American Bemberg Corporation
American Bemberg, an American affiliate of the German rayon manufacturer Vereingte Glanzstoff Fabriken (VGF), was constructed in Elizabethton, Tennessee, in 1925 and began full production of cuprammonium rayon yarn by October 26, 1926. The rayon company selected Elizabethton over several other East Tennessee communities because American Bemberg would have unlimited access to a pure water supply, copper, cheap labor resources, and a 10-year exemption from all city and county and most state taxes. By 1928 American Bemberg and American Glanzstoff, North American after 1934, employed over 3,000 workers. Due to the American stock market crash in October 1929 and the loss of revenue from two strikes in the spring 1929, American Bemberg experienced nearly seven years of decreased production and employee lay-offs. The work force reached its lowest level in 1932 with 2,491 employees working for an average annual wage of $1,000 each. By 1936, the rayon company was once again realizing a profit and continued to increase its work force, production and sales until the end of the depression in 1939.
American Bemberg and North American Rayon, another affiliate of VGF, were eventually purchased by the New York corporation Beaunit Mills in 1948 and then again in 1967 by the El Paso Natural Gas Company. Due to the expense of purchasing toxic waste equipment stipulated by new federal environmental impact legislation, a decreasing market for cuprammonium rayon, the expiration of city, county, and state tax exemptions, and dwindling stock market dividends, American Bemberg eventually filed for bankruptcy on February 16, 1974. The company continued operation until the early 1980s when it ceased production and was finally closed.
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