by Michele McMorrow


290 Ferry Street was the plastics/film/polyethylene plant for Celanese. Specifically, 290 Ferry Street was the administrative/accounting building and, last I saw, was a realtor's building--but it was the "official" address for the U.S. Mail. It is a magnificent old, brick building.

I believe the tiny "original" brick building is still intact on the side of the strip mall (across from 290) that later took over the plant's footprint. I worked in that little building, as had both my parents and some other relatives.

Tucked behind that little brick building along the side street was what was called the "Articles Department". Personal articles--dresser sets for ladies with brushes, mirrors and combs, etc., were made of "genuine imitation ivory", along with letter openers, etc.

I have the dresser set my Dad had had made for his eldest sister, as well as Dad's letter opener.

I can tell you that, during the summer, the heat blasting out of that department right outside *my* window gave me a fair idea of what Hades was all about! I was in awe of the stamina the employees demonstrated. (Plastic-making was not for wimps!)

In order to manufacture the product, there was a 'still' on the premises. The ABC would trot in now and again to ensure that the safety and integrity of the still was intact...heh heh...and nothing else was being produced!

The gatemen confiscated all matches and lighters at the guard house. Being caught on the premises *with* one match was grounds for immediate dismissal. (There had been a massive explosion back in the late '40s or '50s--so no one was taking chances.)

As Celanese expanded, they had coatings, plastics (later called "resins") and fibers and, possibly, a bit more in their product line. Does anyone remember "Fortrel, the Fiber that Promises"?

As to the original plant in Newark, there's a neat history there. The means to make celluloid was discovered in the late 1800s by a fellow in upstate NY, I believe. Celanese began as The Celluloid Company. The Celluloid Company--and *celluloid* gave us *movies*!

During the 1980's, Hoechst (Germany) bought Celanese. The Hoechst-Celanese sign at their facility in Bridgewater was replaced shortly thereafter with a more recent acquisition's hyphenated name...and so on. Celanese was not only off the NYSE, but out of our vocabulary.

I believe the name Celanese *has* been rejuvenated recently, although I don't quite recall the details just now.


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