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William Wishnick

  • Born: November 9, 1924, Brooklyn, New York

  Interview Details

Interview no.: 0093
Interview Date: May 13, 1991
Location: Witco Corporation, New York, New York
Interviewer: James J. Bohning
No. of pages: 65
Minutes: 180

  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.


1949 B.A., Business Administration, University of Texas

  Professional Experience

Witco Corporation

1949 - 1950 Organic Division, New York

Witco Corporation

1950 - 1951 Vice President and Treasurer

Witco Corporation

1951 - 1953 Executive Vice President

Witco Corporation

1953 - 1955 Vice Chairman of the Board

Witco Corporation

1955 - 1960 Chairman of the Board

Witco Corporation

1960 - 1964 President

Witco Corporation

1964 - 1990 Chief Executive Officer

Witco Corporation

1971 - 1975


Witco Corporation

1971 - 1990

Chief Executive Officer


1989 D.Eng. (honorary), Polytechnic University

  Table of Contents

Title and Description Page

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 is professor emeritus of chemistry at Wilkes University, where he was 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 has 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 the foundation’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. He is currently a visiting research scientist and CESAR Fellow at Lehigh University. In May 2005, he received the Joseph Priestley Service Award from the Susquehanna Valley Section of the American Chemical Society.

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