Olin Corporation

Olin Corporation is an American manufacturer of ammunition, chlorine, and sodium hydroxide. Based in Clayton, Missouri, it traces its roots to two companies, both founded in 1892: Franklin W. Olin's Equitable Powder Company and the Mathieson Alkali Works. After being headquartered for many years in Stamford, Connecticut, it is now headquartered in Clayton, Missouri.

Olin Corporation
S&P 400 Component
Founded1892; 129 years ago (1892)
FounderFranklin W. Olin
United States
Area served
Key people
John E. Fischer
(Executive Chairman)
Scott M. Sutton
(President and CEO)
ProductsCopper alloys
Sodium hydroxide
Hydrochloric acid
RevenueDecrease US$5.758 billion (2020)
DecreaseUS$37,700 (2020)
DecreaseUS$969,000 (2020)
Total assetsDecrease US$8.27 billion (2020)
Total equityDecrease US$1.45 billion (2020)
Number of employees
6,400[1] (2017)
Footnotes / references


The company was started by Franklin W. Olin in East Alton, Illinois, as the Equitable Powder Company. Olin created the company for the purpose of supplying the area's coal mines and limestone quarries with explosives. Olin's blasting and gunpowder company expanded into the production of cartridges in 1898.


A family has lunch in Lake Charles, Louisiana, on the beach opposite the Olin Mathieson chemical plant, 1972

Expansion and acquisitionsEdit

Franklin Olin, along with his two sons John and Spencer, formed the Western Cartridge Company in direct competition with Remington and Winchester. For a time, his competitors were able to get their suppliers to shut off sources of raw materials in an attempt to drive Olin out of business. In order to survive, Olin diversified the activities of the company.

The company bought a paper manufacturer (the Ecusta Paper Company in Pisgah Forest, North Carolina),[3] a lead shot facility, an explosive primer facility, a cartridge brass manufacturing facility, and a fiber wad facility. The company also started its own brass mill. Together, these companies became the Western Cartridge Company. Through it, the Olins made a fortune supplying ammunition during World War I.

In 1931, Western bought the Winchester Company. Olin merged the two in 1935, forming Winchester-Western.

In 1944, the various Olin companies were organized under a new corporate parent, Olin Industries, Inc.[4] At the time, Olin Industries and its subsidiary companies ran the St. Louis Arsenal and contributed to the war effort with manufacturing roles at the Badger Army Ammunition and Lake City Army Ammunition Plants. Olin's New Haven and East Alton plants employed about 17,000 workers each—producing the guns and small-caliber ammunition needed during World War II. The war production helped the Olins to become one of the wealthiest American families of the time.

After the war, the Olins acquired the Mathieson Chemical Corporation—also founded in 1892.[5][6][7] Then-unrelated to Olin, Mathieson Alkali Works began business in Saltville, Virginia, and in 1893 acquired its neighbor, the Holston Salt and Plaster Corp. Saltville then became a quintessential company town. In Saltville it produced chlorine and caustic soda, leaching a considerable amount of methylmercury (by the company's own estimates, up to 100 pounds per day) into the soils and the North fork of the Holston River.[8] This site was declared a Superfund site in 1982.[9]

In 1952, the Mathieson Chemical Company, as it was known by then, acquired a controlling interest in the pharmaceutical firm of E. R. Squibb & Sons (now part of Bristol-Myers Squibb).[10][11][12]

Afterward, the corporation diversified its interests into a wide variety of businesses, including plastics, cellophane, bauxite mining, automotive specialties, Ramset nailing tools, and home construction. The Olin Ski Company manufactured camping and skiing gear.[13] (Olin skis are now produced under a licensing agreement by K2 Sports.[14])

Olin Industries and Mathieson Chemical merged in 1954 to form the Olin Mathieson Chemical Corporation. The new company had 35,000 employees, 46 domestic and 17 foreign plants. The company manufactured phenoxy herbicides and anti-crop agents for Fort Detrick under contract to the U.S. Army Chemical Corps.[15] The company also manufactured electric batteries, marketing them for use in flashlights.[16] John Olin retired in 1963; the following year, the company brought in hardware experienced executives to run Winchester. The new management team introduced cheap, forged-metal parts into the Winchester line, which eventually damaged the quality reputation Winchester had previously enjoyed.[17]

1924 "Muck Dam Collapse"Edit

Nearly 30 years prior to Olin acquiring Mathieson Chemical, a muck dam collapsed, sending a 30-foot wall of water, mud, mercury, and alkali down the Holston River valley into the company town of Palmertown, a community of Saltville, VA. Bodies, homes, and cars were washed as far as seven miles down the valley. In the aftermath of the flood, 19 people had died.[18]

Corporate reductionEdit

The company became the Olin Corporation in 1969, and began to sell off many of its acquired businesses. Since then, the Olin Corporation has been shrinking (except for brief expansion in the early 1980s).[19]

In addition to the above-mentioned, Olin Corporation was the first U.S. corporation to be prosecuted for violations of the arms embargo, and eventually was convicted in the early 1978 for selling Winchester rifles to private dealers in South Africa.[20] When charged, the Winchester Division of the Olin Corporation affirmed in a legal brief that:

... the Winchester employees principally responsible for dealing with the State Department on export license matters over the years developed the belief that the Department was "winking" at the representation [by the company] that arms sent to South Africa were said to be destined for other countries.

