Waltron manufactures and distributes analytical industrial instrumentation and supporting reagents used for the management of ultra-pure steam and water chemistry. Founded in 1903 under the name “Bull & Roberts” as a laboratory testing boiler water for ocean-going vessels, Waltron is one of the world’s oldest companies in the water industry. The original company was at the forefront of many technical innovations in the management of steam and water chemistry, including the first modern boiler water treatment program, the first nuclear water chemistry program on a commercial ship, and the founding of the American Council of Independent Laboratories.

1903–1929: Founding and original partnership

Articles of Copartnership by Irving C. Bull and Alfred E. Roberts (1878-1965) were drawn up creating the Bull & Roberts Company on October 26, 1903. At the time of its founding, Irving Bull was already well established in the fields of chemistry and metallurgy. Alfred Roberts was a chemist and had been serving the marine industry in the capacity of technical advisor to the president of the Old Dominion Steamship Company. Bull & Roberts was founded to provide the seagoing companies with expertise in the professions of consulting, analytical chemistry, and metallurgy. Mr. Bull maintained a branch office and laboratory at Middletown, New York, while the principal office and laboratory headed by Mr. Roberts was located at 100 Maiden Lane in New York City.

Original Bull & Roberts Laboratory, 1914
Maiden Lane Office, October 1914

Bull & Roberts Company pioneered the “gas free” inspection of cargo tanks for petroleum carriers around 1912, maintaining a perfect safety record for fifty-three years until the service was discontinued. Bull & Roberts also made the first known systematic chemical study of the stowage hazards of various commodities, and led by Harold Voorhis, was retained by major shipping companies to oversee, on a consulting basis, the stowage of dangerous cargoes not covered in the I.C.C. regulations issued by the U.S. Coast Guard. They also acted as technical consultants to proctors in admiralty and insurance companies, and were called upon for laboratory tests, analyses, consultation, and expert testimony involving damage claims for cargo and personal injury involving contact with cleaning chemicals. The firm served shipping companies and shipyards as consultants on occupational risks.

The firm continued with no basic changes in ownership until January 3, 1927, when Bull and Roberts brought Dr. Alvin C. Purdy into the partnership. Dr. Purdy, a licensed professional engineer, was involved in research and development for Kearfott Engineering and obtained his doctor’s degree from Cornell University after graduate study in Europe. Irving Bull retired on June 29, 1929, and Roberts and Purdy carried on the partnership under the Bull & Roberts brand from a new laboratory at 50 West Street, New York City.

1929-1967: Innovations in the marine industry

In 1929, Bull & Roberts Company became associated with Hall Laboratories, then a division of Hagan Chemicals & Controls, Inc. (later Calgon Corporation). Hall Laboratories was a leading authority in the science of boiler water conditioning for stationary power plants. The techniques employed by the Hall System of boiler and feedwater conditioning were extensively studied by Bull & Roberts to adapt the basic Hally System to the marine boiler. Bull & Roberts obtained the rights to apply this procedure to marine boiler operations. The first installation using the caustic soda and controlled phosphate method of boiler water conditioning was employed in February 1930. This technique was the best commercial treatment then available for reducing internal boiler corrosion.

1936 Bull & Roberts Brochure
West Street Laboratory, 1935

Bull & Roberts Company moved its facilities to 117 Liberty Street, New York City, in October 1939. During the Second World War, the company outfitted many vessels with equipment and chemicals for the Hall System of boiler and feedwater conditioning. Bull & Roberts was retained by most of the shipping companies to oversee the water conditioning programs and train their engineers in its use. The War Shipping Administration, through its general agents, commissioned Bull & Roberts to inspect ballast materials on hundreds of vessels to guard against possible spontaneous combustion, toxic gas, and other hazards. On January 1, 1944, the Bull & Roberts Company merged with Mid-Town Coal Laboratories, owned and operated by Henry M. Shields. Following the war, Bull & Roberts was called upon to make extensive field surveys, tests and laboratory examinations at the lay-up basins for surplus wartime vessels.

