20 Mule Team® Borax History
For more than a century, 20 Mule Team® Borax has been helping people clean around their homes and on the job.
Originally, borax was imported to the United States from Italy and Tibet for use in ceramics and goldsmithing. In 1881, a prospector named Aaron Winters learned about the value of white crystalline ulexite (the earliest known form of borax) from another prospector. The test, at that time, for purity was to pour alcohol and sulfuric acid over the ore and ignite it. If it burned green, it was borax.
Aaron Winters is reported to have said to his wife, “She burns green, Rosie! We’re rich, by God!” He quickly acquired and sold his Death Valley acres to William T. Coleman for $20,000. In 1882, Goldman built Harmony Borax Works in Death Valley and the Amargosa Borax Works near Shoshone, where cooler summers allowed borax to be processed year round.
Financial troubles forced Coleman to sell his properties to Francis Marion “Borax” Smith for $500,000 in 1890. Smith then created the Pacific Coast Borax Company which eventually became 20 Mule Team® Borax.
Some of the old commercials are funny in how politically incorrect they are by today’s standards. However, what they say about Borax is still true today.
(Heritage photography is provided courtesy of Rio Tinto Minerals)