In 1950, Chicago-based Union Asbestos & Rubber Company (UNARCO) established a manufacturing plant on Bloomington’s west side, on the grounds of the former Chicago & Alton Railroad Shops. The plant initially employed some 200 workers, with about 2,000 local employees on the UNARCO payroll over the plant’s years of operation (1950-1982). The Bloomington plant made asbestos blankets and coverings.
There were three UNARCO subsidiaries in Bloomington: ChemBest (later sold to Owens-Corning Fiberglass); the Stainless Steel Sink Division of the Federal Enameling and Stamping Company; and the Fibrous Products Division. Owens-Corning leased the Bloomington plant in 1970 and continued operations on the city’s west side until 1982.
Beginning in 1979, numerous lawsuits were filed by former UNARCO employees over asbestos exposure (with Owens-Corning named in many of the suits). Bloomington attorney James Walker, who represented local asbestos workers in the 1970s and 1980s, recorded the names of more than 100 UNARCO employees who died of asbestosis.
This collection consists primarily of local newspaper clippings, 1948-1997, and employee newsletters, 1950-1954. Also included are photographs of the Bloomington plant; product information; an asbestos study from 1953; and World War II production awards and programs.