It was in 1758 when the 25-year-old Johann Rudolf Geigy founded a business dealing in spices, medicines and dyes such as indigo and logwood as well as with tanning materials, especially sumach.

However, it wasn’t until 1926 that production of synthetic tanning agents started, as the company recognised their significance to the leather industry. A few years later, Irgatan LV, a unique white tanning agent based on dioxydiphenylsulfone, was launched onto the market.

In 1932, a whole series of new products was created. According to new requirements, these products offered characteristics such as high lightfastness, good ageing properties and heat fastness as well as good dyeability. Tannesco H, Irgatan RBL and Sellasol HF, to mention only a few, were the results of ongoing leather research at Geigy.

Following World War II, the tanning division developed rapidly at Geigy. In the 1950s and 60s, the tanning agent business shifted steadily away from shoe upper to garment and upholstery leather. This resulted in increased demand for nappa leather which, in turn, led to a greater need for softening tanning agents and faster dyeing times.

In 1970, Dr Hubert Wachsmann took over the leadership of the leather sector of Geigy. With the merger of Ciba and Geigy in 1971, a challenging phase started for the new company and also for Wachsmann who became Ciba-Geigy’s leather sector manager.


In 1859, chemist Alexander Clavel started production of fuchsin in Basel. He was regarded as the founder of Ciba and sold the company to Bindschedler & Busch in 1873. In 1884, Bindschedler & Busch began trading under the name Chemische Industrie Basel, abbreviated to Ciba, although this abbreviation only became official in 1945.

In the 1920s, before Ciba had their own leather department, the first direct acid and basic dyes for leather were introduced onto the market. During this time, a Resorcin brown, a Kiton brown as well as a basic black dye were launched. Ciba were also awarded their first patents for leather dyeing.

Before World War II, the first 1:1 metal complex dyes came onto the market. With the company’s Neolan product, fine leathers such as kid could be dyed evenly in trendy colours and light-to-medium shades with hitherto unknown fastness properties. During this period, Ciba’s leather department also looked into the use of polyglycol ethers as dyeing auxiliaries which subsequently led to the introduction of significant products such as Invaderm LU.

In the 1950s, the demand for finishing products drove Ciba to develop novelties such as Neocapaderm dye powders and paste and also polyacrylates. During this time, the company’s advances in producing auxiliaries proved significant for the growing fur and wool skin industries.

In 1969, Ciba’s finishing department was firstly sold to Quinn and then to Sandoz.


Ciba-Geigy were founded in 1971 with the merger of the two companies and Wachsmann was appointed manager of the company’s leather sector. In the 1970s, the company started the search for aqueous and water dilutable systems that were equal, or superior, to the fastness properties of solvent-based polyurethane finishes. A re-entry into the finishing sector would have been possible as Ciba-Geigy had excellent pigment ranges at this time.

In the early 1980s, a leather specific research group was created within the dyestuffs and chemicals division and success came quickly with a new concentrated liquid concept. This resulted in a comprehensive range of new products in line with modern environmental requirements. In the mid-eighties, a major advance in leather dyeing was introduced onto the market: the Sellaset trichromatic dyeing system.

In 1990, a new chapter in Ciba-Geigy’s history was written. The dyestuffs and chemicals division was split, thus beginning a new phase of the reorganised leather business sector, now under the leadership of Peter Schaller. At the same time, the corporate identity of the newly-organised company was changed: Ciba-Geigy once again became Ciba.

In 1996, Sandoz and Ciba merged to form Novartis and other new companies. The Ciba leather business was transferred to the newly-founded TFL Ledertechnik GmbH KG together with the leather departments of Röhm and Stockhausen, both subsidiaries of Hüls.


In 1907, Dr Otto Röhm, a pharmacist and chemist, began experiments to replace dog dung, which had been used for leather bating for centuries, with pancreatic enzymes from slaughtered animals. In the same year, Röhm joined forces with businessman Otto Haas to found the company Röhm & Haas in Esslingen am Neckar. Very soon, different leather factories decided to use Otto Röhm’s new Oropon product for bating and so improved the unhygienic working conditions and also the smell.

