E.N. Brandt. Growth Company: Dow Chemical's First Century. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1998. xxii + 650 pp. $39.95 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-87013-426-5.
Reviewed by John K. Smith (Lehigh University)
Published on EH.Net (January, 2000)
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 fiascos during the Viet Nam 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.
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John K. Smith. Review of Brandt, E.N., Growth Company: Dow Chemical's First Century.
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