The Dow Chemical Company (Dow) was founded in 1897 by a chemist named Herbert Henry Dow. In the beginning he sold only bleach and potassium bromide, which he extracted from underground brine with a new method that he invented.
In 1904 and 1905 British manufacturers of bleach and German manufacturers of bromide tried to undercut his prices to force him out of business and stop his expansion to Europe. He outsmarted them both times and learned that he had to diversify his product line rapidly to protect his company.
Within twenty years Dow had become a major producer of agricultural chemicals, elemental chlorine, phenol, and magnesium metal.
During WWI Dow Chemical supplied in the United States many materials previously imported from Germany.
In the 1930s Dow began to produce plastic resins, which would eventually become one of its major businesses.
During the 1940s and 1950s, Dow began to expand internationally. This proved to be very profitable, and Dow reached $1 billion in sales in 1964, $2 billion in 1971, and $10 billion in 1980.
During the Vietnam War, Dow manufactured napalm, which was used to make napalm bombs dropped on North Vietnam. The company also manufactured Agent Orange, a chemical defoliant containing dioxin.
During the 1990s and 2000s Dow went through several restructurings.
Today Dow manufactures plastics, chemicals, and agricultural products. Dow has a presence in 160 countries, has 54,000 employees, trades on the NYSE under the symbol DOW, is part of the S&P 500, and had revenue of $58.76 billion in 2012.