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.

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