The Czechoslovak Review/Volume 3/Chemical Industries in Czechoslovakia

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The Bohemian Review, volume 3, no. 1 (1919)
Chemical Industries in Czechoslovakia by J. Pelc
4195470The Bohemian Review, volume 3, no. 1 — Chemical Industries in Czechoslovakia1919J. Pelc

Chemical Industries in Czechoslovakia

By J. Pelc, Research Chemist.

It is only natural that a successful economic and industrial revolution in the Czechoslovak lands will follow the successful political revolution which has just taken place. The future of not only Bohemia, Moravia, Silesia and Slovakia, but of all new Slav states in Central Europe is closely bound up with the industrial development of natural resources of these countries.

Several important branches of the chemical industry have flourished in Czechoslovakia. For the last fifty years Czech chemists were leaders in the sugar industry, raw sugar production and refining of sugar. But unfortunately nearly all magnificent researches in the chemistry of sugars, performed by Czech chemists, were published in German chemical journals, and consequently credit for them was given to Germans. Czech metallurgists and mining engineers, graduates of the Příbram Mining Academy and of the Technical Universities of Prague and Brno, could not find employment in mines, steel mills and foundries owned by their own people, since most of the big plants were in German hands. Silver mines of Příbram and the gold and radium ore mines of Jáchymov were the property of the Austrian state, while steel mills and iron ore mines of Nucic, Kladno and Vítkovice were in the hands of the German steel trust, the chief competitor of the United States Steel Corporation.

All chemical patents were published only in German, and for this reason the patentees were all classed as German chemists. Paints, dyes, synthetic drugs, medicines, organic compounds were mostly imported from Germany; the few Czech manufactorers who started chemical works operated under the most unfavorable circumstances, because the Austrian government would not help the Czech chemical industry to established itself.

Soap industry and nitrate production, charcoal, brick anl lime manufacturing, were not concentrated and for that reason were not considered important branches of chemical industries. All this manufacturing was carried on by individuals who did not dare to invest more capital in their factories, because the Austrian government would not encourage their export business and in fact favored imports from Germany into Austria. Czech potteries and ceramic works which were producing very artistic and beautiful objects received no encouragement from the Vienna government. The favor of the German rulers of Austria was extended to breweries and distilleries paying high taxes and owned in most cases by German and Jews; the government was willing to encourage the consumption of beer and alcohol, even though in many parts of Austria alcoholism had come to be a terrible evil.

These are only a few examples showing the attitude of the old Austria toward chemical industries in the Czechoslovak lands. It was impossible that Czech industries should flourish, while the government openly favored both the Austrian Germans and the manufacturers of Germany as against Czech enterprise.

Hard work, very hard work, is in store for Czech chemists and manufacturers, and it will take a long time, before all German influence is removed from technical schools, societies, factories, and from the economic and industrial life in general. The fight for liberation is not completed; Czechoslovaks must keep up their revolutionary struggle, until they win also economic victory and full industrial freedom. Big problems are being solved at the present moment in the chemical world, and Czechoslovak chemists must participate fully in their solution and prove to the world that the energy of the nation was not exhausted in the fight for political liberty.

Agricultural chemistry should above all command the immeliatc attention of Czech chemists. The new government ought to assist them to create a big organisation of analytical, research and manufacturing chemists so as to increase the productiveness of soil and to studv ways of utilising waste and by-products. From the manufacturing point of view will involve princinally the manufacturing of fertilisers first, by fixation of atmospheric nitrogen as nitric acid and its salts or as ammonia and salts, and second from waste products like bones, sugar residues, sewage, etc. The question of atmospheric nitrogen must not be neglected in Czechoslovak lands, because a German-Swedish syndicate is waiting for the first opportunity to invade Czechoslovakia with synthetic nitrates.

