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TIME Magazine, May 10, 1948, p. 92:|
CORPORATIONS: Ready for Revolution
In a darkened grade-school auditorium in Miamisburg, Ohio, parents and pupils sat on the edge of their seats. On the stage, a white ping-pong ball, shot from a gun, struck a cluster of red and green balls. Lights flashed and the cluster split in two. At the drop of another ball, scores of other fluorescent ping-pong balls started dancing and popping around in a cage. In this entertaining way, the Monsanto Chemical Co., which ran atomic research at the Clinton Laboratories at Oak Ridge until early this year, demonstrated the principles of atomic fission and a chain reaction to the worried citizens of Miamisburg (pop. 6,500).
They were worried because Monsanto had picked the town for one of the first U.S. peacetime atomic-energy laboratories. As construction got under way, Miamisburgers shivered with talk of bombs, death-dealing radiation, radioactive waste, etc. So the company's scientists staged a three-day atomic-energy show, explained patiently that Monsanto was not working on bombs but on peacetime uses. Their forecast: atomic energy would begin to revolutionize electrical power production withing five to ten years.
Old Hat. For Monsanto, technological upheavals were an old experience. When roughhewn John Francis Queeny formed the St. Louis company in 1901 (he named it Monsanto after his Spanish-Portuegese wife), it was for the purpose of making saccharin. In rapid succession he branched out into medicines and industrial chemicals and dyes. By 1928, when his son Edgar Monsanto Queeny took over, Monsanto had four plants, was grossing a comfortable $6,150,000 a year.
Burly, black-haired Ed Queeny was no chemist; he had quit Cornell in his sophomore year to join the Navy in World War I. But he knew enough about chemistry to know that the U.S. market for chemicals was unlimited.
New Clothes. First as president, later as board chairman, he put his laboratory men to work finding new uses for old Monsanto products (example: the detergent Santomerse, developed to make water "wetter," was found to be useful for leather and fur processing, railroad car cleaning and bubble baths. He also spent heavily on basic research. Result: Monsanto today makes 14 different raw materials for plastics, leads the world in production of lampblack and elemental phosphorus, turns out some 500 chemicals that other companies use in 20,000 different industrial processes.
In his spare time Ed Queeny likes to hunt and fish and write books. He has written on ducks and salmon fishing and, most important, on the free-enterprise system that he feels Monsanto epitomizes. His Spirit of Enterprise (Scribner; $2) was a vigorous, readable businessman's counterattack on state planning.
When 50-year-old Ed Queeny goes off on hunting trips in his DC-3, he likes to point out Monsanto's contributions to his plane: fire-retarding control surfaces, stain-proof upholstery, the plastic-covered table and plastic dishes in the galley. Among Monsanto's more arresting new inventions: Resloom, a chemical that promises to make rayon creaseless, cotton wrinkleless, and keep wool from shrinking.
But Ed Queeny's greatest talent is for finance. He steered Monsanto through the depression, shrewdly bought up companies as fast as they came up for sale, split Monsanto into six domestic divisions and set up affiliated companies in six foreign countries. His buys turned out well. Last year, even before insurance payments on the Texas City disaster (TIME, April 28, 1947), in which a $22 million Monsanto plant was wrecked, the company came up with a $15,561,000 profit on $145,200,000 in sales.
New World. Queeny bought talent along with companies. He got Monsanto's present President William M. Rand when he bought out the Merrimac Chemical Co. In 1936, Monsanto absorbed Dayton's Thomas & Hochwalt Laboratories, mainly to snare Charles Allen Thomas and Carroll A. Hochwalt, who had helped General Motors' Charles F. Kettering develop Ethyl gasoline. Thomas is now Monsanto's executive vice president; Hochwalt runs the company's atomic-energy projects (Miamisburg and another new plant now abuilding in Marion, Ohio).
Monsanto's financial stake in atomic energy is slim: it will run the laboratories on a cost-plus-fixed-fee basis for the Atomic Energy Commission, which also pays the construction costs. But Ed Queeny has his eye on the revolution ahead and intends to be ready. Says Queeny: "So far atomic energy has not been profitable for the company. But it's a new tool. We're getting the know-how."
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