001-005 History of Union Starch and Refining Company


Dublin Core


001-005 History of Union Starch and Refining Company


A 5 page history of Union Starch and Refining Company from its 1904 foundation by a partnership including Joseph I. Irwin through its sale in 1967.





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301 Washington Street (Columbus, Ind.)

Is Part Of

Cline Keller Library General File Collection, Union Starch, Bartholomew County Historical Society, Columbus, IN; 301 Washington Street: Cornerstone of Columbus, Indiana (digital collection).

Bibliographic Citation

History of Union Starch and Refining Company, n.d., Union Starch, Cline Keller Library General File Collection, Bartholomew County Historical Society, Columbus, IN.


Bartholomew County Historical Society


Bartholomew County Public Library

Text Item Type Metadata


5-page typewritten document

Typewritten text (sheet 1):

Bartholomew County History, Vol. II

Columbus Chapter

A Columbus-based business, the Union Starch and Refining company, which had its offices here from 1922 until 1967 following its sale, was the nearby town of Edinburgh's leading industry in the early 1900's. When the Irwin family was building its interurban line through Edinburgh 1902-03, the idle Blue River Starch Works there was bought from the starch trust interests, ostensibly only for its electric power plant to provide part of the current. But the buyers also had other things in mind and in 1904 the manufacture of starch was started in the old plant under a partnership composed of Joseph I. Irwin, William G. Irwin, Joseph E. Irwin of the Irwin bank and Harold P. Hughes, former Columbus grocer. Then in 1908 came Pennant syrup, which was sold nationally as the country's most popular corn syrup. Hugh Th. Miller, father of J. Irwin Miller, was credited with selecting the Pennant name. At a meeting of the officers during the World Series baseball games, a name for the new syrup was discussed, along with speculation over the World Series winner, and Miller came up with Pennant.

In 1912 the business was incorporated under the name Union Starch and Refining company. The five incorporators were William G. Irwin, president; his sister, Mrs. Linnie I. Sweeney; Hugh Th. Miller; Joseph E. Irwin, and Harold Hughes. In the 1913-1920 period the plant employed up to 400 persons


Typewritten text (sheet 2):

Bartholomew County History. Vol. II                          -2-

Columbus Chapter

and in 1922 the general offices were moved from Edinburg to Columbus, occupying the second floor of the Irwin Bank building at northeast corner of Third and Washington streets. That same year the company purchased a plant at Granite City, Ill., and in 1923 started operations there, closing the Edinburgh facility, which included 13 buildings. Union Starch was believed to be the first to produce an imitation maple—flavored syrup and it manufactured a wide variety of produces. Among these were syrups, both liquid and dried starch, sugars. artificial sweetners and mixes, corn oil, gluten meal and feed, concentrated lime and lemon juice powders, antibiotics and caramel color. The company also eventually had manufacturing interests in Mexico, Columbia, Peru and the Philippines.

The offices in Columbus were expanded to include the first floor of the former Irwin Bank building and later included part of the building at the southeast corner of Third and Washington. Total sales in 1965 approximated $26,000,000. After re-opening part of the Edinburgh plant in l947, with Carl Allison as manager, to manufacture White Seal Marshmal-O-Creme, a marshmallow creme mix, a new building was erected at Edinburgh in 1963-64 to produce cyclamate, a non-nutritive sweetner. The same year Union Starch sold its packaged goods business, including Pennant syrup, marshmallow cream products and powdered flavorings, to firms in Louisville, Ky., and Iowa. Miles Laboratories, Inc., of Elkhart, Ind., purchased


Typewritten text (sheet 3):

Bartholomew County History. Vol. II                            -3-

Columbus Chapter

Union Starch in 1966 for $11,250,000 and the general offices in Columbus were closed in December, 1967. At that time there were 70 office employees. Cyclamate production at Edinburgh was halted in 1969 after the federal government banned cyclamates as a possible cancer cause. There were 21 employees at Edinburgh and W.L. Kaser of Columbus was plant supervisor. In 172 Miles Laboratories ceased operations at the Granite City plant, ending the Union Starch entity. Most of the Edinburgh property was sold to Bo-Witt Products, Inc., of Edinburgh, headed by William C. Bobbs of Columbus.

