Historical Marker on Campus Celebrates City’s Early Radium Industry Ties

photo of the sign

A Pennsylvania Historical Marker commemorating Standard Chemical Company and its role in radium production has been dedicated outside Allen Hall.

Already famous for steel, Pittsburgh became the worldwide center for radium production in the early 20th century thanks to the entrepreneurship of brothers J.J. and Joseph Flannery, founders of Standard Chemical Co.

Their company, founded in 1913 and headquartered at Forbes and Meyran Avenue in Oakland, was the nation’s first commercial producer of radium.

By 1920, Standard Chemical radium researchers Glenn D. Kammer and Henry J. Koenig, two 1912 graduates of Pitt’s School of Chemistry, were supervising the production of more than two-thirds of the world’s radium.

The company produced the gram of radium that was presented to French physicist Marie Curie in 1921 as a gift from the women of America. During her tour of the U.S., Curie asked to visit Standard Chemical’s headquarters and production facilities. She also was conferred an honorary doctorate by the University of Pittsburgh in a convocation at Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall.

Flannery family members, including Sarah Flannery Hardon, great-great granddaughter of J.J. Flannery, were among the guests at the Nov. 12 marker dedication.