A Chemical Empire Thriving from an Ancient Ocean

Workforce of the Midland Chemical Company, ca. 1894

The small staff of the Midland Chemical Company included (left to right) Julius Stark, Julius Burrow, Roscoe Dunham, Alfred Burrow, and Henry S. Cooper, a former mayor of Midland. The company produced bromine almost exclusively, until Dow decided to make bleach from the chlorine resulting as a by-product of the bromine process. Dow’s fellow investors were not very supportive of this activity, especially after he blew up a large electrolytic plant while testing his new operations. Julius Burrow (pictured above with bicycle) was injured in the explosion, and his partners insisted he cease those operations. Dow refused to abandon the idea and perfected the process on his own. Years later the process emerged as the primary activity of the Dow Chemical Company.

Herbert H. Dow Membership Card to the League of American Wheelmen, 1896

Nineteenth-century bicyclists, referred to as “wheelmen,” faced unending challenges from rutted roads of gravel and dirt, as well as antagonistic horsemen and pedestrians. In an effort to improve riding conditions, thousands of cyclists from across the United States joined the League of American Wheelmen to advocate for paved roads. By 1898 the League had more than 102,000 members, including the Wright Brothers and John D. Rockefeller. Dow himself was an avid wheelman and league member. One of his earliest side ventures was the Midland Anti-Leak Company that produced a puncture-sealing compound for bicycle tires.