SI Group Banner

Our History

Our culture has roots in over one hundred years of family history. Our road has led us from the vision of our pioneers to the success of today. We are mindful and proud of our past, but are passionate about our future.


The Schenectady Varnish Company was established in 1906 to manufacture versatile and economical electrical insulation materials. The beginnings of the company, however, date back to 1895 when the General Electric Company in Schenectady, New York hired W. Howard Wright as an Assistant Chemist.

Mr. Wright quickly progressed to Chief Chemist as he and his GE peers—including Thomas Edison and Charles Steinmetz—pioneered the age of electric motors, generators, and transformers. Among Mr. Wright's responsibilities was the analysis of certain raw materials and rating the performance of varnishes made from the recipes he developed.

In 1903, following Mr. Wright's recommendations, General Electric funded the construction of a facility to manufacture insulating varnishes and compounds. As orders for GE's electrical devices skyrocketed, their in-house Varnish Operations could not sustain the demands placed upon it. George E. Emmons, Lynn Works (GE) Manager, and Howard Wright, studied the problem. Emmons proposed that Wright set up a business to supply insulating varnish to the GE plants. The Schenectady Varnish Company was born and quickly became a success.

As the company grew and expanded to manufacture clear coat and agricultural varnishes, Howard began searching for the site of a new facility. Mr. Wright located a six-acre site in Schenectady on the main line of the New York Central Railroad. The first edifice on the present Schenectady plant site was built in 1907. Growth continued at a steady, rapid pace. By 1925, the original staff of three had grown to 50, and there were several prime accounts sustaining the business.

Read more about our history.