Pioneering Soy Protein Companies: I. F. Laucks, The Glidden Co., Rich Products, Gunther Products, Griffith Laboratories

by William Shurtleff and Akiko Aoyagi

A Chapter from the Unpublished Manuscript, History of Soybeans and
Soyfoods, 1100 B.C. to the 1980s


©Copyright 2004 Soyfoods Center, Lafayette, Californi
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Most of America's major soybean crushing companies (as detailed in Chapter 56) also eventually became producers of soy protein products. In this chapter we will discuss a number of smaller but important pioneering companies who made their greatest contributions in soy protein products, even though several of them (Glidden, Griffith??) also had soybean crushing operations.

The I. F. Laucks Co., Soybean Glue, and Isolated Soy Proteins (1923 - 1982)

The I.F. Laucks Company in Seattle, Washington, pioneered the use of soybean glue for the plywood industry in America, starting in 1923. This was the first important use of soy protein or soy flour in an industrial product. More important, it was the first commercially successful example on a significant scale of the new concept of making industrial products from soybeans. As such, it was a harbinger of the larger chemurgy movement that began in late 1920s and 1930s. At the same time, it served as one of the earliest markets for American-grown soybeans.

The I.F. Laucks Company also did some of America's earliest research on isolated soy proteins. The Cone and Brown patent (No. 1,935,375) for producing isolates and paper coatings, purchased by The Glidden Company in 1934, started two more new industries, those making industrial isolates and edible isolates. The latter showed steady growth into the 1980s.

The Early Years (1908-1926). Irving Fink Laucks was born in Akron, Ohio, in 1882. His father was a blacksmith. At the Case School of Applied Science (today's Case Institute of Technology) in Cleveland he studied mining engineering and chemistry. After graduating in 1904, he traveled to the Pacific Northwest to look over the mining situation.

In 1908 Laucks and Myrl J. Faulkenberg founded a laboratory (named what??) in Seattle, where they assayed and tested ores and minerals. They worked with various gold mining firms in Alaska. During World War I, with the global shipping and supply system seriously disrupted, many goods that had formerly been shipped from Europe to the East Coast began to be shipped from East Asia to Seattle. Laucks' laboratory received a government contract to serve as a customs analytical laboratory, inspecting for quality and unwanted microorganisms and insects.

During this work, Laucks first became acquainted with soybeans. Large cartwheel-shaped soybean cakes were being imported for use as hog feed, mainly in the Midwest. Laucks became very interested in the characteristics of soybean cake and he had some of it analyzed to determine its composition. In 1918 Laucks and Faulkenberg dissolved their partnership, with Laucks retaining the analytical laboratory, which he renamed I.F. Laucks, Inc.?? (Cour 1955a, 1955b).

Laucks must have also analyzed some imported soy oil, for in 1919 he wrote a book titled Commercial Oils, Vegetable and Animal, with Special Reference to Oriental Oils, which contained a 5-page section on soy oil. This was his earliest known publication related to soy. In 1920 he and H.P. Banks wrote an article titled "Pressed Soya Bean Oil" in an American cottonseed oil journal. In April 1920 his company began publication of a monthly newsletter titled Laucks' Note Book, which contained some articles on soy oil??

One day in late 1921 or 1922 a man named Bill Bailey visited Laucks in his laboratory to talk with him about the possibility of developing a better plywood glue. Bailey had been sent by Ed Westman of the Olympia Veneer Co., the first worker-owned manufacturer of Douglas fir plywood, which began operation in August 1921. Bailey brought with him a sample of the casein glue that was being used by Olympia Veneer at the time.

The US plywood industry was still quite young. The world's first fir plywood was made in 1905 in Oregon. However laminated glued woods have been traced back to the pharaohs and the Greeks. They existed in Czarist Russia before 1900. The first patent involving what would now be called plywood was issued on 26 December 1865 to John K. Mayo of New York City, but it is not known if he ever commercialized the product. America's first plywood industry started on the East Coast, manned by European immigrants. It was a hardwood plywood and its fancier plywood was used mostly decoratively, as in furniture. America's softwood plywood industry developed in the Pacific Northwest using Douglas fir (also then called Oregon pine). The first panels were produced in Portland, Oregon, in 1905, by the Portland Manufacturing Company, located on the Wilamette River. They were made for exhibition at the Lewis and Clark Exposition Fair, which opened in Portland in June, 1905. This plywood (originally called "glued veneer stock") that came in 2-by-3-foot panels was seen by more than 500,000 people at the Fair. It started to be sold commercially in 1905 and was used initially mostly to make doors, the bottoms of drawers, trunks, valises, and wall paneling. Although fir plywood was born in Oregon, it was the growing state of Washington that quickly took hold of the new industry. The first plywood plant in Washington started in 1910 and Washington held its dominance until 1954, when Oregon regained it. In the early 1920s the East Coast and West Coast plywood industries were of approximately size. The word "plywood" was first used in 19?? (Cour 1955b).

