Morton Thiokol, also known as Morton International and Morton Salt Company, with headquarters in Chicago, Illinois, manufactures and markets chemicals, inflatable restraint systems, and salt. Its sodium chloride products are used for ice control, table salt, water conditioning, food and chemical processing, and agricultural salt. The company was founded in Chicago in 1848 as Richmond and Company, agents for Onondaga Salt, and was subsequently known as Joy Morton and Company in 1886, and International Salt Company of Illinois in 1902. The company was headed in 1910 by Joy Morton, son of J. Sterling Morton, who began Arbor Day. It was incorporated in Illinois as the Morton Salt Company after the firm's senior partner died and Morton purchased the family interest. Rapid expansion from a sales agency into salt-plant operations followed, as Morton acquired plants in various locations. Morton's principal innovation, however, was a salt that would run freely even in damp weather; hence the trademark "When It Rains It Pours." Morton first produced iodized salt in 1924.
In Texas the company's history began at Grand Saline in 1904, when B. W. Carrington, Sr., bought the holdings of the Fielder Salt Company, located near another plant known as the Lone Star Company. Carrington, working as manager, established a sales office in Dallas, and in 1907 a group including Joy Morton, Daniel Peterkin, Sr., and Carrington formed B. W. Carrington and Company. This firm was able to assume the mortgage of the Lone Star Salt Company at a time when Texas discouraged operations by out-of-state firms, and eventually acquired the holdings of the former Grand Saline Salt Company, owned by Samuel Q. Richardson, and local operations of the Southern Salt Company. Output of the combined operations doubled after vacuum pans to evaporate salt brine were added in 1914 and 1918. By 1920 Morton had assumed the holdings of B. W. Carrington Company of Dallas and undertaken to extend a shaft from the surface a mile south of the town of Grand Saline seventy feet into the 4,000-foot-thick Permian salt dome below. This first underground rock-salt mine, the only mine ever dug in the community, was completed in 1931. Today's mine is 750 feet below the surface in a salt dome that measures 20,000 feet from top to bottom and 1.5 miles in diameter. Temperature in the mine remains roughly eighty degrees year round. At current rates of production, the Grand Saline mine has sufficient resources to supply the entire United States with salt for thousands of years.
The company reincorporated in 1922 and continued to expand with new mines in Louisiana and Ohio and a Canadian subsidiary that operated mines in Ontario, Nova Scotia, and Quebec. Salt brine operations were established at Odessa to serve industry in that area and, with incorporation of a chemical division as Morton Chemical Company in 1957, operations producing sodium sulfate, muriatic acid, and other chemicals were established in Texas. The company began barge operations along the Gulf Intracoastal Canal. In 1965, after acquisition of the Simoniz Company, a manufacturer of household and automotive waxes, polishes, and chemicals, the firm changed its name to Morton International to reflect its diversified interests, and reorganized its internal structure. In 1969 it merged with Norwich-Eaton Pharmaceuticals to form MortonNorwich Products and, as a result of a merger with Thiokol, Incorporated, in 1983, the name of the parent company became Morton Thiokol, Incorporated, and Morton Salt one of four major divisions. In 1994, with seventy-five plants and offices in twenty-four countries, Morton International had more than 10,000 employees. Among the firm's philanthropic projects has been the donation of 410 acres at Mentor Marsh, near its Fairport plant, for preservation of plants and wildlife.