William Wishnick

Born: November 9, 1924 | Brooklyn, NY, US

William Wishnick begins his oral history interview by describing his parents' careers and the founding of the Wishnick-Tumpeer Chemical Company in 1920. His father's company, now called Witco, expanded with the acquisition of several domestic arid international companies and went public in 1958. After serving in the military and completing his education, Wishnick began working for the company in 1949 until his retirement in 1990. Wishnick discusses company growth, the diversification of product lines, and how the nature of doing business has changed over the years.

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0093
No. of pages: 65
Minutes: 164

Interview Sessions

James J. Bohning
13 May 1991
Witco Corporation, New York, New York

Abstract of Interview

William Wishnick begins this interview by describing his parents' careers and the founding of the Wishnick-Tumpeer Chemical Company in 1920. His father's company, now called Witco, expanded with the acquisition of several domestic arid international companies and went public in 1958. After serving in the military and completing his education, Wishnick began working for the company in 1949. Wishnick served as vice president and treasurer, executive vice president, president, and chairman of the board and chief operating officer until his retirement in 1990. Wishnick discusses how the company grew with the addition of manufacturing and marketing, the purchase of other companies, and the diversification of product lines. Wishnick concludes the interview by discussing how the nature of doing business has changed over the years.

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1924 University of Texas at Austin BA Business Administration

Professional Experience

Witco Corporation

1949 to 1950
Manufacturing Department, Chicago, Illinois
1950 to 1951
Chief, Manufacturing Operations, Perth Amboy, New Jersey
1951 to 1953
Sales Department, Organic Division, New York
1953 to 1955
Vice President and Treasurer
1955 to 1960
Executive Vice President
1960 to 1964
Vice Chairman of the Board
1964 to 1990
Chairman of the Board
1971 to 1975
President
1971 to 1990
Chief Executive Officer

Honors

Year(s) Award
1989

DEng (honorary), Polytechnic University

Table of Contents

Family Background
1

Mother's career as schoolteacher. Father's education in chemistry and law.

Wishnick-Tumpeer Company
5

Founded in 1920. Expands and goes public in 1958. Father moves to New York. Acquisition of European companies. Mineral Rubber. Perth Amboy plant.

Growing up in Brooklyn
14

Begins working for father at the age of twelve. Brother and sister. Early schooling.

Education
17

Drafted and sent to Hawaii. Two months at the Military Academy. Returns to Carnegie Technological Institute. Attends classes at Margaret Morrison Carnegie College. Studies business at University of Texas.

Chicago
20

Marriage. Begins working for father's company in 1949. Carbon black. Company always profitable. Addition of manufacturing.

Building the Company
25

Acquisition of Sonneborn Chemical and Refining and Kendall Oil and Refining. Purchase of Surpass Chemical in Canada. Manufacturing polybutylene. Laboratory applications. Lawsuit.

Retirement
33

Golf injury. Power boating. Wins American and World Championships. Car racing.

Business Yesterday and Today
40

Acquisitions. How carbon black built the company. How oil changed the business. Phthalic anhydride. Memories of working for father. Marketing. Future of Witco. Importance of company loyalty. Blue Thunder. Changes in financing a business.

Notes
57
Index
58

About the Interviewer

James J. Bohning

James J. Bohning was professor emeritus of chemistry at Wilkes University, where he had been a faculty member from 1959 to 1990. He served there as chemistry department chair from 1970 to 1986 and environmental science department chair from 1987 to 1990. Bohning was chair of the American Chemical Society’s Division of the History of Chemistry in 1986; he received the division’s Outstanding Paper Award in 1989 and presented more than forty papers at national meetings of the society. Bohning was on the advisory committee of the society’s National Historic Chemical Landmarks Program from its inception in 1992 through 2001 and is currently a consultant to the committee. He developed the oral history program of the Chemical Heritage Foundation, and he was CHF’s director of oral history from 1990 to 1995. From 1995 to 1998, Bohning was a science writer for the News Service group of the American Chemical Society. In May 2005, he received the Joseph Priestley Service Award from the Susquehanna Valley Section of the American Chemical Society.  Bohning passed away in September 2011.