Fred C. Koch

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For Fred C. Koch's eldest son, see Frederick R. Koch.
Fred C. Koch
Fred C. Koch
Born Fred Chase Koch
(1900-09-23)September 23, 1900
Quanah, Texas, U.S.
Died November 17, 1967(1967-11-17) (aged 67)
Bear River near Ogden, Utah, U.S.[1]
Education Chemical Engineer
Alma mater Rice University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1922)
Occupation Chemical engineer, Businessman
Known for Founder of Koch Industries; Co-founder of John Birch Society
Spouse(s) Mary Robinson
Children Frederick R. Koch
Charles G. Koch
David H. Koch
William I. Koch

Fred Chase Koch (/ˈkk/; September 23, 1900 – November 17, 1967) was an American chemical engineer and entrepreneur who founded the oil refinery firm that later became Koch Industries, the second-largest privately held company in the United States.[2][3]

Early life and education[edit]

Fred C. Koch was born in Quanah, Texas, the son of Mattie B. (née Mixson) and a Dutch immigrant, Harry Koch.[4] Harry began working as a printer’s apprentice in Workum, Netherlands. He worked over a year at printers shops in The Hague and in Germany before coming to the U.S. in 1888,[5] and owned the Tribune-Chief newspaper.[6][7] Fred attended Rice Institute in Houston from 1917 to 1919,[8] and graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1922, where he obtained a degree in Chemical Engineering Practice.[8][9]

Business career[edit]

Koch started his career with the Texas Company in Port Arthur, Texas,[8] and later became chief engineer with the Medway Oil & Storage Company on the Isle of Grain in Kent, England. In 1925 he joined a fellow MIT classmate, P.C. Keith, at Keith-Winkler Engineering in Wichita, Kansas. Following the departure of Keith in 1925,[10] the firm became Winkler-Koch Engineering Company.[1][8]

In 1927, Koch developed a more efficient thermal cracking process for turning crude oil into gasoline which allowed smaller players in the industry to better compete with the oil majors. The larger oil companies quickly sued in response, filing 44 different lawsuits against Koch, and embroiling him in litigation for years. Koch was to prevail in all but one of the suits (which was later over-turned due to the fact that the judge had been bribed).[11]

This extended litigation effectively put Winkler-Koch out of business in the U.S. for several years. Koch turned his focus to foreign markets, including the Soviet Union, where Winkler-Koch built 15 cracking units between 1929 and 1932. The company also built installations in countries throughout Europe, the Middle East and Asia.[1] In the early 1930s, Winkler-Koch hosted Soviet technicians for training.[12]

Having succeeded in securing the family fortune, Koch joined new partners in 1940 to create the Wood River Oil and Refining Company, which is today known as Koch Industries. In 1946 the firm acquired the Rock Island refinery and crude oil gathering system near Duncan, Oklahoma. Wood River was later renamed the Rock Island Oil and Refining Company.[13] In 1966 he turned over day-to-day management of the company to his son, Charles Koch.[14][15]

Political views[edit]

In 1928, Koch traveled to the Soviet Union searching for business opportunities, but he came to despise communism and Joseph Stalin's regime,[6][7] writing in his 1960 book, A Business Man Looks at Communism, that he found the Soviet Union to be "a land of hunger, misery, and terror".[16] He toured the countryside with Jerome Livshitz. Livshitz gave Fred Koch what he would call a "liberal education in Communist techniques and methods" and Koch grew persuaded that the Soviet threat needed to be countered in America.[11]

According to his son, Charles, “Many of the Soviet engineers he worked with were longtime Bolsheviks who had helped bring on the revolution.” It deeply bothered Fred Koch that so many of those so committed to the Communist cause were later purged.[11]

His anti-Soviet views led him to become a founding member of the John Birch Society.[17] Koch claimed that the Democratic and Republican Parties were infiltrated by the Communist Party, and he supported Mussolini's suppression of communists. He wrote that "The colored man looms large in the Communist plan to take over America" and characterized welfare as a secret plot to attract rural blacks and Puerto Ricans to Eastern cities to vote for Communist causes and "getting a vicious race war started."[16]

