1925 - Masonite Founded
The Masonite Corporation was founded in Laurel, Mississippi, in 1925 by William H Mason - an expert on wood derivatives and an associate of Thomas Edison
At this time US lumber mills were burning huge quantities of waste wood - wood thought to contain too much bark to be of any use. But the enterprising Mason was determined to find an alternative use for it.
An explosive idea
Mason knew that other lumber waste contained the same fibres that give wood its tensile strength. So it followed that 'his' waste would also carry such properties. He began to experiment.
He heated a closed vessel loaded with waste chips. When the temperature and pressure reached a high point, he opened a valve which caused the chips to literally explode and form a featherlight fibre
The lunch break that started a worldwide industry
After extensive trials and research, Mason developed a process - quite by accident - to condition this fibre into a high density material.
The accident occurred when Mason went to lunch, forgetting to release an experimental press. The press had a leaky valve, resulting in heat and pressure being applied for an unusually long period of time. When he returned, Mason found that the fibre - which had originally been intended as insulation board - had been pressed into a dense, thin, tough sheet.
Mason suspected he might be onto something big. But he never dreamed he was about to start a worldwide industry. He named his new accidental brainchild 'hardboard' - formed by breaking down the wood and putting it back together in thin, tough sheets using only the natural binders of the wood to hold the fibres together.
The ultimate in recycling
It wasn't easy to obtain financial backing. After all, he was asking investors to put money into a process that had never been proven, to make a product that had never been sold. However he finally persuaded his investors (led by his wife's uncle) to provide the funds. In 1924, Mason established the world's first hardboard plant: the Mason Fibre Company (becoming the Masonite Corporation in 1925). And by 1935, Masonite's shares were listed on the New York Stock Exchange.
Mason became a major stockholder and director of the now rapidly expanding Masonite Corporation, receiving many prestigious awards for his work. By his death in 1940, he was able to see many of his original hopes realised. But most important of all to a man who hated the idea of waste - he had discovered a way to recycle vast quantities of 'useless' wood chips which would otherwise have gone up in smoke.