First Electrolytic Production Of Bromine
In 1891, Herbert H. Dow discovers way to produce bromine, opening the doors for major chemical production in the U.S.
On January 4, 1891, Herbert H. Dow succeeded in producing bromine electrolytically from Midland’s rich brine resources. In the years that followed, this and other processes developed by Dow and the company he founded led to an increasing stream of chemicals from brines. The commercial success of these endeavors helped to promote the growth of the American chemical industry.
In the late 19th century, chemical production in the United States was still in its infancy. Much of the nation’s chemical supply was imported from Europe, especially from powerful producers in Germany and Great Britain. This state of affairs prevailed largely until World War I, which marked a turning point for chemical production in this country. With European imports cut off, American producers could, for the first time, make and market their chemicals without interference from the European cartels, which established prices and production quotas for the makers of key products.
In the early 1890s, pioneers of the U.S. chemical industry had begun to form a technological basis for competing with the European giants. Herbert H. Dow was one of the earliest of these trailblazers. As a college chemistry student in Cleveland, Ohio, he became interested in the brine deposits that underlie much of the American Midwest. Here was an almost inexhaustible pool of chemical materials deposited by the evaporation of prehistoric seas, just waiting, he perceived, to be exploited. In fact, where these deposits lay close to the earth’s surface, enterprising scientists had already begun to use crude production methods to mine them for chemicals.
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Excerpted with permission, National Historic Chemical Landmarks Program