Malleable Iron Range’s History with Asbestos
In 1896, Silas McClure and A.C. Terrell founded a stove factory in St. Louis, Missouri. The company was incorporated as the Malleable Iron Range Company three years later. It then 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 were more expensive than many competitors’ stoves, they grew in popularity due to the quality of construction. Monarch soon became a household name.
Increased regulation of wood-burning stoves meant a decline in Malleable Iron Range’s success in the late 1970s. In 1985, the company filed for bankruptcy protection, citing 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 to decay. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources conducted a hazardous waste investigation and found asbestos insulation in pipes at the site, which meant health risks for those who cut the pipes or made repairs.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was called to assist with cleanup of asbestos and other contaminants in 1987. The agency allocated $369,000 from its Superfund program to cover the cost of remediation.
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.
According to a 2022 report by the European Commission, over 70,000 workers died in 2019 from past exposure to asbestos. Asbestos exposure is known to cause serious medical conditions such as mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis.