The Lead Diary
By Bill Kovarik
It is interesting to hear the recent claim from companies involved in the Ethyl
controversy that all this is old news and that all documents relating to the
issue have long been public. It simply isn't true. In fact, the Ethyl Corp.
blocked the release of historical documents produced for a leaded gasoline lawsuit
Many thousands of pages of historical documents are still privately held by
the Ethyl Corp., Exxon and General Motors, although many DuPont documents appear
to have been released to the Hagley Library in Wilmington, Del.
The most important missing piece of the puzzle is The Lead Diary, a
collection of several thousand original documents from which T.A. Boyd and Charles
Kettering refreshed their memories as their memoirs were being written in the
1940s. The last reference to the Lead Diary is in the Green Book histories by
General Motors public relations staff created in the 1950s. It is unlikely to
have been destroyed; and probably is still in the archives of Ethyl or G.M.
Other items missing or withheld from public archives include:
- Test diaries and day-to-day records of experiments conducted during 1920
- 22 period when tetraethyl lead was discovered by G.M. researchers in Dayton,
- Correspondence and submissions of members of the Surgeon Generalšs Committee
concerning alternatives to tetraethyl lead anti-knock agents. Fragments are
found in the Yale archives. The SG committee members specifically requested
such files to be established at the Public Health Service; however, whatever
was submitted is now missing from the U.S. National Archives.
- Original 1922 - 23 correspondence to Midgley and Kettering from Krause,
Hunt, Wilson, Henderson and others concerning the dangers of tetraethyl lead,
some of which may have been in the Lead Diary.
- Minutes of the Board of Directors of the Ethyl Corp.
- Minutes of the Medical Committee of du Pont, G.M. and Standard.
- Records or memos concerning the deaths of two G.M. employees in Dayton,
Ohio, April, 1924.
- Telegrams exchanged between Charles Kettering in Paris and Ethyl Corp.headquarters
in New York during Oct., 1924.
- Du Pont and other studies of the resource base for pure ethyl alcohol fuel.
One crucial 1919 study was cited in a memo by T.A. Boyd in 1921.
- Reports of the Standard Oil Co.of New Jersey experiment with alcohol fuel
blends in Baltimore, Md. in 1923 and (possibly) correspondence with G.M. researchers
about the experiment.
- Reports on international use of alcohol fuel as an anti-knock, such as the
report on the use of the century plant in Mexico to produce alcohol at 7 cents
per gallon, cited in 1922 memo from Midgley to Kettering.
- Records or memos relating to "Synthol" experiments, Dayton G.M. labs, summer
- Records or memos of contacts with public officials during the period of
the controversy, especially contacts with Tresury Secretary Mellon, Surgeon
General Cummings, and Commerce Secretaryt Hoover.
- Memos and correspondence relating to the firing of Kettering and Midgley
from executive positions at the Ethyl Corp.