D.H. RAMSEY LIBRARY SPECIAL COLLECTIONS
Fred Loring Seely Family Collection

FRED  LORING  SEELY 
AND AMERICAN E.N.K.A.

(
Eerste  Nederlandsche  Kunzydfabriek  Arnhem)

A CORPORATION   IN   BUNCOMBE  COUNTY 
NORTH  CAROLINA  
1928-1942


 by Robert Cuningham

Fred Loring Seely (1871-1942) was sent to Java in 1899 by his father-in-law and employer Edwin Wiley Grove (1850-1927) for the purpose of obtaining a secure supply of quinine for Grove’s Paris Medicine Company.  Seely was accompanied by his new bride, Mrs. Evelyn Grove Seely (1877-1953), whom he had married on October 24, 1898.

 
Evelyn Grove Seely and Fred Loring Seely

[Photographs are from Seely’s Diary of the Java 1899-1901 Trip]

Quinine, derived from the bark of Java-grown cinchona trees, was the essential ingredient used in manufacturing Grove’s Chill Tonic produced at E.W. Grove’s Paris Medicine Company in Paris, Tennessee. While in Java (1899-1901) Seely met several Dutch officials. One notable acquaintance, Mr. Van Linge, was a chemist involved in the cinchona bark-quinine processing industry. Van Linge had connections to various industry owners in Holland.  The following photographs are reproductions of photographs contained in a Seely Family album diary that documents Seely's work in Java.

  

 Van Linge (center) and Fred Seely (right)


Van Linge in Quinine Assay Laboratory


Fred Seely, Mr. Van Linge, Mrs. Van Linge and Evelyn Grove Seely in Laboratory

 


Quinine Factory in Java 1900


Seely and Cinchona Trees


Cinchona Bark Stockpile

 


Quinine Manufacturing Machinery

Quinine Crystal Drying Room


Boxes of Quinine Ready for Auction


Finished Product: Grove's Tasteless Chill Tonic

[photo from Blue Ridge Parkway Destination Center]


Seely’s Handwritten Java Trip Diary     

Compiled in 1901 During Seely's Return Voyage
[Photos of diary contents courtesy of Seely family, Winston-Salem,  September 2009]

   

    In 1901 Seely returned from Java to the Paris Medicine Company and continued his work for Mr. Grove. Over the years numerous medicine formulations and patents evolved that earned the company a fortune. At one time bottles of Grove’s Chill Tonic were outselling bottles of a famous common soft drink. Militaries of several countries supplied Grove’s Chill Tonic to soldiers bound for areas infested with mosquitoes.

 

 

Grove Park Inn-Biltmore Industries Era

    In 1912 and 1913, after serving as editor-founder of the Atlanta Georgian newspaper, Fred Seely directed the construction of the Grove Park Inn. By the 1920’s Seely was managing the Grove Park Inn and owned the Biltmore Industries complex located next to the Grove Park Inn. Biltmore Industries specialized in the weaving of homespun wool cloth and in wood working (furniture and crafts). Seely made it a custom to send bolts of homespun cloth to his acquaintances and dignitaries that had stayed at the Grove Park Inn..

Recipients of the cloth would sent Seely heartfelt thanks for the gifts that they would use to make clothing for themselves and family members. These letters are on display at the Biltmore Industries Homespun Museum in Asheville, NC

 

Grove Park Inn

D.H. Ramsey Library, Special Collections, University of North Carolina at Asheville
Grovewood Gallery 111 Grovewood Road Asheville NC 

Biltmore Industries Wool Room

D.H. Ramsey Library, Special Collections, University of North Carolina at Asheville,
Grovewood Gallery 111 Grovewood Road Asheville NC 

Weaving Looms at Seely’s Biltmore Industries

D.H. Ramsey Library, Special Collections, University of North Carolina at Asheville,
Grovewood Gallery 111 Grovewood Road Asheville NC 

     Jobs at the Grove Park Inn were seasonal because tourism business slowed in the wintertime. The Inn occasionally closed in the winter. Mr. Seely sought to bring in more stable jobs to supplement the area employment beyond the seasonal tourist industry industry because workers in Asheville and Buncombe County needed more year-round work to support their families.
 
