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About Us

Welcome to Union Specialties, Inc. We are the premier manufacturer of waterbased polyurethane dispersions and specialty products to the leather and coatings industries worldwide.

QUALITY,  SERVICE, COMMITMENT. These are three words that have summed up the core philosophies of our company since 1941.

QUALITY:  Union Specialties manufactures only the highest-quality products using state-of-the-art equipment and processes. All products must pass a rigorous quality control process to exacting specifications set under the guideline of our ISO 9001 program.

SERVICE:  Union Specialties Technical staff, as well as our worldwide network of Representatives and Technical Advisors, will show you our latest innovative technologies, systems and products.

COMMITMENT:  From our Research and Development staff to our Customer Service department, and from our Manufacturing workforce to our Technical Sales organization, the “UNION TEAM” is committed to our target of Total Customer Satisfaction.

For those customers with whom we have enjoyed many years of business relations, We thank you.  For those companies we will work with in the future that share the same philosophies as Union Specialties, we look forward to working with you as partners to realize and achieve our mutual goals.

William J. Greene, President

 

A Little History…

Five Generations of Innovation, Quality and “Strength in Union”

In 1848 Edward Greene immigrated from Ireland and settled in the Peabody-Salem area of Massachusetts near the whaling centers of the East Coast of the United States. The Civil War was still a decade away and James K. Polk was President. Abraham Lincoln was serving in the House of Representatives and the country was at war with Mexico. Ulysses S. Grant’s father was operating a tannery in Ohio. Edward Greene went to work as a pit tanner, operating the rotary drums filled with tanning solutions used to convert hides and skins into leather. It was hard, hard work.

In August, 1861, his son, Thomas was born.

As an apprentice in the tanning trade, Thomas learned “the art of of a brushed-kid finisher, but shortly progressed to be come a hand-shaver.” Hand shaving was considered in those days to be a timeless and “indispensable” part of crafting leather. Hand-shavers carried with them sharpening needles as badges of their prestigeous trade. Thomas Greene, unlike most hand-shavers, was far less concerned with the personal prestige of his elite position than he was with making better leather. In the 1890’s he began his experiments using chrome in a new tanning process. His laboratory was the family kitchen. And his implements of research were his mother’s pots and pans. His success was reported internationally in Leather and Shoe Reporter, 1939:

“Thomas E. Greene was credited with being among the first to produce salable leather by the chrome process in the Salem District. His efforts were crowned with success and the chrome method was quickly adopted by other tanners….”

In the years between 1860 and 1899, American tanners were busy developing new technologies. Among these pioneers was Thomas E. Greene. His innovations produced the first salable leather using the chrome process. This was the first major contribution to the tanning industry recorded by the Greene family, but certainly not the last.

Even at the advanced age, in 1939, of 78, after he was afflicted with blindness, Thomas E. Greene continued to stay abreast of the ever-changing world of tanning, utilizing the Braille system, and remained “as keen on what is going on in the world especially relating to tanning as a younger person with all his faculties could be.” This determination and compelling attachment to improvements in his chosen industry are hallmarks of his family and of the company that evolved, Union Specialties, Inc. It all began with his father working in the pit, turning the tanning drum, and has now continued for five full generations. In those “first generation” years, as Thomas Greene, grew from a boy to a man, he studied on his own from at the Salem Public Library in Salem, Massachusetts. He worked with R. H. Foerderer & Company and conducted important experiments at Rothwell Keith (Carr Leather Company). He continued working in and studying the tanning industry until his death in 1941.

Union Specialties, Inc. at our 1946 facility.

Also in 1941, his son, John B. Greene founded Union Chemical Co., Inc. in Blubber Hollow, Salem, Massachusetts. In the first ten years of operation, John created a renown and unique leather chemical company with a large, modern laboratory, producing a variety of finishes for clients all over the world. From starting in a facility about the size of a one-car garage, the company grew by leaps and bounds, with facility enlargements and renovations in 1946 and 1950. It’s commitment to technology and customer service allowed it to continue a strong record of growth in a highly competitive leather world. The slogan, “In Union There Is Strength,” was introduced during the company’s ten anniversary year. In 1952, the company was producing manufacturers leather finishes,, topcoats, binders, and dressing with a distribution system throughout the country and in all major foreign markets.

In 1984, the fourth generation, Thomas E. “Tom” Greene assumed the position as President. It was during the middle 1980s and early 1990s that the American leather industry began to experience intense international competition. Under the leadership of Tom Greene the company adjusted to the new situation and in 1986, Union Chemical Co., Inc. announced that it would change its name to Union Specialities, Inc. and would relocate to a newly constructed, much larger facility in Newburyport, Massachusetts. In a press release, the company stated that it was “confident that this move will enable us to further improve service to our customers worldwide. Our commitment to introduce innovative ideas and products will remain unchanged.” And even as the American leather industry was decimated by at least 80% from its heyday, Union Specialties continued to grow steadily and profitably. A 10,000 square foot addition was built at the facility in 1991 to accommodate growth in the polyurethane resin product line.

In 1994, Union Specialties became one of the first leather chemical manufacturers to be awarded the ISO 9000 and then ISO 9001:2000 rating.

Certainly the hiring of Peter Alford, who became President in 1995, assisted in the growth of its foreign business. Currently international operations comprise approximately two thirds of all Union Specialities, Inc. production in over forty-nine countries.

In 2005, the fifth generation, William J. “Bill” Greene assumed the presidency of Union Specialties. Under his leadership the company has continued to grow and has automated the production process in many innovative ways including high technology systems and a robotic, semi-automatic bagging system that has dramatically increased the modern manufacturing facility’s capacity.

Today with agents worldwide and a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility, Union Specialties continues its commitment to innovation and customer satisfaction with a dedication of which all preceding generations would approve. As Bill Greene states in his welcoming message to Union’s Internet site, “For those customers with whom we have enjoyed many years of business relations, I personally thank you. For those companies in the future, who share the same philosophies as Union Specialties, we look forward to working with you, as partners, to realize and achieve our mutual goals.”

The history of the company is long and distinguished. The future is bright and promising. And every day those philosophies of caring about customers and bringing new ideas to changing times are put into everything, every employee in the company does. “In Union there is strength,” the company slogan says it all.