By the 1920s plywood was made as follows: Cut big Douglas fir trees, haul them to a plywood mill, select the best trees (called "peeler logs"), and cut those into selected lengths (what length??). Put one length in a huge rotary lathe, strip off the bark (before or after putting in the lathe??), then revolve the log on its axis against the long lathe knife, which peels off a long, continuous strip of thin veneer, quite like unrolling a roll of paper toweling in a kitchen. Dry the veneers in long dryers, then run them one by one between the rolls of a glue spreader (built like the wringer on an old fashioned washing machine), which spreads glue on both sides of each veneer. Alternately layer glued and unglued veneers, so that their grains run perpendicular to each other, to form assemblies. Cold press these until the glue sets, then trim their edges, and sand their surfaces (Cour 1955b).

Prior to World War I, most of the glues used to bind the veneers together into sheets of plywood on both the East and West Coasts were animal glues, based primarily on blood and hoofs??, although some starch-based glues were used. Animal glues were best known for their horrible smell. During World War I a new type of glue made from casein, the major protein in milk, started to be used. Casein glue, invented in Switzerland and first used widely in Europe, had been developed in the US in about 1910 at the Forest Products Laboratory in Madison, Wisconsin. Early US manufacturers of casein glue were the Monite Company and the Borden Company, both of whom started around the time of World War I, when plywood started to find industrial uses, as in airplane parts and buildings. Casein glue was more water resistant?? than its predecessors and it smelled much better. But it also had several disadvantages: (1) it was fairly expensive and subject to wide variations in price and availability; (2) although it was fairly water resistant??, it was certainly not waterproof; and (3) it was quite viscous and tacky, which made working with it somewhat slow and difficult. Since 1905 glue had been the Achilles heel of the young Pacific Northwest plywood industry, for it limited plywood largely to indoor applications.

During the early 1920s, however, many plywood manufacturers, eager to expand their sales, were boasting that casein glue was waterproof. Makers of automobile bodies, believing the plywood manufacturers, started to use plywood for floor boards, instrument boards, and finally for running boards. Cars builders soon competed with door makers as plywood's top market. But it was soon discovered that the running boards of some cars began to warp badly and even come apart (delaminate), especially in humid/rainy, warm areas. The faulty glueline caused many complaints. It was a disaster for everyone involved. Many cars had to be recalled and the running boards replaced. The plywood makers eventually lost a major market as well as confidence in their product slumped. It was because of such problems with casein glues that Olympia Veneer sent Bailey to talk with Laucks (Laucks 1944).

After some discussion, Laucks agreed to analyze Bailey's casein glue and also to institute studies to develop an improved glue. Laucks then recalled that the soy protein he had analyzed was similar in composition to that of protein. So he set to work trying to make a glue from imported soybean cake. At about this same time Laucks learned that a man named Otis Johnson was working in another laboratory on the development of a soybean glue. The two men worked on the problem independently. Johnson was issued US and British patents for a soybean glue in 1923, before Laucks even applied for his patents. His last of four patents was issued in 1928.

Laucks initial laboratory experiments with soybean glue looked promising. Then he drew up an agreement with Olympia Veneer allowing him to experiment at their plant. Laucks needed a real plant in which to work and Olympia would receive large amounts of free glue. Laucks pulverized the rectangular slabs of hydraulic-pressed soybean cake, then ground the low-fat soybean meal to a flour fine enough to pass through an 100-200-mesh screen. He mixed the flour with various chemicals, and then with water to form the glue.