William G. Irwin was president of Union Starch until his death in 1943. He was succeeded by Mrs. Sweeney, who died in 1944. Hugh Th. Miller then served until his death in 1947 and was succeeded by his son, J. Irwin Miller. In 1953 Earl B. Pulse, who had been with the company 17 years, was elected president and Miller became chairman of the board. Following death of Pulse on June 8, 1959, Miller again held the office until 1961 when Theodore R. Reed was named president. Reed resigned in 1967 when the offices here were closed and became a partner in the S.D. Leidesdorf public accounting firm in New York city. He had joined Union Starch in 1952, coming from New York. He died Dec. 3, 1972. Earl Pulse, who was born in Columbus March 25. 1908, was active in civic and governmental affairs at both the local and state levels and was a trustee of Indiana University, from which he graduated in 1950 [struck out by hand and corrected to 1930]. He also was an associate faculty member with the university's School of Business. Pulse was a past president


Typewritten text (sheet 4):

Bartholomew County History, Vol. II                            -4-

Columbus Chapter

of Columbus Chamber of Commerce and served a term on the city council. He joined Union Starch in 1937.

Harold P. Hughes, one of the original founders of Union Starch, retired in 1930 and was then vice-president of Union Sales corporation, the marketing division. Before joining in Union Starch, Hughes, a native of Jennings county, was in the grocery business in Columbus with a brother, John V. Hughes. He died Sept. 12, 1934. Joseph E. Irwin, a distant relative of Joseph I. Irwin, retired from Union Starch in 1942. He died October 31, 1962, in Los Angeles, Calif. Another of the early executives was W. W. Adams, sone of a Columbus druggist. He died Aug. 26, 1943, age 75, and at that time was vice~president and general manager. He joined Union Starch when the company offices were still in Edinburgh. Paul H. Stambaugh, a sales executive and formerly of Youngstown, Ohio, joined Union Starch in 1928. He retired in 1950 and was then a view-president. Stambaugh died Oct. 6, 1959, age 74.

In 1955 the company honored employees of 25 years or more service. Honored from Columbus were Elmer Dean, 32 years; Erwin C. Fisher, 29 years; Mrs. Fern (Ira) Crane, 27 years; John Stewart, custodian, 30 years; Gerald Haislup, 26 years; and Deryl Foster, 25 years. Several of these continued many more years. Elmer Dean retired in the mid-1950's. He died December 31, 1962. Deryl Foster remained with the company until 1964. He died June 15, 1980. Erwin C. Fisher retired in


Typewritten text (sheet 5):

Bartholomew County History, Vol. II                            -5-

Columbus Chapter

Among later executives in Columbus were Giles W. Anderson, C. Harris Weerts, Herschel E. O'Shaughnessey and James P. Casey, who joined the firm in 1959 and resided in Columbus before transer to Granite City. In 1967 Weerts, who had been with Union Starch since 1949, became an officer of Cosco, Inc., here and in 1971 an official with American Fletcher National bank in Indianapolis, retaining his residence in the Columbus area. O'Shaughnessey, with Union Starch since 1958, became an officer with Cummins Engine company. George W. Newlin, present president of Irwin Management company, was with Union Starch 1946-58 as an officer in an investing capacity after being with Cummins Engine company, starting in 1940, and then serving in the Navy. Others who had been with the company prominently in Columbus included Thomas Freese, Wlater L. Sneed, R. L. Baker, William Griffith and Charles Dry.

Several employees moved to Granite City after the Columbus office was closed. They included George F. Cook, Carl Allison, Wallace Goeller, Mrs. Betty Reed, Wayne Jackson, Theodore Allen, William Bissell and Thayer Small. When Miles Laboratories ended its Granite City operations in 1972 some assets were sold to Corn Sweetners, Inc., of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and it continued to make carmel color at Granite City.



Unknown, “001-005 History of Union Starch and Refining Company,” BCPL Archives, accessed June 20, 2024, https://bcplarchives.omeka.net/items/show/164.