Monsanto: Marketed Population Control
From a pipe dream of the son of two immigrants comes one of the largest chemical engineering companies of our time. John Francis Queeny was born in Chicago in August of 1859. It is hard to believe that a man with only six years of public school education created such a vast empire. In 1871 the Queeny family was devastated by the Great Chicago Fire, the buildings that his father owned and rented out were, of course, totally destroyed, thus ending the rather comfortable life of the Queeny family. John was forced to drop out of school and find a job. After little avail he finally found employ at the drug Firm of Tolman and King for 2.50 a week. (Forrestal 12).
After several years of fighting his way up the corporate ladder he accepted a position as buyer for the drug firm I.L. Lyons of New Orleans. In 1894 he went to New York as sales manager for Merck & Company. In retrospect, it can be said that 1896 and 1897 involved substantial milestones, all ultimately bearing on the development of what is now known as Monsanto Company. In 1896 John F. Queeny married Miss Olga Monsanto, the granddaughter of Don Emmanuel Mendez de Monsanto, an aristocrat who had been knighted by both Queen Isabella II of Spain and King Frederick VII of Denmark. Described as gentle, graceful and charming, she provided a sensitive balance of Old World business in the New World of chemical engineering. Years after her death, a principal executive who knew the family very well declared, “I think the influence of that wonderful woman on that rugged Irishman was one of the basic keystones of the company’s success.” (Forrestal 13)
In 1897 a son, Edgar Monsanto Queeny, was born. John F. Queeny would have “founded something.” Or, at least this was the judgment of his son, Edgar, almost 65 years later. “He had a relentless stirring within him, but obviously, without the maiden name of the young lady he married, John F. Queeny would not have called his St. Louis-born company Monsanto. He would not have had the same sensitive, compassionate guidance and support from a partner whose beneficial influence seems to have been encouraging, ennobling and enduring.” “Why did he name the company after his wife?” is an often asked question. (Forrestal14) It seems that Queeny Chemical works would have been rather irrational, but it does seem to roll of the tongue with ease.
As a purchasing agent for Meyer Brothers he learned much about saccharin, a super sweet sugar substitute, derived from coal tar and discovered by accident at John Hopkins University in 1879. The U.S. showed little interest in the product, and in 1901 it was only manufactured in Germany. For several years the Meyers Brothers had been importing the synthetic sweetener, and selling it to a growing list of customers. Queeny felt that an enterprising America could make good money by producing this “miracle sweetener” for soft drinks, candy and tobacco and to other big...