we have employees today."
There were between 2,800-3,000 employees in the war years, of which over 250 were foreman, or a ratio of about one foreman to every 10 men, he said.
Kern noted that in 1897, the operation had been known as the Lehigh Zinc & Iron Company.
"Like anything else, if you wanted to build your company, you needed to build capital," he said. "You had to sell shares."
The display has annual books on record as well, noted Kern.
"They were very conservative in how they managed the company," he said. "They always maintained a lot of working capital."
That's part of what made it so attractive to Gulf & Western, which purchased the company in 1966.
Titanium was made at one point, though Kern said they never really commercialized it in Palmerton, although the company did later acquire two titanium oxide pigments plants, one in NJ, and the other, in OH.
"Indium was also a very important byproduct produced in the borough," he said. "Palmerton produced almost 20 percent of the world's entire production of this minor, but industrially significant, metal."
Copies of Zinc Magazine are also featured in the display, said Kern, who noted the publication was produced up through the 1950s.
Kern said the exhibit "Was an idea that came from several of the former Zinc Company employees and their spouses who are active members of the society."
"All of these things were state-of-the-art in the early years of the 1900s," he said. "The New Jersey Zinc Company was in the forefront of technology, even then."
Kern said the exhibit will likely remain on display through the end of the year.
"I think people would enjoy seeing the early years of the New Jersey Zinc Company," he said. "We were known as being the premier zinc producer in the country, and perhaps the world."