    In 1927 Judge J.D. Murphy wrote to Seely about a planned meeting with some industry owners. These owners were investigating the possibility of locating some factories in the Asheville area. The meeting was to take place at a Mr. Walters’ office. See letter below.
 

June 21, 1927 Judge Murphy's Letter to Seely Concerning jobs and regional prosperity

 

Previously planned family matters precluded Seely’s attendance at the meeting. Seely’s reply to Murphy suggests the possibility of a Mr. Wallace Davis standing in for Seely. See reply letter below.
 


June 22, 1927  Letter  with Seely’s response to Judge Murphy


Enter E.N.K.A.

 

    When Seely learned that a Dutch rayon manufacturing company was seeking to open a new plant in the U.S. he relied on his earlier Java-Holland connections to influence E.N.K.A. (Eerste  Nederlandsche  Kunzydfabriek  Arnhem)  to choose western Buncombe County as a location to build a new production facility. Improvements in rayon fiber formulations were making it a readily affordable replacement for silk and cotton and wool. Rayon was becoming more popular as new production methods were perfecting the strength of the man-made fiber.   

    Seely wrote to N.C. government officials, pleading with them to grant a favorable tax status to E.N.K.A. to persuade the company to choose Buncombe County for their new rayon fiber manufacturing plant site. See letter below.

 
 
Fred Seely’s August 28, 1928 Letter to North Carolina Attorney General Brummitt

   
 
September 25, 1928  Letter with North Carolina Attorney General Brummitt’s  Reply to Seely
 


September 25, 1928  Letter with Fred Seely’s Reply To North Carolina North Carolina Attorney General Brummitt

 


September 25, 1928 Letter  with Fred Seely’s Reply Thanking North Carolina Commissioner of Revenue Doughton
 

E.N.K.A.’s  Decision

    The natural resources of the area provided a plentiful water supply for processing wood pulp into rayon fiber. There was also a railway system and a readily available labor force.  Thus, Dutch company E.N.K.A., founded in 1911 by Dr. Jacques C. Hartogs, chose the Asheville area from a list of fifty-one possible sites in the U.S. for its new rayon fiber plant.

 
Hartogs’  1928 Telegram

    After Seely convinced Hartogs to construct his new U.S. rayon fiber plant in Buncombe County, Seely was instructed by E.N.K.A. company official A.J. Moritz to inquire about obtaining 2000 acres of land for a new rayon plant.

August 11, 1928 Telegram from Moritz to Seely

Confidential subject concerns land acquisition for new factory. Seely’s hand-written notes may indicate 2000 acres at $500 each for a total of $1,000,000.

August 11, 1928  Seely's Telegram Response to Moritz Telegram

    To pay for the massive new project E.N.K.A. officials sent $16,000,000 from Holland to the U.S. to secure property and erect buildings and build infrastructure for the rayon fiber facility.

September 25, 1928  $16,000,000 Telegram

     Plant construction began in 1928. The plant would eventually hire nearly 5,000 employees for its Buncombe County American E.N.K.A. Corporation rayon fiber facility.

Farm Land in 1928

E.N.K.A. Facility in 1929
[Photographs from 1935 Wachovia Bank Brochure]


 August 17, 1929 Letter from E.N.K.A. President J.C. Hartogs

In this telegram Hartogs is thanking Seely for his efforts on behalf of E.N.K.A.

 

  Seely As Member of E.N.K.A. Board of Directors

To honor Seely’s valuable assistance in bringing the rayon factory to fruition E.N.K.A. owner Dr. Hartogs insisted that Mr. Seely be a director on the board of the new facility.

 

 


April 27, 1929 Telegram  Shows Seely Acknowledging  Directorship Honor

 

August 1929 edition of The Wachovia acknowledging Seely

as a member of the E.N.K.A. Board of Directors

 


September 4th 1929 Letter from Seely to Hartogs Clarifying Seely’s 30 Year Relationship with Van Linge

             

Dr. A.J.L. Moritz

Dr. Moritz was Vice President and Technical Manager of America E.N.K.A.  He was chosen for this position by E.N.K.A. owner J. C. Hartogs. There are numerous letters in the archives between Fred Seely and Dr. Moritz. The topics were on site selection and land purchase for the proposed rayon factory, infrastructure, hiring of new employees, strike problems, rayon production figures, and board meeting schedules.

