Otto Haas, Businessman and entrepreneur
Co-founder of Röhm & Haas
* 1872, Stuttgart
† 1960, Philadelphia/USA
After an apprenticeship as a bank clerk in a Stuttgart bank, Otto Haas initially joined Siegle and Co. in Stuttgart. In 1903 he met aspiring chemist Otto Röhm, who was employed at the local gas institute. A meeting with far-reaching consequences. Haas initially moved to the USA with Siegle, but at Otto Röhm's request he returned in 1906 to become a partner in the establishment of a chemical factory for the production of leather bating.
The following year the two men founded the company Röhm & Haas in Esslingen, whose successful product OROPON® replaced the bating method traditionally used in the leather industry, based on dog faeces. The great success of this product made it necessary for the company to move its headquarters to Darmstadt in 1909, where a larger factory was built near the major leather factories of the Rhine-Main district – the present Darmstadt site of Evonik Industries.
Otto Haas was largely responsible for promoting Röhm & Haas' expansion abroad. In 1909 two branches were set up, of which the Philadelphia subsidiary became the most important. Haas took over its management himself and built up inhouse production of leather supplies there prior to the First World War.
When the USA entered the First World War in 1917, the German stake in the branch in Philadelphia was seized. It was converted into an independent company, the Rohm & Haas Company of today, whose headquarters remained in Philadelphia. It was thanks to the friendship between Otto Röhm and Otto Haas that the connection between the two companies remained intact until the Second World War. Close collaboration and transfer of research findings served both companies' interests.
Under the management of Otto Haas' sons, the Rohm & Haas Company developed after the Second World War into one of the most important chemical companies in the USA. The sons eventually parted with their paternal stake in Röhm & Haas in Darmstadt in 1969, which since then has traded only under its current name Röhm GmbH. In addition to Darmstadt, the Evonik Industries sites in Worms and Weiterstadt also evolved from this company.