In 1909, German entrepreneur Otto Haas came to Philadelphia to sell Oropon, an invention of his friend and business partner, Dr. Otto Röhm, for use in transforming goatskins into kid leather. A century later, Rohm and Haas is a global leader in providing advanced chemicals that enhance the performance of consumer goods, from fast-drying water-based paints to sunscreens with greater SPF functionality and more powerful semiconductor chips.
In Rohm and Haas: A Century of Innovation, business historian Regina Lee Blaszczyk examines the 100-year history of this Philadelphia-based chemical company which has long stressed the importance of connecting with the customer. Based on interviews with top executives and research in the firm's corporate archives, the book explores how Rohm and Haas developed its commitment to customer service, growing from a family firm with transatlantic connections into one of the world's leading specialty chemical companies. From its founding, the firm's interactions with different types of customers—tanneries in industrial Philadelphia, the U.S. Army and Navy air forces during World War II, European agriculturalists during the Marshall Plan, and the contemporary electronics industry in Asia—have facilitated innovation, generated products that improved everyday life, and led to global growth.
Regina Lee Blaszczyk is a visiting scholar in the Department of the History and Sociology of Science at the University of Pennsylvania. Her books include Producing Fashion: Commerce, Culture, and Consumers, also available from the University of Pennsylvania Press.