The original corporate seal embosser of the Sterling Borax Co., 11x6¼x2¼ inches, 5 lbs. 1 oz., (unique). Made in 1908 by Iron Stamp Co. of First Street in Los Angeles.
Sterling Borax was incorporated (we now know) on May 8, 1908, in Nevada.
Headed by Thomas Thorkildsen and Stephen Tyng Mather (later creator of the National Park Service and its first director), Sterling Borax was a consolidation of the Thorkildsen-Mather Borax Co. of Chicago (workings in California); the American Borax Co. (workings at Daggett, Calif.) and its subsidiary Brighton Chemical Co. of New Brighton, Pa.; and Stauffer Chemical Co. of San Francisco and its Frazier Borate Co. (aka Frazier Borax Co.).
Sterling Borax's principal works as of 1908 were at Lang (Tick Canyon) in the Santa Clarita Valley and the American Borax Co.'s operation off of the Tonopah & Tidewater Railroad near Daggett, east of Barstow.
With an issuance of $1 million in capital stock, Sterling Borax Co. was formed as a rival to Francis "Borax" Smith's Pacific Coast Borax Co., which had been gobbling up borax mining start-ups across Death Valley.
Thorkildsen and Mather worked together at PCB in Chicago for several years and developed significant disagreements with Smith during that time. Thorkildsen left for California in 1898 and used his life savings of $17,000 to buy a claim on Frazier Mountain in Ventura County. That same year he and Mather formed their own borax company (Thorkildsen-Mather), even while Mather stayed on at PCB.
Mather finally left PCB in 1904 and joined Thorkildsen in 1905 at Frazier Mountain. Just as that borate deposit was playing out, a new opportunity presented itself.
In the spring of 1905, two gold prospectors, Louis Ebbenger and Henry Shepard, discovered a rich deposit of colemanite (a borate) in Tick Canyon. They lacked the resources to mine and process the mineral themselves, so they sold their claim to Thorkildsen-Mather for $80,000.
By some accounts, Thorkildsen and Mather started using the Sterling Borax name at that time; others say the company was founded Jan. 15, 1908. Since we now know the joint venture incorporated May 8, 1908, it's likely the various interests executed their merger agreement January 1908 and decided to use the preexisting company name.
Three years later (1911), Francis "Borax" Smith's Pacific Coast Borax Co. bought out Sterling Borax for $1.8 million and agreed to keep Thorkildsen and Mather on payroll for 10 years. Sterling Borax then operated as a separate PCB subsidiary with Thorkildsen as president and Mather as vice president until 1921, when the 10 years were up.
Why incorporate in Nevada? We don't know. Maybe they planned to compete with Smith in Nevada. Or maybe Nevada was simply an easier and cheaper place to incorporate, as Delaware would become.
LW3076: Collection of Leon Worden; ex-Holabird Western Americana, 7-9-2017. Donated & conveyed in August 2017 to Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society. Download original images here