 

                    

 

 

 

Photographs from a 1935 Wachovia Bank Brochure

 

 

E.N.K.A. and Early Labor Union Information

 

 

 May 1929 Letter  Seely’s Son-In-Law Provides Information on Union Activities

 

 

Seely’s May 9, 1929 Reply to Son-In-Law Eller’s union information and plans to consult with Dr. Moritz

 


September 27, 1929 Letter from Moritz to Seely denoting 1st year progress of E.N.K.A. factory


October 2, 1929 Letter from Seely to Moritz acknowledging progress letter

 

1930 Advertisement for E.N.K.A. Rayon Yarn

 

Seely and E.N.K.A. Board Meetings

    Most E.N.K.A. board meetings were held in New York. Seely wanted to give the board members an on-site tour of the new factory in Buncombe County.  The following letters show the convincing rationale Seely used to persuade the E.N.K.A. board to conduct their August 1931 meeting at the E.N.K.A. plant in Buncombe County.


 May 18, 1931 Seely’s Letter suggesting that the E.N.K.A. board meet in Buncombe County

 

Approval of Meeting at the E.N.K.A. factory site

                                                                   Gaylord Davis’ May 25, 1931 response to Seely’s letter


June 6, 1931  Letter about E.N.K.A.’s August 1931 meeting site
 

 April 22, 1930 Telegram from Gaylord Davis to Seely Concerning E.N.K.A. Meeting

Van Vlissingen, an associate of Dr. Moritz, would later become president of the E.N.K.A. corporation.


                                   

     Over a period of several years Seely was repeatedly re-elected to the E.N.K.A. Board.


May 1, 1934  Letter Seely Re-elected  to E.N.K.A.  Board of Directors in 1934

 

 

 October 25, 1935 Notice of  Upcoming Meeting is an example of Gaylord Davis’

call to convene the E.N.K.A. meeting in New York


October 28, 1935  Letter with Seely’s reply to Gaylord Davis

 


June 6, 1931 Example of E.N.K.A. Board Remuneration for Seely’s Expenses

 

E.N.K.A. Personnel Letters

    As soon as it became known that Fred Seely was to be a Director on E.N.K.A.’s board, acquaintances and strangers alike deluged Seely with requests for employment. This period of time was when the roots of the Great Depression took hold of the world economy. Readers can feel the sincere emotion Seely pours into these letters when he responds to those seeking work at E.N.K.A.

  
December 6, 1928 Letter from Seely to Moritz with hiring recommendation

 

 


January 14, 1930 Letter from Seely to Moritz concerning hiring recommendation


 

 Strikes, Tariffs and Taxes

    As in many industries, issues arose concerning tariffs, taxes, labor costs, board decisions and politics.  The letters (included with this document) that were sent to Seely and his responses detail the extent of these problems. In this January 19, 1931 letter E.N.K.A. Vice President Carr is writing from New York to Seely concerning the possibility of Asheville and Buncombe County raising local tax rates and remarking on the 8 million dollar shortfall..


January 19, 1931 Letter from E.N.K.A. Vice President Carr to Fred Seely

 

 

Seely’s January 21, 1931 Reply to Carr Indicating Taxes Will Not be an Issue

 

 

    In a September 25, 1934 letter from Dr. A.J.L. Moritz to Fred Seely, Dr. Moritz states that E.N.K.A. employees did not participate in a 1934 textile strike. However, E.N.K.A. customers did cancel orders which affected corporate income for the company.

 

       
September 25, 1934 Letter from A.J.L Moritz to Seely

 


    In this July 8, 1935 letter from E.N.K.A. Vice President Claiborne Carr to Seely, Carr is seeking a way to stop Congress from placing a 125% tax on rayon. Congress’ intent is to hinder rayon from replacing cotton products in the U.S.

..

 

 

                July 8,1935 Letter  Seely writes to Vice-President Carr that he plans a trip to Washington where he will lobby for E.N.K.A

 

Seely’s July 10, 1935 reply to Carr

 

.