Personal life[edit]

In 1932,[18] Koch married Mary Clementine Robinson in Kansas City, Missouri.[19] Mary was the daughter of a prominent Kansas City physician,[20] Ernest Franklin Robinson,[21] who helped to found the University of Kansas School of Medicine[22] and Mary Burnet Kip[21] who died at an early age.[20] Her mother, Mary Burnet Kip was the paternal granddaughter of William Ingraham Kip, the Episcopal missionary bishop to California; and the maternal granddaughter of William Burnet Kinney, ambassador to Italy, and his wife, author Elizabeth Stedman (née Dodge). The Kochs had four sons: Frederick (b. 1933), Charles (b. 1935), and twins David and William (b. 1940).[8]


  1. ^ a b c Dick Dilsaver (18 November 1967). "Fred Koch, Industrialist, Dies in Utah". The Wichita Beacon. 
  2. ^ Wayne, Leslie (20 November 1994). "Pulling the Wraps Off Koch Industries". The New York Times. p. Section 3; Page 1; Column 2. 
  3. ^ "America's Largest Private Companies". Forbes. 
  4. ^ Mixson, John Leslie (1975). The Mixon-Mixson family, Volume 3. American Reference Publishers. 
  5. ^ "Making Headlines" (Adobe Acrobat (*.PDF)), Discovery (Koch Industries), April 2009: 7 
  6. ^ a b Daniel Fisher (13 March 2006). "Mr. Big". Forbes. 
  7. ^ a b Koch, Charles C. (2007). The Science of Success: How Market-Based Management Built the World's Largest Private Company. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. p. 6. ISBN 978-0-470-13988-2. 
  8. ^ a b c d e "History". Fred C. and Mary R. Koch Foundation. 2008. Retrieved 1 May 2010. 
  9. ^ Liz Karagianis (Winter 2008). "Empathy for Others: Alumnus gives $100M to create cancer institute". Spectrum (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). His late father, Fred C. Koch, MIT class of '22, founded Koch Industries in 1925, made a fortune, and vowed to teach his four sons to become honorable, honest, and principled. 
  10. ^ Memorial Tributes: National Academy of Engineering, Volume 2. National Academy of Engineering. 1984. p. 148. ISBN 0-309-03482-5. Retrieved 1 May 2010. 
  11. ^ a b c Continetti, Matthew (April 4, 2011). "The Paranoid Style in Liberal Politics". The Weekly Standard. 
  12. ^ Prof. Alexander Igolkin (1 November 2006). "Learning From American Experience". Oil of Russia. 
  13. ^ J. Howard, Marshall II (1994). Done in Oil: An Autobiography. College Station: Texas A&M University Press. ISBN 0-89096-533-1. 
  14. ^ Bruce Upbin; Brandon Copple (14 December 1998). "Creative destruction 101". Forbes. 
  15. ^ "Summary of Koch Industries History". U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. 14 November 2005. Retrieved 18 February 2010. 
  16. ^ a b Koch, Fred C. (1960). A Business Man Looks at Communism. Wichita, Kansas: self-published. 
  17. ^ Diamond, Sara (1995). Roads to Dominion: Right-Wing Movements and Political Power in the United States. NY: Guilford Press. p. 324. ISBN 0-89862-862-8. 
  18. ^ Wayne, Leslie (November 1989). "Survival Of The Richest". 
  19. ^ For the ore/oil tanker named after Fred's wife, see Mary R. Koch.
  20. ^ a b Goldman, Andrew (July 25, 2010). "The Billionaire's Party - David Koch is New York’s second-richest man, a celebrated patron of the arts, and the tea party’s wallet". New York. 
  21. ^ a b Mixson Family Genealogy retrieved January 19, 2012
  22. ^ The University of Kansas: "Present At The Creation - September 6, 1905 retrieved January 19, 2013

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