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United Carbon Products Company
Bay City, MI
  • by Marvin Kusmierz (December 2002)
  • Graphite products

    Bay City has had a unique history associated with high-purity graphite since 1945. -- Important capability necessary for semiconductor and many other applications.

    United Carbon Products Company (UCP) was formed in 1945 by George T. Sermon and Lynn Brooks with support from a small group of investors . The basis of the company would be a unique purification process for removing impurities from graphite. The process involves submitting graphite to very high temperatures (>1800 degrees C.) while introducing a halogen gas to aid in removal of metallic impurities .

    First operations were set up 508 McGraw street with Lynn Brooks as President and General Manager. They landed a contract with the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC's Manhattan Project) when it was demonstrated UCP's process could successfully remove Boron from nuclear grade graphite. The AEC business kept the company a float for the first two years. During this period, UCP's purification technology was being reported in technical and scientific journals. This caught the interest of chemical, metallurgical and spectrographic companies bringing in new orders.

    Outgrowing their McGraw facility, the business moved in 1949 to 1301 Madison avenue into a 9600 square foot building. Two major expansions of the building (1956 and 1959) increased its space to 44,000 square feet.

    In 1953, the company had six employees: George Sermon, President and General Manager; Gene Musinski, Sales and Administration; Mike Sordyl, Purchasing and Billing; Joe Sermon (George's brother), Packaging and Shipping; Lorraine Smith, Maintenance; and, Don Johnson, Furnace Operator. By 1960, total number of employees was around 100 and the business now had a machining shop ran Dar Williams. The machining business was purchased from Williams in 1955 who worked as a fireman. During his off duty hours he machined graphite on the UCP site which they purchased.

    Emission Spectroscopy:
    High current is passed through an upper and lower graphite electrode to vaporize a substance which is captured with a photographic device which is transferred to a glass plate. The plate contains density lines (spectrum) revealing elements present in the source material.

    A number of important early innovations played an important role in the company becoming the leader of high purity graphite sold to analytical laboratories around the world. The company's initially supplied purified graphite rods to laboratories, sizes were typically 1/8 and 1/4 inch diameter by 12 inches long. The rods were purchased from Union Carbide Carbon Products then purified before shipping onto labs. At the lab, spectroscopist used the rods to shape electrodes used in emission spectroscopy.

    A major break through came when UCP added machining services eliminating the need for spectroscopists shape their own electrodes. UCP's "ready to use" electrodes became an instant hit. Preformed electrode sales went so well that the company decided to offer a catalogue of popular shapes to expedite delivery to customers. Again, spectroscopists liked the idea, instead waiting one or two weeks for custom machined electrodes, they could order a stock shape that would be shipped within 24 hours. With business and profits soaring, UCP to started up a publication called, Arcs & Sparks. It was published quarterly and each issue featured a different customer's laboratory. Included was coverage of analytical techniques, shows, conferences and ads promoting the company's growing line of analytical products. Technical and sales personal attended various analytical shows and conferences and the company exhibited its products at the Pittsburgh Conference where analyst from around the world gathered each year to review the latest analytical techniques and equipment.

    The 1960s the semiconductor industry brought new challenges and opportunities for UCP. During the 1850s, the company had provided small orders of prototype products to companies making semiconductors. Several processes used in making semiconductor materials use graphite tooling such as resistance heaters, shielding and susceptors. UCP entertained orders for these products even at a loss believing the demand for their purified products would take off. It did during the 1960s. Customers like Motorola, Monsanto, Texas Instruments, Fairchild Semiconductor and others determined that "high purity" graphite tooling was essential to producing higher quality semiconductors. These customers looked to UCP to meet their needs. However, company wasn't prepared for the volume and size of products they now needed and had to quickly expand its machining and purification equipment to accommodate larger products to service these new business.

    In 1966, the strength of company was tested when founder George Sermon, now President and General Manager decided to leave the company. The company was at the peak of a growth period, there were concerns that Sermon's departure might have a substantial negative impact on its sales. These concerns were quickly overcome, sales remained strong and its key customer base was still in place. The following year, the company formally changed it's name from United Carbon Products Co. to Ultra Carbon Corporation (UCD). The new name more clearly associated itself with its dominate product line known as Ultra "F" Purity. In 1972, UCD expanded again, purchasing a larger building at 900 Harrison street. The building formerly housed Met-Bay, Inc., the business George Sermon started up after leaving UCP.

    1972 sketch of Harrison St. building

    Sales were now dominated by products sold to semiconductor manufacturing companies. A second production plant was set up in Sherman, Texas to handle growth. The plant was located close to the plant of Texas Instruments, a key semiconductor customer. The new plant would be able to service customers in Arizona and California where most semiconductor manufacturing plants were located. Besides machining and purification, the company had put in place technology to coat graphite using chemical vapor deposition techniques. Either a pyrolytic or silicon carbide could be deposited a machined part to seal off the porous graphite, a highly desirable product for susceptors (trays) used in processing semiconductor wafers.

    In 1987, the company's majority shareholders sold the business to Stackpole Corporation and it began operations as a subsidiary of Stackpole Carbon Company's company in St. Mary's, Pennsylvania. Stackpole Corporation sold the business to Le Carbone Lorraine in 1990 and it became the Ultra Carbon Division of the Carbone of America.

    Today, the Harrison street plant produces an increasing number of applications requiring graphite. Besides products for analytical and semiconductor applications, this location is supplying products for aerospace, glass manufacturing, mechanical and many other applications.

    The small business that George Sermon and Lynn Brooks started up 1946 has led to a number of other graphite business situated in our area. It is interesting to note that the customer base of these businesses is not dependent on local sales or state sales for that matter. There customer base is spread around the North America and overseas. Few in the community are aware these companies that have contributed to a "silent" local center of companies known to customers around the world.

