Early promise

Humble beginnings

The seeds of the Dow story were sown early on in Herbert Henry Dow’s childhood. Born in Ontario in 1866, Herbert spent his childhood first in Connecticut and later Ohio. Influenced by his father Joseph Dow, young Dow was known to tinker, work on puzzles and keep daily journals of his many ideas.

Herbert’s first solo invention was an incubator for chicken eggs when he was 12. The idea came from a magazine article describing the problem of raising ostriches in South Africa. He found the main problem in incubating eggs was maintaining a constant temperature. Not willing to turn down a challenge, Herbert tried 39 times to develop an automated device. On the 40th try, he succeeded. Already, he was gaining the entrepreneurial mindset that he would need to be successful in the business world.

College inspiration

If the Dow family had not been short of money, the Dow Chemical Company may never have existed. Abandoning his plans to study architecture as too costly, the young Herbert Henry accepted a scholarship locally at the Case School of Applied Science in Cleveland, Ohio, where he chose chemistry as a substitute.

Chemical research was entering an exciting phase in the 1880s, when H. H. Dow was beginning his studies. New elements were being discovered and the wider potential of chemistry to provide raw materials for industrial processes and to create commercial products was beginning to be realized. While investigating natural gas from a local oil well as part of his studies at Case, Henry Herbert was intrigued by the brine it also produced. He immediately grasped the new business potential of brines. After college, he set up a fledgling operation in Midland, Michigan, focused on extracting bromine.

From boyhood prodigy to optimistic visionary, company founder Herbert Henry Dow had a mindset to always “do it better.” More than a century later, Dow’s “do it better” spirit lives on in the company he founded.