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Lindsay Chemical Company - Lehman Brothers Collection

Lindsay Chemical Company

List of Deals

Charles R. Lindsay Jr. founded the Lindsay Chemical Company in 1902, under the name of Lindsay & Company. It was organized as an Illinois corporation in 1904. Lindsay & Company was soon renamed the Lindsay Light Company. In the mid-1930s it became the Lindsay Light & Chemical Company, and in the early 1950s, the Lindsay Chemical Company.

Prior to the Second World War, the company focused on producing incandescent mantles. Mantles are used in gas lamps; each mantle is a kind of fabric pouch that fits over the gas source. At the exterior of the mantle, the gas mixes with air and burns, making the mantle glow brightly. Lindsay used the rare-earth chemical thorium nitrate to manufacture the mantles. During the First World War, Lindsay’s supply of German thorium nitrate was cut off. The company then began refining monazite sand to extract thorium. Lindsay mainly used its factory in West Chicago, Illinois, to refine the thorium.

With the rise of electricity in the 1920s, Lindsay began to shift its primary business away from making mantles and toward thorium refinement. In 1953 the mantle division was sold. In the 1940s the company was contracted by the U.S. government to provide thorium and other rare-earth metals for use in the Manhattan Project, which developed the atomic bomb during the Second World War. Lindsay continued to refine rare-earth metals for the Atomic Energy Commission in the 1940s and 1950s. In 1941 Lindsay bought the West Chicago opera house and began using it for storage and for lab work.

When Lindsay Chemical issued common stock in 1954, the prospectus described Lindsay’s business as falling into a few general areas. The rare-earth chemicals were used to make carbon arc lighting for the film and theater industry as well as for military uses. The rare-earth metals were also used to create heat-resistant alloys for use in lighters and impenetrable armor plate. And rare-earth chemicals were used to polish lenses and mirrors (often to create weapon sights), to make glass, to be ingested as a nausea preventative, and to regulate electronic condensers. The company also continued to produce thorium for use by the Atomic Energy Commission in nuclear fission, as well as for trade use in creating alloys. Lindsay also manufactured titanium to strip dyes from textiles and to tan leather. The company estimated that its sales in 1953 were 25 percent thorium products, 65 percent rare-earth products, 2 percent titanium products, and 8 percent mantles. Lindsay controlled approximately 75 percent of American thorium and rare-earth chemical sales in that year. Sales were $3.87 million in 1951, $3.55 million in 1952, and $3.29 million in 1953.

Lindsay Chemical merged into American Potash & Chemical Company in 1958. Kerr-McGee Chemical Corporation bought the merged company in 1967. The West Chicago factory was closed in 1973, and elevated radioactivity was found in the vicinity in 1978. The area was declared a Superfund hazardous waste site in 1989, and some of it has been converted to parkland, despite its radioactivity.

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