By 1909, the success of this new bating technology meant Rohm & Haas were at full capacity. By moving to new premises in Darmstadt, the two owners were able to satisfy their need for more space and brought them closer to the big leather factories in the Rhine-Main area. Furthermore, a new trial tannery was established on the new site to guarantee the highest quality.

By 1911, Oropon was being distributed worldwide and was awarded with a gold medal at that year’s international hygiene exhibition in Dresden.

With Oropon’s success, Otto Röhm had smoothed the way for the industrial use of enzymes in the detergent sector (1914), for surgical remedies (1920), to clarify apple juices (1934) and in the manufacture of bakery products (1946). With further development, Röhm pioneered the use of leather enzymes and, in the 1950s, special enzymes for unhairing goat skins were introduced. From 1970 until the mid-eighties, novel enzymes for modern soaking and liming were added. Furthermore, a newly-developed hair-saving liming procedure was introduced that helped reduce environmental pollution.

In 1971, the Haas family left the company and this resulted in the name being changed to Röhm GmbH. Then, in 1986, Röhm diversified into finishing by acquiring K H Quinn in the USA and this formed the basis for innovations outside the beamhouse. Shortly after, in 1989, Hüls AG took over Röhm GmbH.

In 1996, Röhm parted from all leather and enzyme activities and the company’s leather sector was transferred to the newly-founded company, TFL, together with Ciba and Stockhausen.


Stockhausen’s official company history started in 1912 with the independent firm Chemische Fabrik Stockhausen & Cie. Years earlier, however, textile merchant Julius Stockhausen joined the soap factory Müller & Traiser in Krefeld in 1879.

A little later, in 1881, the company changed their name to Stockhausen & Traiser. Besides soaps, the company also manufactured high-quality auxiliaries for the textile industry. The product range grew year by year.

In 1906, leather auxiliaries based on sulfated oils and fats were manufactured, including products such as Prästabitöl for fibre, textile, leather and fur finishing. The first chromate-resistant sulfated fatliquors for leathers and furs also became well-established products.

In 1912, the company began trading under the name Chemische Fabrik Stockhausen & Cie and started production of the fish-oil sulfonate Coripol, the first fatliquor for the leather industry. The company’s product range now comprised auxiliaries based on sulfated fats and oils for the textile and leather industries.

In 1930, the first sulfated electrolyte-stable fatliquors for the leather and fur industries were ready for production. For the first time, it was possible to add fatliquors during mineral tannage.

Before World War II, Stockhausen became the first company in the world to sell sulfated fatliquors for leather. They were characterised by their high salt and acid resistance and imparted excellent softness and tear resistance to the leather. In 1949, the production of sulfo-chlorated products for the texile, leather and fur industries started and gained a reputation as non-yellowing smootheners and fatliquors.

A continuous sulfating procedure was introduced in 1970 allowing further auxiliaries for the leather and textile industries to be produced. In 1991, Hüls AG, based in Marl, bought a majority interest of Stockhausen. Then, in 1996, Hüls integrated the leather sectors of Stockhausen and Röhm, both under the management of Dr Heider G Krenz, into the new company TFL.


Yesterday’s choices still have an effect on TFL’s decisions today and in the future. ‘History, in the broader sense of the word, is solely the very past that still at present continues to exist constitutively in the conscience of man.’ These words by Chamberlain, British prime minister from 1937-1940, account for a large part of TFL’s founding philosophy. Right from the start, the preceding companies always regarded their customers as partners. TFL also feel strongly committed to this tradition.

Since the founding of TFL, a great deal of additional finishing know-how has entered the company thanks to the acquisitions of Deacolor and Novaria in Italy, Wilmington in the USA as well as Quinn India. These synergies are the basis for additional innovations that have rapidly gained market acceptance such as the company’s Cool leather and the Topcare System.