5.1.3: 1910 - heden - Paper (incl. production, watermarks, paper trade)

No fundamental improvements to the production techniques were made in this period. Paper was still made using Fourdrinier machines, with wood-pulp and cellulose as the main raw materials. There were, however, improvements made to the different sections of the production process. At the beginning of the century, electricity replaced steam as the power source. Paper machines became wider and faster. Around 1850, depending on the quality of the paper, a Fourdrinier machine could make between 3 and 20 metres per minute, with a width of a metre and a half. Around the year 2000, some types of paper are produced at a rate of 1830 metres per minute. Beginning in the early twentieth century, new chemical processes were developed for a more efficient preparation of cellulose, which also reduced damage to the fibres, so that stronger paper could be produced. Since the seventies, computers have regulated the level of humidity and the chemical composition of the paper and registered the stocks. There was a growing differentation of paper as well as increased specialization of paper making machinery. Beginning in the 1920s, for instance, glossy paper was produced for magazines with photographs. In contrast to this diversification, the standardisation of paper formats was regulated in the Paper Decree of 1922. The so-called DIN sizes, which are still used, were derived from four standard sizes, A, B, C and D (the best-known is the A4 size).

The Dutch paper trade and industry profited greatly from the huge increase in the use of paper in this century. In 1920, 70 million kilos of paper were produced in the Netherlands, against 2.5 billion kilos in 1988. The two world wars, the economic crisis in the 1930s and the two oil crises in the seventies caused severe problems in the supply of power and raw materials, but after each crisis the production was increased. The paper industry was characterized by mergers and growth. Until c. 1960 businesses grew by increasing the number of machines; after that date they perfected their production processes and merged with other companies. As ever, the paper market was international. In 1939, 33% of the paper used in the Netherlands came from abroad and in 1990 77%. Newsprint paper, in particular, was imported to an increasing extent (from Canada, Finland). On the other hand, in 1939, 23% of the Dutch production was sold abroad and in 1990 74%. The recycling of old paper became an increasingly important means for reducing the dependence on foreign sources of wood pulp and, from the 1970s onward, to meet environmental legislation. Used paper accounted for 36% of the raw material in the 1970s; at the beginning of the 21st century, its use had grown to 77%.

Increasing production in the paper industry has usually been a matter of quantum leaps, because investments in large and expensive machinery were involved. As a consequence, there has been a strong fluctuation of under- and overcapacity. Together with the dependence on foreign sources of raw materials and a strongly cyclically sensitive international market, this has made the paper trade a risky one, despite the growing demand for paper. This explains the tendency among paper manufacturers throughout the twentieth century to cooperate in order to control sales and prices and to prevent too much competition. Initially, this was done by creating informal cartels; within the Vereniging van Nederlandse Papierfabrikanten (Association of Dutch Paper Manufacturers), founded in 1904, agreements were made in order to prevent competition. It was also a powerful government lobby, which played a vital role in the regulation of import and export. The paper wholesalers had an association as well: the Vereeniging van de Nederlandse Papiergroothandelaren (Association of Dutch Paper Wholesalers), founded in 1909 and renamed Nederlandsche Bond van Papiergroothandelaren (Dutch Union of Paper Wholesalers) in 1936.

Beginning in the 1970s the cooperation between paper manufacturers increasingly took the form of mergers. Initially, they were mostly takeovers of small Dutch companies by the 'big three': Van Gelder, Koninklijke Nederlandsche Papierfabriek and B├╝hrmann-Tetterode. From the mid-eighties mergers became international. The most important Dutch paper companies were then taken over by large foreign concerns in wooded countries such as Canada, The United States and Finland, which were already producing a substantial amount of the pulp and cellulose, but gained an ever growing share in the production of paper from the 1960s onward.

author: D. van Lente

Paper (incl. production, watermarks, paper trade)