Skip to main content

William J. Hale papers

Identifier: 00176

Scope and Contents

The collection is arranged into 17 series: Biographical Materials; Personal Papers; Correspondence; Speeches; Publications; Biographical Files; National Agrol Co.; Verdurin Co.; patents; Research Notebooks; Reports/Hearings; History of American Chemical Industry; Subject Files; Audio / Visual materials; Ephemera; Microfilm; and Oversized material. The series are summarized below.

BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIALS Newspaper clippings, bibliographic lists, publications, autobiographical passages, commemorative papers and other materials providing biographical information on William Hale. Arranged alphabetically.

PERSONAL PAPERS Tied to the biographical series, this material contains personal correspondence, commemorative items, invitations and sketches. Two important sections include copies of the publishing contracts for Hale's books and letters/telegrams of condolence on the passing of William J. Hale in 1955. Arranged alphabetically.

ICORRESPONDENCE Primarily composed of business correspondence between Hale and various individuals concerning his commercial and personal research interests after leaving Dow. Main topic of interest is the development of the use of chlorophyll as a means to bettering health by way of improved foods. Arranged alphabetically by correspondent.

SPEECHES Collection of speeches delivered by Hale over the course of his career. The processing archivist maintained the order of the numbered folders in which Hale kept his speech files. Some speeches are dated and have notation of occasion of speech. Some speeches are duplicates and/or are slightly altered for place where speech was presented. At the end of the numeric list is a collection of non-numbered speeches arranged alphabetically. They were contained in non-numbered folders and could very well slip into the gaps in the numbered list, though there is no clear indication they fit completely. Arranged numerically by Hale assigned speech and number, then alphabetically by folder title of non-numbered folders.

PUBLICATIONS Articles and excerpts from larger works on various organic chemistry and chemurgic subjects. The majority are written by Hale, with some co-authored by Hale. Included in this series are reviews and letters on Chemivision and Farm Chemurgic. Arranged alphabetically.

BIOGRAPHICAL FILES Three folders of biographical materials Hale collected on Willard H. Dow, Henry Luce, and Fielding Harris Yost. Folders may contain correspondence. Arranged alphabetically.

NATIONAL AGROL CO. Materials reflecting Hale's involvement in the National Agrol Co. These files contain correspondence, reports, memoranda, publications, licensing and production agreements with foodstuff manufacturing companies. Also contains information on incorporation, patent applications, and stock development. Arranged alphabetically.

VERDURIN CO. This series marks Hale's involvement in the Verdurin Co. It also contains materials pertaining to business function following Hale's death. These business records include articles of incorporation, annual reports, bank statements, correspondence, ledgers, accounting records, business agreements, and advertisements. Arranged alphabetically.

PATENTS A collection of summaries, applications, farms, correspondence and other related materials for patents held in fields and processes in relation to activity within the Chemurgic movement. Included are patent materials for the National Agrol Co., The Verdurin Co., Larus and Brother Co., as well as other processes and products involving Hale outside of these companies. Arranged Alphabetically.

RESEARCH NOTEBOOKS Personal research notebooks William Hale kept periodically through the years 1919-1935. In the back of the 1935 notebook is a personal diary with varying amounts of information for the years 1935-1954. Arranged chronologically.

REPORTS/HEARINGS Published copy of testimony or reports given by Hale on Chemurgic related subjects. Arranged alphabetically.

HISTORY OF AMERICAN CHEMICAL INDUSTRY Hale initiated this project intended to chronicle the history of the American Chemical Industry in six volumes compiled by William Haynes and published by D. Van Nostrand Co. of New York. Hale called it a "scientific historical masterpiece." This series contains mostly correspondence with William Haynes. Arranged chronologically.

SUBJECT FILES General files maintained by Hale on a wide range of subjects - with heavy emphasis on chemistry, organic chemistry and chemurgy. Widely examined subjects include alcohol, cancer, chlorophyll, cigarettes and photosynthesis. Materials include notes, papers, reports, articles, advertisements, and correspondence. Arranged alphabetically.

AUDIO-VISUAL MATERIALS Photographic images of Hale with friends, family and colleagues as well as advertisements, reprints and awards.

Following the series arranged material are ephemera - personal items belonging to Hale. The collection contains one reel of microfilm of family scrapbooks chronicling activities in Hale and his family's lives between 1918 and 1954. The family maintains ownership and physical custody of the scrapbooks. There is also a list of oversized materials, mainly maps and large news articles.


  • Creation: 1906 - 1959
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1911 - 1959


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to publish material from this collection must be obtained from University Archives & Historical Collections, Michigan State University.

Biographical Note

William J. Hale was born January 5, 1876 in Ada, Ohio, to James Thomas and Emma Elizabeth (Ogle) Hale. James Thomas Hale was a Presbyterian minister and moved his family as assigned to various congregations throughout William's childhood.

William Hale attended the Miami University of Ohio, receiving A.B. and A.M. degrees in 1897 and was presented with an L.L.D. degree in 1937. He also attended Harvard University, receiving the degrees of A.B. in 1898, A.M. in 1899, and Ph.D. in 1902.

