Friday, November 16, 2007

Armour & Co.
Armour & Company was an American slaughterhouse and meatpacking company founded in Chicago, Illinois in 1867 by the Armour brothers, led by Philip Danforth Armour (18321901). By 1880 the company was Chicago's most important business and helped make the city and its Union Stock Yards the center of the American meatpacking industry. In the 1980s, The Armour brand was split between shelf-stable meat products and refrigerated meat products, each today owned by different entities (see below). The Armour Star (shelf-stable) brand is currently a brand of meat-based lard and canned entrees including hash, chili, stews, and potted meats, as well as dried and powdered pig thyroids. The rights to the Armour Star food brand are owned by Pinnacle Foods (pinnacle is now owned by the Blackstone Group), while the Armour brand for refrigerated meats is now owned by Smithfield Foods of Smithfield, VA, through their affiliate, Armour Eckrich LLC. The Armour brand for use in the pharmaceutical industry is owned by Forest Laboratories, Incorporated.
In the early years, Armour sold every kind of consumer product made from animals. Not only meats but glue, oil, fertilizer, hairbrushes, buttons, oleomargarine, and drugs were made from slaughterhouse byproducts. Armour operated in an environment without labor unions, health inspections or government regulation. Accidents were commonplace. Armour was also notorious for the low pay it offered its line workers, and it actively fought unionization, banning known union activists and ruthlessly breaking strikes in 1904 and 1921 by employing African Americans and desperate immigrants as strikebreakers. It was not fully unionized until the late 1930s when interracial unions became more commonplace.
During the Spanish-American War, Armour sold 500,000 pounds of beef to the US Army. An army inspector tested the meat 2 months later and found that 751 cases contained rotten meat. This resulted in the food poisoning of thousands of soldiers.
In the early 1920s, Armour encountered financial troubles and the Armour family sold its majority interest to financier, Frederick H. Prince. The firm retained its position as one of the largest American firms through the Great Depression and the sharp increase in demand during World War II and during this period, expanded its operations across the United States, at its peak employing as many as 50,000 people.
In 1948, Armour, which made soap for years as a by-product of the meatpacking process, developed a deodorant soap by adding the germicidal agent AT-7 to soap; this limited body odor by reducing bacteria on the skin. The new soap was named "Dial" because of its 24-hour protection against the odor-causing bacteria. Armour introduced the soap with a full-page advertisement using scented ink in the Chicago Tribune.
After World War II, Armour & Company's fortunes began to decline. In 1959, it closed its Chicago slaughterhouse operations.
However, by the 1950s, Dial was the best-selling deodorant soap in the US. The company adopted the slogan "Aren't you glad you use Dial? Don't you wish everybody did?" in 1953. In the 1960s, Armour expanded the Dial line with deodorants and shaving creams.
Canadian bus company Greyhound Corporation acquired Armour & Co. and its Dial brand in 1970. Greyhound kept the company's meatpacking (Armour Foods) and consumer products operations (Armour-Dial) and sold the rest of its assets. In 1971, Greyhound moved Armour-Dial's headquarters from Chicago to Phoenix, Arizona in 1971, to a newly-built $83 million building.
Greyhound's rapid diversification and frequent unit restructurings led to erratic profitability. In 1981, John Teets was appointed chairman of Greyhound and began selling unprofitable subsidiaries. After meatpackers struck at Armour Food meat packing plants in the mid-1980s, Teets shut 29 plants and sold its meatpacking operation to ConAgra, Inc. (now ConAgra Foods, Inc.), but kept its canned meat business. ConAgra continued to manufacture the canned meat products, sold under the Armour-Star brand, for Greyhound's Armour-Dial unit.
A similar labor feud at Greyhound led to the sale of the bus operations in 1987. Armour-Dial acquired laundry soap maker Purex Industries in 1985. Two years later it introduced Liquid Dial soap. In 1990, the company acquired the Breck's hair products line.
To reflect its changing focus, the company changed its name to The Dial Corporation in 1991. When it sold Motor Coach Industries to the public in 1993, it exited the US bus industry altogether. Also that year Dial bought Renuzit air fresheners from S.C. Johnson. The company introduced the Nature's Accents line of skin care products in 1995.
The Dial Corporation was acquired by Henkel KGaA of Dusseldorf, Germany in March 2004. The food-related brands of the Dial Corporation - including the shelf-stable meat products sold under the Armour-Star brand, which encompassed such delicacies as chili, hash, potted meat, sloppy joe sauce, sliced dried beef, Treet, and Vienna sausages - were sold to Pinnacle Foods Group in March 2006, so that the company can focus on its personal care, laundry, and professional products businesses. Dial's Cream corn starch and Appian Way boxed pizza products were also part of the deal. Under Pinnacle's ownership, over 150 meat products are sold under the Armour-Star label, and are now manufactured by Smithfield Foods (having acquired ConAgra's refrigerated meat business in late 2006). Pinnacle Foods was acquired by The Blackstone Group, a New York City-based private equity firm, in April 2007.
Armour's most well-recognized product is Armour hot dogs, which were advertised on television for decades using a catchy jingle which, despite the years that have passed since it was widely heard, much of the American population can still sing from memory. Armour Hot Dogs are today owned by Smithfield Foods, through their Armour Eckrich LLC affiliate.

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