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The Pacific Coast Borax Company (PCB) was a United States mining company founded in 1890 by the American borax magnate Francis Marion Smith. The company established and aggressively developed the 20 Mule Team Borax trademark in order to promote the sale of its product. The name derived from the twenty mule teams that were used to transport borax out of Death Valley in the 1880s from Harmony Borax Works near Furnace Creek Ranch owned by William Tell Coleman at that time and sold to Smith in 1890.

The roots of the Pacific Coast Borax Company lie in Mineral County, Nevada, east of Mono Lake, where Smith, while contracting to provide firewood to a small borax operation at nearby Columbus Marsh, spotted Teels Marsh while looking westward from the upper slopes of Miller Mountain where the only nearby trees were growing. Eventually, to satisfy his curiosity, Smith and two assistants visited Teels Marsh and collected samples, that proved to assay higher than any known sources. Returning to Teels Marsh, Smith and his helpers staked claims and laid the foundation for his career as a borax miner. With the help of his older brother, Julius, who came west from the family home in Wisconsin, and financial support from the two Storey Brothers, operations began in 1873 under the name, Smith and Storey Brothers Borax Co. When the Storey Brothers interests were acquired subsequently, the name was shortened to Smith Brothers Borax Co. A few years later it was changed again to Teels Marsh Borax Co. The Pacific Coast Borax Co. name was not adopted until Smith acquired all of Coleman's borax interests in central Nevada and California and incorporated them all under the new company name in 1890.

The first reinforced concrete building constructed in the United States was the Pacific Coast Borax Company's refinery in Alameda, California, built in 1893.

Corkhill Hall

In Death Valley Junction, California in 1923-24, the Pacific Coast Borax Company constructed their Civic Center at a cost of $300,000. Designed by architect Alexander Hamilton McCulloch, the U-shaped complex of Mexican Colonial-style adobe buildings included company offices, a store, an employee dorm, a 23-room hotel, dining room, lobby, gymnasium, billiard room and ice cream parlot. At the northeast end of the complex was Corkhill Hall, a recreation hall used as a community center for dances, church services, movies, funerals and town meetings. Remodeled in 1927, the Civic Center became the Amargosa Hotel, and Corkhill Hall, in 1967, became Marta Becket's Amargosa Opera House.

In 1956, the Pacific Coast Borax Company merged with United States Potash Corporation to form U.S. Borax, which itself was acquired by Rio Tinto Group in 1967. As a wholly owned subsidiary, the company now is called Rio Tinto Borax and continues to supply nearly half the world's borates. It operates the largest open-pit mine in California in the company town of Boron.

References

  • Hildebrand, G.H. (1982). Borax Pioneer: Francis Marion Smith. San Diego: Howell-North Books. (ISBN 0-8310-7148-6)

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