Last modified: April 19, 2021
Malleable Iron Range’s History with Asbestos
In 1896, Silas McClure and A.C. Terrell established a stove factory in St. Louis, Missouri. Three years later they incorporated the company as the Malleable Iron Range Company and created a trademark for Monarch, a signature line of coal and wood-burning stoves.
Soon after, the operation relocated to a 13-acre factory just north of downtown Beaver Dam, Wisconsin.
Malleable used asbestos to line its Monarch stoves until the 1940s. For decades, Monarch proudly stated the use of asbestos in its products as a fireproofing agent.
The enduring popularity of the Monarch range gave way to a complete line of household appliances and related products that the company mass produced until the mid-1980s. Although Monarch stoves cost nearly double that of most competitors, their popularity grew among homemakers who praised the quality and economy of the stove’s construction. Before long, Monarch became a household name.
Malleable Iron Range’s success waned in the late 1970s because of increased regulation of wood-burning stoves. By early 1985, fewer than 260 workers remained when the company filed for bankruptcy protection with assets of $7 million and debts of $5.8 million.
The company filed for bankruptcy because of increasing debt and low sales, not because it couldn’t handle the financial strain of its asbestos liabilities. For this reason, Malleable was not required to establish an asbestos trust fund. Many other asbestos companies have created asbestos trust funds through bankruptcy reorganization plans.
Asbestos Litigation Involving Malleable Iron Range
Former Malleable Iron Range employees who manufactured the company’s asbestos-containing Monarch stoves could seek compensation for asbestos-related diseases, although records do not show any lawsuits against the company.
Site Contamination and Cleanup
After Malleable Iron Range Company filed for bankruptcy, its former production plant was left in disrepair. A hazardous waste investigation conducted by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources found asbestos insulation in pipes throughout the site, which was a considerable health risk for anyone who cut the pipes or made repairs.
Most of the hazardous waste was still on-site in 1987 when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was called to assist with cleanup efforts of asbestos and other contaminants. The agency allocated $369,000 from its Superfund program to cover the cost of removing the remaining waste. The site today is home to a grocery store, video store, a small strip mall and a pharmacy.
Malleable Iron Range’s Asbestos Products
During the company’s 89 years of production, Malleable Iron Range Company incorporated asbestos insulation into the inner lining of its Monarch ranges.
Monarch advertised asbestos use in marketing materials for decades, boasting that its stove’s “Triple Asbestos Wall” prevented rust and corrosion damage while keeping riveted seams permanently secure. During the 1940s, the company no longer used asbestos as a selling point in its products.
Occupations at Risk of Exposure to Malleable Iron Range’s Asbestos Products
The following occupations faced risk of exposure to Malleable Iron Range’s asbestos-containing Monarch ranges:
- Appliance installers
- Appliance repair workers
- Malleable Iron Range employees
Although Monarch’s customers faced minimal risks of asbestos exposure, exposure among former Malleable Iron Range Co. workers was common.
Employees at the Beaver Dam factory, including those working in foundries, machine shops, enameling rooms, production lines and warehouses, likely came in contact with asbestos fibers throughout the course of their careers.
Appliance installers and repair workers who serviced Monarch stoves may have also experienced harmful exposures to asbestos, which can cause irreversible lung damage after fibers are inhaled.
If Monarch appliances remained in good condition throughout their use, it is likely consumers did not come in contact with asbestos. Asbestos in the ranges posed little danger unless the stoves were disassembled, since the toxic asbestos fibers typically remained safely contained inside the stove assembly.
Asbestos exposure is known to cause serious medical conditions such as mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis.
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