“If you can’t do it better, why do it?”
– Herbert H. Dow

Dow’s legacy reflects a commitment to look forward and do things better. We continue to focus on solving the toughest challenges of today and tomorrow—driven by our ambition to become the world’s most innovative, customer-centric, inclusive and sustainable materials science company. Our history reminds us that we have the ability to change the world through collaborative partnerships, science and technology. Learn more about the history of Dow.

old photo of a flour mill

Golden Age of Inorganics

An Industry Pioneer and Fearless Entrepreneur

In 1897, The Dow Chemical Company began as a one-product start-up founded by H.H. Dow, an industry pioneer. Dow was an electrochemical pioneer whose first commercial success came in 1891 when he used electric current to separate bromides from brine.

He started three companies. His first company went bankrupt, the second ousted him from control, and the third, The Dow Chemical Company, struggled to survive after its founding in Midland, Michigan. His indomitable optimism helped him persevere against those who nicknamed him “Crazy Dow.” More than a century later, Dow’s “do it better” spirit lives on in the company he founded.

“From H.H. Dow, there was a new idea every morning.”

Tom Griswold, first head of Dow’s patent department


The Dow Chemical Company is founded.


Dow’s first commercial-scale production of bleach begins.


Midland Chemical Company merges into Dow.


Dow produces its first agricultural product.


The agricultural chemicals division is established based on a spray for fruit trees.


H.H. Dow announces the company will exit the bleach business. The focus shifts to the value of chlorine as a raw material.


Dow first markets calcium chloride, magnesium metal and acetylsalicylic acid.


The company adopts its diamond trademark.

early Dow manufacturing space

A Shift to Organic Chemistry

A Strong Commitment to R&D

After World War I, H.H. Dow made it a priority to pursue research in the new area of organic chemistry. This was an era of incredible innovation for Dow, and much of the research done during the 1920s and 1930s laid the base of knowledge for product lines that remain key markets for Dow decades later. Products included a range of chemistries for the agricultural, pharmaceutical, water purification, energy and automotive industries.

In the depths of the Depression, Willard H. Dow expanded Dow research at a time when other companies cut back. Midland’s Physics Lab, headed by its brilliant director, John Grebe, was responsible for a long list of innovations, including automatic controls, DOWTHERM™ products, waste disposal bacteria, ethylene research, styrene, STYROFOAM™, PVC, Saran, ion exchange resins, polystyrene and Ethafoam. Learn more about John Grebe and Dow’s “Idea Factory.”

“The least one can do is to hope that the results of his work will be useful to mankind at some future date.”

Edgar Britton, Dow’s director of organic research


Pistons made with Dowmetal magnesium are used in the winning Indianapolis 500 car.


Styrene and Saran are developed.


Dow hires its first woman researcher, Sylvia Stoesser.


Dow founder H.H. Dow dies, and Willard H. Dow succeeds his father as president of Dow.


The Ethyl-Dow plant begins the first commercial extraction of bromine from seawater.


Dow enters the plastics business with the introduction of ETHOCEL™ ethylcellulose resins.


Dow stock is listed for the first time on the New York Stock Exchange.

STYRON™ polystyrene resin is introduced.


Dow purchases land near Freeport, Texas, and begins to construct a plant. Today the Freeport site is the largest integrated chemical manufacturing complex in the Western Hemisphere.

™Ethafoam is a trademark of Sealed Air Corporation

World War II era planes

WWII and the Rise of Petrochemicals

Dow’s Depression-Era Strategies Pay Off

During World War II, the research that Willard H. Dow invested in during the Depression resulted in handsome rewards. One of Dow’s first wartime contracts was with the British, who desperately needed magnesium. Dow produced some of this metal at its new plant in Freeport, Texas, which extracted magnesium from seawater. Dow’s production of magnesium became important in fabricating lightweight parts of aircraft. Wartime needs also accelerated the research and production of plastics.