Bull & Roberts Laboratory in 1957
Company Brochure, 1957

John E. Westberg joined Bull & Roberts Company in 1946 as assistant to the president in charge of research and development. Westberg received his BS in Chemical Engineering from Cornell University, and developed a treatment for marine salt water evaporators in the spring of 1948. This treating chemical, Hagevap LP (PD-8), was responsible for reducing priming and eliminating hard residual salt water scale buildup in low pressure evaporators. Evaporators could now operate at rated capacity for longer periods of time, making them more efficient. Based upon successful Merchant Marine experiences, Bull & Roberts introduced Hagevap LP to the U.S. Navy. This treatment was adopted by the Navy on April 16, 1958, as the new standard treatment for all its surface vessels. In 1957 Bull & Roberts introduced H-400 Scale Solvent to the Merchant Marine and the U.S. Navy. The scale solvent was accepted as standard treatment for economically cleaning scale deposits from evaporators.

Bull & Roberts was formally incorporated in Delaware on July 1, 1947, dissolving the original forty-four year copartnership. The remaining partners became officers in the successor corporation, Bull & Roberts, Inc. Dr. Purdy was elected president, and Mr. Shields, vice president. Mr. Westberg was elected vice president of Bull & Roberts, Inc. in 1961, and then appointed president the next year, a position he held until 1972. In 1964, Bull & Roberts, Inc., because of its expertise in the field of marine boiler and feedwater conditioning, was selected to head up, develop, and implement the water treatment training program for the world’s first commercial nuclear-powered merchant vessel, the NS Savannah.

John M. Walsh III joined Bull & Roberts, Inc. in 1959 after receiving a degree in chemical engineering from Cornell University. Walsh was elected a director in 1962, vice president in 1966, and finally company president in 1972. A licensed professional engineer in New Jersey and New York, Walsh was also a member of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers, Society of Marine Port Engineers, and the American Chemical Society. While primarily involved in administration of the company, he was also instrumental in the development of pollution monitors, water purification systems, seawater evaporator treatments, and other major proprietary product lines.

In 1967, after twenty-eight years at 117 Liberty Street in New York City, Bull & Roberts Inc. moved to its own building at 785 Central Avenue, Murray Hill, New Jersey. The move was necessitated by the construction of the World Trade Center complex. The move to New Jersey opened up new office and working space, leading to the introduction of new products and growth concepts.

Company Brochure, 1976
Murray Hill Office, 1967

1973-1984: International expansion and growth into instrumentation

Bull & Roberts, B.V. was founded in Netherlands in 1973 as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Bull & Roberts, Inc. and located in Vlaardingen, convenient to the Rotterdam port area. With a full stock of Bull & Roberts products manufactured locally, Bull & Roberts B.V. directly serviced clients in the Benelux countries and supplied the Bull & Roberts network of distributors throughout Europe. Also in 1973, two separate divisions were established to serve the company’s growing markets. The Chemical Division was headed by Arthur C. Keyes, who joined the company in 1959 and remained affiliated with the business until late 2014. This division provided water chemistry service and sales to the marine industry, with products also marketed to selected segments of the shoreside industrial market.

Rudy J. Garbely headed the Equipment and Instrumentation Division, which served both the marine and industrial markets in the areas of pollution, chemical injection, potable water purification, filters, and instrumentation. During the 1970’s, the company developed its own line of electronic instruments that included the Model 240 Oil in Water Analyzer and several other analog designs. Seeing the need for more complimentary products, a licensing and purchase agreement was concluded with the Milton Roy Company of Michigan City, Indiana, in 1984. The agreement allowed Bull & Roberts to resell and rebrand Milton Roy instruments analyzing dissolved oxygen, conductivity, sodium, colorimetric silica, phosphate, and hardness.

1984-2014: Divestiture of marine business, introduction of the Waltron brand

In 1984, the company sold most of the Chemical Division, the original Dutch subsidiary, the West Coast Division, and the Bull & Roberts brand name to the Nalco Company’s Nalfleet Division. The timing of the sale was fortuitous, as the marine industry was just beginning to change to diesel-electric power and away from traditional boilers. What remained in the company were the Instrumentation Division, already branded “Aqualert”, the company’s “QuantiChem” specialty pump products for military applications, and “CalciQuest”-branded municipal water chemical treatments. [25] Needing a new name for the company, the brand name Waltron was chosen to represent the company’s new focus on water-electronic applications.

