National Gypsum Company is based in Charlotte, NC and specializes in the manufacturing and distribution of drywall gypsum boards. The company operates more than 20 gypsum processing plants in the U.S. and its Canadian subsidiary operates the world’s largest open pit gypsum mine near Milford Station, Nova Scotia. Founded in 1925 by the team of Melvin Baker, Joseph Haggerty and Clarence Williams, the company has grown steadily since its creation. Along with several other drywall board manufacturers, it dominates this sector of the construction industry.
The process of mixing chemicals, including gypsum, and pressing this material into a light, easy to transport and install board would revolutionize the building industry; unlike earlier versions of drywall, which had to be pasted into place, these lighter boards were an efficient way to construct a building’s inner walls. Within a decade of its beginnings, the National Gypsum Company had grown into a powerful and influential company, which soon labeled its products as “Gold Certified”, and soon the product line itself was known as Gold Bond Wallboard, perhaps the most recognized name brand in the industry.
In 1935 National Gypsum Company acquired their biggest competitor, Universal Gypsum, and the doubling in size of the already successful company meant an even greater monopoly on the drywall and particle board industry. Later, National Gypsum purchased the National Mortar and Supply Company and began to diversify into the latex paint business by acquiring Wesco. The purchase in 1954 of the Abestone Corporation meant that National Gypsum was now in the asbestos cement business.
Asbestos was not only found in the company’s cement products, however. This dangerous fiber silicate has been present in many of National Gypsum’s materials, including their wallboard products, other cements, paints and plasters. The company even produced and sold its own line of asbestos insulation and fire retardant tiles.
One of the problems with asbestos is that the fibers can be carried through the air, and workers who operate in confined areas are subject to inhalation of these fibers. Also, if various products are being manufactured at the same location, fibers from one source can become trapped in another product, and transportation of these different materials spreads asbestos fibers over great distances. For many years National Gypsum produced a wide array of products manufactured at a single location, and so it was common for asbestos fibers to become embedded in finished products that otherwise would contain none of this hazardous material.
When inhaled, asbestos fibers settle in the lungs and are known to cause lung cancer, asbestosis, and mesothelioma. Companies such as National Gypsum in Charlotte, NC used asbestos in their finished products for many decades.