After WWII, Dow had to adapt to the postwar economy. For example, STYROFOAM™ extruded polystyrene, developed as a floating device for the U.S. Coast Guard, was produced globally for thousands of uses, including energy-saving insulation. Dow’s product line was extensive and included chemicals used in almost every conceivable industry. Bulk chemicals accounted for 50 percent of sales and plastics accounted for 20 percent of sales, while magnesium, pharmaceuticals and agricultural chemicals each accounted for 10 percent of sales.

“There is always room out in front, room for all without crowding, and work for generations to come.”

Willard H. Dow, president of Dow


Dow’s first international expansion begins with Dow Chemical Canada, Ltd.


Dow and Corning Glass form Dow Corning, a joint venture to create silicone products.


Dow establishes Brazos Oil & Gas Co., a subsidiary that produces oil and gas for Dow’s needs and constructs pipelines to carry fuel and feedstock to plants.


Plastics reach 20 percent of Dow’s total sales.


Dow establishes Asahi-Dow, Ltd. in Japan, its first subsidiary outside North America..


Dow introduces Saran Wrap® for household use.


Dow Corning Corporation implements technology to manufacture hyperpure polycrystalline silicon to produce materials for computer chips, and the first fully integrated polycrystalline silicon plant is established in Hemlock, Michigan.

®Saran Wrap and logo are trademarks of S.C. Johnson and Son Inc.

old photo of box of Handi-Wrap bags

Going Global and the First Era of Commercialization

Boom Years and International Expansion

As Dow grew rapidly during the 1960s, Dow accelerated its global expansion and established manufacturing plants throughout the world. As manufacturing expanded, R&D expanded and Dow set up technical centers to ensure the best technology was available at each location. The postwar years also ushered in Dow’s commercialization of a wide range of household products – from Saran Wrap® to Scrubbing Bubbles®. By 1974, Dow was the most profitable chemical company in the world. Learn more about Dow’s diversification and growth following World War II.

Science and Space: One Giant Leap for Mankind

When astronaut Neil Armstrong first planted his boot on the moon, its sole was made from Dow Corning’s rubber silicone. The Apollo XI Mission used Dow Corning silicone sealants, rubber (hoses), potting compounds and insulation. Dow technology also played a small role in the moon landing; its epoxy resins were used in the spacecraft’s heat shield. The resins were charred during re-entry to Earth’s atmosphere but effectively absorbed the 5,000-degree heat.

“I want to say one word to you, Benjamin Just one word. Are you listening? Plastics.”

Mr. Maguire, giving career advice to Benjamin in the 1967 film The Graduate


Dow purchases a manufacturing site in Terneuzen, The Netherlands


Handi-Wrap® plastic film wrap is introduced.

Dow annual sales exceed $1 billion.

Dow reorganizes and sets up three international headquarters outside of Midland – Dow Europe, Dow Latin America and Dow Pacific.


Dow’s one-shot measles vaccine is introduced.


Dow adds epoxy resins to its product mix.


Ziploc® bags are test-marketed.


Dow introduces an automotive product line.


Dow launches Lorsban® insecticide.


Dow becomes the first foreign industrial company listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange.


Dow supplies STYROFOAM™ brand insulation for the Alaskan Pipeline.

®Saran Wrap, Ziploc and Scrubbing Bubbles and logos are trademarks of S.C. Johnson and Son Inc.
®Handi-Wrap and logo are trademarks of Cornerstone Enterprises LLC

combine in a farm field

Market-Facing Products and Diversification

A Shift from the Basics

With the recognition that the future lay with higher value-added products, diversification became Dow’s number one target. In 1978, Dow’s leadership set a goal to achieve 50 percent of revenues from high-value product lines. The company began rounding out its expertise in pharmaceuticals, consumer products and agricultural chemicals through joint ventures and acquisitions, and found new applications for existing products, including for the automotive industry. By 1985, Dow had met its goal for achieving high-value sales.

