Going From 0 to 50 in 10 Steps

Reminiscing with old Products Finishing editions from 1963


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You’ve heard all the ads for muscle cars: They can go from 0 to whatever in nano-speed, as if that will help you on the way to drop your kids off at school … hmm, on second thought.

But a recent telephone call from our friend Jack Berg from Serfilco took us to 50 pretty quickly, and we ended up staying there for most of the afternoon.

Jack called to ask about a filtration article he wrote for Products Finishing sometime in the early 1960s. He wanted to see if we could locate a copy of the article. While today’s world lets us find any miniscule of information in a heartbeat on the web, going back to find an article from 50 years ago meant walking a few steps to our library and looking through actual print volumes from years gone by.

So off I went to search through the 1963 volumes, something I thought would take me 10 minutes at the most to look through each of the 12 tables of content to find Jack’s name and his article. I started in the April 1963 edition and that’s where I was for the next hour: reading the articles, looking at the great ads from businesses still around, and those in the coating industry graveyard, and seeing what the finishing industry was like during the Camelot era.

The April 1963 edition of Products Finishing was devoted to—of all things—vacuum coatings, with a title story Painting for Vacuum Metalizing, featuring coverage of the 6th annual Society of Vacuum Coaters conference at the Park-Sheraton Hotel in New York.

Editor Ezra Blount reported on the talks given by the experts, and summarized the activities by writing that “vacuum coaters discussed new plastics and paint coatings, spray decorating and masking methods. Speakers compared competitive processes with vacuum metallizing, and outlined steps to be taken to expand the vacuum metallizing industry.”

Associate Editor Jerry Poll wrote about Pontiac’s Triple-Nickel-Plated Bumper, and W. H. Safranek and H.R. Miller from the Battelle Memorial Institute, wrote How To Get Paint Adherence on Chromium Plated Zinc Die Casting, a paper originally presented at the SAE conference in Detroit.

The May issue featured a “Special PF Report” on 

A Controversial Cadmium Plate, which included the following: “Currently the wrath of those resent even the implication that titanium can be plated from a conventional bath is directed at the Delta Cadmium Process.” Apparently, the Seattle-based company and its president, Donald Anderson, claimed that “titanium is present in the plate as metal, and has been detected by spectrographic analysis of plated deposits.”

Another feature focused on seatbelt coatings by the Sturgis Plating and Manufacturing Co. in Sturgis, Mich. Of course, the grainy black-and-white photos made the shop look medieval, but we really can’t imagine the technical process has changed much today, although probably with a few hundred more regulations to deal with.

Of course, the advertising was what caught the most of my attention. Imagine 1950s and 1960s era ads—probably created the type of guy on TV’s Mad Men—and that’s what Products Finishing looked like back then.

Oakite had a great ad in the opening pages that hyped its “Rustripper." Coral Chemical had a beauty of an ad, with two Shakespearean actors looking as if they were about to spar with the caption, “When I Tell You Nothing Will Protect Your Paint Booth Floors Like Coral Dri-Coat … Don’t Argue!”

Other ads touted the Baird Machine Co. that made barrel finishing equipment; the H.G. Fischer & Co., makers of “Super-Charged” Electrostatic Paint Systems; and the Handy & Harman Co., makers of silver anodes.

Some old favorites were there 50 years ago: Norton Abrasives, Technic, DuBois, Schaffner, Hubbard-Hall and of course, Serfilco. Macdermid had an impressive ad that included a photo of Dr. A. Lord Taylor, the company’s research director, with the headline, “This Man Will Worry Full-Time About Your Phosphating Problems.” And he looked as if he meant it.

The June 1963 issue featured a preview for the American Electroplaters Society convention in Atlantic City, and included in the event schedule were hours for the “Ladies Hospitality Room” and the “Children’s Supervised Playroom,” which you won’t find anywhere today. The convention also hosted the Metal Finishing Suppliers Association annual meeting, as well as the National Association of Metal Finishers conference.

The July issue featured a story called New Corrosion-Resistant Nickel Plate Termed “Radical Approach,” in which the folks at Udylite Corp. said that “microporosity would become a popular word amongst nickel-chromium platers.”

It took me a while, but I did find the article that Jack Berg called about. What I also found was a few hours travelling back in time, when things looked a little simpler, before JFK, MLK and Bobby were taken away. Camelot it was.