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W.R. GRACE & CO. CELEBRATES 150TH ANNIVERSARY
W.R. Grace & Co. celebrated the 150th anniversary of its founding on May 10, joining a small number of companies that have reached this remarkable milestone. Chairman and CEO Paul Norris marked the occasion by ringing The Closing Bell™ at the New York Stock Exchange. While most companies that survive a century and a half in business have done one thing well - denim pants at Levi Strauss & Co. or sewing machines at Singer Sewing Co. - Grace's history is clearly one of evolution and re-invention. "Change is the one thing that Grace has done exceedingly well for 150 years," Norris said. "That, and the simple recognition that people make a company and are its most important asset. From our founding until today, our people have provided the ideas and energy we need to succeed." William Russell Grace, an Irish emigrant to Peru, founded the company that bears his name in 1854 when he took over operations of a ship chandler's business, selling supplies to ships engaged in Peru's guano and nitrates trade. Over the next few decades and through the first half of the 20th century, Grace became one of the world's largest shipping companies, not only owning its ships but frequently having a stake in their cargo as well. While freight was the company's bread and butter, the Grace Line of passenger ships became the company's calling card. William's grandson, J. Peter Grace, who took over in 1945, brought the company's focus to the chemical industry with the purchase of Davison Chemical Co. and Dewey & Almy in the early 1950s. The evolution was completed in 1969 when the Grace Line was sold. "Grace has survived all these years because of an inherent willingness to change, because of the strength of our people and because we pursue businesses that make a difference in the lives of our customers and the community at large," Norris said. "Through it all, the company remains agile and focused on growing in smart and strategic ways. If we continue to do all of these things well, Grace can look forward to another productive 150 years."