History of Industrial Uses of Soybeans (Nonfood, Nonfeed) (660 CE-2017)

William Shurtleff, Akiko AoyagiISBN: 978-1-928914-98-3

Publication Date: 2017 Dec. 2

Number of References in Bibliography: 5569

Earliest Reference: 660 CE

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Brief Chronology/Timeline of Industrial Uses of Soybeans

660 CE – The saponins in soybeans start to be used in making soaps (Qianjin Yifang, by Sun Simo).

980 CE – Soybean oil, used as a drying oil, starts to be used for caulking boats – probably together with other substances (Wulei Xianggan Zhi, by Lu Zanning).

1621 – Soybean presscake (or cake, the residue from pressing the oil from whole crushed soybeans) starts to be used as a fertilizer (Qunfang Pu, by Wang Xiangjin). Increasingly it is used to fertilize rice fields or mulberry trees in southern China.

1844 Aug.– Unrefined soybean oil, used as nondrying oil, is now used for illumination or lighting by burning it in wicked lamps like kerosene (Agricultural and Horticultural Society of India, Proceedings and Report (Calcutta).

1870 Dec. – Emil Bretschneider (M.D., of China) repeats the ideas that soy oil is used for “lighting lamps. The Bean-cakes are exported to Swatow [pinyin: Shantou, in Guangdong Province, southern China] for purposes of manure in the Sugar plantations (Chinese Recorder and Missionary Journal {Foochow}, p. 172-78).

1878 – Friedrich Haberlandt of Vienna quotes Mr. Carl Berndt: “To what extent the [soybean] oil could be used for industrial [non-food] purposes, especially as a mordant (Beize) for the dyeing of Turkish-red, which uses very old, spent oil (that is soluble in carbonic potassium) can only be established when a sufficient quantity of oil becomes available” (Die Sojabohne, Part I, pages 10-15).

1880 March 20 – Soybean oil, as a drying oil, is now being used in making paints. “The oil is available for many uses – for burning in lamps or even as a substitute for olive oil. Being somewhat of a siccative [drying] nature, it is not adapted for a lubricant, but it is for that reason useful as a substitute for linseed oil in the manufacture of paints and in other similar industrial arts” (Newbernian {New Bern, North Carolina}, p. 4).

1895 – Soy sauce starts to be used as a key ingredient in culture media for growing microorganisms, specifically molds (Miyoshi 1895, p. 269-89).

1903 Dec. – Oscar Nagel, in a landmark paper presented before the Chemists’ Club in New York titled “On vegetable protein,” first describes how to make “vegetable casein” (soy protein) and how to use it for making industrial products. The author divides vegetable protein into two main types: Albumin and casein.

1908 Aug. – Unrefined soybean oil is now used as a nondrying oil to make a substitute for Indian rubber and as a lubricating oil (as for greasing cart axles) (Y. Nishiyama, Kogyo Kagaku Zasshi, p. 747-68).

1909 Aug. 30 – Unrefined soybean oil, used as a drying oil, is now used as ingredient in making linoleum (Oil, Paint and Drug Reporter, p. 16).

1910 – The Paint Manufacturers' Association of the United States is now using soya bean oil in making paints – to replace linseed oil which has risen in price dramatically. Henry A. Gardner is the lead experimenter (Cushman and Gardner. 1910. The Corrosion and Preservation of Iron and Steel. p. 274-75).

1910 July – The earliest known statistics on the industrial use of soybean products is published, concerning the imports of bean cakes for use as a nitrogen fertilizer into Japan from China. “A detailed table showing the quantities and values imported during the past three years will be found in Table 1 (B), page 61. Bean cake, of course, heads the list as regards value. The total amount imported in 1909 was 575,180 tons,… as compared with 461,950 tons… in 1908.” “It is a well-known fact that bean cake has for years occupied the position of the most popular imported fertiliser in Japan. Now, however, that the United Kingdom, and the Continent of Europe and America to a lesser extent, have become purchasers of Manchurian beans the questions arises as to whether Japan will be able to continue to buy bean cake in huge quantities if the price rises appreciably” (Crowe. 1910. “Japan.” Diplomatic and Consular Reports, Annual Series {Foreign Office, Great Britain} No. 4511. 86 p.).

1910 Dec. 30 – Soy protein starts to be used to make plastics (sojalithe, a hard plastic) (Li Yu-ying. British patent 30,275. “Vegetable milk and its derivatives.” Date of application: 30 Dec. 1910).

