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1930s – Expansion & Diversification

Despite the Great Depression, National Gypsum expanded its core business and was listed on the New York Stock Exchange. It also added lime, acoustical tile, metal lath, paint, paper, fiberboard, and rock wool to the product line. It is interesting to note that the company became so concerned about the safety of its own bank between 1930-33 that it withdrew corporate deposits in gold to ensure it could pay employees.

"Back in the 1930s, in the depths of the depression, my company embarked on an ambitious expansion program. There were peddlers of gloom who said we were heading into certain disaster. I freely admitted there was a possibility of failure but, at the same time, there was an opportunity to expand, to grow, and to progress. I willing chose to follow the bold course which, though uncertain, offered great hope for the future." -- Melvin H. Baker

Melvin H. Baker secures an order for all the wallboard used at the Century of Progress Exposition (World's Fair) in Chicago which included buildings along a six-mile parkway. The project was in USG's headquarters city. Terms of the payment agreement were one-half in cash and one-half in notes. The order was enough to keep all plants running for six months and restore the 20 percent pay cut employees had taken.

Metal Lath Plant, Niles, OH, purchased from Bethlehem Steel.

 

Microplastic plaster introduced.

September 30 – Company purchased Fort Dodge ($197,000); Rotan ($289,000) from Universal Gypsum and Lime.

York, PA and Oranda, VA Lime Plants acquired from Universal Gypsum & Lime.

From Atlantic Gypsum, company acquired the Portsmouth Plant ($424,000). Also, Dingwall, Chetticamp, and Walton quarries (Nova Scotia).

Acquired Craftex Company, made Sunflex Paints.

Jere Massey a manager at USG, approached Melvin H. Baker about his idea to produce wood-fiber insulation. Baker liked the idea, but the company needed $1.5 million to build a plant. Baker raised $2 million at a dinner party with the management of 10 investment firms. The plant was built in Mobile, AL. Massey quit USG and became the new plant manager. The plant opened in 1938.

National Gypsum stock listed on the New York Stock Exchange (1937).

Quarry in Medicine Lodge, KS purchased from Best Brothers -- $518,000.
Gypsum deposit contains pure, white gypsum – good for making plaster.

Savannah – Constructed -- $1.7 million. Equipment came from a plant in Oakfield, New York. National Gypsum purchased Oakfield Gypsum products, dismantled the plant, and shipped the equipment to Savannah. Having the Nova Scotia quarries provided a gypsum source for the plant.


 


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