    • Bay Carbon
      Located on Marquette in Bay City.
    • General Graphite Inc.
      Located on First street in previous Michigan Central Railroad building.
    • Met-Bay (closed)
      Located on Harrison, closed in 1970s.
    • Midland Materials
      Located in Midland, now a part of Carbone of America.
    • Syntac Corporation (closed)
      Located on north Euclid near Dobsons. Purchased by Stackpole, later by Ultra Carbon.

    The following are people listed in the company's 1957 directory:

    Allsopp, William - Bay City
    Arbury, NEd - Midland
    Bender, Robert - Bay City
    Bartkowiak, Felix - Bay City
    Bujalski, Ronald - Bay City
    Bujalski, Clarence - Bay City
    Carson, Alfred P. - Detroit
    Corley, William - Detroit
    Dubay, Donald W. - Bay City
    Fisher, Dwayne K - Akron
    French, Donald G. - Bay City
    French, William E. - Bay City
    Gonyaw, Kenneth L. - Bay City
    Goatz, William E. - Bay City
    Harder, Jerry D. - Bay City
    Harkey, William - Saginaw
    Howe, Loma (Mrs.) - Saginaw
    Hughes, Del - Essexville
    Johnson, Clarence O. - Standish
    Johnson, Donald R. - Bay City
    Leser, Robert C. - Bay City
    Lescelius, Joseph T. - Saginaw
    Lundbom, Oscar - Essexville

    Marciniak, Don - Bay City
    Marcinkowski, Clarice - Bay City
    Morrisette, William - Bay City
    Musinski, Eugene - Bay City
    Napieralski, Richard - Bay City
    Nashatka, Julis (Mrs.) - Bay City
    Radtke, Alton W. - Bay City
    Routly, Philip - Bay City
    Smith, Lorsine M. - Bay City
    Sikorski, Theresa - Bay City
    Stasik, Raymond E. - Bay City
    Sarnowski, Dik - La Mirida, CA
    Sermon, G. T. - Essexville
    Sermon, Joseph C. - Bay City
    Sheldon, Weston L. - Midland
    Sordyl, Michael - Pinconning
    Williams, D. J. - Essexville
    Yarch, Alvin - Rogers City

    Other significant individuals to the company's history are:

    • Anthony, Robert: Sales/Marketing, first SiC conversion engineer.
    • Arbury, Ned: Major stock holder, member of board.
    • Baney, Raymond: Stock holder, Sales/Marketing, General Manager.
    • Bender, Robert: Sales
    • Clare, William: Engineer, later founded Bay Carbon.
    • Haga, Lee: First SiC coating engineer.
    • Kurlinski, Ted:: Engineering
    • Leistner, Carl: Analyst, Technical Director
    • Sheldon, Dave: President and General Manager, son of Wes Sheldon.
    • Sheldon, Wes: Majority stock holder, member of board.
    • Superzinski: Major stock holder.
    • Wilsey, Harvey: Semiconductor engineer, Sales, Texas Plant Manager.

    News update June, 2012:

      Since the above history was published, this company has expanded and has a new owner, Mersen headquartered in France, has taken ownership of the Bay City plant. An aritcle by Dave Rogers covers a story on planned expansions at the plant. -- {MyBayCty.com]

    United Carbon Menu
    Semiconductors & Saginaw Valley
    People Referenced
    Anthony, Robert
    Arbury, Ned
    Baney, Raymond
    Bender, Robert
    Bujalski, Ron
    Brooks, Lynn
    Clare, Wm. C.
    Gibelyou, Frances
    Goetz, Bill
    Haga, Lee
    Hughes, Del R.
    Johnson, Don
    Joltke, Arthur
    Kintner, LeRoy
    Kurlinski, Ted
    LaBreck, Gerald D.
    Leistner, Carl
    Leppek, Gerald
    Leser, Clarence
    Luttrell, Tom
    Musinski, Gene
    Napieralski, Dick
    Reames, George
    Sermon, George T.
    Sermon, Joe
    Sheldon, Dave
    Sheldon, Wes
    Smith, Lorraine
    Sordyl, Mike
    Williams, Dar
    Wilsey, Harvey
    Also see 1957 directory listing in article.
    Subjects Referenced
    Atomic Engergy Commission
    Carbone of America
    Emission Spectroscopy
    Fairchild Semiconductor
    General Graphite, Inc.
    Le Carbone Lorraine
    Manhattan Project
    Midland Materials
    Monsanto Co.
    Motorola Corp.
    Pittsburg Conference
    Sherman, TX
    Syntax Corp.
    Stackpole Corp.
    Stackpole Carbon
    Texas Instruments, Inc.
    Ultra Carbon Corp.
    Union Carbide Carbon Prod.
    Company Images

    1950: Officers (left to right) standing: Gene Musinski, Off. Mgr., Del Hughes, Secty. Trsr., T.J. Lescelius, Engr.; sitting: Wes Sheldon, V.P., George Sermon, Pres. & Gen. Mgr.

    1959: Madison street plant prior third expansion.

    1962: Apprentices learning close tolerance machining. Left to right: Dick Napieralski, Frances Gibelyou, Gerald Leppek, LeRoy Kintner, Bill Goetz, Ron Bujalski, George Reames, Clarence Leser (seated, Arthur Joltke).

    1969: High purity product shipment to NASA for analysis of moon rocks. Employee Tom Luttrell in background.

    Del Hughes
    Arcs&Sparks was a industrial periodical issued by the company for many years. This 1978 Highlights issue featured an article on Del Hughes, company president who passed on that year.

    1978 Officers (click to enlarge)

    Related References
    Carbone of America
    Ultra Carbon Division website.
    Article Sources
    Old company brochures.
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