1911 June 10 – Soy protein is used in the preparation of silks and artificial textiles. It may be used also for the sizing (coating used to fill the pores) of paper, which consumes such large quantities of ordinary casein. This vegetable casein may also be used to make paint – later called “water-based paint” (F.J.-G. Beltzer. 1911. Revue Scientifique. p. 716-20).

1911 June 10 – Unrefined soy oil is now being used to make candles. However no description or details are given as to how the candles are actually made. Were they made from hydrogenated soybean oil? (Figart. 1911. Daily Consular and Trade Reports {U.S. Bureau of Manufactures, Department of Commerce and Labor}. June 10, p. 116).

1911 Aug. – Soy protein starts to be used to make glues and adhesives (F.J-G. Beltzer. 1911. Revue de Chimie Industrielle et le Moniteur Scientifique, Quesneville. Aug. p. 241-51).

1911 Aug. 19Scientific American Supplement (p. 115) is the earliest English-language document seen (Dec. 2017) that uses the term “vegetable casein” or the term “pure casein” to refer to an isolated soy protein product, which is used for industrial purposes.

Note: This article is based on two French-language articles by F.J-G. Beltzer, published earlier in 1911 (see above).

1911 – Glycerine from unrefined soy oil is now used to make printing inks and glycerine (Sawer, p. 209).

1917 – The quantity of unrefined soybean oil used for making soaps in the United States “increased from 1,182,000 lb. in 1912 to 124,058,000 in 1917, in which year it was practically on a par with cottonseed oil as a soap-making material and represented 24 per cent of the total vegetable oils used in that industry” (Piper & Morse. 1923, p. 200).

1920 – Unrefined soy oil, used as a drying oil, starts to be used as a binder for sand foundry cores (J.R. Battle. The Handbook of Industrial Oil Engineering, p. 620).

1921 Dec. – Soy oil is first used successfully in Japan to make “artificial petroleum” (K. Kobayashi. 1921. Ni, san shokubutsu oyobi kôyu yori jinzô sekiyu seizô shiken [Artificial petroleum from soyabean oil, cocoanut oil, and stearine]. Kogyo Kagaku Zasshi {J. of Chemical Industry, Japan}. 24(12):1421-24. Dec.).

These results with soy oil were repeated by Masakadu (1921), Sato (1922), Masakazu (1923), South Manchuria Railway Co. (1924) and many others thereafter.

1923 fall – I.F. Laucks, Inc. (in Seattle, Washington) starts to make and sell soybean flour to make plywood glue in the Pacific Northwest of the USA. 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 (a milk protein) to soybean glue. Thus, the first commercial production of plywood using soybean glue occurred in the fall of 1923 (Cour. 1955. The Plywood Age; Soybean Digest, Jan. 1961, p. 19).

However the year “1926 proved to be the turning point in the life history of soy-bean glue” (Horvath. 1933. J. of Chemical Education. Jan. p. 5-12).

The glue was patented by Irving F. Laucks and Glenn Davidson (both of Seattle) as U.S. Patent 1,689,732 (application filed 29 Oct. 1923), then assigned to I.F. Laucks, Inc.

1926 Oct. 2 – A key early article in the farm chemurgic movement is “Farming must become a chemical industry: Development of co-products will solve present agricultural crisis,” by William J. Hale, published in the Dearborn Independent (Michigan; owned by Henry Ford) (p. 4-5, 24-26). Hale is Chairman, Div. of Chemistry and Chemical Technology, National Research Council. The chemurgic movement is a pioneer in finding industrial uses for farm crops.

1926 Oct. – A 2nd key early article in the farm chemurgic movement is “Do we need this foundation?” by Wheeler McMillen, published in Farm & Fireside (Oct. p. 6).

1927 Jan. – A 3rd key early article in the farm chemurgic movement is “Wanted: Machines to eat up our crop surplus,” by Wheeler McMillen, published in Farm & Fireside (Jan., p. 10, 30).

1927 July 17 – Soybean lecithin is first described for use in an industrial process – for greasing leather (H. Bollmann and Bruno Rewald. German patent 514,399).

1928 May – “Soya-bean casein glue,” made from soya bean flour, is first use to glue plywood (Veneers {Indiana}, May, p. 36).

1933 March – Henry Ford’s work with industrial uses of soybeans starts to bear fruit. The Ford Motor Co. is the first to develop a synthetic resin. “The crops produced here [near Dearborn, Michigan] do not compete with any market crops, since the greater part has been put through the distillation plant of the Ford chemical laboratory and much of the soy bean oil is being used in the paint shop at the Highland Park plant of the Ford Motor Company.

