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Pillsbury Chemical and Oil

Pillsbury Oil and Chemical is now a defunct manufacturer of industrial lubricants and coolants. The company was located at 139 Summit Street in Southwest Detroit, south of the Mexican Village, between Fort and Jefferson streets, and near the Detroit Marine Terminal. Shortly after being acquired by Novamax, Inc., in 1992, the site had been used solely for subcontracted manufacturing, under the name of Tolling Specialties, Inc., of ex-Pillsbury’s main brand product lines which by then were marketed from Novamax, Inc. Livonia facility.

According to one of the ex-employees, Pillsbury Oil and Chemical started when Henry Ford set George Pillsbury up in business to make a heavy duty drawing/stamping compound (Drawco P-10, the flagship of the company's famed Drawco product line) for his River Rouge Plant.

According to another account, George Pillsbury was a relative of the Pillsbury's of cake and pastry fame. Summit Street was not its original location, and it originally housed a copper and/or brass smelting operation. Imbedded in the concrete floor of the shipping room of the Summit Street plant building there was a small medallion that was similar to a geological survey marker that had that company's name on it.

Roy Hergenroether, a PC&O veteran and a prime example of German-American-work ethic, who died in the late 80s, worked for George Pillsbury in the early days and used to mention an earlier street name that can no longer be remembered. Drawco P-10 was the only profuct they made for a while, a few drums at a time, all day long. Eventually the product line expanded to other drawing compounds, to some oils as well as to cutting fluids and coolants.

Bob Rauth bought the 139 Summit operation in 1979. According to one account, the place was "a mad house and a hell hole". Bob, Harris Vahle and Bill Burr came from Stuart Oil and worked hard to make a go of it. The PC&O's prophits were about $750,000 when Bob Rauth bought it and they turned into about $10 million in ten years. It was starting to slip before he sold it to Novamax around 1991 or 1992 and the operations were moved to Livonia, joining the already established Novamax coatings plant. Henkel AG bought Novamax in 1995 or 1996 along with the Circlene, Drawco and Pure Tek brand names.

Pillsbury Oil and Chemicals of 1980s could be characterized as a place of vibrant business and positive working atmosphere; the company’s ex-employees remember fondly the tradition of lunch-time or Friday night outings for pizza, subs and other foods available in the nearby Italian and Mexican establishments of Springwells Village and Mexicantown. [1]


  1. ^ Several photos of life and work at the Summit Street and Livonia locations
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Pillsbury_Chemical_and_Oil". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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