By 1923 Laucks felt he had developed a satisfactory soybean glue. This was the first non-casein glue to be used on plywood and the first to be made from low-cost, protein-rich oilseed residues, which were left over after expressing the oil. In 1923 Laucks began to sell his soybean glue to Olympia Veneer; the first shipment weighed one ton. Olympia considered the quality sufficiently good to change over this entire factory in 1923 from casein to soybean glue.

Apparently?? at about this time Laucks renamed his analytical laboratory Laucks Laboratories, Inc., keeping the name I.F. Laucks, Inc. for the company that developed and produced his plywood glues. The analytical work and the glue development work were housed in the same building.

Laucks' two key technical men involved in the research and development on soybean glue were Glen Davidson and Charles Cone. Davidson, who had majored in chemistry at the University of Nebraska, left school in 1918 after three years to work as an inspector and chemical analyst for the US Army. He joined I.F. Laucks Co. in the early 1920s. What year?? Cone had graduated in 1920 from Fairmount College in Wichita, Kansas, with rudimentary training in chemistry. He began working with Laucks in 1923. Most of the early glue research, as Cone recalled in 1985, was "strictly empirical; very crude and unsophisticated." Davidson and Cone worked closely and happily together. Earl Brown, who arrived in the mid-1920s was also a technical man, with an engineering background. Other people who worked for Laucks were Harry P. Banks, vice president, Leo Eilertson, treasurer, and Hugh F. Rippey, who was in charge of Laucks Laboratories. Laucks had a strongly Germanic nature and ran a tight ship. As Cone recalled. "He was somewhat of a martinet, not a particularly friendly man, not the sort of man you joke with" (Cone 1985, personal communication).

The first of many patents on processing soybean cake to make a flour than using the flour to make a glue was applied for by Laucks and Davidson in October 1923 (No. 1,689,732). It was granted in October 1928. Sodium hydroxide and calcium hydroxide were added to the glue to serve as waterproofing agents. Two more glue patents were applied for in 1924 (Laucks and Davidson, No. 1,751,339 and Laucks and Cone, No. 1,757,805). Eilertson and co-workers applied for a fourth glue patent in 1926 (No. 1,903,172). In the early years, Laucks had the peculiar habit of listing numerous people (including himself) on patent applications, even though they/he may have had nothing to do with the research. None of these early soybean glue patents were issued until 1928 because of litigation on the process.

Prior to 1927, in addition to glue, the company also did research and applied for patents on carbon briquettes bound together by a soy adhesive (Rippey et al. 1929), soybean plastics?? (Laucks, Banks, et al. 1931), and soy protein paper sizing (Davidson, Rippey et al. 1927).

But a number of problems began to arise. The quality of Laucks' glue soon proved to be inconsistent. Its chemical composition could be quickly changed by oxygen, moisture, and chemical and bacterial action. He realized that he would have to develop a three-step system for standardizing the chemical composition and quality of his imported soybean cake. First, he worked with one of Manchuria's largest mills to produce soybean cake that had a specified composition within certain limits as it left their mill. Second, this meal was transported to the US by the fastest steamship, instead of the usual tramp steamers or schooners. And third, a method of chemical treatment was developed in Seattle which insured the uniformity and stability of the resultant glue (Davidson and Laucks 1932).

There were also other problems to be overcome. Soybean glue was not viscous, sticky, tacky, or syrupy like most other glues. On the contrary, it was rather soupy or mushy, with somewhat the same viscosity as water. It soon acquired the unwelcome nickname "bean soup" and became the scapegoat for any and all production problems. Most practical glue men would not believe that such a substance could ever stick plywood. This apparent handicap actually proved to be a big advantage, for it allowed automatic glue spreaders (developed by Laucks) to spread the glue on the plywood much more quickly and easily without foaming, which enabled plywood plants to speed up production. Another handicap was that no one had ever heard of a water-resistant glue derived from plants. The name "vegetable glue" connoted starch glues, which were well known to be not water resistant. One clear advantage of the soybean glue was that it smelled much better than the stinky animal glues.

In short, soybean glue's biggest advantages over casein glues were that it was much less expensive, there were no large fluctuations in its price and availability, it was at least?? as water resistant, being non-tacky it was easier to work with, and it could be used to glue veneers with a higher moisture content (20-35%). Moreover, soybean glue seemed to be especially suited for gluing Douglas fir, the main wood used in the Pacific Northwest (Laucks and Davidson 1932).