“Experiments undertaken with the soy bean have developed a product [later called soy plastics] that can be moulded to shape and used in manufacturing small parts of the Ford car. A synthetic resinous product produced from the oil is being used as a body for paint. It is expected that this will result in a more durable and beautiful finish when experiments are complete. More than 150 different tests have been made to find uses for the bean product” (Ford News, p. 49-51, “Experimenting with the soy bean”).

1934 Aug. – The first major book about farm chemurgy is The Farm Chemurgic: Farmward the Star of Destiny Lights Our Way, by William J. Hale (201 p.). Note that 1934 is in the midst of the Great Depression.

1935 May 7-8 – The first national chemurgic conference is held in Dearborn, Michigan. Hosted by Henry Ford, it is attended by about 300 leaders in industry. The Proceedings of the Dearborn Conference of Agriculture, Industry, and Science are published by the National Farm Chemurgic Council (256 p.). In subsequent years similar national and regional meetings are held almost every year.

Note: The Farm Chemurgic Council, soon renamed the National Farm Chemurgic Council, was established in 1935 to promote industrial uses of farm crops.

1935 June – Unrefined soybean oil is first used as a carrier (adjuvant) for insecticides (Purdue Agriculturist, p. 83, 86).

1936 – Percy Lavon Julian arrives at The Glidden Co. (Chicago) as a steroid chemist from the faculty at DePauw University. He works at Glidden for 18 years as an organic chemist.

1937 Sept. 1 – The first issue of the Farm Chemurgic Journal, a monthly, is published. In it are the Proceedings of the Third Dearborn Conference of Agriculture, Industry and Science.

1940 April – Soybean oil is now being used to make detergents and (by Percy Julian) sterols. Concerning the latter: “Somewhat less than half of the total unsaponifiable matter of the crude oil consists of a mixture of sterols, principally sitosterols, dihydrositosterol, and stigmasterol... Because of the interest in stigmasterol as a source of material for the preparation of certain sex hormones, the recovery of this substance from the crude mixture of sterols has attracted considerable attention” (ACE No. 31. “Soybean oil”).

1941 Jan. – The Northern Regional Research Center opens in Peoria, Illinois. It is one of four regional laboratories established by the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1938 (section 202) to find new industrial uses for farm crops. In July 1978 it was renamed the Northern Regional Research Center (NRRC). In 1990 it was renamed the National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research. As of 2017 these four important laboratories still exist.

1941 July – Alpha protein, made from soy protein by The Glidden Co. in Chicago and invented by Percy Julian, has been used since about 1938 to make foams for fighting fires. During World War II, this foam was called “pea soup” and was carried aboard almost every U.S. Navy fighting ship. Adrian Joyce, president of The Glidden Co., writes: “The Glidden Company produces seven and one-half tons per day of alpha protein at its plant in Chicago, Illinois and its principal customers are found in the paper industry where it is used in combination with glue as a paper coating and in combination with rosin as a paper sizing. Considerable quantities are also marketed for cold water paints, and at the present time The Glidden Company is supplying a contractor for the United States Navy with a fire foam fighting material made with alpha protein. It is our understanding that this fire foam fighting material is the most effective that has been found and the United States Navy has accorded a priority rating for material required for this particular purpose. The Glidden Company could market at least three times its present output but the cost of erection is very great...” (Unpublished “Brief concerning soybean proteins.” Cleveland, Ohio, 3 p.).

1943 Nov. – “Soybean oil holds a unique place among vegetable oils in the diversity of its uses. It is the only edible oil which has any considerable drying properties. With the exception of soybean oil, the main edible oils, cottonseed, cocoanut, corn and peanut, are not drying oils. With the exception of soybean oil, the main drying oils, tung, linseed, castor, are not economically edible. Soybean oil, therefore, has a major place in two major industries” (Soybean Digest. p. 4-5. “Soybean oil in paints and varnishes”).

1945 June – An article by titled “Soybean oil: A study of edible and industrial uses,” by O.H. Alderks gives the best statistics seen to date concerning industrial uses of soy oil (Soybean Digest. p. 10-14). These statistics show:

The most active period for industrial uses of soy oil in the USA was 1930-1942. Most industrial uses of soy oil were made illegal during World War II.

The most popular industrial use for soy oil was in paints and varnishes, which peaked in 1941 at 41.5 million pounds.

The 2nd most popular industrial use for soy oil was in soap, which peaked in 1942 at 31.5 million pounds.

The 3rd most popular industrial use for soy oil was in linoleum and oilcloth, which peaked in 1941 at 7.5 million pounds.

1949 Nov. – Percy Julian, an African-American chemist who heads The Glidden Company’s soya products research staff, has developed a less expensive way of synthesizing Cortisone which can be used to treat rheumatoid arthritis. (Soybean Digest, p. 19).

