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, firstname.lastname@example.org,
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
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.