Othmer Library of Chemical History

The Donald F. and Milder Topp Othmer Library of Chemical History – Chemical Heritage Foundation – 315 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106




The Othmer Library of Chemical History collects, preserves, and makes accessible materials relating to the history of science, technology, and medicine, with an emphasis on chemistry and chemical engineering from ancient to modern times. The Othmer Library currently houses approximately 160,000 print and microform volumes, rare books and manuscripts, significant archival materials, and historical photographs of great value to researchers and our cultural heritage. Together these collections form an unrivaled resource for the history of chemistry and related sciences, technologies, and industries.

Holdings related to the First World War span archival manuscript and photographic materials, as well as published monographs and print journals. Industrial mobilization and developments in science and technology are well-documented in several key corporate collections, including the records of the Dow Chemical Company, Hercules Incorporated, and the Rohm & Haas Company. Trade journals effectively chronicle the maturation of the American chemical industry both during and after the war while several archival collections document postwar efforts to identify peacetime applications for wartime technology. Other items of note include Francis E. Scott’s U.S. Army Gas School Notebook and several volumes on the identification and treatment of gas poisoning

For a full listing of our World War I resources, please consult our research guide

Notable Collections

Dow Chemical Historical Collection, 1897-2006 (bulk 1900-1990)

Papers of Herbert H. Dow, 1872-1930 (bulk 1915-1922)

Records and Ephemera of Hercules Incorporated, 1913-1997

Rohm & Haas Company Archives, 1743-1998 (bulk 1907-1983)

Travis P. Hignett Collection of Fixed Nitrogen Research Laboratory Images, 1920s-1950s (bulk 1926-1930)

Notable Individual Resources

America’s Munition’s 1917-1918: report of Benedict Crowell, the Assistant Secretary of War, Director of Munitions / by United States. War Dept., 1919

American industry in the war; a report of the War Industries Board (March 1921) / by Bernard M. Baruch, 1941

Annual chemical directory of the United States, 1918-1919

Chemical age (New York), 1919-1920

Chemical age (New York), 1920-1925

Defense against chemical attack / by United States. Army. Chemical Warfare Service, 1940

First aid in the prevention and treatment of chemical casualties / by United States. Office of Civilian Defense. Medical Division, 1941

Fünf Vorträge aus den Jahren 1920-1923 / by Fritz Haber, 1924

History of the manufacture of explosives for the world war, 1917-1918 / by W. Bradford Williams, 1920

Industrial America in the world war; the strategy behind the line, 1917-1918 / by Grosvenor B. Clarkson, 1923

La chimie et la guerre: science et avenir / by Charles Moreu, 1920

Medical manual of chemical warfare / by Great Britain. War Office, 1941

The story of the First gas regiment / by James Thayer Addison, 1919

United States Army Gas School notebook; 1918


Other Institutions:

The Library Company of Philadelphia

The Library Company of Philadelphia is an independent research library specializing in American history and culture from the 17th through the early 20th centuries. Founded in 1731 by Benjamin Franklin, the Library Company is America's oldest cultural institution and has the mission to preserve, interpret, make available, and augment the valuable material in its care. From November 11, 2016 through April 21, 2017, the Library Company of Philadelphia will have on display the exhibition Together We Win: The Philadelphia Homefront During the First World War.

The National Archives at Philadelphia

The National Archives at Philadelphia maintains the historically significant records of the Federal Agencies and Courts, in Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia, dating from 1789 to the present.

Pennsylvania State Archives

The Pennsylvania State Archives is a bureau within the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, the official state historical agency. Holding approximately 250 million pages of records, the primary purpose of the State Archives is to collect, preserve, and make available for study the permanently valuable records of Pennsylvania State government and its interactions with its citizens. The institution also collects the private papers of citizens and organizations relevant to Pennsylvania’s history. Draft Board Records, Posters, Photographs, War History Commission Records, World War I Veterans Service Compensation Files, Maps, Letters, Newspapers, and World War I Service Medal Application Cards are just some of the items related to the Great War that researchers may view at the Pennsylvania State Archives.


Last Modified: Wednesday, June 25th, 2014