Family Connection
Personal Stories
Sales & Marketing

1940s – War Years

National Gypsum was fully committed to the World War II effort. It operated munitions plants for the government, created new products for wartime applications, leased plants and ships to the military, and sent associates off to war. During the war years, the company planned for a building boom of historic proportions. After the war ended, sales quintupled over the 1930s.

Company acquired Windsor Paper Mills, Newburg, NY. Achieved goal for vertical integration.

New lime plant in Bellefont, PA, and new gypsum plant in the Bronx, New York -- $4 million

National Gypsum constructs headquarters building at 325 Delaware, Buffalo. Additions completed in 1953 and 1960. The company had formerly been housed in the Jackson Building. Rock wool insulation plants opened in Dover, NJ and Alexandria, IN

December 8 – President Melvin H. Baker sends this telegram to Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson: "The management of this corporation believes that business should go all out for quick, decisive victory over Japan, and to this end, this company's resources, technical knowledge and the production at its twenty-one plants are at your disposal."

Forty percent of the company's production went to the war effort – materials for housing for defense workers, barracks, training schools, munitions plants.

Portsmouth Plant was leased to the US Navy to make conning towers for submarines.

Honor roll of associates in the military was posted at each plant. Management corresponded with the soldiers, wishing them well and reminding them their jobs would be available when they returned home. Company started a news magazine for the troops employed by the company. Approximately 700 associates were in military service during World War II. Twenty-three of those employees died during their service. They were commemorated with a plaque in Buffalo at the Plant Managers meeting in 1948.

February – Army Ordnance Department asked company to construct and operate a bomb-loading plant on a fixed fee basis. Work began immediately on the Bluebonnet Ordnance Plant located near McGregor, Texas, employing 5000 people. Lewis R. Sanderson ran the plant and devised an assembly line operation for loading boosters (the explosive link between the detonator and the main filler charge). The plant earned the Army and Navy E Award and two star citations. It operated until 1945.

The Acoustic Products Division designed and manufactured acoustical units to help deaden the roar when aircraft engines were tested. The company produced interlocking metal landing strips at its Niles, OH plant to use as portable landing strips. Rock wool plants supplied insulation for refrigerated cargo ships.

June 6 – The original bulk carrier – Melvin H. Baker – was loaned to the government to carry materials. It was sunk by German U-boats off the coast of Brazil. The crew was not lost at sea, and several members saw the sub.

Post-War Planning Department established to focus on post-war expansion. The company estimated the post-war housing market would be 100 percent greater than in 1940. Backlog from depression years, the war, the shift in population, and the trend of the birth rate figured into the estimate. National Gypsum would have to at least double its production capacity.

The board authorized spending $37 million for expansion and to add $5 million to working capital.

New rock wool plant – Mansfield, MA

Second and third paper mills open in Garwood, NJ and Kalamazoo, MI.


New lime plant purchased – Kimballton, VA

January – John (Jack) Hayes hired as salesman in new Cleveland District. He later would become chairman of National Gypsum Company. "I felt I must be pretty good since they wanted me so badly," Hayes said. "I later learned they had 14 territories open and only three salesmen. They would probably have hired me if I'd shown up wearing white socks and a plastic bow tie!"

December 31 – Baltimore completed -- $6.4 million