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Started in 1897 in Midland, Michigan, Dow Chemical Company is one of the world’s largest chemical, plastics, and agricultural products companies. In 2001, Dow merged with Union Carbide Corporation, acquiring Union Carbide’s South Charleston Technical Center and its plants in South Charleston and Institute.

Herbert Dow, a Midland chemist, pioneered the use of electrolysis to extract bromine and chlorine. He also developed new processes for creating chemical compounds, including chloroform; carbon tetrachloride, an essential ingredient in fire extinguishers, cleaning fluids, and industrial solvents; and lead arsenate, which was used widely as a pesticide in the early 20th century.

Demand for chemicals increased during the two world wars. During World War I, Dow produced aspirin, synthetic indigo dye, Epsom salts, chemicals for explosives, insecticides, and solvents used in airplane fabrics. During World War II, Dow produced most of the nation’s magnesium, which was essential for the production of aircraft parts, weapons, and aluminum alloys. The company now makes more than 5,000 products at 188 sites in 36 countries.

After World War II, Dow concentrated on products for everyday needs, including Styrofoam, Saran Wrap, and Ziploc bags; industrial and agricultural chemicals; paints and protective coatings; and plastics used in wall tiles, dishes, toys, pipes, car parts, and wiring. In 2012, Dow had annual sales of $56.8 billion and employed approximately 54,000 people worldwide. The company became a major producer in the West Virginia chemical industry with the Union Carbide acquisition.

In late 2015 Dow Chemical and DuPont announced plans to merge in a deal worth about $130 billion.

Last Revised on March 15, 2016

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e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia "Dow Chemical Company." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 15 March 2016. Web. 13 December 2017.

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