 

 

 

 

Wartime Activities

    As a result of the World War II German Invasion of Holland millions of Dutch citizens were left without their normal means of income. In an effort to assist the Hollanders, the Queen Wilhelmina Fund was started with Fred L. Seely as a leader of this effort in North Carolina.   Production at E.N.K.A. increased as Allied governments needed more rayon for aircraft tires. 

Irony for Seely’s Biltmore Industries

    Rayon was a substitute for silk and cotton and wool and was becoming more popular as production methods were perfected. It is ironic that the increasing popularity of rayon adversely impacted the use of wool in suit clothing since wool homespun cloth was a major product from Seely’s Biltmore Industries.

Overlook Castle Visitors

    E.N.K.A. Board letters were sent to Fred Seely. Occasionally, fellow board members visited Seely at his home, Overlook, located on Sunset Mountain above Asheville.

May 27, 1929  Letter from Claiborn Carr to Fred Seely concerning Overlook Castle visit

 


July 4th 1935 at Seely Castle Courtyard
[Photo from Seely family collection]

Left to right: Fred L. Seely, Jr, Mary Louise Thompson Seely (wife of Grove Seely), Grove Seely, John D. Eller with Johnny Eller, Jr., Gertrude Seely Eller with Jimmy Eller, Fred L. Seely, Evelyn Grove Seely (E.W. Grove’s daughter from Mary Louisa Moore Grove), Mary Louise Seely Beard with Evalyn Beard, John M. Beard with John M. Beard, Jr., John Seely with James Seely and John Day Seely, Mary Archer Seely

"Overlook," Asheville, North Carolina,
[Booklets  D. H. Ramsey Library, Special Collections,

University of North Carolina at Asheville ]

 

"Overlook," Asheville, North Carolina,
[Booklets  D. H. Ramsey Library, Special Collections,

University of North Carolina at Asheville ]

"Overlook," Asheville, North Carolina,
[Booklets  D. H. Ramsey Library, Special Collections,

University of North Carolina at Asheville ]

 

 

Seely’s Influence Wanes

    In one of his final letters to E.N.K.A. Vice President Claiborne Carr, Fred Seely is bemoaning the fact that his busy lifestyle has taken a toll on his health.

Seely’s time for his many interests became short as he attempted recuperation.

 

 


August 6, 1941  Seely’s letter about personal illness

 

 


March 14, 1942  Mrs. Seely's telegram announcing Seely’s death

 

   Seely Family Grave Sites

     Fred Loring Seely is buried at Calvary Episcopal Church cemetery located in Fletcher, N.C.  

     His grave is next to the grave of his wife, Evelyn Grove Seely and the grave of his younger daughter, Mary Louise Seely Beard.

  

   

 

 

  

 

CALVARY   EPISCOPAL   CHURCH

FLETCHER, N.C.

 

 


 


Seely Family, 1935, Seely's Castle

 

Summary

    Fred Loring Seely’s family and business connections with E.N.K.A. ended abruptly in March 1942. During the Great Depression era Fred Seely and other regional business leaders sought to bring in factories to provide stable employment for western North Carolina workers.  Thousands were supported by employment at the E.N.K.A. rayon fiber factory. Since 1942, the factory has had other owners. The E.N.K.A. power plant smokestacks were toppled in December 2007 by demolition explosions. Part of the original factory site is now part of Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College campus system.

    Arnhem-based geosynthetic fabric manufacturer Colbond currently owns part of the original site.

 

                            

 

                                                        

December 18, 2007 demolition of E.N.K.A. smokestacks (excerpted from online video)

 

 

Seely E.N.K.A. plaque

   

Sources

     Materials shown in this document are from several sources. Letters and telegrams are from the files of the archives of the Grovewood Gallery, Asheville, NC.  Preservationists Jerry and Pat Ball played an instrumental role in the conservation of these documents. The photographs of the Seelys in Java are from the 1901 diary Fred Seely compiled on his return voyage from Java. Family photographs are from Seely family members.

    The author expresses appreciation to to all sources of historical information used in this document.

 

Special Collections
Ramsey Library
UNC Asheville