Malleable Iron Range Company
For many decades Malleable Iron Range Company, based in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, had a reputation for making high quality, sturdy, and reliable ranges, stoves, and other household and industrial appliances. With humble beginnings making wood-burning stoves, the company quickly grew based on its reputation and quality products.
Unfortunately the company saw some hard times beginning in the 1960s, including low sales. Malleable had also used asbestos in the manufacturing of many of its products, which caused some people to get sick with mesothelioma and other illnesses. This led to lawsuits and expenses which the company just couldn’t handle. It filed for bankruptcy in 1985 but never recovered and shut its doors for good, without creating an asbestos trust.
The history of the Malleable Iron Range Company dates back to 1896 when A.C. Terrell and Silas McClure opened up a stove manufacturing factory in St. Louis, Missouri. By 1899 they had incorporated their fledgling company and official called it the Malleable Iron Range Co. At this time they also created a logo and brand for their stoves, Monarch, and relocated the company from St. Louis to Beaver Dam, Wisconsin.
The original stoves and ranges that Malleable produced were wood-burning and coal-burning household appliances. They became popular quickly, which led the company to start working with inventor Sam Insull to make and sell electric ranges under the brand name Fedelco. Eventually the company also expanded its lineup to include washing machines, irons, and other household products.
Malleable produced stoves and ranges for decades, earning a name and a reputation for making reliable and sturdy appliances. Their lineup of appliances, which went way beyond the stoves and ranges they began with, were more expensive than those of competitors, but they kept clients coming back for the high quality of the products. They found a niche in making top-of-the-line products and excelled at it. Monarch quickly became a widely-recognized brand and household name.
In addition to household products, Malleable sold water heaters, furnaces, and other products to utility companies. This side of the business began to wane in the 1960s, which hurt the company. In the 1970s, the company also struggled with their wood-burning stoves because of new regulations. Another issue that hurt the company was the pileup of lawsuits that began in the 1970s. These were related to asbestos exposure and illness in workers and others. Eventually the company couldn’t keep up and couldn’t compete with larger appliance manufacturers. Malleable went out of business in 1985.
Malleable Asbestos Use
During many of the decades in which Malleable operated, it was not unusual for companies to make use of asbestos in their products, especially if those products were exposed to heat. Asbestos is a natural mineral that is very effective at insulating against heat and protecting against fire. It can also be added to materials to make them more durable when heated to high temperatures. These properties were important for many of the products that Malleable made.
Many of the ranges and stoves that Malleable produced were lined with asbestos insulation. Before the risks of being exposed to asbestos were well known, the company even advertised that asbestos was used in their products. It was a material that helped to make their ranges more durable and long-lasting. The water heaters used by utility companies were also likely to have contained asbestos insulation.
The asbestos used in Malleable products was likely not much of a risk to homeowners who used them. As long as the stoves and ranges remained in good condition and the asbestos insulation never became exposed or damaged, people would not have been exposed to the fibers that can be so harmful. The real risk with asbestos comes when the material containing it is damaged in some way and the fibers can enter the air as a dust. These fibers can then be inhaled and cause the damage that leads to mesothelioma, asbestosis, and asbestos lung cancer.
The people most at risk of asbestos exposure from Malleable products are those who worked for the company or for other companies that used their products. Workers in the factory would have handled or been near asbestos, putting them at risk. Other types of workers, such as those who installed, maintained, and repaired Malleable appliances in homes and businesses, were also at risk. They may have disturbed the asbestos during the course of their work, sending fibers into the air.
Lawsuits and Bankruptcy
As with so many other companies that used asbestos, Malleable struggled with the cost of later lawsuits. It did stop using asbestos earlier than many other companies, but people still got sick and decades later filed lawsuits. These cost the company enough money that, along with struggling sales, Malleable had to file for bankruptcy. It did this in 1985 with the object of reorganizing, but it did not work out. The company closed its doors and did not even form an asbestos trust fund to compensate victims.
Asbestos Cleanup at Malleable
When Malleable shut its doors, it left behind an environmental mess. Another company bought the Wisconsin manufacturing facility and found that the site needed a massive cleanup because of hazardous waste. An investigation was conducted by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, which turned up asbestos and other contaminants that posed a risk to health. The problem was big enough to bring in the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with $369,000 in Superfund money to help with the cleanup. Malleable, although no longer operating, was required to pay part of the money back to the EPA.
Malleable Iron Range Company is just one of many small companies that used asbestos decades ago and that eventually paid the price. The harm caused to people could never be compensated fully, but the victims did recover some damages through filing lawsuits. You can contact a mesothelioma lawyer today if you believe that the asbestos used in any Malleable appliances impacted you and caused you or a loved one to get sick. While the company doesn’t operate and does not have a trust fund, there may be a way to attempt to recover damages and get justice.
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