An Early Leader in Responsible Care®

It was under CEO Frank Popoff’s leadership that Dow became an early supporter of Responsible Care®, a global voluntary initiative launched in the 1980s that emphasizes continuous improvement for the chemical industry. Popoff called the initiative “maybe the most powerful thing this industry has done for as far back as I can remember.” In 1996, Dow established its first set of 10-year companywide EH&S goals. They led to sweeping cultural change at Dow, including an improved safety mindset that has helped prevent thousands of injuries.

“What does Dow have to do to be a great company in the year 2000?”

CEO Paul Oreffice to Dow’s top 30 leaders in 1978


The Dow household product line doubles in size.


Dow ranks as the world’s largest producer of thermoplastics.


Dow and Eli Lilly form DowElanco, a joint venture to produce agricultural products.

Dow acquires pharmaceutical maker Marion Laboratories and creates a new publicly traded company, Marion Merrell Dow Inc.


Dow’s INSITE™ constrained geometry catalyst technology is introduced.


DuPont Dow Elastomers begins operations.


Dow acquires 100 percent ownership of DowElanco and renames it Dow AgroSciences.

Dow agrees to sell its Dow Brand unit to S.C. Johnson & Son.


Dow announces plans to acquire Union Carbide.


Dow-Union Carbide transaction is finalized.

ketchup packaging

Innovation at the Intersections

Innovating Solutions for Our Customers and the World

Facing mounting global competition and industry consolidation, Dow recognizes it faces a critical juncture. It can choose to transform once again to the innovation company of its origins – or stay a basics commodity company. In 2004, Dow begins to restructure its portfolio by going deeper into targeted high-value markets and to rebuild the company’s R&D infrastructure, which had been sacrificed in the mid-1990s to generate cash flow.

Over the past 10 years, Dow has strengthened its innovation and integration, making long-term investments in R&D and low-cost feedstocks. Dow’s ability to innovate at the intersection of chemistry, engineering and material science has brought solutions that differentiate its customers while positively impacting the world. These include lightweight carbon fibers for cars, technology to more efficiently produce cleaner water, and packaging solutions that help make food safer and stay fresh longer.


Andrew Liveris begins his 14-year tenure as Chairman and CEO, transforming Dow from a commodity chemicals manufacturer into one powered by science, driven by innovation, and delivering solutions to the world.


Dow announces its 2015 Sustainability Goals.


Kuwait cancels its $17 billion deal for joint venture K-Dow Petrochemicals.


Dow acquires Rohm and Haas, a key element in Dow’s new Advanced Materials division.


Dow becomes a Worldwide Olympic Partner and the Official Chemistry Company for the Olympic Movement through 2020.

Dow completes divestiture of its Polycarbonate, Latex, Rubber and Styrenics businesses into an independent company named Trinseo (formerly Styron).


Dow unveils comprehensive plans to increase its ethylene and propylene production and connect its U.S. Gulf Coast operations to shale gas liquids.

Dow and Saudi Aramco announce a joint venture to create Sadara Chemical Co.


Dow announces plans to exit a significant portion of its chlorine chain businesses, setting the stage for a successful merger with Olin in 2015.


Dow and Corning announce a definitive agreement to restructure ownership of Dow Corning in which Dow will become the full owner of the 50:50 joint venture.

Dow and DuPont announce that their boards of directors unanimously approved a definitive agreement under which the companies will merge, then subsequently spin off into three independent companies.


Dow completes a strategic ownership restructure of Dow Corning and becomes 100% owner Dow Corning’s silicones business.


DowDuPont merger successfully completed. Company moves forward toward intended separation into industry-leading, publicly traded companies in Agriculture, Materials Science and Specialty Products; separations expected to occur within 18 months.


Andrew N. Liveris transitions out of DowDuPont Executive Chairman Role and retires; Jim Fitterling named CEO-elect and Howard Ungerleider named President-elect and CFO of intended Materials Science Company.


Dow completes separation from DowDuPont, marking the beginning of an exciting new chapter for the company. Dow executives ring the bell at the New York Stock Exchange to open the market and signal the beginning of regular way trading under the "DOW" ticker symbol.