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Published by EH.NET (January 2000)

E. N. Brandt Growth Company: Dow Chemical’s First Century. East Lansing:

Michigan State University Press. xxii+ 650 pp. Appendices, Select bibliography

and index. ISBN 0-87013-426-4. $39.95

Reviewed for H-Business and EH.NET by John K. Smith, jks0@lehigh.edu,

Lehigh University

Dow’s Own Story

The author of this book is a journalist who joined Dow in 1953 and later served

as director of public relations. He has written a detailed insider’s account of

the Dow Chemical Company’s history focusing heavily on Dow people. This book

supercedes Don Whitehead’s The Dow Story: The History of the Dow Chemical

Company (New York: McGraw Hill, 1968) as the most authoritative source on

the company. Whitehead’s account ends in 1968 and includes no documentation.

Brandt’s narrative is based primarily on oral history interviews, an early

round of which were done in the early 1950s,

some internal Dow documents, and material from published sources. The

strengths of the new book are its comprehensiveness–it does also have a decent

index–and its author thoroughly understands the institution he chronicles. To

his credit he does not shy away

from embarrassments and controversies. He explores the adventures of Herbert

Dow’s eccentric son-in-law, who among other things was a Nazi sympathizer in

the 1930s and got Dow support for a quack doctor hawking a purported cure for

cancer.

Brandt also gives extensive coverage of the Dow napalm and agent orange

fiascoes during the Vietnam war. The shortcomings of the book are in its

overall organization and focus. Everybody and everything is treated equally.

Some sections read as press releases strung together. The overall evolution of

the company deserves more treatment. Considerable attention is devoted to the

lives of Dow’s employees but not much said on the company’s culture. This book

is a valuable resource for anyone interested in the history of Dow.

Brandt’s account is the most useful starting point for a more structured

history of the company.