The Golden Years (1926-1942). The beginning of the period of prosperity for I.F. Laucks, Inc, and soybean glues was described by Laucks and Davidson in a paper presented in 1931 at the Sixth Annual Wood-Industries Meeting (published in 1932):

The year 1926 proved to be the turning point in the life history of a soya-bean glue. Prior to this time there had been an insistent demand for plywood of greater water resistance on the part of automobile manufacturers, who were beginning to buy large amounts of plywood. Finally, the Pacific Coast plywood manufacturers announced through their association that they wished to arrange a series of competitive demonstrations of all water-resisting plywood glues. These demonstrations were made during April, 1926, with nearly all glue manufacturers participating. The results in these tests obtained with soya-bean glues were so outstanding that these glues were almost immediately adopted by all Pacific Coast plywood manufacturers and have been in continuous there.

Laucks later (1944) gave additional details on this key period. "When a number of running boards began coming apart all over the country, a committee was appointed by the plywood industry to arrange competitive tests to determine the best glue for the industry to use. . . By the latter part of 1927, about one year from the date of the competition, every [plywood] plant on the Pacific Coast [there were 12] was using soybean glue." Interestingly, Charles Cone, who was then a key technical man with Laucks, stated in 1985 that he was never aware of any such contest and he does not believe that one ever took place. Ask APA??

During the period 1926-34 extensive research on soybean glues and other related soy products was done by Laucks' researchers and at least 38 patents were applied for and issued. Only one new name, that of T.W. Dike, appeared on the patent applications (Hennefrund and Colvin 1938; Brother, Smith, and Circle 1940; Circle 1950). Several important discoveries for which patents were applied in the late 1920s included (1) the addition of caustic soda (sodium hydroxide) as such to the glue base after the soy flour had been mixed with water, (2) the addition of the flammable chemical carbon bisulfide to make the soybean glue (and casein glue) much more water resistant (3) the proper heating of the meal using both steam jacketing and steam injection, and (4) a method for using a glue made from soy flour and blood in the hotpress gluing process (Laucks, Cone and Dike 1932). I need specific references and dates for the other patents (1-3)?? Cone was the key inventor in processes 1-3.??

Thus in the new, improved process, rectangular slabs of Manchurian soybean cake were ground to a flour. In a double-action, steam jacketed ribbon mixer, the flour was mixed with water and a little carefully regulated injected steam to get just the right amount of protein denaturation (which prevented the flour from lumping and improved the bond). Finally the chemicals (primarily caustic soda, lime??, silicate of soda, and carbon bisulfide) were mixed in. This was the formulation that made Laucks' soybean glue a mainstay for the cold pressed plywood industry for many years (Cone 1985, personal communication).

By 1927 Laucks' was calling his new soybean glue Lauxein. Once it was being sold in bulk on the open market, he decided to straighten out the patent situation between his laboratory and Otis Johnson. He did this by purchasing Johnson's patents, when Johnson found that he could not make his soybean glue applicable to fir plywood.

At about this time George Osgood in Tacoma started making a soybean glue. Laucks sued Osgood for patent infringement. Balfour-Guthrie Co., which was also involved in the suit, later withdrew, making a settlement with Laucks. Did Laucks sue any other companies?? Cone recalls that the two key points in the trial concerned the addition of caustic soda and carbon bisulfide to the glue; Laucks had applied for patents on both of these processes. The suit with Osgood was bitterly contested and dragged on for 2 years. The final verdict was in Laucks' favor. Only after this judgment was his first patent on soybean glue issued. Now Laucks had a virtual monopoly on the Pacific Coast plywood glue market. Not only was his product more water resistant?? than casein glues, it was also much cheaper. Soon he began to license other companies to make his product?? Which ones?? Starting when?? Including any that he had sued?? (Cour 1955b).

