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Twentieth-Century Business Archives

American Potash & Chemical Corporation - Lehman Brothers Collection

American Potash & Chemical Corporation

List of Deals

American Potash & Chemical Corporation was incorporated with $1 million in capital in 1926. On the same date, it acquired American Trena Corporation, which was organized in 1913 and specialized in sodium and potassium products.

In its early history, American Potash produced potash and borax from the brines of Searles Lake in San Bernadino County, California. By 1928 it could claim to be the world's largest producer of borax, producing 20 percent of the U.S. consumption of potash. Despite the fact that the price of borax fell by over 50 percent during the mid-twenties, American Potash saw its net income change from a loss of $12,145 in 1926 to a profit of $759,202 in 1928 by improving its processes. During the 1930s, the company continued to do well. In 1936 sales doubled to $1,907,550 from the previous year's figure of $931,059.

During World War II, American Potash broadened its activities by entering the finished chemicals field. Up until this time, the company had limited its activities to the production of potash and other basic chemicals. The company now began processing and marketing chemicals such as potassium bromide, a medicinal drug, rather than just the raw material, bromine.

In the years following the war, American Potash grew through acquisitions and it continued to diversify. In 1946 it opened a plant in Trona, California, to make soda ash used in the production of glass and soap. In 1952 American Potash purchased Eston Chemicals of Los Angeles, a manufacturer of agricultural chemicals, refrigerants, aerosols, and industrial chemicals. In 1953 it also added Western Electrochemical, a producer of chemicals used to make jet-assisted take-off units for aircraft, as well as matches, flares, and weed killers.

Sales rose rapidly for American Potash in the 1950s. In 1956 sales rose to $41.8 from $17.1 million in 1950 and net income grew from $2.6 to $5.1 million. Part of this growth was attributed to sales of boron and lithium compounds for high-energy fuels and propellants. Defense business accounted for about 25 percent of revenue in 1956. The Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) was a major customer during these years as lithium hydroxide monohydrate, an American Potash product, was used by the AEC in reactor coolants and in reactor fuel elements.

In 1958 American Potash acquired Lindsay Chemical Company, which produced thorium, cerium, and rare chemicals. At the time of the merger, American Potash was described as a producer of more than sixty chemicals for industry, agriculture, and national defense.

America Potash built an $800,000 boric oxide plant in Trona, California, in 1959. In 1962 American Potash purchased from the U.S. Navy the largest ammonium perchlorate plant in the country. American Potash acquired a 42 percent interest in Compagnie des Potases du Congo, a concern that operated a potash deposit in the Republic of Congo, in 1964.

American Potash continued to grow during the 1960s, yet at a slower pace. In 1967 American Potash merged with Kerr-McGee, a uranium and oil producer that had been moving into potash production. The deal was worth $130 million and American Potash continued to operate, but as a wholly owned subsidiary of Kerr-McGee.

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