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From a Trickle to a Torrent

NBS is immersed in troubled political waters

Jess M. Ritchie, the founder of Pioneers, Inc. - the company that produced the AD-X2 Battery Additive - appears on the package of his infamous product.
[Jess Ritchie's picture on AD-X2 packaging.]

INTRODUCTION Over a period of five years, during the late 1940s and into the '50s, NBS was awash with allegations surrounding a new consumer product - a battery additive - with the uncommon name of AD-X2. A Californian and a bulldozer operator by trade, Jess M. Ritchie promoted his new product, claiming it added longer life to batteries.

Swelling events over testing of the battery additive resulted in the resignation of the NBS Director, threats of resignation by scores of NBS employees, Senate hearings, and ultimately -- both NBS's abandonment of brand name testing and a charge of false and misleading advertising against the manufacturer of AD-X2.

Dr. George Vinal of NBS conducted battery research as early as 1917.
[Dr. George Vinal of NBS.]

BACKGROUND World War I brought about an accelerated development of war technology. NBS was asked to perform work for various agencies of the military. Battery research began in 1917. It was conducted in the Electrochemistry Section of the Electricity Division under Dr. George W. Vinal, author of the influential work Storage Batteries. NBS evaluated hundreds of "miracle" battery additives that were claimed to revive dead batteries. None appeared to have any significant effect on battery life or performance.

The role of NBS in testing brand name products was one of an "assist" to the procurement process for other Federal agencies. Before another agency purchased an item, it might ask NBS to test the material, ensuring an order conformed to specifications. Other than this procurement-related work, unless the Federal Trade Commission or another regulatory agency requested it, only generic classes of materials, not brand names, were tested.

In 1925, NBS published a technical news bulletin stating that battery additives do not work. The NBS conducted additional tests over the next few years mostly for the Federal Trade Commission and the Post Office. The tests supported earlier conclusions about the ineffectiveness of battery additives. In 1931 after receiving more inquiries concerning battery additives, the Bureau published Letter Circular No. 302, Battery Compounds and Solutions. While not mentioning any specific brand names, the circular confirmed NBS's previous conclusions.

Seven years before Jess Ritchie came on the scene with his "revolutionary" battery additive, the National Better Business Bureau (NBBB) cited NBS's research in its Facts About Battery Dopes, a publication very critical of battery additives.

BEGINNINGS In 1948, Jess Ritchie's consultant, Dr. Merle Randall, a Professor Emeritus of Chemistry at the University of California, writes to Dr. George Vinal, chief of the Electrochemistry Section at NBS, claiming that Ritchie's battery additive is different than the others tested.

This begins a campaign on inventor Ritchie's part to get NBS to test his product on the grounds that it will prove an exception to previous findings on battery additives. Ritchie writes to NBS to request that AD-X2 be tested.    next, the plot deepens>>

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Questions/Comments: Webmaster [separator] Date Created: September 23, 2002 [separator] Last Updated: October 08, 2004