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.”

1921 Pistons made with Dowmetal magnesium are used in the winning Indianapolis 500 car.
1928 Styrene and Saran are developed.
1929 Dow hires its first woman researcher, Sylvia Stoesser.
1930 Dow founder H.H. Dow dies, and Willard H. Dow succeeds his father as president of Dow.
1934 The Ethyl-Dow plant begins the first commercial extraction of bromine from seawater.
1935 Dow enters the plastics business with the introduction of ETHOCEL™ ethylcellulose resins.
1937 Dow stock is listed for the first time on the New York Stock Exchange.

STYRON™ polystyrene resin is introduced.
1940 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