By the late 1920s Laucks was finding it very difficult to obtain enough soybean cake. It was only available as an import from East Asia or from North Carolina. So he decided to develop his own source in the Midwest. In 1927 he arranged with the Funk Brothers Seed Company, a soybean crusher in Bloomington, Illinois, to make him soy flour and ship it to his plant in Seattle (Cavanagh 1959). Glen Davidson moved to Bloomington to help Funk Bros. with production details (they used an expeller rather than a hydraulic press to produce the meal) and to take charge of sales of soybean glue in the Midwest. It was used mostly to make box-grade panels out of gum wood veneer. Back in Seattle, Charles Cone was appointed Chief Research Chemist. In 1932 Laucks and Davidson recalled:

In 1927 the manufacture of commercial veneer glue from American-grown soya beans was begun. Prior to this time, the production of domestic soya beans had been on too limited a scale to render such a venture advisable. However since 1927, the production of soya beans in the Middle Western states has been rapidly increasing. It is believed that the use of soya-bean meal as a glue base has been a notable factor in encouraging farmers to increase their soya-bean acreage.

Funk Bros. continued to ship the soy flour to Seattle for 2 years until 1929, when freight rates proved to be excessive. As a result, Laucks decided to establish his own glue plant in Illinois. He signed an agreement with Funk Bros. whereby he would establish his headquarters for producing soybean glue on the south half of the second floor of the main warehouse of the Funk Bros. seed company plant in Bloomington.

Funk Bros. continued for a few years to make the flour from their soybean meal and to deliver it to Laucks for processing into glue. Laucks later installed his own machinery to process the meal into flour. Laucks operated in Bloomington until 1934. At times he took as much as one-third of Funk Brothers' production of meal. This operation in Bloomington was one of the first in the Midwest to process domestic soybeans into flour for glue (Cavanagh 1959, based on interviews with Eugene D. Funk 1956).

We know of no figures on the amount of soybean glue that Laucks produced during the 1930s. Cone recalls that sales were several million dollars a year by 1932 and that profits were excellent.

The Great Depression, however, starting in 1929, hit the fir plywood industry hard. Plywood production, which had jumped from 175 million square?? feet in 1926 up to 358 million in 1929, plunged to only 200 million in 1932, the low point. Following numerous abortive attempts to organize a plywood industry trade association, the Douglas Fir Plywood Association was founded in May 1933. Its activities began to hit high gear in 1937-38, to the great benefit of the entire industry. By 1940 plywood production had climbed to 1,200 million feet (Cour 1955b).

One of the most important developments at I.F. Laucks, Inc. was largely unrelated to soybean glue. It involved the development of America's first commercial isolated soy proteins. This pioneering work, by Charles N. Cone and Earl D. Brown, was described in a patent titled "Protein Product and Process of Making," applied for in March 1930 and issued in April 1934. The process was designed to be used to make an isolated soy protein base for paper coatings or sizings to replace casein. Soybean cake or meal was immersed in a mild, hot alkali solution and agitated for 12 hours, then centrifuged to remove the insoluble residue. An acid was added to the clear liquid to precipitate the protein at pH 4.0. The curd was washed with water, filtered, pressed, disintegrated, and dried. The use of a mild alkali was found to be essential if the protein was to remain dispersible. Cone initially made the isolates on a laboratory scale then later produced enough to make a trial run at a paper-coating plant in Grand Rapids, Michigan. When the process was ready, Cone traveled to the Midwest to try to sell the patent. After the Chicago Milling Co. turned it down in 1932 (casein was very cheap at the time), Glidden bought it in 1943. This patent became the basis of Glidden's famous Alpha Protein, the world's first commercial isolated soy protein, which in turn was the basis of Central Soya's famous Promine.

In 1932 Laucks fired Cone over disputes concerning income due Cone on processes he had invented in patents assigned to I.F. Laucks, Inc. Cone was later told by a chemist at the Wilson Packing Co., a meat packer in Chicago, that he knew of various companies that had spent more than a million dollars in trying (unsuccessfully) to get around the Cone and Brown patent. Robert Boyer, head of Henry Ford's soybean research team, later noted that his group regularly studied the Cone and Brown patent because it tied up the whole patent structure in that area and started a new industry in America?? How did Ralston Purina finally get around it??

In October 1931 Laucks and Davidson presented the first summary of their work with soybean glues at the annual meeting of the wood industries in North Carolina. The excellent, detailed paper was published the next year. It noted that in plywood manufacture the tonnage of soybean glue (called generically "oil-seed-residue glue") equalled that of any other type of glue.

