Cooper Hewitt says...

Union Carbide and Carbon Corporation was founded on November 1, 1917 as the product of a merger among the Union Carbide Company (est. 1898) and National Carbon Company (est. 1886), Linde Air Products Company (est. 1879), and Prest-O-Lite (est. 1911). The firm acquired a number of other chemical manufacturers, including the Bakelite Corporation in 1939; in 1941 it began producing chemicals at its Texas City, Texas facility. In 1947, the company purchased the West Virginia plant it had built and operated during World War II for the production of butadiene and styrene for the U.S. Government. It changed its name to Union Carbide Corporation in 1959; two years later, its Consumer Products Co. division was created. The next decade, Union Carbide established additional divisions including: Electronics, Hydrocarbons, Ferroalloys, and Mining and Metals (which combined parts of the Nuclear Division with Metals and Ore).

During the Cold War, Carbide was active in researching and developing rocket propulsion, aerospace and guided missile applications, rocket motors, and storable liquid fuels—these activities were based at the Technical Center in West Virginia. Throughout the 1960s, Carbide commissioned Donald Deskey Associates to create a number of designs for plastic consumer goods as well as conceptual designs for pre-fabricated, modular architecture.

Carbide experienced a number of public relations and health crises, including the Hawks Nest Tunnel disaster (1927-1932), wherein silica miners were put to work without masks or respirators and a numer of workers consequently developed fatal respiratory issues. In 1984, there was a gas leak at Carbide’s concern in India, a pesticide plant in Bhopal, which exposed over 500,000 people to harmful chemicals and resulted in nearly 4,000 deaths and 40,000 casualties. The company was subsequently sued by the Indian Government and settled out-of-court for nearly $500 million. This industrial disaster resulted in numerous hostile takeover attempts, resulting in Carbide’s sale of numerous consumer brands including Glad Trashbags and Everday Batteries.

In 2001, Union Carbide became a subsidiary of The Dow Chemical Company. In 2018 it was announced that Union Carbide’s former NYC headquarters building, a skyscraper designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (1961), would be demolished and replaced by a new tower to serve as JPMorgan Chase’s new HQ; it will be the tallest building in the world to ever be demolished voluntarily.