Salicylic Acid Certificate


William Zinsser (1828-1901) was born in Germany, moved to the United States in 1849, settled in New York, and formed a firm to manufacture shellac. In 1874, after a German chemist named Hermann Kolbe patented a method for producing salicylic acid, Zinsser formed The United States Salycilic Acid Works. This firm won an award at the Centennial Exhibition held in Philadelphia in 1876. Zinsser’s son donated this photocopy of that award to the Smithsonian, noting that it represented the first synthetic organic chemical made on a commercial scale in the United States. Salycilic acid had, of course, long been used for medicinal purposes, and would later be available as Aspirin. In 1896, following the introduction of Bayer Aspirin, William Zinsser & Co. petitioned Congress for a protective tariff. When this relief was not forthcoming, the American Salicylic Acid Works went out of business.

Ref: C. L. Mitchell, “Salycilic Acid—Its History, Production, Preparations, &c.,” Monthly Review of Medicine and Pharmacy 4 (March 1881): 87-92.

“Chemicals at the Centennial: The American Exhibit,” Scientific American 35 (Sept. 30, 1876): 216-217.

Ad for W. Zinsser & Co., Lackers Varnishes, White Shellac, and “Agents for U.S. Salicylic Acid Works,” Scientific American 38 (June 22, 1878): 398.

Tariff Hearings Before the Committee on Ways and Means 54th Congress, 2d Session, U.S. Congress, House of Representatives, Doc. #338 (Washington, D.C., 1896), p. 20.

Location: Currently not on view

See more items in: Medicine and Science: Physical Sciences


Exhibition Location:

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: PH.319203Catalog Number: 319203Accession Number: 144164

Object Name: certificate

Measurements: overall: 43 cm x 27 1/2 in; 16 15/16 in x 69.85 cmoverall: 16 7/8 in x 10 3/4 in; 42.8625 cm x 27.305 cm


Record Id: nmah_1756646

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