The present uses of soya-bean glues embrace the entire fir and pine plywood industry, together with a large share of the plywood box industry and the furniture plywood industry so far as glass backs, drawer bottoms, and similar panels are concerned, but not tops, drawer fronts, and other plywood where fancy veneers are used extensively. A considerable tonnage is also used in the lamination of insulating board to be used in refrigerators and for other purposes. . . There are 17 plants in the Pacific Northwest producing fir plywood. The smallest of these will produce about a hundred thousand square foot of plywood per day and the largest about three hundred thousand square feet.

Note that most of these were interior uses, since soybean glue was water resistant but not very water resistant, and definitely not waterproof. Note also that soybean glue was not used with fancy veneers since they were usually stained at it did not take stain well. A summary of the article was published by Horvath in 1933, together with sever good photographs of glue-making at the Laucks plant in Seattle.

In 1934 Laucks shut down his operations with Funk Bros. in Bloomington, Illinois, and built a soy flour and soybean glue plant in Norfolk, Virginia, in order to be close to the source of North Carolina soybeans and to expand the company's glue operations to the East Coast of the United States. By this time other companies (which?? where??) had begun making soybean glue (using a license from Laucks??) and there still weren't enough soybeans to go around (Cour 1955b; Cavanagh 1959).

The year 1934 marked the beginning of the end of the reign of soybean glue in the US plywood industry. In December of that year Dr. James Victor Nevin, a jolly, tireless, Irish immigrant researcher, who had joined Harbor Plywood Corporation in the fall of 1933 as chief of research, announced that he had developed America's first truly waterproof glue. Commercial production of Super Harbord, made with Nevin's cresylic resin (a type of phenolic resin) and the hotpress method, began in January 1935. The heat and pressure "cured" the new adhesive, producing an irreversible bond stronger than the wood itself. Nevin's glue, a synthetic material, provided one of the greatest advances in the history of the plywood industry, for now exterior plywood became a practical reality, opening up hundreds of new markets for plywood, including exterior and prefabricated housing, boat building, refrigeration, and railroad cars (Cour 1955b).

Hotpress gluing was developed in the late 1920s?? when?? by who?? After 1934 it began to revolutionize the plywood business, in part because waterproof resin glues required use of the hotpress method to set them. Many plants changed from coldpress to the hotpress. Steam-heating the pressing plates shortened the pressing time. Soybean glues were found to be exceptionally well suited to the high-speed hotpress method. In later years (when??) Laucks eventually perfected a soybean glue suitable for a hotpress operation. He introduced it at the Wheeler-Osgood Co. in Tacoma (Cour 1955b, p. 85). However the rush to hotpress methods was slowed in the late 1940s by the higher cost of hot presses (2.5 times as expensive), the removal of some disadvantages of the coldpress method, and improvements in the quality of cold-pressed plywood. . . all of which helped soybean glues. Moreover, phenolic resin hotpress plywood glues were extended with soybean meal (Babcock and Smith 1947; Burnett 1951b). But by the 1970s practically no cold pressing was done in the USA?? and production of softwood plywood was 50 to 100 times as great as that of hardwood plywood.

After the Nevin process was developed, Laucks did a lot of work developing urea resins. He made these in a plant which he purchased in Lockport, New York. When??

By 1934 most of the patents applied for by Laucks on research related to soy products had been granted. In 1938 he was granted his first and only foreign patent (British Patent 488,889) for improvements in soybean gluing, and in 1939 the company was issued two more US patents relating to soybean glues (2,150,175 and 2,178,178).

In later years, the company also developed a number of minor industrial uses for the soybean to try to stave off the losses from its sagging sales of soybean glue. They found that soybeans were a good emulsifying agent and developed formulas for emulsifying the petroleum products used in orchard sprays. They developed a number of uses for the soybean in paints, and in the adhesives used in washable wallpaper (Laucks 1944). Unrelated to soybeans, they also developed a synthetic vanilla flavoring (vanillin).