Agriculture supported by chemical science and by favorable patent and protective laws will work wonders for the industrial development of Czechoslovak lands. Modern condensing and desiccating plants for milk, eggs, fruits and vegetables, epecially potatoes, will develop farming and dairying, will substitute the export of milk powder and condensed milk for the export of inferior cheese and cheese products, and will help in the development of fruit and poultry farming. Packing and canning industry will follow the agricultural development. Canning fruits and making jams, jellies and “povidla” will make many districts far richer than feeding fruits to hogs and cattle or utilizing them for making brandies like the famous “slivovice”.

State analytical and research laboratories will of course have to work hand in hand with manufacturers. New schools, university courses for pure chemistry and technical institutes for applied chemistry must be established.

Another important branch of agricultural chemistry is cultivation of medicinal plants that was raised to a very high degree of perfection here in United States. Austrian Pharmacological Institute was making experiments in Moravia before the war, but the results have not been published. Since Czechoslovak lands are the habitat of many well known medicinal plants like Beladonna, Digitalis, Rhubarb, Sage, etc., and the climate is excellent for the cultivation of nearly all medicinal plants except tropical drugs, this industry can be developed so as to be a source of national wealth.

With packing and oil industry there must be connected the production of fatty acids for soaps with glycerine as by-product, manufacturing of natural fertilizers, glue and gelatine.

Wood and peat industry in Czechoslovakia is waiting for more extensive industrial development which would be safe from the influence of capitalists from Vienna and Germany. Wood and peat are very important not only for fuel, but for the manufacturing of wood and industrial grain alcohol, pyroligneous oils, acids and cellulose. New uses must be found for products from lignite, or as it called in Bohemia, brown coal. Peat cellulose can be worked up as a substitute for wool; wood cellulose is excellent for fireproof pyrocellulose and celluloid as well nitrocellulose for artificial leather and rubber. Celluloid industry will need artificial camphorr which will need pinene oils, epecially turpentine, for its production.

Iron and steel industry must be taken over and placed in the hands of Czech manufacturers. Access to the sea or seas will present the opportuninty not only to get cheap salt, but to start the production of the important hydrochloric acid, bromine and iodine and their acids and salts.

Dyes, synthetic drugs and all coal tar chemicals will be produced by Czech chemists and manufacturers not only for home industries, but also for export to neighboring Slavic states, because Czechoslovak patent and tariff laws will not favor the export of crude coal tar products to Germany, but rather the home production of coal tar, coke, benzol, toluol, aniline and subsequent production of dyes and drugs.

Compressed gases like air, oxygen, acetylene, alcohol and vinegar production from acetylene, wood, animal and mineral carbon industry, production of artificial gems, manufacturing of building materials like gypsum and cements, insecticides, utilization of starches are only a few of the important problems which are to be solved by Czech chemists for the good of Czech chemical industry.

The line of chemical industries in Czechoslovakia waiting for chemists and enterprising men is really inexhaustible. What must be emphasized here is this: our Czech and Slovak countrymen here in United States should study the economic situation and consider well the opportunity for investments in Czechoslovak chemical industries. Such investments will serve a double purpose. First as profitable investments, second as protection against new German and Hungarian economic and industrial expansion in the new Middle European States. German military and political autocracy has been defeated, but German industrial autocracy is making preparations for a new economical offensive. This offensive will be just as dangerous as any military or peace offensive. The German dye trust is making preparation and will be spending millions in advertising to regain its pre-war position on the world’s dye market: they invaded all neutral countries during the war and bought securities in all important chemical industries of Sweden, Holland, Spain, etc. What Germany lost in war, it will try to win hack by industrial war, and the new Republic of Czechoslovakia will be affected before every one else by this German economic and industrial offensive.

Every new factory or industrial plant in Czechoslovak or, other Slavic lands, every chemical laboratory will be an industrial Verdun against German economic expansion in Europe. Our political leaders, our army did their duty. The time is coming, when we shall need a big organization of Slav science, capital and labor, which would hold Czechoslovakia and the other Slav states safe against German autocracy and tyranny in economic and industrial life.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published in 1919, before the cutoff of January 1, 1929.

This work may be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.

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