20 Mule Team Borax

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20 Mule Team Borax
Product typeLaundry aid
Introduced1891; 130 years ago (1891)
MarketsUnited States, Canada
Previous ownersPacific Coast Borax Company (1891–1956), U.S. Borax, Inc. (1956–1988)

20 Mule Team Borax is a brand of cleaner manufactured in the United States by The Dial Corporation, a subsidiary of Henkel.[1] The product is named after the 20-mule teams that were used by William Tell Coleman's company to move borax out of Death Valley, California, to the nearest rail spur between 1883 and 1889.


20-mule teams were first used by Francis Marion Smith to move borax out of the desert.[1][2] Smith subsequently acquired Coleman's holdings in 1890 and consolidated them with his own to form the Pacific Coast Borax Company. After the 20-mule teams were replaced by a new rail spur, the name 20 Mule Team Borax was established and aggressively promoted by Pacific Coast Borax to increase sales.

Stephen Mather, son of J. W. Mather, the administrator of the company's New York office, persuaded Smith to add the name 20 Mule Team Borax to accompany the famous sketch of the mule team already on the box. The 20-mule team symbol was first used in 1891 and registered in 1894. In 1988, just over 20 years after the acquisition of U.S. Borax by Rio Tinto Group, the Boraxo, Borateem and 20-Mule Team product lines were sold to Dial Corporation by U.S. Borax.[3]

Dial is now the American consumer products unit of Henkel.

Radio and television[edit]

The Pacific Coast Borax Company sponsored Death Valley Days, a radio and television anthology series dramatizing true stories of the old American West, particularly the Death Valley area. The radio program was created in 1930 by Ruth Woodman and broadcast until 1945. At the end of the show's run, the company sponsored a similar radio series called Death Valley Sheriff.[4]

From 1952 to 1975, Death Valley Days was produced as a syndicated television series. One of Ronald Reagan's final television roles was as the host of Death Valley Days in 1964-65. Reagan also acted in some episodes. The show was sponsored primarily by Pacific Coast Borax Company, which later became U.S. Borax. The previous host was the "Old Ranger" (Stanley Andrews), and, after Reagan's departure for politics and his eventual U.S. Presidency, hosts included Robert Taylor and Dale Robertson. Actress Rosemary DeCamp was featured for many years in product advertising for 20 Mule Team laundry products. Today, the product is endorsed by Linda Cobb, the "Queen of Clean".

There is a current complete reproduction of the wagon train, here https://www.dvconservancy.org/20-mule-team-borax-wagons/

The product is referenced in 1986 Designing Women episode "Julia's Son" and in the ninth episode of the fifteenth season of Supernatural.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Hildebrand, G. H. (1982) "Borax Pioneer: Francis Marion Smith." San Diego: Howell-North Books. ISBN 0-8310-7148-6
  2. ^ "American Borax Production" Scientific American September 22, 1877
  3. ^ Rio Tinto Borax: About Borax : History Archived March 17, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ "Broadcasting" (PDF). 31 July 1961. Retrieved 20 Feb 2017.

External links[edit]