— brief filed in U.S. District Court, New Haven, Conn. (20 March 1978).[21], "Memorandum on Behalf of Olin Corporation"

After ongoing declines in its business at Winchester, on December 12, 1980, Olin made the decision to sell Winchester firearms to the firm's employees under the name US Repeating Arms Company.[22] Olin, however, kept the Winchester brand name and licensed it to US Repeating Arms Company.[23] Olin sold its European Winchester ammunition business, and also licensed the Winchester brand name, to GIAT (of Versailles, France). Olin transferred its ball propellant manufacturing plant to General Dynamics subsidiary St. Marks Powder in 1998.[24]

In 2006, Olin announced that it had entered into a new license agreement with Browning Arms Company to market Winchester brand rifles and shotguns.

Olin spun off its specialty chemicals business on February 8, 1999, as Arch Chemicals, Inc. It now focuses more on its ammunition, brass and chlor-alkali businesses.[25]

Olin announced the sale of its Brass Division in October 2007 to Global Brass and Copper (losing $140 million in the sale)[citation needed], which merged in 2019 with Wieland Group.

In the 21st centuryEdit

The ammunition business was and is strong due to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Since 2004, the Olin Corporation has been moving some manufacturing of its Winchester products from East Alton to Oxford, Mississippi,[26] which started with the rimfire cartridge (.22LR) production, then its load and pack operations. In 2010, the company announced the move of centerfire manufacturing to Oxford, Mississippi.[27]

On March 27, 2015, Dow Chemical Company announced that it would spin off its chlorine and Epoxy businesses and merge them with the Olin Corporation.[28]

On October 5, 2015 Olin successfully acquired Dow's U.S. Gulf Coast Chlor-Alkali and Vinyl, Global Chlorinated Organics, and Global Epoxy business units, in addition to 100 percent interest in the Dow Mitsui Chlor-Alkali joint venture. [1],

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Olin". Fortune. Retrieved 2018-12-30.
  2. ^ "US SEC: Form 10-K Olin Corporation". U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Retrieved February 10, 2018.
  3. ^ Ecusta; E.P.A. webpage; retrieved .
  4. ^ Olin's History; Olin Corporation online; retrieved May 19, 2007.
  5. ^ Roanoke Times Archived 2012-09-18 at archive.today; article; accessed .
  6. ^ US EPA Superfund Site
  7. ^ VA Department Environmental Quality
  8. ^ Brown, Megan E., and Kowalewski, Michal. "Do Local Extinctions Correlate with Taphonomic Signatures of Freshwater Mussel Shells in the North Fork Holston River, Virginia?" Paper No. 221-8, presented at the 2003 Seattle Annual Meeting of the Geological Society of America.
  9. ^ "Test Wells to Monitor Ground Water at Olin Superfund Site Near Saltville, VA," EPA Environmental News, October 9, 1997
  10. ^ Roanoke Times Article on Dam Archived 2012-09-18 at archive.today
  11. ^ US EPA Superfund Site
  12. ^ VA Department Environmental Quality
  13. ^ 1953 "broad based flexibility" business plan of John M. Olin; retrieved .
  14. ^ https://www.nytimes.com/1997/01/19/business/a-deft-ski-maker-works-a-slippery-slope.html
  15. ^ Rocky Mountain Arsenal "Summary of Major Events and Problems" (1958), p.106
  16. ^ "Great night for Olin Batteries". Life. Time Inc. October 31, 1955. Retrieved July 8, 2021.
  17. ^ Hawks, Chuck; The Winchester Model 94; quote: "1964 was a big year for Olin/Winchester. That was the year that their revised (for cheaper manufacture) line of firearms was introduced. The reaction from gun writers and the shooting public to the changes was swift and terrible, and Winchester has never regained its former position of dominance."
  18. ^ http://www.mtnlaurel.com/history/1506-the-muck-dam-disaster-christmas-1924.html
  19. ^ Article; retrieved .
  20. ^ Washington Notes on Africa, p. 62. Quotation: "Olin Corporation, the first US corporation to be prosecuted for violations of the arms embargo, was convicted for selling Winchester rifles to private dealers in South Africa."
  21. ^ As cited in the Cascade of Arms: Managing Conventional Weapons Proliferation, p. 66.
  22. ^ Out With A Bang: The Loss of the Classic Winchester is Loaded with Symbolism; January 21, 2006; article; Washington Post; retrieved November 2013.
  23. ^ article; product guide; Winchester online; retrieved .
  24. ^ "St Marks Powder Inc". Manta. Retrieved 16 November 2017.
  25. ^ Isle of Capri will move HQ to Creve Coeur; January 28, 2006; article by Van Der Werf, Martin; St. Louis Post-Dispatch; Third Edition, Business; p. A-31; retrieved August 19, 2009.
  26. ^ Winchester... Archived 2010-12-25 at the Wayback Machine; EC Next online; retrieved .
  27. ^ "Winchester Ammunition Considering Full Move to Mississippi"; Wordpress online, August 13, 2010.
  28. ^ David Gelles "Dow Chemical to Merge Unit With Olin", New York Times, March 27, 2015.

Further readingEdit

  • Winchester: An American Legend; by Wilson, R. L.; Random House; 1991.

External linksEdit