Campus History

Site History

Ambler Yards | AmChem Products, Inc

James Harvey Gravell was an engineer, industrialist and philanthropist who was born in Philadelphia in 1880. While employed by Hale-Kilburn Metal Company, Gravell helped develop a chemical treatment for preventing rust and peeling on painted metal known as “Deoxidine”. He purchased the patent and started his own company, the American Chemical Paint Company, in 1914. After operating in a rented space in Philadelphia, Gravell opened a chemical manufacturing and research facility in Ambler on part of the site that is now known as Ambler Yards. The company was extremely successful, and Gravell became a rich man. He donated money to a number of worthy causes, including giving his employees the best Christmas ever (see below).

After Gravell died in 1939, the company went through some restructuring, including a name-change to AmChem Products, Inc. It was acquired by Henkel in 1980, and later sold to Cognis Corporation which was in turn was acquired by BASF. BASF ceased operations at the site in 2013 and the current owners acquired the site for redevelopment in 2015.

A Christmas Wish in Ambler, 1936

In Ambler, Pennsylvania in 1936 James Gravell, president of the American Chemical Paint Company, agreed to pay off all of his employees debts–mortgages, hospital bills, everything–or gave them $1,500 cash if they had no debt. It cost him about $100,000 (over $1.5 million today). President Franklin D. Roosevelt personally met with Gravell, and thanked him for the “generous remembrance of your employees at the holiday season.” His generosity extended beyond the one-time gesture–he also implemented a profit-sharing plan to continue spreading benefits to his employees.