After completing his education Hale served as a Traveling Fellow in Chemistry, Technische Hochschule, Berlin, and University of Goettingen, 1902-1903. He taught for one term in 1903 at the University of Chicago. In 1904 he came to Michigan to teach chemistry at the University of Michigan. At U of M he served as instructor from 1904 to 1908; Assistant Professor from 1908-1915; and, Associate Professor from 1915-1919. There he also came into association with Dr. Herbert H. Dow. Hale and Dow developed a team of research and production scientists that formed the foundation of the quick growing Dow Chemical Co. It was also at U-M that he met Helen Dow, a student in his chemistry class. They married on February 7, 1917 and had a daughter, Ruth, on February 22, 1918. Shortly after Ruth's birth, Helen contracted the Spanish Flu and died October 16, 1918. William Hale never remarried.

After Helen's death, Hale took a position with Dow and moved Ruth, as well as his widowed mother living in Dayton, Ohio, to Midland, Michigan.

At Dow, Hale was Director of Organic Chemistry Research until 1934, serving as a consultant to the company thereafter. While director of Dow's organic chemical research laboratory, Hale played a large part in discovering processes to produce chemicals in vast quantities. Considered to be among his greatest such accomplishments were processes to increase production of indigo, chloracetic acid and phenyl ethyl alcohol. Hale and another Dow chemist, Dr. E. C. Britton, developed the chlorobenzene process for most efficient production of phenol. In addition, Hale founded and fathered the Dow Chemical Library.

Hale had numerous personal and professional interests outside of Dow Chemical. He was Chairman of Division Chemistry and Chemical Technology, National Research Council, Washington, D.C. from 1925-1927. He acted as consultant to the Chemical Warfare Service, from 1925-1929. He was a visiting Professor of Chemurgy at Connecticut College from 1936-1939. He was also named President of the National Agrol Co. in Washington D.C., 1939.

A Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Hale belonged to numerous professional societies, including: the London Chemical Society; the American Chemical Society; Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture; Societe Suissede Chimie; Societie Chemique de France; Deutsche Chemische Gesellschaft. He maintained lifetime association with Phi Beta Kappa, Sigma Xi, and Phi Lambda Upsilon. Socially he was a member of the Detroit Club, the Chemists Club (New York), the Cosmos Club (D.C.), and the Chevy Chase Club (Md.)

In 1939, Hale purchased from the Chemical Foundation a corporation that came to be named the National Agrol Co. The National Agrol Co. sought to discover means of producing agricultural alcohol, and other farm products, at costs far below any known method. After reorganizing the corporation in 1941 and 1946, the corporation controlled a plant in Lincoln, Nebraska to produce commercial chemurgic products. The corporation held over 40 patents and 40 patent applications, and produced products like chlorophyletts, a chlorophyll-based chewing gum.

Hale lectured on chemurgy and chemistry throughout his career, and was a prolific writer as well. A sampling of titles authored by Hale include: A Laboratory Outline of General Chemistry (w/ Alexander Smith), 1907; The Calculations of General Chemistry, 1909; Chemistry Triumphant, 1932; The Farm Chemurgic, 1934; Prosperity Beckons, 1936; Farmward March, 1939; and, Farmer Victorious, 1949.

In 1951 Hale was named President of the Verdurin Company of Detroit and Midland, and held that position until his death on August 8, 1955.

Hale was considered to be the Father of Chemurgy, having coined the term "chemurgy" out of the Greek expressions signifying "chemistry at work." According to Hale, "'Chemurgy' is a word I had need to coin to depict that field of chemistry initiated not by man but by Nature. It is best defined as the 'direction of nature's life agencies to the production of chemicals for industry.'" Hale also believed that the greatest of all chemurgic industries would be the ethyl alcohol industry.

Hale used the term "chemurgist" in the beginning of his 1934 text Farm Chemurgic, to describe the use and potential benefit from the use of organic materials - notably farm and agricultural products - for industrial applications. Chemurgy was not considered by many scientific professionals of the day to be a standard term for describing industrial chemistry from organic matter. By the late 1960s, "biochemical engineering" replaced "Chemurgy" as the label used to describe natural product chemistry with industrial applications.


11 Cubic Feet (, microfilm, oversized materials)

Language of Materials


Organization of the Papers

This collection is organized into 14 series

Missing Title

  1. I. Biographical Materials
  2. II. Personal Papers
  3. III. Correspondence
  4. IV. Speeches
  5. V. Publications
  6. VI. Biographical Files
  7. VII. National Agrol Co.
  8. VIII. Verdurin Co.
  9. IX. Patents
  10. X. Research Notebooks
  11. XI. Reports/ Hearings
  12. XII. History of American Chemical Industry
  13. XIII. Subject Files
  14. XIV. Audio-Visual Materials

Custodial History

Gift of Ruth Hale Buchanan and David Wright.

Related Archival Materials

See also Leo M. Christensen papers, 1837-1972 (00174) at University Archives & Historical Collections, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan.

See also Farm Chemurgic Council records, 1909-1983 (00177) at University Archives & Historical Collections, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan.

Legal Status

Copyright: Michigan State University. Property Rights: Michigan State University.

William J. Hale Papers
4 Published And Cataloged
J. Mazak
July 2001
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the University Archives and Historical Collections Repository

Conrad Hall
943 Conrad Road, Room 101
East Lansing MI 48824 US