Francis M. Smith, “The Borax King,” established a borax empire known to all Americans by its famous trademark: the 20-Mule Team.
“Borax” Smith developed Nevada’s Teel’s Marsh region, a deposit of the purest borate of soda ever discovered. He moved on to California where he began opening up Death Valley with his mines and his mule teams, thus making a major impact on that state’s history. He organized the Pacific Coast Borax Company (now, U.S. Borax and Chemical Co.). He built the Tonopah and Tidewater Railroad to join his mines up with the Santa Fe Line and he built the famous Key Route Train and Ferry System in Oakland.
In 1913, “Borax” Smith’s enormous empire came crashing down. With head high, he immediately went to work to rebuild his fortune and headed back to Death Valley to develop more borax deposits.
F. M. “Borax” Smith made the single greatest step in opening up Death Valley and the borax industry with his courage and his 20-mule teams.