One of America’s leading organic chemists, Julian has also synthesized from the soybean the sex hormones, progesterone and testosterone, which are used in the treatment of expectant mothers (Soybean Digest, 1950, July, p. 35).

1955 Jan. – Soybean oil emulsions start to be used as a dust suppressant (J. of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, p. 69-71).

1962 Oct. 16 – Polyurethane foams are the subject of U.S. patent 3,058,925.

1980 Jan. – A USDA report titled “Prevention of dust explosions in grain elevators – an achievable goal: A task force report,” states (Foreword, p. iii): “In the last 21 years there have been at least 250 dust explosions in grain elevators and feed mills in the United States. The losses have been great with at least 164 deaths, 605 injured, and hundreds of millions of dollars worth of property destroyed.” Soy is mentioned on 29 pages of this 172-page report. See also Lei et al. 1981.

1984 Oct. – The word “Bio-Diesel” (regardless of capitalization or hyphenation) first appears in print in English (Power Farming Magazine {Sydney, Australia}, p. 10).

1980s – The New Uses Movement begins in the United States, based on the principles of the Chemurgic Movement 50 years earlier (Jeff Gain. 1993 Aug.).

1990s – Soy oil, used as a drying oil in polyurethane foams, soon starts to be used as spray insulation (as in homes) and to make "clamshell" food containers and plastic cups.

1994 Jan. – The United Soybean Board holds the Value-Added Soybean Summit in Chesterfield, Missouri. Out of this meeting comes a 20-page report titled “Gaining a competitive edge globally.”

2003 Summer – The Ford Motor Co. introduces a concept vehicle, the Model U, that includes many "green" features, including 2 soy-based components: (1) Soy-based polyurethane foams (made with SoyOyl) are used in cushioning the seats. (2) A soy-based resin, reinforced with fiberglass, is used in the vehicle's panels (Iowa Soybean Review, p. 12).

In 2007 (July 13) Ford announces it will use soy-based form in commercial Ford Mustang seats. Ford's foam will be 40% soy oil based and 60% petroleum based (Associated Press in Los Angeles Times).

2005 – Knothe, Van Gerpen and Krahl write The Biodiesel Handbook, published by AOCS Press (Champaign, Illinois; ix + 302 pages; 793 references). A comprehensive, outstanding work. Chapter 2 is “The history of vegetable oil-based diesel fuels,” which notes that during and immediately after World War II, the main use of vegetable oils as emergency fuels seems to have been outside of Europe, in countries like Brazil and China.

2005Biodiesel: Growing a New Energy Economy, by Greg Pahl is published by Chelsea Green (xiv + 281 p). Excellent on international biodiesel history.

2006 – The National Biodiesel Board opens its Washington, D.C. office. The office is committed to raising awareness of biodiesel successes, while advancing positive federal energy policy.

2006Biodiesel America, by Josh Tickell is published (340 p.).

2007 Feb. 6 –“Forgotten Genius: Percy Julian,” a two-hour documentary produced by Nova, is aired on PBS television. It is the best biography of Julian seen to date. Dr. Percy Lavon Julian lived 1899-1975 and was employed as an organic chemist by The Glidden Co.

2007 – The US biodiesel industry produces 500 million gallons of fuel, up dramatically from 500,000 gallons in 1999.

2008 June – An excellent biographical article “Giants of the past: Percy Lavon Julian (1899-1975): A forgotten pioneer in soy,” by James Kanar, is published in INFORM (AOCS) (p. 411-14).

2008 – President Bush signs legislation establishing the renewable fuel standard (RFS2) providing a mandate of use of biomass based diesel for obligated parties.

2009 – Pennsylvania biodiesel requirement triggers 2 percent biodiesel in all diesel fuel, to begin January 1, 2010.

Oregon B2 standard begins, with an increase to B5 in 2011.

2010 Feb. – “More than 30 nationally recognized furniture companies turn to soy-based foam: soybean oil adds green comfort to sofas, mattresses and more,” by Lewis Bainbridge published in Iowa Soybean Review (p. 10-12).

2011 – The US biodiesel industry breaks the 1 billion gallons produced mark.

2012 – The National Biodiesel Board celebrates its 20th year.

2016 – The US biodiesel industry breaks the 1.8 billion gallons produced mark, according to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) statistics.

According to a recent study, the industry supports about 64,000 jobs nationwide. Biodiesel reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 57 to 86 percent, according to the EPA. (http://biodiesel.org/production/production-statistics).

2017 Oct. – 90% of America’s daily newspapers now use soy ink (Ag Innovation News, Oct/Dec. p. 11).

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