Waltron Ltd. moved in mid-1988 to a purpose-built facility at 50 Tannery Road in Whitehouse, New Jersey. The partnership owning the company was led by Mr. Walsh, Mr. Keyes, and Mr. Raymond J. Then, who had joined the company in 1979 to later become the company’s financial director. Around the same time, Waltron acquired the Hedges & Brother Company, an machine shop founded in 1863 in Washington, New Jersey, that made specialty valves and fittings. The company’s long history of experience with boiler water chemistry naturally led it to take a leading position in industrial water analysis of the power generation and pulp/paper segments.

In 1991, Waltron ended its long relationship with Milton Roy and bought the rights to manufacture, modify, and market the dissolved oxygen, sodium, and hydrazine instruments developed by the Kent Company, Ltd, of the United Kingdom. These products became the foundation for the Waltron 9000-series analytical instruments. When Kent was acquired by ASEA Brown Boveri (ABB) in 2000, Waltron negotiated the rights to market ABB’s other instruments under its Aqualyzer brand. These included the Waltron 8000-series colorimeters, as well as the 4000-series pH, Conductivity, and Dissolved Oxygen instruments. By the time of the company’s 100th Anniversary in 2003, the 9060 Dissolved Oxygen and 9030 Sodium Analyzers were common in the power industry. By 2005, Waltron launched its updated 9001-series instruments and was selling hundreds of its own designs into facilities around the world. Later that year, Waltron and Honeywell concluded their first exclusive OEM agreement. Waltron supplied Honeywell-branded instruments to markets in China, India, Korea, Singapore, and several other countries in the Asia-Pacific Region. This collaboration continues to this day.

In order to focus on analytical instrumentation, the company spun off its CalciQuest Inc. unit in 2006. The entity had moved to North Carolina some years before and no longer fit the rest of the business. In May 2007, Waltron opened its first international subsidiary, Waltron B.V., which was located close to the German border and industrial heartland. The introduction of Waltron instruments into the European market grew steadily, and the new subsidiary served as catalyst for new technology partnerships. After four decades leading the company, Mr. Walsh became semi-retired, and Mr. Then took over as General Manager, remaining in this position until he retired in 2014.

The global downturn of the late 2000’s took its toll on the company, and the brand found itself losing ground to major competitors in many of its key markets. Mr. Walsh, who was nearly eighty years old at that point, decided to sell the company in 2013, and a new team of veteran entrepreneurs led by Mr. Jonathan C. Guy acquired the Waltron instrument and industrial business lines in May 2014. Seeing that the original Bull & Roberts name had not been maintained by Nalco, Mr. Guy decided to reunite the new and original company names into the new entity, Waltron Bull & Roberts, LLC.

Waltron today

A rebranding soon followed, as well as massive investments in research and product development. In July 2015, Waltron was recognized by the U.S. Department of Defense Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve with its Pro Patria Award for Small Business. [33] This award is presented annually to only one small company in each state for outstanding support of serving military reservists, veterans, and their families. Further changes came on October 1, 2015, when Waltron moved its headquarters to a new home at 25 Minneakoning Road in Flemington, New Jersey. In 2017, the company opened its Chinese representative office.

Still working to further water chemistry technology, Waltron became an advocate of luminescent technology for the detection of trace dissolved oxygen launching its 9065 Dissolved Oxygen Analyzer in 2012. The company introduced its 9096 Degas conductivity Analyzer in 2016, a patented design that allows for rapid steam turbine startup in cycling power stations. Following industry requests for an instrument to analyze the growing class of anti-corrosion film-forming amine treatment products, Waltron developed the 3054 Filming Amine Analyzer in 2018 with colorimetric chemistry.

On October 26, 2018, Waltron Bull & Roberts, LLC, celebrated its 115th Anniversary. In all those years, the company never changed hands between family members, but rather from one entrepreneur to the next.