World War II proved to be a boon to the plywood industry. Production hit 1,782 million feet by 1942. Plywood was coming to be known as the jack of all trades of the building industry, and its virtues were starting to be appreciated: advantageous large panel size, reasonable price, split proof, puncture proof, strength and rigidity, ease of fabrication, lightness and workability, and durability with tremendous nail-holding power. For these reasons, plywood played a very active and important role during the war. New methods of evaluating strength and quality, developed by the US Forest Products Laboratory, became the basis of Federal and Naval Specifications for water-resistant plywood glues (Burnett 1951b, p. 1021). During World War II plywood made with soybean glue was found to come apart quite quickly when used in the South Pacific or other tropical climates. Extensive research was done to ascertain why soybean glue was not completely waterproof. At last the riddle was solved by Charles Cone. He discovered that after the plywood had been moistened (as by rain) and remained under certain conditions or moisture and warmth, certain fungi (especially molds) grew on the glueline and digested the protein in the glue, thus causing delamination. To counter this degradation by molds, preservatives began to be used in plywood glues (Kaufert 1944; Christensen 1945). Synthetic glues (such as phenol formaldehyde) replaced soybean glue in large part because they contained no protein. Later commercial standards practically eliminated protein-based glues.

The earliest production statistics seen for soybean glue date from the early 1940s. Van Arsdal (1940) reported that the largest single industrial use of soybean meal in the US was for making water-resistant plywood glue. About 16,000 tons (32 million lb) of meal a year were so used, and usage was expected to increase. Burnett (1951b) stated that in 1942, 60 million lb of soybean glue (dry basis) were used in plywood. This amount, together with a small amount of casein glue, represented 85% of the total plywood glue production. By 1945 the amount had fallen to 70%. In 1947 consumption of soybean glue was down to 25 million lb. An estimated two-thirds or more of the 1947 production of Douglas fir plywood was glued with soybean adhesive and hence intended for interior use, while one-third was glued with phenolic resins and intended for exterior use. In the plywood industry as a whole, soybean glues represented, on a dry basis, by far the largest tonnage of any type of adhesive.

Later Years (1942-82). In 1942 Laucks retired and moved to Orcas Island, in the San Juan Islands, in northwest Washington. But he kept up his interest in the plywood and soybean industries. In 1942 his company published a book titled Technique of Plywood by Charles B. Norris. In 1943 he wrote two articles summarizing his life's work with plywood and glues in Chemurgic Digest. In April 1944 these were condensed and published by Soybean Digest, which showed a nice picture of his plant in Portsmouth, Virginia. It also noted that the company had glue plants in Sweden, Vancouver, and Australia. In 1947 a government research report on soybean glues for plywood was published (Australia CSIR 1947).

In 1950 most of I.F. Laucks, Inc. was sold to the Monsanto Chemical Company, but the original laboratory in Seattle was purchased by two of its older employees. Monsanto was a major manufacturer of phenolic resins until the early 1980s. In 1985 Laucks Testing Laboratories, Inc., was still active in Seattle.

In 1953 Laucks moved to Healdsburg, Sonoma County, California. That year his book titled A Speculation in Reality, about science and physical research, was published by the Philosophical Library in New York. In April 1955 Robert Cour, while researching a book on the history of the US plywood industry, visited and interviewed him there. The 4-page transcript and Cour's resulting book have been key sources of information for this chapter. The book, titled The Plywood Age: A History of the Fir Plywood Industry's First Fifty Years, chronicles the changes that took place during Laucks' period of greatest activity and concludes with a summary of the industry in 1954-55. Some 3,903 million feet of fir plywood was produced by 100 mills using 116 hot presses and 81 cold presses. Sales of plywood glue were worth $21 million. The amount of this that was soybean glue was not given, though it was noted that 75% of all plywood was interior grade and only 25% exterior (Was much or most of the interior grades were still made with coldpress?? Why?? With soybean glue??) Nationwide, fir was by far the most widely used wood in making plywood. Oregon's 47 mills produced 47% of all fir plywood, while Washington's 36 mills produced 34% and California's 17 mills made 13%.

I.F. Laucks passed away in about?? 1982. A pioneer in both the soybean and the plywood industries, he was a hard worker who was willing to take risks. His successful development of soybean glue and the use of the soybean in industrial products set the stage for the chemurgic movement (see Chapter 66) and prompted many other pioneering companies to begin research on uses of soy proteins. Perhaps the main inheritor of Laucks' legacy was The Glidden Company.

People Consulted in the Preparation of this Chapter

Charles N. Cone
2309 SW First Ave. #1042
Portland, OR 97201

George Sleet & Bob Raymond
American Plywood Assoc
P.O. Box 1170
Tacoma, WA 98411

Frances Owens
Laucks Testing Laboratories, Inc.
940 S. Harney St.
Seattle, WA 98108