Siegfried in America – the Whole Story

Why did Siegfried come to America almost 100 years ago? To avoid the high US import duties and to bring a successful European product – Phenobarbital – to the US market.  

It all started in 1927, when Siegfried and Gane & Ingram Incorporated (distributors of Siegfried products in the US) agreed to establish a manufacturing site in New Jersey.  Amazingly, Siegfried’s initial investment was “only” $10,000, good for 50% ownership of the new company, Gane’s Chemical Work Incorporated, later renamed Gane’s Chemical Works Inc.

The new company purchased an old aromatics manufacturing plant in Carlstadt, about 10 miles west of New York City.  Our first plant manager, Dr. George Schudel, was assisted by Hans Siegfried – the Chairman of the Board, who stayed the better part of a year – to help set up a manufacturing facility.

War-time success & a turnaround

In the 1930’s, the Carlstadt plant improved production processes that helped make Gane’s a leading supplier of quality bulk pharmaceuticals in the US, all the way through the Second World War. These key products included:

  • Sulfanilamide (antibiotic)
  • Theophylline (bronchodilator)
  • Phenylephrine (decongestant)


In 1950, Siegfried took over sole ownership of Gane’s.  By then, sales had declined to $600,000 and new thinking was needed to revitalize the company.  An agreement was reached with Diethelm & Keller, a Swiss company, to share administrative and marketing personnel, and their offices on Fifth Avenue in New York City.  The arrangement worked; throughout the 1950s, Gane’s focused on barbiturates and by the end of the decade, sales had risen to almost $2 million. 

Building in Pennsville

During the 1960s, Gane’s expanded its product lines and became a significant supplier for decongestants.  By 1970, sales had reached $4.8 million and Gane’s focused increasingly on manufacturing customized goods.  Growing demand and space limitations in Carlstadt led to the purchase of 113 acres in Pennsville to build a new manufacturing site.  Construction began in 1972 and in July 1973 the Pennsville Record newspaper announced: “SIEGFRIED CHEMICALS HOLDS OPEN HOUSE”.

In the beginning, the Pennsville site consisted of an office building, a warehouse, a packing and shipping building; a manufacturing and utilities building; and an effluent treatment facility.  Larger than the Carlstadt plant, Pennsville also had room for Schedule II controlled substances.  The first products were shipped in July 1973.

Changing locations and names

To improve communications between the administrative offices – still in New York City – and the two manufacturing plants in New Jersey, Gane’s built a new corporate headquarters in 1989 in Carlstadt, right across the street from the manufacturing plant.

In the 1990’s, a number of Carlstadt employees regularly drove up and down the turnpike to assist in Pennsville and carry news and information between both sites (this was before e-mail was a big thing).  Sometimes, this included carrying supplies and samples. 


Joey talks about Siegfried

Our American adventure would not be complete without mentioning our most important asset: our people.  Take Joey McCaffery, for instance, who has been with the company for 39 years.  He remembers working for $4.65 / hour, when there was no lab building or bio plant.  “In those days”, Joey said “we didn’t have warehouse people so we did all our own packing and shipping.  There was no shift work and we worked five days a week, 8 hours a day, so the boiler operator kept an eye on the kettles overnight and on the weekends.” 

Finally, Joey mentioned how he was never laid off, even during downturns, and enjoyed a decent salary with benefits.

Good-bye Carlstadt, hello to a growing team

In 1999, the Carlstadt site and some products were sold to Novus Chemicals.  A few employees moved down the turnpike to Pennsville; Cecilia Guerrette (Finance), John Hays (IT) and I (HR) set up offices for a growing number of new employees.  Once we ran out of office space, we brought in trailers; one was occupied solely by validation contractors (which later burned down).  BTW, our salaried employees still live in trailers; but that’s a whole other story.

Today, Siegfried USA has 166 employees, and we’ll soon have 194 people with a total payroll of about $17 million.  That’s a long way from 1973, when Pennsville had 24 employees and a payroll of $401,000.  Where we once had a single production building, today we have three; we’ve also added a dryer and milling/blending facility, state-of-the-art laboratories, and warehouse space with a vault to store controlled substances.  Even our waste water discharge grew from 25,000 gallons in 1975 to 60,000 gallons / day today. 

A new chapter opens

The Siegfried Group continues to expand around the world, and the recent acquisition of AMP in California (see “AMP: A Perfect Partner”) opens a new chapter in the “Siegfried in America” story.  Recognized for their expertise in sterile filling, the AMP team will give us access to new markets and products.  Along with our new technologies – such as micronization and spray drying – they will be an important part our USP of beeing a preferred global provider of high-quality drug substances and products.

In summary, one of our company’s more influential leaders, Dr. Bernard A. Siegfried, sent a letter in 1973 to the Pennsville Plant Manager to congratulate him on completing the Pennsville construction: “In the past century of Siegfried’s existence, tremendous progress was made in the production of medicinals.  We aim to contribute to further development – to help people achieve good health and happiness.”

 

Rita van Eck, Director Human Resources, Pennsville